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I just got back from a lovely, relaxing, and mostly Internet-free week at the Jersey shore. It’s built up, congested, and crazy busy there this time of year, as people from all over New Jersey and suburban Philadelphia make the trek to the beach. Even still, there are many wild things and places there. I love New Jersey and stick my tongue out at people who say it’s nothing but malls, because they’re wrong. Yesterday by the side of the road, alongside a small lake where I rode my bike, I saw a Great Blue Heron, this amazing dusky-blue 4-foor-tall animal that seems to be all legs and neck until it takes flight and you see those wings. I also had a hair-raising encounter with a snake INSIDE THE HOUSE. I’ll tell you about both of those things tomorrow because I need to get to sleep soon, but for now I’ll tell you about some of the creatures I saw on a marshlands walk on Saturday morning, before it got blistering hot.

* Looking down as I walked over the sandy path, I spotted two tiny grey speckled toads, one slightly darker color than the other. I don’t want to brag but catching toads is sort of my specialty. I don’t always grab them up though because it usually scares them. I scooped up one of these little guys in my palm for a moment, and sort of communed with the other. They were smaller than one joint of my thumb, and I have weirdly small hands. They were so lightweight that as they hopped around they would land in small tufts of grass and only slightly bend the blades and get stuck there before scrambling and hopping back out. I love those little guys.

* Spotted one duck with seven babies swimming behind her as a little human family of two parents and one bespectacled kid sat on the bird watch platform and looked on.

* Set back a distance away from the path is a large pond, surrounded by rushes, where you can often see a big white trumpeter swan or two gliding around. Today there was a ton of them; I counted 30 but there may have been a couple more skinny necks in the fray that I missed. I have rarely if ever seen this many swans together at once and sure enough our Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America says that they are usually found in pairs or family groups. Wonder what they were all doing together like that.

* Also saw a few lone and young rabbits back in the scrubby underbrush. One was so small and young and unwise to the ways of the world that he hopped toward instead of away from me.

* A family of two parents and a shy young teenage daughter pointed out a black snake about two feet long with a faint diamond pattern on its back gliding over the surface of the water.

* Here’s the best thing of all. We kept seeing beautiful butterflies that are just the same kind as ones my mom is stitching in a counted cross-stitch design. They have a bright orange bar across the top of their wings, contrasted with a patch of black above it that’s flecked with white. I think they must have known my mom was immortalizing them in stitchery because one landed on her t-shirt and we watched it open and close its wings a few times in that slow rhythmic way that reminds me of breathing. We looked at it closely and smiled, thinking the same thing: it’s the butterfly! These are Red Admiral butterflies, according to our Dorling Kindersley Butterflies and Moths identification book. It’s interesting because the picture my mom is stitching is by a British designer, and sure enough the book informs us that we have those same kind of butterflies here. Red Admirals range from southern Canada through the US down to northern Mexico and throughout Europe to North Africa and northen India. Looking at an artistic representation of something in nature is a neat way to learn about it—perhaps teaching you even more than you’d learn from seeing it in its habitat alone.

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A few naturey things to blog about today.

First, it’s a full moon. The second full moon of the month of May, which is a phenomenon we call a “blue moon.” May’s full moon is called the Full Flower Moon. Coming up in June is the Full Strawberry Moon. It’s a draw which name is lovelier, I think.

It was blazing hot and humid here today but I had to run a few errands and since I don’t drive that meant I had to do some walking. After I hit up the library and the post office I dragged my sweaty carcass back to my apartment building. When I stepped into the courtyard what did I see but a rabbit lying in the grass on its belly with its front feet straight out in front of him and his back feet behind him. Like a housepet. He didn’t even look especially terrified to see me so near to him. Beginning last spring I starting seeing tons of rabbits near here and I occasionally saw them acting like this—totally relaxed, seeming to feel very safe. I wonder if they don’t really have many predators here. In the cool grass in the shade this one looked very sweet, and cooler than I felt.

The third thing is this. I saw my sister today, and she told me that the arboretum where she is a gardener got a phone call this morning. It was from a woman in the area who had found a tiny fuzzy baby owl on its own on her front lawn when she left her house to go to work. Why did she call an arboretum? Guess she didn’t know what else to do, and as my sister’s boss figured, she thought owls–>trees–>arboretum. Anyway, they called the
TriState Bird Rescue and Refuge who came to get him. TriState is awesome. They do a lot of good work on a small scale like with this baby owl and on a much larger scale, whenever there is an oil spill or other disaster that has injured birds or destroyed their homes. They also run an adoption program which allows you to give a little money to support either a species or a resident bird that lives at the refuge because they were unable to be released back to the wild. I have given this to my mom for Christmas for the last few years; she’s been the “proud parent” of peregrine falcons and brown pelicans in addition to me and my sister.

Okay, so I just went to the UPS store around the corner, a place I visit at least a couple times a week because I do so much photocopying for my zines. I was chatting with the kid who works there and he told me that yesterday a man came in wanting to send some live frogs through the mail. ! How’s that for modernity meets nature? They gave him a box for the frogs but told him he’d have to take care of it himself. Wonder if it’ll work.