redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Jul. 3rd, 2017 02:32 pm)
[personal profile] cattitude and I got up very early this morning and walked over to the Alewife Reservation to look at (or at least for) birds and frogs, and listen to the dawn chorus. This was my idea, in conversation on our way home yesterday: I suggested that it might be fun, but maybe later in summer when sunrise is later. He mentioned that he is often up around dawn these days, so we agreed that if he was up anyway, and wanted to go for a walk, he would wake me gently by calling my name.

We pulled on clothes at about a quarter to five, and walked down the bikeway; unusually, we saw no cyclists, though one pedestrian passed us, looking as though he was hurrying to catch the first or second subway train of the morning.

We heard more birds and frogs than we saw: the ones we heard included what sounded like two or three large bullfrogs. I spotted one large frog, lying on the surface of the water with all its legs spread, near enough to us that I could see some yellow on its body as well as the green; Cattitude found a few that were either sitting on lily pads or doing their best imitations of random lump of vegetation.

The sun rose while we were on one of the paths in the Alewife Reservation, that first blaze of orange on the horizon. *smile*

We heard some familiar birds—red-winged blackbirds, mallards, a cardinal, grackles—and some birdsongs neither of us recognized. We also saw swallows (in the air, of course) and what might have been wrens or warblers, tiny birds on the path some distance away. My immediate thought when Cattitude pointed them out was sanderlings (sandpipers), but the Alewife Reservation is a freshwater wetland, not a tidal marsh or mudflat.

On the way back I got a glimpse of a heron, flying up and curving away from the path as we approached. (It looked white enough that it might have been an egret, but a great blue heron is more likely based on what we've been seeing around there, and the dawn light can do odd things to color.)

We also saw several rabbits, of which there are a lot living around here, and one chipmunk. No muskrat—the last time we were over there we got a good look at one swimming near the surface of the water, biting off a lily pad and taking it away somewhere, presumably to its den.

That was a lot of fun, but may not have been prudent, because I got about hours' sleep last night. We tried going back to bed when we got home, and I dozed a while but didn't really get back to sleep.

I got up again around 7:30, had tea and breakfast, and then went out again to do some gardening before it got hot. "Gardening" in this case means looking at what's currently growing there, and quite a bit of weeding. We have three sunflower plants (I'd only been sure of two), but no flowers left, and the cucumber is being enthusiastic enough that I'm trying to figure out how much I can reasonably cut the roses back to make room for it.
Forsythia all over, and the first magnolia blossoms along the bikeway (near Magnolia Field). Some cherry blossoms on Lake Street, both fruit trees in my back yard are in flower, and I saw some Callery pear blossoms on Mass Ave this afternoon. Some of our crocuses are done, but others are still blooming. (Lots of daffodils.)

There are still chickadees in my yard (yesterday) and along the bikeway (this morning), and I had n nice long look at a red-winged blackbird in the marshes near Alewife Brook, on the path from the bikeway to Mass Ave.

I planted rosemary in the front yard this afternoon, to replace the plant that didn't make it through the winter. (The tag on that one said hardiness zone 8, and we're zone 6; the one I just planted just says "rosemary," but I've seen rosemary plants in gardens nearby that clearly made it through at least one winter.) I also bought some lettuce plants, but have to decide where they go, and weed and/or hoe first, I think. (Yes, I started lettuce from seed last week, but I'm not feeling patient.)
redbird: closeup of pale purple crocuses (crocuses)
( Apr. 10th, 2017 06:47 pm)
After what seems like a very slow start, the forsythia bushes in our neighborhood now have lots of flowers open. (It has been sunny for the last several days, and very warm yesterday and today—I think today's high was something like 81F/27C, and tomorrow is forecast to be even warmer.) This feels late to me, but I'm not sure whether this is just not being used to living in Massachusetts, or that it feels vaguely out of order, in that the daffodils in front of the house have been blooming for a couple of weeks.

