NJ Visit and Empty Sky Memorial

I enjoyed a short but lovely visit with my son in Jersey City, NJ over the Christmas holidays.  A bit of culture shock for me to stay in the city, after living out here in the Daniel Boone National Forest.  On Christmas day, with temperatures incredibly in the mid-50s and the sun shining,  we decided to visit Liberty State Park and walk off our dinner.  Amazingly, even though I was born, raised, and lived in NJ until 1995, I’ve never been there or even close to the Statue of Liberty.  And, I had not been anywhere close to the NY Skyline since 9-11.

They’ve built a beautiful memorial in Liberty Park, called the Empty Sky Memorial.  It was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011.  You can read more about this park here.  The two walls are as long as the Towers were wide and direct the visitor to a view of Ground Zero, just across the water and a little more than a mile away.  The names of NJ residents lost on 9-11 are inscribed on the walls.  The Freedom Tower is filling the empty space where the Towers once stood.

Under Construction - the Freedom Tower


Old train station

The old train station is still there, and I realized my father probably came right through here after Ellis Island.  We drove around to the other side of the park and then walked again, for a closer view of  Liberty  and Ellis Islands.  From this vantage point we were behind the Lady, but that didn’t matter.  I couldn’t help but think of my father, my grandmother, my aunt and uncles who came to America in the early 1920s, passing through this place – and tried to imagine what they were thinking and feeling.

Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island

I’m sort of ashamed that it’s taken me this long to get this close, especially having grown and spending most of my life in NJ. I suppose, living a little over 50 miles away, it was either too far, or we just never found the time.  Or,  quite possibly, we just took it all for granted.

But I think getting closer to it, seeing it in person – is something every American should  do.  You’ll understand why when you do it.


Natural Notes Revisited

prwadomI really need a change. I started this blog on May 30, 2006 on Blogger, mostly as a way to post about bird banding and happenings at the bird observatory.  At that time, Blogger was still using the old format and it was a mild nightmare to properly load photos, along with some other issues that I can’t remember now.  I moved to WordPress shortly after and have been here ever since, even though I’ve found it to be more difficult and temperamental than Blogger.

More importantly though is that over the last few years, my life situations have changed somewhat dramatically.  For family and job-related issues, I stopped banding at RRBO and moved back to Florida again.  After my Mom’s death in July, everything changed again.

Though I’ve attempted to continue Natural Notes as it stands here on WordPress, I am finding it doesn’t feel right anymore.  I guess I have it in my head that it has been so dedicated to birds and banding and my life in NJ and Florida, that I find it scattering to continue it here.  The enthusiasm has waned.

I’ve considered abandoning it altogether for something different, but that wasn’t right either.  I tried changing the look and tone, but in the process found WordPress to be even more stagnant, stubborn, and downright boring.  I need simplification and some fun, not more headaches.

So, since this is my blog and I can pretty much do what I want with it (such power!) I’ve opted to stop posting on this WordPress blog, and resume posting on the original Blogger site. I’ve deleted the older drivel there that had little value to me, and spent a day or two having some fun developing the new site.

I want a fresh look, I want a broader focus, and I’m very pleased with Blogger’s new and improved behavior.

For those that still stop by here, thanks for doing so and I will leave this blog here for the archives, but I’ll be posting on the Blogger site from now on.  Life should be fun, as well as good.

Thanks for your patience and support.

That’s Some Rock!

arch1Saturday, Oct. 3 was one of those really perfect fall days – crisp, cool, sunshine and blue sky – so I decided to visit the natural arch that’s about 13 miles from our home.  I love rocks, and this one is impressive.

Wind, water and ice eroded the softer stone and left this hole in the hard cap rock, creating an arch that measures roughly  50 by 90 feet. The area around the arch is now a park within the Daniel Boone National Forest.  There are several hiking trails, including one that takes you down under the arch itself.  There’s another arch somewhere on one of the trails, but this is the major formation and I haven’t hiked all the trails yet, so I can’t comment on the other.

arch3According to the Park brochures, the area under the arch was considered sacred ground by the Cherokee and the Native people that were here before them.  It isn’t difficult to imagine that it was, or that it still is.

This has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit, conveniently close to home, but so magnificent in what it has to offer that each trip is a new experience. I’ll no doubt be posting more about my explorations there.

