Sunday, February 26, 2017

Signs of Spring

On Saturday the 25th, I started my Ebird list for over at Turtle Point Road.  I was there for a little while before I even saw a bird, but stayed on and was rewarded with a pair of Bluebirds and a Immature Bald Eagle flew over! Later on while we were driving home from dinner we stopped on Wisner Road, rolled the windows down and listened for Woodcock, well I heard them.....and Spring Peepers!  Today I'm going to head up to the Vernal Pool in the county park and see if there has been any action. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nearly 70 degrees

I'm not sure if we are breaking any records today, but it's nearly 70 degrees out!  I don't think I've ever seen it this warm in February, for some....climate change doesn't exist! Really?! Our Mother Earth would tell you differently.  I was able to get the boy out again, we did a loop up at Cascade. Not much bird action going on yet.  Upon returning home I decided to stay outside longer and hang out next to my pond.  I have about 30+ goldfish now. The ones I thought that the GB Heron caught last Fall, seem to all be there, that's what happens when your pond is cloudy, you can't see!  Now I have the babies that my mom purchased for me, and also last years young that the goldfish produced during the Spring.  It's a full pond now for sure.  They all look nice and healthy.  I enjoyed sitting out there watching the birds too. There was a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the apple tree for most of the hour.  This was the first time I've ever watched one for so long.  Lots of Winter birds still hanging around.  It's so good for the soul to just sit and meditate, listen to all the sounds around you and still your mind from the craziness of the world.  It is the secret to sanity. 
So....these two cuties are growing and developing beyond my expectations.  They will be hard to release, as they are pulling on my heart strings for sure. They are the only turtles I've ever gotten attached to. So different then any other species, they are hands down my favorite,  and I am beyond grateful that I got them into rebab for the Winter.  I've learned a lot about them, they have so much more personality and intelligence then any other species of our native turtles.  I've enjoyed every second of having them in my care.  I continue to offer them all sorts of foods.  They do eat a lot of Earth Worms, and soon as the weather warms, they will be getting slugs again.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Still the same....

Its funny how if you stay true to yourself and continue to do what you love throughout your lifetime,  you really don't change all that much.  What you loved as a 10 year old, you will still love as an adult.  I look at this picture of my 10 year old self, and think how I'm still out there loving the great outdoors and all the creatures that live there. Now, if  I could only recapture that childlike worry free, innocent, naive, 10 year old brain....I'd be gold!  As a child I lived only one day at a time, each was so full of adventure and fun.

Again, I'm having trouble getting outside most days, I'm feeling very worn down the last few weeks. Chemo is just so long and rough.   I'm trying to just go with what ever my body needs right now. I rest a lot.  I even took a bath this afternoon.  I need to recommit to get outside everyday before I do anything else.  Its so much more important that I get my exercise and fill my soul with nature, then to get one more thing done at the house.  I'm eating really healthy, not taking anything over the counter and only drinking water or tea. I'm going to do a green shake each morning and a huge salad for lunch, give my body the antioxidants it needs to fight the cancer with the Immunotherapy I'm on.  I'm also going to take a media break again, no more Trump crap, it's all too upsetting and not helping me be peaceful and calm at all.  I only need to read and watch only what makes me happy.  I need to reduce my stress so the treatment I'm on works!  Others can fight the fight.  When I'm well, I can go back to it too!   

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bucket list.....

I received an email from the NJSOC letting me know they are offering their Herpetology workshop again this year!  YES PLEASE!  

If I was allowed one do over in this life (besides not believing the original radiologist who sent me away 2x and is the reason I'm were I am now) I would have pursued a degree in Wildlife Biology or Zoology. I'd have become a Herpetologist and worked with Turtles. Specifically with species from the NEUS,  Wood, Spotted, Bog and Blandings, doing field work.  It's never too late to live your dreams.  Stay in a college dorm, do field work all day....I can't wait!      


MSU NJSOC Herpetology Workshop 2017:
Northeast Reptile and Amphibian Field Ecology

            Montclair State University's New Jersey School of Conservation is offering its 6th annual Herpetology workshop from June 12 to 23.

            Most of the course will be taught at the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) campus in Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, New Jersey; off-site field trips will also be integral to the course.  Originally constructed as a CCC camp in 1933, the NJSOC is Montclair State University's (MSU) environmental field campus and one of the United State's oldest environmental education centers.  The NJSOC is located 55 miles northwest of MSU's main campus and 75 miles northwest of Manhattan (approximate driving distances) on a 240-acre stretch in the middle of Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, New Jersey.  Stokes State Forest is within close proximity to a number of federal, state, and private land preserves including High Point State Park and The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  Together, these lands make up one of the largest undeveloped tracts in New Jersey and support over 40 of the state's reptile and amphibian species.

