Friday, July 30, 2010

Bev Bennett, Quilter Extraordinaire

The Internet has broadened my horizons plus it’s made the world a smaller place. I've met and made some wonderful friends over the years......via the Internet. With an online dyeing group I went to a retreat in MT seeing Yellowstone while with them. I’ve reconnected with HS and nursing school friends. I planned my nursing school class 30 and 35th reunions…..via the Internet. Last Thursday I received a message that made me stop and realize how the Internet has changed communication, too.

Back in the 90’s I joined an online quilting group as my life dictated that I needed to spend more time close to home. I loved piecing quilt tops and talking with my “quilting family”. Little did I know how joining that group would change my life. Our original leader, BillieJean had to withdraw and another quilter, Bev took over as the motivating force behind our group which we called Sunshine Quilters. Last week I learned (again via the Internet) that she passed on to kinder pastures. She's been ill for a couple of years, ruptured brain aneurysm, a growing aortic aneurysm, heart and lung disease, but her passing is still a shock.

Bev Bennett was little lady who was an optimist, no matter what her situation... ...she never slowed down, either. A retired Army nurse, she devoted her later years to quilting for children around the world. I don't know how many children have enjoyed the fruits of her labors...... ...thousands, literally. She was our "Mother Hen." She was one of our quilting angels....she' d take quilt tops made by others and quilt them on her home sewing machine, bind them and mail them off to children world wide. Even when she was still working outside the home she was quilting 200 to 300 quilts a year! Her finished quilts have gone to Siberian orphanages, 3rd world countries where children are receiving Rotoplast surgeries, US Indian Reservations, plus many, many more children in various places. Sunshine's motto is "Keeping the World Warm - One Quilt at a Time". That's exactly what she did!

Bev loved her kitties and dog, too. We all enjoyed her stories about KC Kitty, amongst others. She posted pictures of moose peeking in her window while her dog sat inside and watched. We'd shudder when she'd write about it being 40 deg. below zero during the winter, and wish for the lovely sunshine she'd describe in the summer. She'd mention stopping along the roadside on the way home from work to watch the Northern Lights. She talked about the beautiful Alaskan wildflowers. She loved Alaska!

Widowed over 25 years ago, Bev still talked of wonderful times spent with her husband Don. When my husband, Russ died almost 4 ½ years ago she was one of the first to email me and sent numerous notes to help me through my grief. Even though I never met Bev in person I felt like I knew her and that she was a friend. I mourn her passing though now she’s at peace.

RIP dear Friend. You may be gone from this world, but not from my heart.
Bev Bennett, Quilter Extraordinaire

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Duke O'Fluke Atlantic County Back Bay Birding

I have gone several times on the CM County Salt Marsh Safari on the Skimmer so a friend and I decided to try the Duke O'Fluke which is a covered pontoon boat that twice a week is used to cruise the back bays and marshes behind Ocean City, Margate and Longport. The trip goes from 6PM until Sunset. The waters are deeper and more open then what we traveled in CMC. You travel to Malibu Beach which features a large colony of nesting Black Skimmers and then end the cruise by going to one or possibly two islands that have hundreds of egrets and herons nesting/sleeping there at night. You also cruise through the waterways seeing Osprey nests with chicks, many types of gulls, Willets plus lots of other birds. For me the highlights were seeing the Black Skimmers skim along the water catching fish along with going to the rookeries. I'd never seen a Tri-colored Heron and only one Yellow-crowned Night Herons and we saw both and a number of them. The trip had a nice breeze compared to being on land where it was just another day in the 90's. There was almost a full moon is the sky as we cruised through the waterways and the sunset was beatiful!

Gardens Tours

A post script to my last post is that I did find a chrysalis for the butterfly and was thrilled but several days later the chrysalis was open and it was apparent that a butterfly hadn't emerged. I read that other insects can parasitize the chrysalis which is what I guess happened. I was really disappointed. I am waiting for more caterpillars to show up to feed.