It probably took me longer than most to hike to the bottom, only because I kept being side-tracked by other things to see, like this flowing rock with the straight line of pebbles caught in the motion. How did that happen?  A trip to the library for some books on Kentucky geology is in order…


I was also impressed by this forest of moss and lichen under the cedar trees on top of one of the rock ledges.  I’m not sure what the red hairy plant is – more books required!


The remaining photos are the area under the arch, and the last one is the view of the woods looking out from the rock shelter.  I have no doubt that this was, and still is, Sacred Ground.


The shelter area under the arch



Chocolate Swallowtail

chocolatecat2This afternoon I discovered this lovely chocolate-colored caterpillar clinging to the edge of the dog door – not exactly the safest place for anything so small.  We have four dogs and they tend to come through the door two-at-a-time.  Or try to, anyway.  I used a whisk broom to scoop him off the door.  I figured in exchange for my saving him from being unceremoniously squashed, he could pose for a photo or two before I relocated him to a safer place to mutate.

chocolatecat1The overall shape and eye markings suggested a swallowtail.  I’d never seen one this color, but after a little online research, I found that this is the caterpillar of a tiger swallowtail.  It starts out yellow-green and changes color when it stops feeding and prepares to pupate.

The caterpillar’s head is actually under that enlarged thorax, and those eye spots are supposed to make this guy look like a snake so predators won’t eat him. Maybe.  To me he looks more sorrowful than scary, but what do I know?

Just the fact that it is a tiger swallowtail was interesting enough for me.  We had one form a chrysalis over the porch door a last year, so apparently they think it’s an OK place for metamorphosis.  I decided to let this guy choose his own spot, and left him safely on the piece of driftwood on the porch railing. There were plenty of places close by where the risks of being squashed like a bug weren’t quite so high.  When I went out to check on him a few minutes later,  he was gone.  I haven’t found where he went, but just below the porch railing are plenty of bushes and shrubs much better suited for survival than our dog door.  I guess I’ll just have to watch for a butterfly now.


North American Bird Phenology

NOWAWhile browsing the website of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (which houses  the bird banding laboratory), I came across the North American Bird Phenology Program.  Phenology is the study between natural phenomena and seasonal or climatic changes.

This program seeks to catalog an almost-forgotten collection of  six million hand-written notecards documenting bird migration observation from the 1880s to 1970, when the card program ended.  At the height of the program, more than 3000 participants noted the arrival and departure dates of migrating birds each spring and fall.  The records are the major source of knowledge concerning migration and natural history, from World War II back to the latter part of the 19th century.

The project was started in 1881 by one man, Wells W. Cooke, who began noting arrival and departure dates of migrating birds on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota.  Cooke organized volunteers and in later years, attracted the interest and support of the Americna Ornithologists Union, which helped organize and run the program.  The program became a government project in the late 1880s and continued for many years, but was discontinued and shelved in 1970.

In 2003, Sam Droege took on the responsibility of finding a way to revive the program, and through his efforts and the efforts of others, the cards were moved to Patuxent and volunteers have been transcribing the cards to an online database.  You can read the whole story and learn more about the program on their website.

My point (I’m getting there) is that anyone can volunteer to participate.  Transcribing isn’t difficult, and there are three different training videos available to help volunteers with deciphering the cards. If a card comes up that is too difficult to read, you can opt to skip that one and get another. In addition, you can also choose to transcribe by species or state location as well.

I’ve signed up, of course.  I figured it’s a good project, and it’s going to be a long winter.

IRFD Blog Sites

Not Much to Look At…

IRFD1It rained most of the day today, but in between showers I managed to get outside in the backyard at least to participate in IRFD.  There wasn’t much to look at, really.

Mostly some wet dirt, fine roots and wormy-looking things.

A little burrow under this one…and lots of trails in the next two.


The most interesting find was a little snail under the last one I flipped.  I did maybe a dozen or so without much success for anything dramatic.  But after I processed the photos and put them up here, I think they’re kind of neat in their own way.  I’m sure a magnifying glass or microscope would reveal a lot of critters and plants not visible in these photos.

In any case, I had a great time in spite of the rain and noticed a lot of other stuff in my yard that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I’ll have to try this again when the weather is more favorable.

You can see the list of participants at wanderinweeta’s.


%d bloggers like this: