Previous month:
March 2007
Next month:
May 2007

April 2007

All about pipping

   You read that right: pipping.

    It's a birding term for when the baby bird starts to break through the shell to hatch.

   I am told that I might be able to see signs of pipping before any hatching occurs, and I've read an article from 80 years ago about screech owls that says that there's pipping in screech owl eggs for a couple of days before an owlet emerges.

   I had not even thought to look for "pipping" before, because I've never had a screech-cam before.  But I detected no pipping when Mrs. Ace went for her bathroom break tonight.

   I have been in contact with a pair of birders in nearby Ramsey, who have a screech owl nesting box in their backyard, but no screech cam.

   Lately around the dusk, they've seen some activity at the opening -- an indication that a female might be sitting on eggs. But it's only a guess.

  Forget about checking for pipping. They'll have to wait for a few more weeks, probably, to even see if any owlets stick there heads out of the opening.

   That's a magical moment -- when you first see an owlet peering out of a nesting box -- and a nest camera spoils some of that sense of wonderment and discovery.

   Still, at this point, I'll take the screech-cam any time.

   Even with a monitor on the four eggs 24/7, I am still on the edge of my seat.

Wood duck and robin nests

Woodduck_2_2    Besides Mrs. Ace and her four of a kind, I can see at least two other nesting sites from the living room window.

  One nest is the robin's nest under the window.

   The egg count is up to two, and Mrs. R is sitting on the eggs right now.

   More conspicuous is the wood duck box, which I installed probably four years ago at this point.

   Until 12 days ago, I had never seen a wood duck anywhere in the vicinity of the box.

  Then the flood came, and I saw a male and female on the box.

   Yesterday, the male was back on the box for a while.

   This morning, I saw a male and female on the box again, with the female trying unsuccessfully to get inside.

   The two then flew off.

   I wish I knew what (if anything) is going on inside that box. Did anyone say "bird-cam"?

  Here's a photo of both boxes, located at 1 and 2 Nest Box Lane, Allendale, NJ 07401.

  Better to write to them c/o me, Jim Wright, the Record, 150 River Street, NJ 07601. All mail will be answered.



Apr. 28: Mrs. Ace update (


     Old joke: How do you keep a moron in suspense?

   New punchline: Buy him a bird-cam and have a screech owl sit on eggs.

   We are now 28 days into the incubation of Mrs. Ace, and I don't think I can boil much more water.

   Mrs. Ace is still sitting on four eggs. She still goes out at dusk for her bathroom break and pellet cough. She's just a lot less talkative these evenings.

   Stiles Thomas, the marsh warden, says these things always take longer then you expect (incubations, not bathroom breaks). And he is almost always right about such matters.

   So I am going to go on vacation for a week and then see what happened while I was gone.

   Just kidding.

   The truth is, I am addicted to monitoring Mrs. Ace and to keeping track of all the amazing things about nature that are taking place in the Celery Farm and other nifty natural areas of North Jersey.

   I will post any big news as soon as I find out.

   In the meantime, here's a Mrs. Ace mini-movie  to tide you over.

   The sound you'll hear is rain on the roof of 1 Nest Box Lane.

    The flick is short, so don't blink or go out for popcorn.

   Here's the video: Download MVI_0171.avi

Meanwhile, under the window

   The robin has finished her nest under our picture window.

   When my wife Patty and I open the shade in the morning, we typically see her for a minute or two before she flies off.

   Yesterday, Patty noticed an egg in the nest. The color of the egg is, sure enough, robin's egg blue.


This morning I saw the egg for myself. I grabbed a very quick picture of it -- and it is very hard to see, let alone photograph.

  As I have mentioned, photographing active nests and nesting birds for more than a fleeting second or two makes me uncomfortable. So what you see is what I got.

   I'd like to think that if you squint just a little, you can see the egg just fine.

   As of 11:30 Friday morning, the robin was sitting on her nest.

BIG snapping turtle


    As my wife and I walked in the Celery Farm on Thursday, we came across this sight in the Allendale Brook.

   It's hard to judge size in this photo, but imagine a manhole cover.

   Most large snapping-turtle seemed banged up a bit, but this one looked like it has been through a war or two.

   The big question is whether the turtle is dead or alive.

   If he's not there next time we walk in that direction, we're guessing he's alive.

   If there's a foul stench coming from the Allendale Brook, then it's time to get out the shovel.