About this course:   
            Reptiles and amphibians, or "herps" as they are collectively called, are among the most misunderstood and unappreciated of all vertebrate animals.  While their direct value to mankind is not immediately apparent, herps provide various ecological services at multiple levels and serve as indicators of environmental health.  Recently, a global decline in herpetofauna has been documented.  Detrimental factors such as habitat fragmentation and destruction, disease, pollution, invasive species, overexploitation, and collection for the wildlife trade have affected countless species.  Educating students about the general biology and plight of reptiles and amphibians will undoubtedly improve public perception of these sensitive creatures and encourage a desire to protect and conserve them.
            This course is designed to introduce college-level students to the reptiles and amphibians of the Northeast United States, the environments they inhabit, and the techniques that are used to conserve and study them in the field.  Most of the course will involve hands-on field activities that allow students to get "up close and personal" with the salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards, and snakes that call the Northeast home. A small number of classroom lectures and active learning discussions will also contribute to the student learning experience.

The course will include:
  • Discussions of reptile and amphibian natural history: their basic biology, life histories, and habitats
  • Discussions on the conservation and management of reptiles and amphibians
  • Discussions concerning research design
  • Reptile and amphibian identification and taxonomy
  • Identification of calling amphibians by ear
  • Habitat, plant, and non-herp animal identification
  • Reptile and amphibian sampling, trapping, and marking/tagging techniques
  • Radiotelemetry
  • Reptile and amphibian tissue sampling for DNA analysis
  • Collection of occupancy, relative abundance, mark-recapture, physical, environmental, and geographic data
  • Field note recordation and organization
  • A primer in nature photography
  • Day and night surveys for reptiles and amphibians
  • Hikes through several diverse northeastern habitats
  • Off-site field trips to natural areas that are different from those around the NJSOC
  • Participation in ongoing herpetological studies at the NJSOC and elsewhere

Access and Accommodations:
The NJSOC is roughly 75 miles (driving distance) northwest of Manhattan.  Because no means of public transportation connect directly to the NJSOC, most participants will need to provide their own transportation; arranging carpools with other participants is strongly encouraged.  At the NJSOC, participants will be provided with typical field station lodging and cafeteria meals.

The workshop will be divided into twoone-week sessions, with each week-long session involving different schedules, activities, and learning experiences.  Participants will have the option of taking the course for either one week (5 days) or two weeks (10 days).  Cost is $750.00 per person for one week and $1000.00 per person for two weeks (discounts available for early registrants; see registration below).  These fees include instruction, meals, and lodging at the NJSOC.

One to three (1-3) transferable, undergraduate credits are obtainable through Montclair State University for an additional fee.  Non-credit options and course completion certificates are also available upon request.  To receive academic credit and financial aid, participants attend the course in June and register for the course during Montclair’s Fall 2017 semester.  For all inquiries regarding academic credit, please contact Dr. William Thomas at:

No experience is necessary but participants should be capable of college-level work and have strong interests in field biology, ecology, natural history, etc.  Participants should also be in relatively good health and capable of hiking several miles in a range of conditions over moderate-difficult terrain.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


This is year number 20 for the Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  I have been a part of it since it's first year.  The very first year only 13,000 of us in the US  participated, now millions of reports from all around the world are recorded.  I got out today and Friday and recorded some birds in other areas. I had two Bald Eagles on Wisner on Friday and another today.   I just love birding.  It makes every single day so special and magical. 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

2 Bald Eagles and a Coyote

By Debbi DeFrancisco

Yesterday I received a call from a good friend here in Warwick.  He let me know that there was a Eastern Coyote and 2 Bald Eagles less then a mile from home.  Thankfully I was ready to walk out the door because I had treatment down in the city in a couple of hours.  Well....I was not disappointed!  How lucky can I get?  To live down the road from wildlife that I could only dream about when I was a child growing up in crowded suburbia Long Island NY.  What an amazing way to start my weekend.

We are in a warming trend for the next week.  I'm working on feeling well so I can get outside every day!  I aim to watch every single second of this Spring unfold. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No cancer zone