CM County Garden Tours led by Pat Sutton have been happening for a number of years but last fall was the first time I'd heard about then in a class given by Pat on bird and butterfly gardens. The class covered native species that thrive here. The tours are broken in 3 sections - South of the Canel, NCM to Rio Grande and North in the county. I was able to take the South and Mid section tours leaving the North section for another month. Pat does the 3 tours for 3 months in a row as you'll see different plants in bloom and attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. The tours stopped at 7 residences each day.

The word of the weekend was unrelenting heat! The first day I did fine until midafternoon when I really began to feel wilted. I had plenty of water but the back of my neck - BURNING - from standing out in the sun. The second day I wised up and took a handtowel soaked in cool water and kept cold in ice chest that I started to wear around the back of my neck as soon as I felt warm. This worked like a charm so I'll use the idea while birding when it's really hot!

My favorites were the properties that match mine closely. I live on the Delaware Bay and have strong winds blowing in frequently which affects plantlive. On the South tour we stopped at one house along Beach Ave in CM. On the Mid-county tour there were 2 homes along and near to the Delaware Bay. Even better the 3 gardeners are happy for anyone on the tours to stop back so I'll be visiting then soon. I know they all will have lots of helpful hints on how to manage/plant my gardens with appropriate plants/schrubs. The gardeners on the Mid-county tours also gave us Queen Ann's Lace seedheads plus lavender and starter Sumac shrubs. I came home feeling excited to get started but most of that will have to wait until 2011.

As I sit here looking out on my backyard plantings, birdfeeders & birdbaths along with the waterfall I see a number of butterflies flying around and stopping to drink some nectar. Two butterflies I see today are the Cabbage White (pictured) and the Yelllow Swallowtail. Of course in the days and years to come I hope to attract more to my property. I also hope to attract back the praying mantis that I used to see here back in the 1990's.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies in my garden

I have gotten very interested in nature in the last 9 months. Last fall I took several classes from Pat Sutton at the Cape May Nature Observatory. The classes were on building a backyard bird and butterfly gardens. She's a wonderful teacher. My yard slopes away fom my house which makes some of what I'd like to do more difficult. So I have had several yards of soil delivered and then had the "pleasure" of moving wheelbarrels full of dirt to the back yard. I made a small garden space and last weekend expanded it. I started with a 2 piece waterfall and then added plants that are native and nature friendly. I have lots more plans plus this weekend Pat is leading a butterfly gardens tour where we visit private gardens geared to bring in butterflies! I can't wait and hope the weather will be good. In the past few weeks I have seen Eastern Black Swallowtails in the yard. About 3 days ago I saw 3 caterpillars on my Bronze Fennel plants. Since then I have had another 3 caterpillars munching away. I am not sure where the original caterpillars have gone but when I came home tonight they were not on the host plant. I am hoping they were not eaten but have gone into the chrysalis stage of their development. I gave a quick look but didn't find them. Above is picture of the butterfly and below are the caterpillars.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

American Oystercatchers with chicks

The end of spring also sees the American Oystercatchers nesting along the beach in Cape May Meadows. The beach is very popular with runners and walkers as it stretches from the end of Cape May through to the lighthouse in Cape May Point and then around the point. The Oystercatchers nest behind the protected areas of the beach but then feed along the ocean water's edge as do the Piping Plovers. Oystercatchers are fed by the parents throughout the summer while the Piping Plover must find their own food at the water's edge. The Piping Plovers are the smallest of the nesting birds followed by the Killdeer, Least Terns and then the Oystercatchers. First picture is Dad sitting on eggs with 2 newly hatched chicks by him (6/19). Picture 2 is Mom with 2 chicks (6/20). Picture 3 a different chick that would be about 10-14 days old (6/20). Then we have second Mom and chick again in pictures 4 & 5 (6/20).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Least Terns nesting - Cape May Meadows

I have heard that the Least Terns are staring to have chicks but when I was there 2 days ago I hadn't seen any yet. Here are a couple nesting. The males get very aggressive if you go near the barrier, swoping out, flying at you and they have been known to poop on you. For that reason I don't get to near to them. Bottom picture is male standing guard.