The nearby garden center now has six-packs of lettuce plants, and some potted herbs. I bought some potting soil today, to use with the seeds I started a few days ago, while trying not to worry about the likelihood that I should have started my seeds sooner than I did. (The seeds are currently in little disks of peat moss, just starting to sprout, and I am going to need to move at least the tomatoes into slightly larger pots before planting them outside.)

We also have enthusiastic cardinals singing in trees nearby; last summer we had at least one fine brood of cardinal fledglings darting across the yard.
redbird: a tit (bird) just outside its nesting box (nestbox)
( Sep. 17th, 2016 07:30 pm)
Today was Arlington Town Day, but we skipped that in favor of going to look for frogs at Alewife Reservation again, because it was a gorgeous morning. I did see the fireworks last night, on my way back from dinner: I got off the bus and saw them over a building, so walked down Mass Ave to get a better view. About a block away I found a spot where a few other people were watching, where it looked as though the fireworks were aimed directly toward us. One of those people was a child, of an age to go "oooooh!" and say things like "boom" and "this is going to be a big one."

We saw a lot of frogs, some of them quite large, and several turtles; I seem to be getting better at frog-spotting for having had a bit of practice. (The last couple of times, mostly Cattitude and [personal profile] adrian_turtle were pointing them, and I could only find some of those; this time Cattitude and I were each finding frogs and pointing them out to the other.) We also saw a flicker out our porch window this morning, the first I've seen since moving here (though we'd heard a few).

We treated ourselves to lunch at Summer Shack after the frog-watching (thanks, [personal profile] minoanmiss/[livejournal.com profile] browngirl for bringing it to my attention), and then decided it would be more fun to walk back home along the bikeway than to take the subway to Porter Square to shop for groceries. I headed out again a few hours later and got a few things we needed, including yogurt and cat food, while Cattitude did laundry.
redbird: a male cardinal in flight (birding)
( Sep. 5th, 2016 09:29 pm)
[personal profile] adrian_turtle, [livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I went for a delightful walk today. Yesterday I'd figured we would need to get out in the morning in order to avoid the rain; that turned out not to be true, but by the time we realized that Adrian was over here, and Cattitude and I were ready to head out, for what turned out to be a couple of hours in the sunshine. (It was mid-60s F (18 C) when we went out, very good walking weather.)

I wanted to head south on Lake Street and explore a little I hadn't done before; the two of them worked out a route while I was tediously renewing my prescriptions. (Rite Aid's system is a lot more efficient than Walgreen's, in case you're trying to decide between those two chains.)

We walked down Lake Street past Route 2 into Belmont, and revised our plans when it transpired that Google Maps had tried to guide us onto the highway. The streets in that bit of Belmont are curved around Little Pond. We found the unpaved, very pleasant access route from the street to the pond, and spent some time looking at the water. That bit of woods is mostly conifer, so we were walking on dried pine needles. The other pleasant surprise in Belmont was some late, very fragrant honeysuckle blossoms: I smelled them before I saw them, which is unusual. (I like honeysuckle, but not as much as Cattitude does.)

After Little Pond we found the Fitchburg Cutoff Path, which connects to the Minuteman Bikeway at Alewife Brook T station. There's a boardwalk leading from that path into a delightful constructed wetland, built for storm water management. In among the water lily pads, we saw several frogs, the first Cattitude or I had seen in the wild in years. (There is, alas, a worldwide amphibian shortage.) First Cattitude spotted two fairly small frogs sitting on lily pads (not jewel-colored tree frog small, but small), and then Adrian saw a much larger one swimming below the surface. We spent quite a while watching the frogs sit, swim, and even hop, and then walked a little further and saw more frogs, including another large one. There were also dragonflies and a goldfinch and a wood duck, all of which are good, and all of which we had seen in the area earlier in the summer (okay, we probably hadn't seen these dragonflies before, though the goldfinch or duck might be one of the ones we'd seen in August).

We eventually decided that lunch would be a good idea, walked the last bit to the T station, and went to Central Square for lamb shank, pumpkin kibby, and then ice cream and tea.
A several-day-long heatwave finally broke last night. [livejournal.com profile] cattitude celebrated by going for a leisurely walk in the rain this morning; we spent several minutes watching a small flock of goldfinches eating chicory seeds next to the bikeway.

Despite the heat, I have done some gardening—though that includes going out for five minutes to harvest cherry tomatoes as gardening. The cucumbers are not in good shape; I need to go remove several sad yellow ones and probably some dead leaves, and I don't know whether I will get any more cukes this season. A cucumber I bought at the farmers' market on Wednesday was bitter and not very flavorful, so it may not just be my garden.

I got a moderate amount of proofreading done, including finishing that math book, despite the heat, but a lot of it involved sitting down, doing 2-4 pages, and then going back into the air conditioned bedroom to cool off.

We have just had an air conditioner installed in the living room, so I expect to be significantly more comfortable for the rest of the summer.
redbird: my head and chest, from in front (new gym icon)
( Jun. 17th, 2016 08:33 pm)
A pair of cardinals built a nest in a tree near our backyard, and for the last couple of weeks, we've been enjoying watching and listening to both the parents and the fledglings. [livejournal.com profile] cattitude has seen more than I have, because I was in Montreal for some of their early flights.

Today, I stood on the porch watching the cardinals while doing one of my exercises. A lot of what I'm doing involves using a doorframe to hold the exercise elastics, but a few of my exercises can be done standing anywhere, and one just requires a step. (I did some of those while waiting for the last person on my bus to clear U.S. Customs on Tuesday.)

some exercise numbers from yesterday and today )
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Jul. 27th, 2013 09:55 pm)
We visited the Woodland Park Zoo this afternoon, and bought annual memberships on the way out. (Like the Bronx Zoo, they let you apply that day's admission charge to the annual fee.)

We started with the jaguar exhibit, because we wanted to see the cubs. Almost started—the penguin enclosure was en route, and our attention was caught by a very impressive blue heron standing on the tallest bit of rock there. I stopped to look, and [livejournal.com profile] cattitude noticed another non-penguin. One of the volunteers told us that it's a brown booby (Sula leucogaster), which had caught a ride on a ship to Seattle, and was offered to the zoo. Like the heron, it is not caged and has complete, healthy wings. They both could fly off at any time, but appear to be staying because they have access to the penguins' fish supply. (I have posted a query to the LJ [livejournal.com profile] birdlovers community, asking for opinions on whether that sort of volunteer long-term visitor should count for my life list.)

The jaguars—mother and two cubs—were in fact very cute. Everyone (except a few small children, until corrected by their parents) formed a neat line, and walked along the edge of the exhibit toward the jaguars. (I got a nice view of one of the cubs before we got to the end where all three cats were.)

The Woodland Park Zoo also has a superior exhibit of river otters: they have a good-sized pool to swim in, with one glass wall, set up so visitors can watch the otters from the side, not just from above. The otters (two) were very active, and very cute. Other high points included the hippos, which were just lying in the water when we got there, and then started moving around, first surfacing partway, then swimming closer to us and deeper in their pool; I got to watch them from above, through a few inches of water. I just stood there and smiled for a while.

We haven't seen everything; that, along with how good the otter exhibit was, is part of why we joined. (If we go twice by the end of July 2014, it will be cheaper than paying full price for each visit.) It also just feels right to be zoo members; our membership in the Bronx Zoo expires on Wednesday, and we won't be renewing that while we live in Seattle.
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Monday afternoon I went to the Bronx Zoo by myself: it was a gray, chilly day, and as I was walking from the bus to the zoo entrance it started to snow.

There were very few people there. I spent a long time at the tiger exhibit, which I had largely to myself. There are few things cuter than two tigers curled up next to each other on the same rock, but a third tiger trying to insinuate itself between them qualifies. (The zoo currently has four Siberian tigers: three year-old cubs and their mother.)