So after a nightmare grocery shop,  where several people said things to me that should never be said to someone who is fighting cancer.  They were employees of the Supermarket who have not seen me in the last year. It's evident that I have cancer now that my hair is gone again.   I'm not going shopping anymore during the day.  Bobby is going to have to go with me in the evening.  I ended up so damn depressed. I came home, put everything away and headed to the forest.  I am so GRATEFUL that nature is my church, a healing balm for my soul and never fails to make me feel better. It has been there for me through the good and bad for the last 50 plus years.   As always it worked like a charm!  I did my ebird report from the park too. Notables were Blue birds and Pilated Woodpeckers.  Lots of Jelly Fungus all over the trees. I had my hand lens with me, and felt like I was ten again!  I posted the pic of the jelly on my FB page, and one of my friends wants me to post a picture a day and get everyone to guess what it is.  I'm game, it sounds like a fantastic distraction to all the crap on FB. 
While out on my walk I decided I need to STOP talking about the cancer again.  People are far too invasive and it's upsetting me to no end.  I'm here now, I feel good and I'm enjoying life, why do I need to constantly talk about having cancer??  I regret spending so much time this past year consumed by it.  I'm done.  Now how to tell people politely that I don't want to talk about my health? 
Today's weather was fantastic, not so good for our mother earth, but so nice for Monty and I to take our walk.  Temps ranged from 28-57f!  I hiked in a sweatshirt.  As the afternoon wore on, the winds were getting cold coming out of the NNW.  Sunrise was at 7:00am and Sunset was at 5:23.  The moon is Waxing Gibbous 95% full.  We are expecting snow, starting at 1am.  It will be our first Winter storm, we are expecting up to 12 inches.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Looking good

Just Ducky!

 Over the weekend we went up into the Catskills to visit our son Jason.  He is an environmental educator at Frost Valley YMCA Camp.  I love it up there.  I was able to do a short hike, and also challenge myself with two swinging bridges.  After all that I've been though this past year....they were easy. LOL  I also met a few sad birds of prey.  A Great-horned Owl, A Barred Owl and a Red-tailed Hawk.   I'm not a huge fan of saving rehabbed wildlife who can't be released back into the wild just for the sake of possibly teaching a small percentage of people to love and respect our earth enough to protect it.  It has been proven that seeing animals up close and personal does little to make future conservationist.  Most people think that the animal is so lucky to still be alive. I don't think animals give much thought to that, I think that they are bored and lonely living in captivity in tiny cages with minimal stimulation.  They don't care to meet people, in fact most are stressed and afraid of people.  The Great Horned Owl was incredibly beautiful.  I couldn't take my eyes off of her, but now I'm left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness for the pathetic existence she must endure in the name of nature education.  There were over 500 Girl Scouts at FV that weekend, only a handful went on a Nature walk with the Great Horned Owl on Saturday.  Zero came on Sunday.  How sad is that?  So few want to learn about our precious native wildlife.

Yesterday I had a great little birding drive.  I went looking for ducks close to home.  I find them so stunningly beautiful.  I was not disappointed.  By Wickham Lake, back in the swamp I found 4 Black Ducks and the most beautiful pair of Wood Ducks. I was able to sit on the stone bridge and watch the Wood Ducks for about 10 minutes.  By our Town Hall, I parked in the circular lot so I could sit in the passenger seat and look at the pond across Kings Highway.  I lucked out!  Mallard-11, Canada Geese-25, Ring-neck Ducks-12, Common Merganser-2, Gadwall,-8 Pintail-3, American Widgeon-2. 

Today it is raining again, it's been a bit icy as the temperatures are ranging from 36-38f today.  There is no wind. The birds at my feeders are eating heavily.  I think this is the worst weather for them to survive in, if they get wet and the temperatures are at  freezing they can easily freeze to death overnight.  The full moon is upon us. Today the moon is at Waxing Gibbous 87% Full.  Sunrise is at 7:01am and Sunset is at 5:21pm. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Road kill

Today on my birding drive I came across a dead opossum in the road, there was a young Red-tailed Hawk feeding on it. Winter is so tough on the young birds, I'm glad he was able to get a meal out of it.   There was a Turkey vulture waiting for his turn.  I stopped the car and threw the opossum in the woods, this way there was no chance of the birds getting hit by passing cars. 

Temps ranged from 25-41f.  It was cloudy but calm.  A really great day for a hike. 
Immature Red-tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Happy February

As the entire world goes completely mad, I am working so hard at staying as far away from all the chaos that I can.  No News and No Social Media.   I'm reading books again, spending my free time looking at birds, studying their behavior, doing daily birding drives all over town, listing on ebird,  walking my Monty each day and just enjoying the moment.  I am grateful that I decided to take a break from social media.  Watching each moment of Nature as we now get closer to Spring is always so much fun and so exciting for me.  I think it just might be my favorite time of the year. Every single year I feel like a kid again. My heart swells just thinking about getting to do it all over again, it never gets old!  There never seems to be enough hours in the day to watch it unfold, this year I am going to do my best to get outside and see it all!  

Today's temps ranged from 25-43f. It was partly cloudy and there were several snow squalls during the day. Winds were out of the North about 2mph.  Finally there were a few birds up at Cascade, a Hairy, 2 Pilateds, a song Sparrow and 5 gorgeous Blue Birds. Driving around I saw a few Red-tails, 1 Coopers, Vultures all over the place, hundreds of Geese, 1 Snow Goose.  It was a good day for sure.