Summertime at Cape May Meadows - Piping Plovers

Springtime at Cape May Meadows means that the beaches are cordoned off using fence and ropes to establish an area where the Piping Plover and Least Terns can nest without being disturbed by people or dogs running on the beach. Both of these species are endangered so each year the Nature Conservatory is happy to see more "couples" come to nest. There is still access to the beach for people but it is just not the whole beach. Along the beach that is closed there were 5 pairs of nesting Piping Plovers, several pairs of American Oystercatchers, many Least Terns pairs and more recently the Black Skimmers have looked like they might be nesting.
First to nest were the Piping Plovers, which are a small bird that are very vulnerable to many predators. As soon as a nesting couple is seen the workers build an enclosure around the nest to protect them with an opening that the plover can go through but not any larger bird or animal. It takes the workers about 10 minute to build the enclosures. Once the chicks are hatched they leave the enclosure which would be there safe haven at night if they just but realized it.
Piping Plover parents (top 2 pictures)chicks (bottom 3 pictures)

Some chick pictures from the Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari trip

Here is the Common Tern nesting and with chicks along with the Laughing Gull with chick. So coooolll!!!!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron from the Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari

My most recent trip on the Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari was a delight because of all the nesting and Moms with chicks. The Back Bays are alive with new life. But a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron put on a wonderful show for us. He caught a crab but couldn't decide how to break it open to eat it. He finally swallowed it almost whole. Here are the pictures of him.

Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari

I have taken 3 trips on the Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari located in Cape May, NJ during June. The boat is a 40 ft twin hull pontoon design which makes for smooth sailing through the salt marsh and bay bays of Cape May County. Two of my trips were at 6PM and one was the 1:30PM trip. I like the evening cruises for the light as it makes for better photography. The first trip we saw lots of Osprey, Common Terns, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and gulls of several species. When we got to the Rookery there were hundreds of Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons plus American Bittern. New birds for me were an American Bittern (no pictures) and Black-crowned Night-Herons. Captains Ed and Ginny make the trip really enjoyable, teach you about nature and the birds.

More Northbound migration pictures

Here are some more pictures from Reed's Beach, Cape May County, NJ taken near the end of May.

Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings & Dunlin

First picture - Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plummage; Second picture - Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings with all in breeding plummage. Third picture - Dunlin in breeding plummage. Some of the other birds depending on Horseshoe Crab eggs are Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and Dunlin. All of them are shown in breeding plummage with pictures taken almost at the end of May.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red Knots Flying

Red Knots arrive along the Delaware Bay after flying in from Brazil. They fly straight through not stopping until they arrive here. The Red Knots feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs for up to 2 weeks, putting on weight, so that they can fly another 3 days straight until they arrive at the Arctic to breed. American Red Knot numbers have decreased significantly over the past decade becoming threathened with extinction due to the overharvesting of Horseshoe Crabs since the 1990's. Several enviromental groups launched an initiative to halt the harvest of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay. After many years and much petitioning the NJ government did enact legistation to protect the Horseshoe Crabs to aid in the saving of the American Red Knots. Beaches along the Delaware Bay are closed to the public from early May through the second week of June to give the birds access to the Horseshoe Crab eggs without human interference. In the past years other bird species have acquired a taste for the Horseshoe Crab Eggs competing with the Red Knots. In the last picture you can see the size difference between the Laughing Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, and the Red Knot. All three birds feed on the eggs.

Mid-May Horseshoe Crabs

Mid May, from the new moon to the full moon, is the time of year that several species of birds arrive along the Delaware bay to feed on the eggs of the Horseshoe Crabs. The crabs come to spawn on the beaches at the time of the high tides. The largest numbers of crabs arrive with those 2 moons but every night and day see crabs spawning. The Horseshoe Crab is necessary to the survival of the Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and Dunlin. The Hoseshoe Crab was over harvested in years past and the numbers of those spawning have been down which leads to less eggs for the birds to feed on. Each year the scientists come to the Delaware Bay area to moniter the situation. I talked to one scientist who was staying in Reeds Beach, NJ and he told me that this year he had seen the greatest numbers of Horseshoe Crabs spawning than he had seen in the last 10 years. Despite its name, it is more closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions than to crabs. The eggs are are the little green balls in the pictures.