Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter Sunset at Herring Cove

Photo by Patricia Zur

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nature Guide: Red Fox

Photo: John Sarvis/USFWS

The Red Fox is a member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes and the domestic dog. Although the Red Fox is a common and widespread species, it's still exciting to see one while walking in the area. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer gives us some information.

"A Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) usually has a rusty red back and head, but may be gray, brown or white. Its underbelly is white and its ear tips, legs and feet are black. Its bushy tail has a white tip which distinguishes it from the Gray Fox and the coyote. An adult Red Fox weighs from 7 to 15 pounds and can grow more than two feet in length with an 18-inch tail. A Red Fox has eyes like a cat, with vertically split pupils that are gold or yellow.

"Although Red Foxes are considered carnivores, they are actually very opportunistic eaters. Their most common prey includes mice, squirrels, rabbits and birds, but their diet ranges from insects and bird's eggs to berries, fruits and grasses. Red Foxes sometimes scavenge carrion and are even known to steal pet food from bowls left outside houses. They are nocturnal and usually hunt alone, relying on their acute sense of hearing to locate small animals in thick grass or even underground. They stalk their prey like a cat, sneaking close and then pouncing on it, sometimes jumping high in the air. Red Foxes are known to bury leftover food to save it for later.

"The Red Fox is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced into the United State by would-be fox hunters in the 17th century and has since become an established resident everywhere except the Southwest. It makes its home in wooded areas, priairies and farmland, but it is also found in suburban and even urban areas.

"Red Foxes mate from January through March. The female, known as a vixen, will dig one or more dens or occupy a den abandoned by a groundhog or other burrowing animal. The extra dens are used if the original one is disturbed. A little less than two months after mating, the vixen gives birth to a litter of between one and ten kits. The male brings the female food while she is caring for the kits. The kits start playing outside the den when they are about a month old. The mother begins feeding her kits regurgitated food, but eventually she will bring them live prey. Kits leave their mother when they are about seven months old."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

— William Carlos Williams

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Attention Parents: The Grasshopper Hopped!

As the readers of this blog know, we often post information about the natural world. So we are especially delighted to announce the publication of The Grasshopper Hopped!, a book for children by Elizabeth Alexander. A determined little grasshopper sets out to find the right place to be. He checks out a too-hot soup pot, a too-cold fridge, a too-loud clock, the too-wet sea and the mouth of a hungry frog — but we're not going to give any more away. The captivating story takes children along on the journey and the fun interactive tabs allow them to join in and help the grasshopper find his best place to be. The illustrations, in a cut-paper style by Joung Un Kim, are a visual treat for both children and adults.

The Grasshopper Hopped! will amuse and charm children ages 2 to 8. It follows Elizabeth's success with Little Pumpkin's Big Surprise! Click here to order from Amazon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nature Guide: Mixed Feeding Groups

Photo by Susan Boyer, USDA ARS

As you walk around our area during winter, you may notice rustling in the underbrush and an unusual variety of bird calls. These are signs that you have come upon a mixed feeding flock. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer takes a look at one way some birds survive in winter.

"After breeding season has ended in midsummer, it is not unusual to see several different species of small songbirds feeding together. This behavior, known as mixed flock feeding or mixed foraging, can last through winter. Mixed flocks move from place to place, so you may run into one almost anywhere. Sometimes they stay around for only a few moments, other times you will find a flock in the same place for days at a time.

"Different flocks seem to combine birds of a similar size. A typical mixed flock of smaller birds usually includes chickadees and titmice. Chickadees regularly call out when they find a good source of food. This attracts other species. Nuthatches, warblers and small woodpeckers can often be found foraging in these flocks. Occasionally they are joined by cardinals and juncos, and sometimes by Blue Jays. You may even see a kinglet or Brown Creeper once in a while.

"Larger birds such as robins, starlings and cowbirds also form feeding flocks. These flocks tend to forage higher up in the forest canopy and are constantly in motion.

"There seem to be two main advantages to joining a feeding group. First, a flock has a better chance of finding food than a single individual. Competition between birds in a mixed group tends not to be a problem because different species seek different food sources.

"The second advantage is that a flock is more likely than a lone bird to detect a predator such as a hawk. For example, a chickadee's keen eyesight makes it an excellent lookout. Also, when threatened, many individuals fleeing in different directions may confuse a predator and allow all of them to escape.

"As the breeding season approaches in spring, feeding groups break up and each individual goes its own way."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Holiday Decorations Reminder

Just a reminder that FVCSA requires homeowners to remove outdoor holiday decorations by Sunday, January 17, 2010. For residents with live greenery, January 22 and 29 are the last pickup days for Christmas trees, wreaths and garland. These items should be placed where your recyclables are picked up at the curb. All decorations must be removed prior to disposal.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Attention Parents: Event at Terhune Orchards

On Tuesday, January 19, Terhune Orchards will host the first winter session of their Read & Explore Program at the farm. The topic of the session is The Gingerbread Man. The classic tale of The Gingerbread Man will be read and each child may decorate a large gingerbread man cookie to take home. The children will be able to see how many ingredients of the gingerbread man come from farms.

Read & Explore is Terhune Orchard's winter education series with sessions in January, February and March. The program combines reading stories and doing related craft activities. Parents/guardians and young children (ages preschool to 8 years) are welcome. The sessions begin at 10:00 am and last about one hour. Each session costs $5.00 per participating child, which includes the materials for the activity. Parents should call ahead to reserve a space. The number at the farm is 609-924-2310. Check-in is at the farm store. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Terhune Orchards is located at 330 Cold Soil Road in Princeton.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cleanup Event at the Mapleton Preserve

You may have seen signs in the area about an upcoming cleanup at the Mapleton Preserve for the National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The D&R Canal Commission has the following information about this event on the calendar on its website.