I also looked at the white-naped cranes, one of which was sitting on a nest; bison (11, all lying down in the more visible front part of their enclosure); and the Pere David deer. Relatively few animals were out, and I didn't stay very long, but it was a nice outing.

Today, [livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I went to the zoo together. It was bright and sunny, and significantly warmer, so a lot more animals were out and about; between that and spring break for the local schools, the zoo was also a lot more crowded (though nothing like as full as in summer, or even a weekend in May). On the way in, we asked if the okapis were out, and the cashier told us that it's still too cold, maybe next week.

Since what I'd wanted to see today was basically "Monday plus okapis," I went back to a lot of the same exhibits.

The tigers weren't as active, or as cute, as they had been on Monday, but they were well worth watching, and looked even better in the sunlight. On Monday I took some pictures with my iPod, but suspect none of them are worth trying to massage; today I brought my camera, but haven't copied the photos to this computer. There were a couple of dozen other people at the tiger exhibit today, but still few enough that we got a good look and I didn't feel as though I was being selfish for staying there as long as I wanted.

The cranes were even more fun than on Monday: we spent a while there watching them (and a muskrat on the bank), went across to the snow leopards, and then came back. On our second visit the female crane got up long enough that we could see that she is sitting on two eggs; she rearranged them and the straw around them slightly, then folded herself up again, beak resting on her back.

We also had fun watching the rhinos (in what used to be the elephant enclosure next to Zoo Center).

Sometime in the past four days, a flock of red-winged blackbirds have arrived, and are singing loudly in the trees and shrubs next to the Northern Ponds waterfowl exhibit. There are also a lot of wood ducks this spring.
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[personal profile] cattitude and I went to the Bronx Zoo today to see the new tiger cubs. So did a lot of other people, so we looked at tigers from the back of the exhibit for a bit, went elsewhere, then came back when it was a bit less crowded and watched the cubs play again. (Three Amur tiger cubs, which have just been put on display, sharing an exhibit area with their mother.)

and other zoo animals, on a gorgeous warm day )
redbird: a butterfly, wings folded, resembling the letter V (leaf)
( Jun. 12th, 2011 06:38 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I went to the Bronx Zoo today: it was pleasantly cool and damp and not very crowded when we got there around 1 p.m., and pleasantly warm and sunny by the time we left.

chipmunks, okapi, and gawky adolescent birds )
redbird: a male cardinal in flight (birding)
( Mar. 5th, 2011 03:59 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I went to the Bronx Zoo today, for the first time in far too long. (First I was sick, and then it was winter.)

We started by walking through the seabird aviary, which was fun, and then the attached bird building, which has fine ibises and such, and where I realized that I mostly wanted to be outdoors. Fortunately, it was a warm enough day for that; unfortunately, a lot of the animals, including the snow leopards, seemed to think it was a fine day to lie down and nap.

Got lunch at the zoo cafeteria, which wasn't as good as usual; we're hoping this was just an off-season blip.

We went to the giraffe house for the aardvark exhibit; the zoo is trying to keep it dark, for the animals' sake, but it's curtained off, loosely, so my eyes would get dark-adjusted and then someone would come in or out, and I'd lose part of the dark adaptation. We saw the tail of one aardvark, sticking out of its den/artificial cave. The giraffes were good, though.

It's definitely getting on to bird courting season, both for at least some of the zoo birds and for wild/local birds. There was a flamingo displaying very impressively (and some others less so). Over near the duck ponds we saw several male red-winged blackbirds, singing and showing off their colored wings. (If there were any females around, they were hiding.) A muskrat was also lurking there, and we spent several minutes watching it and the birds; muskrats are usually a lot shyer.

We finished by spending a few minutes at Tiger Mountain, where we saw two fine tiger cubs (adolescent Amur tigers) and their mother. By then we were pretty tired, so we headed out, with only a quick look at the Pere David deer and the bison.

