Friday, July 31, 2009

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Driving through Broad Channel last month on our way back from an appointment, we passed a sign for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and decided to stop in. I'd never been there before, though everyone else I've spoken to since is all "...yeah, of course, all the time...since I was a kid..."
Well, it was new to me. And what a nifty place! Birds birds birds. We only saw a few during our midday visit: swans, egrets, red-winged blackbirds...but there are lots more: ospreys, being brought back from the brink of extinction with the help of custom-built nest platforms like the one I wrote about years ago, and barn owls, who are given barn-sized birdhouses. There are houses erected for smaller bird species, and special ones built for just for bats. Quite spoiled, the lot of them. Here's the big barn-owl boudoir:

The refuge is also home to diamondback terrapins, and many of their nests are right next to the trail, as you can see in the photo below. I can't tell you how long we stood there, marveling at the metalworking capabilities of the turtles, so cleverly protecting their nests, before we realized there was an adult right there, just beyond the cage, watching us! Remarkable creatures.

There are lots of sweeping vistas across the salt marshes, alternating with shady avenues of greenery. In the distance, way beyond the free avian housing, you can see the Empire State Building:
There were lots of insects as well, dragonflies and spiders and bees. And snails, of course.
This guy was in the middle of the path, in the blazing sun. I don't know what he was thinking.
He'll be extinct in no time, behaving this way.
We tried not to startle this tall, exotic specimen:

I was clearly a "casual" visitor, without a great big lens, or even a hat, and felt strangely out of place for not carrying a tripod. Everyone else was fully equipped. The bright sun made it hard (for me) to photograph the flora, but it was there. Much of it, sadly, undesirable, like the Japanese knotweed that was strangling the native yucca in a picturesque, spiralling manner.

If it ever stops raining this summer, I recommend you visit the refuge, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. There's an informative and well-equipped visitor center, the trails are easy for people of all ages and abilities, and it's free. Oh, and bring your camera.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Really, I don't even have the energy to drum up the snark to caption this one....y'all are welcome to try. I'm just too, too discouraged....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Fiona!

Since we don't know exactly which day in July Fiona was born, I just pick a random day to celebrate her birthday. Let today be the day!
Can you believe this agile little girl is fourteen already? Look at her hop that fence like a teenager coming home late:

It seems like only yesterday she arrived...

She was a wild little weeks-old kitten, rescued from the feral life (quite against her will) by my sister Janet, who brought her to us on August 24th, 1995. We were still mourning our mild-mannered, highly-affectionate cat, Mouse, who'd died just a few weeks before at the age of seventeen, and darned if this scrappy little furball wasn't the spitting image of him.
Quite literally spitting, at my sister who'd rescued her, at the hand that fed her, and at everyone else in the vicinity. It was a long time before she settled in, and while she's never been a lapcat, she does seek out our companionship, and we know she loves us. In her way.
Anyway, here's how she'll spend her birthday, and pretty much every other day, this summer:

She'll get up early and make her rounds before it gets too warm. (See movie above.)

If the humans are having coffee in the screenhouse, she'll join them there.
She'll eat breakfast alfresco, and wave to us with her tongue as we leave for work.

She'll spend time inside the screenhouse. No, outside. No, inside. No, outside. Wait! Both at once!
There's feline nirvana in this fabric wall, which allows her to be Inside and Out at once.

She'll have a nap. Maybe ten. When she hears the car return, she'll come to greet us/demand dinner. And we, being her humans, will comply.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gaudy Girls And A Syrphid Fly

This lantana, above right, is quite the show-off in the sunshine, especially next to the blue campanula. It's been impossible (for me) to get a satisfactory shot of the flowerheads for some reason. There are too many florets, somehow, for the focusing to ever look perfect. Oh well.
These little hoverflys are exquisite for their size; here's one on top of a lavender spike for scale. I found out what kind they were by submitting this photo to, which is a very helpful site for the amateur naturalist.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Small Surprise In The Stacks

"God prosper and illuminate all who read this"

That's how John B. Keane, a wonderful modern Irish writer, inscribed this copy of his play Big Maggie to our library. I wasn't there, of course, this all happened in...what does that say, there, 1987? Wait a minute, I was here then, we didn't host John Keane here.

Hrm. Is it strange to be a little upset that I might have missed something, when it happened twenty-two years before I even found out about it? I'll have to ask around.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"How Come?" No.1

How come when I so much as open the door for two seconds to go in or out, three flies follow me each time and get in the house, but restaurants commonly open their windows like this in the summer and nothing flies in? No fans, no zappers, either. Just, nothing flying around here. It's the darnedest thing. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's nice having the windows open. Just wondering.

