Mink by the Celery Farm Spillway

_MG_0236A big thank you to Julie McCall for pointing out this American Mink this morning by the Spillway.

I saw him  (or her) twice in the morning, running around like a maniac, falling through the thin ice, swimming and putting on a show. The lighting was much better the second time.

I think it was young, because it was mostly oblivious to humans.





Monday Mystery Answered

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On Monday I wrote:

Luisa Gallego-Zuluaga, a student at William Paterson University, photographed this snake in High Mountain's Franklin Clove in September.

Can you ID it?  What's the best way to tell if a snake is venomous? 

The answer: Luisa asked a herpetologist, who thinks it's most likely a water snake.

Since the snake was photographed in Franklin Clove, said to be a Copperhead hangout, always better to be safe than sorry.

Peter Burger said the best way to tell if a snake is  venomous is:

"Generally, round eye: not venomous...slit eye or cat's eye: venomous."

I had heard that venomous snake have larger, triangular heads.

Turns out we are both right. More info here.

Pileateds at the Celery Farm

IMG_9893Earlier this week, I set off with camera in hand in hopes of photographing one (or both) of the bluebirds seen out my window.

I failed to find the bluebirds, but I did come upon a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. For once, the light was good and the Pileated seemed oblivious to me presence. One of the shots is above.


Evicting Squirrels from Owl Boxes

Squirrel on owl box

I don't have a Screech Owl in my owl box anymore, but this is one of the times of year that squirrels like to move in for the winter.

Since I get a few page views daily from folks around the country who have a squirrel problem, and I have one myself these days, I thought I'd post something.

Squirrels not only prevent owls from using the box, but I have noticed they also damage the box itself with claw marks.

That's why it's important to stay vigilant about keeping squirrels from building a nest inside the box during the colder months.

If you see a squirrel enter your owl box, take a broom and whack the side of the box to get it out of there.

If you see it bringing in leaves, remove the leaves. Repeat until the squirrel becomes discouraged.

Below, my owl box with a recent squirrel nest, and after the leaves have been removed. (Only 1-2 inches of fresh wood chips remain.)

Earlier posts about evicting screech owls are here  and here.


Bear Safety Advice from Experts

With the recent rash of bear sightings, the Fyke Board has suggested everyone get the word out about what to do if you encounter a bear.

Great idea -- especially since a neighbor on Louis Court put their trash out last night (instead of keeping it on an enclosed porch) and had it ransacked.

The advice from the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife is here. (Thanks, Fyke!)

I wrote a column for The Record last December about the bear problem,  which included the following birdfeeder-related advice:

The answer is not to install a sturdier feeder pole or buy more-durable feeders, as some folks do. The answer is to remove your feeders at night or not put up your feeders until the temperature stays much colder.

A hungry bear at a feeder is a potentially dangerous situation for both humans and bears.

Larry Hajna of the State Department of Environmental Protection explains. “The more a bear equates a property with food, the more likely it is to hang around not just your house but your neighbors, and they become less afraid of humans. They can start looking for handouts, and when they do that they can become more aggressive.”

Hajna says that could result in somebody getting hurt or in major property damage, and the bear could be euthanized.

Bears that keep raiding feeders could be deemed nuisance bears, to be trapped and relocated -- expensive, and not so great for the uprooted bear.

Most folks in bear country know these basics already, along with such fundamentals as securing their garbage cans.

But bears can range into the suburbs, so other North Jersey residents need to be aware.   

You can read the entire column here.

Monday Morning Mystery 120318

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Luisa Gallego-Zuluaga, a student at William Paterson University, photographed this snake in High Mountain's Franklin Clove in September.

Can you ID it?  What's the best way to tell if a snake is venomous? 

(Thanks to Pat W. for catching my poor wording! I had written "poisonous" when I meant "venomous.")

Rule of thumb: If you can't I.D. a snake, give it a really wide berth.





Thursday: Free Fell House Antiques Appraisals

IMG_1771On Thursday night, the historic John Fell House in Allendale is hosting an open house DSCN0005and its second Antiques Appraisals, featuring Dean Klein, owner of Vintage Roots.

(That's Dean, above, at the first Fell House event in April 2015.)

Dig through your attic, basement or garage and bring in one or two items for a free and fun appraisal. While you're there, find out more about the upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

The first two events were terrific -- you'll hear Dean talk about all sorts of old items that folks have brought in. They could be treasures or ... trash(?). You just never know, which is half the fun.

The free event runs from 7 to 9 p.m.

The John Fell House is at 475 Franklin Turnpike, across the street from the Celery Farm. The Celery Farm was once part of Founding Father John Fell's estate and known as Fell's Meadows.




Mysteries Answered: Part 2


Last Monday I asked:

Can you ID the bird above, photographed in Cajun Country? Why is this type of duck noteworthy?

Tom Mitchell answered correctly:

That is a Muscovy Duck, notable as an invasive species originating not from Moscow but from Central and South America that is a nuisance to some Floridians, who are allowed to capture and kill them. http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/waterfowl/nuisance/nuisance-muscovies/

Here are the residents of the impoundment behind our Fort Myers rental https://tommfoot.blogspot.com/2018/01/village-edge-muscovy-ducks-january-2.html

(Thanks, Tom!)

The answer I was thinking of that they are noteworthy because like the Mnadrin duck, the Muscovy is considered good eating. According to a park ranger, this is most likely the duck you eat in restaurants.


Yesterday: Spider mystery answered.

Mysteries Answered: Part 1

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The past couple of weeks I've featured Monday Mysteries from a trip to New Orleans and Cajun Country.

I photographed the above arachnid mystery at a nature preserve in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Deedee Burnside correctly identified it as a Banana Spider. More about Banana Spiders here.

Joe Lafferty, meanwhile, correctly ID'd it as a Golden Silk Orb Weaver.  More on Golden Silk Orb Weavers here.

Joe's photo of a similar spider is below. (Great shot, Joe!)

Congrats to both Deedee and Joe!

Tomorrow: One ugly  (mystery) duck.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver(2)