January 18
National Day of Service — Cleanup at the Mapleton Preserve:
Join members of the Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands for an invigorating Cleanup Day at Mapleton Preserve from 12:00–3:00 pm! We will be clearing small trees, brush, and trash around the historic Propagation House and the Flemer Arboretum in preparation for our ARBOR DAY EVENT to be held later in the spring. Volunteers are asked to bring tools such as saws, clippers, loppers and rakes. Dress for the weather, whatever it is. This is your opportunity to take part in this second National Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is free and all are welcome. In case of extreme weather, the event will be postponed until Saturday, January 23, 2010 (from 12:00–3:00). For more information, see or call 609-683-0483. Interested participants can also sign up online here. This special program is sponsored by the Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Miep Gies Remembered

Photo: Anne Frank House
February 15, 1909 – January 11, 2010

Miep Gies died Monday night at the age of 100. She was the last surviving and best known helper of Anne Frank and the seven other people who shared a hiding place for 25 months in a canalside house in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. She also saved Anne's diary and became a worldwide symbol for those who unselfishly fight for their fellow men in times of war and oppression.

For two years Miep, her husband Jan and four other helpers (Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Bep Voskuijl and Johan Voskuijl) risked their lives supplying food and other essential items to the Franks (Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne), the van Pels (Hermann, a business colleague of Mr. Frank's, his wife Auguste and their son Peter) and dentist Fritz Pfeffer. After the arrest of the people in the secret annex, Miep and Bep gathered up Anne's diary papers that were scattered all over the floor. Miep intended to return the diary to Anne, knowing how important it had been to her. She locked it away and never read a word. At the end of the war, Otto Frank returned from Auschwitz. Eventually he learned that both his daughters had died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, less than a month before the camp was liberated. Miep was with him when he received the news. She gave Anne's diary to him. Otto had it published in 1947 with the title The Secret Annex. Since then The Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into 70 languages and is one of the most widely read books in the world.

Miep Gies, born Hermine Santruschitz, came from a Roman Catholic family in Vienna. She was one of the many Austrian children suffering from the shortage of food in the wake of World War I. She was sent away to be cared for by a Dutch family, who gave her the Dutch nickname Miep and eventually adopted her. When she was 13, her adoptive family moved to Amsterdam where she later became a secretary to Otto Frank. In 1942 he asked Miep if she would help shelter the family and she agreed immediately, replying "Yes, of course." Her husband Jan also pledged his unconditional help. Miep brought food, books and news of the world outside. She was also a confidante to Anne, bringing her paper for her diary and her first pair of high-heeled shoes. Miep and Jan, who was involved in the Dutch resistance, hid an anti-Nazi university student in their own apartment as well.

Although she later lived quietly in Amsterdam as a homemaker, Miep began to travel widely after she published her memoir Anne Frank Remembered in 1987. She spoke about the Holocaust and against intolerance, often to schoolchildren who were reading Anne's diary. Miep Gies has been honored by many countries. She was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for her heroism and dedication, honored by Yad Vashem, Israel's official authority for the commemoration of the Holocaust, and by the German government and B'nai B'rith in the USA.

Jan Gies died in 1993. Miep Gies is survived by their son Paul and three grandchildren. You can watch the six-part documentary "Dear Kitty" Remembering Anne Frank, with Part 1 starting here on YouTube. To see and hear more of Miep Gies, click here for her appearance in another documentary. The Miep Gies website is here, with videos that should not be missed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nature Guide: Snow

There's a language myth that the Inuit have a hundred or more words for snow. Although this idea has been disproved by linguists, it persists. In fact, English has many words for snow — blizzard, dusting, flurry, powder, sleet, slush, snowfall, snowflake and snowstorm are some that come to mind. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us about this weather phenomenon.

"Snow is water frozen into small ice crystals that fall from the sky. These crystals begin to form from water vapor in clouds when the temperature drops below freezing. Water collects around tiny particles of soil or dust that have been carried up into the atmosphere by wind. As snow crystals grow, they become heavier and fall towards the ground. During their fall, anywhere from 2 to 200 of these ice crystals join together to form a snowflake. All snowflakes have six sides, but the crystals can be arranged in so many different ways that no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

"Snow is white because its ice crystals reflect almost all visible sunlight. Visible sunlight contains the complete spectrum of colors but appears to be white. Other materials have color because they reflect some sunlight and absorb the rest. The color they reflect is the color we see.

"You may have noticed that fresh snow absorbs sound. This is because air trapped between snowflakes minimizes vibrations. At low temperatures this trapped air also produces the squeaking sound you may hear when walking across newly fallen snow.

"Once on the ground, snow begins a cycle of melting and refreezing, eventually packing down into a dense mass called snowpack. Snow piles left by shoveling or plowing also pack down, forming very cold mounds of ice. These are often turned gray or black by dirt or automobile exhaust. But eventually even the largest piles melt and dreary winter turns into spring."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good Luck, Matt

We are truly sorry to hear that property manager Matt Lubas is leaving Princeton Landing. His last day will be this Friday, January 8. He is going off to manage two other Signature Property Group communities in the area — a great opportunity for Matt but a real loss for Princeton Landing. We'll miss his fun sense of humor and friendly style. Good luck, Matt, and our best wishes to you and Jen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter Solitude

Winter solitude—
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

Matsuo Bashō
Translated by Robert Hass