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Don't Hold Back

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Show Goes On Forever...

...and the fireworks never end! Rockville Centre traditionally throws their Fourth of July show after the fourth, and we remembered it at the last minute on Saturday, as we drove home from dinner and wondered, why are people setting up lawn chairs in the Waldbaum's parking lot? We parked the car on Sunrise and walked over to Mill River Park with our own folding chairs. Got a great spot, too! Look, live action:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Recent Acquisitions

The Dee's Nursery in Oceanside holds a local-legendary 4th of July Sale annually, when everything-but-everything sells for 50% off list. It's mobbed, even at the 5:30 (a.m.!) opening.
I didn't go this year, and only went to the nursery this morning, more than a week later, to get some stakes for the tall stuff that was falling over. I was happily surprised to find that the half-price sale goes on for "a week or so," according to the cashier, and there were still a number of healthy, not-yet-potbound bargains. I scooped up a white dicentra (alba, a cultivar that blooms after the classic pink variety is done):

another coral bells called Plum Pudding for its purple leaves:

a clump of fescue 'Elijah Blue'

and two clematis plants: the dark-purple 'jackmanii' and a white sweet-autumn variety. They're not in bloom right now. But we half-price gardeners are patient. Oh, and I got another fern, a marginal shield fern: named not for a dearth of the characteristics shared by shield ferns, but for the fact its sporia develop on the margins of its leaves.
Oh, and in an update on the habits of fireflies, I had occasion to observe this one for quite a few hours over the course of planting this afternoon, and my anecdotal scientific conclusion is that yes, they do in fact do nothing, and eat nothing, all day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shine On

Yesterday, DH observed as how there seemed to be an extra bucketload of fireflies this year (not his exact phrasing,) and it's true. Many of them spend the daylight hours hanging around the screenhouse. As larvae, they made themselves useful eating snails and slugs and earthworms - wait a minute, earthworms? - but in their adult form, apparently, they don't do anything - at least not while any researchers are watching. Entomologists "think" some firefly species eat other insects, some "may" feed on plant nectar, and some species "probably" don't eat at all once they reach adult form. How interesting to find out such a common insect remains so mysterious to science. (Oh sure, there are 600 billion species of beetles, I know, we can't know everything about all of them, but this is a lightning bug we're talkin' about! 800 million backyard scientists have studied them at close range, over decades of time! How can so little be known??)
Anyway. It seems like there are a lot of them this year. It's pretty.
Sure wish mosquitos would light up so I could avoid them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Seeds Of The Season

These are from the clematis, whose blooms are spent now. The seeds themselves are miniscule, but beautifully tricked out for travel with long curvy manes of golden fibers. They remind me of fishing lures.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Day In The City

A month ago we spent the day wandering around lower Manhattan, because I got it into my head that I wanted to see the South Street Seaport. So, we did that.
I guess the Seaport's not my thing. Then I wanted to ride the Staten Island Ferry, as I did not remember ever having done that, though I'm told that's how we got out to Staten Island the time we went to see Richard Thompson play in Snug Harbor. (That was, like, back in the nineties. Who remembers?) So, we did that. It was pleasant, but hardly the most romantic thing. Don't see what all the fuss is about for a ferry.
We were not at all tired, we were probably a step or two below "merry,'" and we rode back and forth just once.
It was Fleet Week in the city.
Seemingly, they cannot get enough of boats. They rode the ferry, too.Then we wandered around the Wall Street area, which was deserted except for tourists like us, walking slowly, admiring the nifty architectural details, like the brass on 120 Wall St.:
and this, see creatures? yes, sea creatures! here:
the seahorses on the Maritime Exchange Building at 80 Broad St., a thirty-five story building dedicated in 1931 to the cause of water-facilitated commerce.
Not far away:
this mosaic dome on the southwestern entrance of the ITT building depicts commerce uniting the hemispheres with electricity. (Commerce is a popular theme in the neighborhood.)
We weren't able to get into Federal Hall, as it's closed on Saturdays, but I took a photo of this, because it looks like George Washington is imploring the pigeon to perch somewhere else.
We also visited Trinity Church, and its cemetery, the one where Alexander Hamilton is buried along with well over a hundred thousand others. Love a good cemetery. Didn't take good photos, though.
And that was our weekend trip one day last month, back in the Time Of Less Rain when one could do such a thing...