No crocuses yet, but witch hazel was blooming, and there are a lot of snowdrops.

We also saw chickadees and a wren, plus an assortment of ducks. One mallard in the flamingo pond near the cafeteria kept diving, not normal mallard behavior; it seemed as though he was trying to reach the bottom, classic mallard dabbling behavior, and not prepared to give up just because the water was too deep. So, dive, kick for the bottom, see if he could grab something before surfacing.

I am feeling pretty worn out, despite a restorative cup of tea.

Also, I went to the gym yesterday )
redbird: a male cardinal in flight (birding)
( Oct. 10th, 2010 10:24 pm)
We have seen the legendary wild parrots of Brooklyn, and I can put them on my lifelist!

More important, [livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I have spent a good afternoon with [livejournal.com profile] roadnotes and [livejournal.com profile] baldanders, drinking tea and nibbling chocolate and olives and cheese and ginger snaps and talking about musical theater and health stuff and life and people. The subway was being a bit difficult (no D along the section that would have been useful to us, no L ditto), and I had to climb stairs at Roadnotes and Baldanders's station, but we are home now, and the L not being available led to us getting a well-timed dinner at a diner on University Place in the Village, so that's all right.

The legendary wild parrots are an established feral population of monk parakeets; the ones we saw are living in Greenwood Cemetery and in an electrical substation across the street from the cemetery. The cemetery for the usual appeal of trees and grass, and the electrical substation is warm year-round, and has flat surfaces they can build nests on. (There are a few other groups of these birds elsewhere in and near New York City—and 100,000 or so in Florida. They are native to the Caribbean, and this climate is marginal at best for them if they don't find an electrical substation or, I suppose, a poorly insulated rooftop.)
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[livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I went to the Bronx Zoo today. I walked up to the edge of the lion enclosure to watch them, and a small boy who was standing in front of me looked at me and said "Why do you have a beard?" I said "Because I grew it, the same as anyone else." Then he asked "Why are you a girl?" and I said "You'd have to ask my parents, they made me one." At that point he said something about the gazelles in the area behind the lions, and we both focused on the big cats.

A more accurate answer to the first question would have been "because I'm lazy": shaving is a nuisance and leads to stubble and itching (sometimes itchiness by the end of the same day), and any more permanent hair removal would require me to be sure I wanted it and set aside time (as well as money). But I suspect that was even further from what he was thinking, which probably was in the area of "I thought you couldn't do that."

It was a good day for the zoo in other ways: cool (call it 70F, 21C) and overcast, so a lot of animals were active. The lions were moving around, even chasing each other a bit, as were the gazelles behind them. We spent a while watching the hyraxes in the baboon area. At first they were still and very hard to see: they're almost exactly the color of the rocks. But some of them moved around, and both Cattitude and a woman who was just standing and watching pointed some of them out to me. That was fun; I like hyraxes, in a somewhat intellectual way. (Small, obscure mammals whose closest relatives are elephants.)

We also had fun with snow leopards (again, quite a bit more active than usual) and the white-naped cranes. The young crane looks a lot more like his parents than he did on our last visit: brownish head, and his body feathers are graying, but still a little browner than his parents. Their pond is covered with duckweed, which made a nice contrast.

There were a lot of chipmunks just running around (the zoo is full of them, but we rarely see them, because they tend to stay under cover), and cardinals singing. We also watched the giraffes and ostriches for a bit. Skipped the tigers because I was tired by then. (I decided against going to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] elisem and other folks in Greenwich Village, because by the time we got back to Inwood I was tired, and not at all sure I had the energy to go downtown, enjoy hanging out, and get home again. Alas.)
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redbird: a male cardinal in flight (cardinal)
( Jul. 11th, 2010 09:12 pm)
[personal profile] cattitude and I went to the Bronx Zoo this afternoon. The specific reason for visiting was lion cubs, but mostly it's just that we hadn't been in a while (we've been members for years). I also am trying to get back into the habit of walking more, now that the knees are somewhat better. (Stairs can still be problematic, but walking on more-or-less flat ground has gotten much easier.)

description of zoo trip, cut for length )
We stopped briefly to look at red-winged blackbirds (and sit on a bench in the shade), then took the bus home. About half an hour after we got home, it started to rain. I grabbed my shoes and we headed outside. It was a good rain, cool and moderately heavy, and much needed. We didn't go into the park, because of the lightning and thunder, just stood on the sidewalk and got wet.
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[livejournal.com profile] cattitude and I spent a little while watching swallows in the park after lunch; the first I've seen this year, and swooping low, back and forth. I saw the red on the underside of the wings once, and the yellow a few times. We went on when the insects that were attracting the swallows found us.

On my way home Friday, I saw the season's first fireflies (one at a time, a total of four in a few blocks' walk in the park), and called Cattitude to come downstairs and see them.

Strawberries, of course. The privet is in bloom, as is lots of clover.

And it's annoyingly hot and humid.

Few young birds: the plants are running early, but the ducks and geese don't seem to be. I have seen two goslings and one duckling so far. And some of the starlings today might have been fledglings.

Because of [personal profile] centuryplant's post, yesterday we went looking for dragonflies. I saw a few, but not close up.

[I have OS install stuff to do, oh frabjous day!]
redbird: a male cardinal in flight (birding)
( May. 24th, 2010 08:31 pm)
These birds are fighting over a pile of rocks.
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redbird: a male cardinal in flight (birding)
( Mar. 21st, 2010 07:28 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] callunav posted yesterday about a trip to a nature preserve, and seeing red-winged blackbirds. She said she's not used to seeing them on this coast. I don't think of them as unusual: seasonal, yes, but I'm used to finding them in Inwood Hill Park and the Bronx Zoo in the spring and summer.

On Friday afternoon, [livejournal.com profile] cattitude heard one, but didn't see it. This afternoon, he suggested we go out in the park and look for red-winged blackbirds. Sure, why not, just a brief walk (we were both treating today as a rest day). We heard the call before we even got to the bit of wall that overlooks a reedy bit of marsh that they like, and I spotted him almost immediately. So we stood a few minutes and watched and listened, one red-winged blackbird, possibly the first of the spring, or maybe the second (if Cattitude heard a different bird on Friday).

There've been lots of robins around lately, and an unusual number of mourning doves. The usual mallards and Canada geese.

I remember when Canada geese were rare and noteworthy, and almost entirely migratory. Now, they're about as surprising as pigeons, and in some quarters less popular. I still like them.
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It was warm by recent local standards (the weather service web site said 48F (9C) but it didn't feel much over 40; still, 40/5 under a bright blue sky is good for New York in January), so [personal profile] cattitude and I wandered out into the park, in a low-key sort of way. A short way into the woods, we saw a man with a bird eating out of his hand.

First assumption was chickadee, because they can be lured to do that. But it didn't quite have the chickadee shape.

Our neighbor has befriended a woodpecker. He was taking pictures while it ate from his hand, and was happy to tell us that he has known the bird since 2007, and that he comes to feed her every day from November until May, and then she migrates to Canada for the summer.

The bird comes when he whistles, and eats from his hand, and I am quite prepared to believe that it's the same bird: this is not standard woodpecker behavior. He asked if I had a gmail account, so he could send pictures, and this evening, there they were, 19 still photos, some of them very good, and just under a minute of video. (21 MB, which presumably is why he specifically asked about gmail.)

He seemed nice, a bit older than us I think, not a native English speaker, but he had the English for what he wanted to say here; his name is Young, and I have no idea if we'll run into him again.

After that, we walked a bit more, then came home, and I tried to nap a little. Didn't actually sleep, but it's been a good, restful weekend.
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