Sunday, February 27, 2011

8 Minutes of Sky

Friday, February 25, 2011

Nature Guide: Slate-colored Junco

This year two juncos took refuge from our worst snow-storms in a Hinoki cypress in our atrium. It was a joy to watch them come and go. The Slate-colored Junco is a harbinger of winter—when flocks of these small gray and white birds appear in our area, cold weather is about to set in. When they leave, spring will soon arrive. Before Princeton Landing's juncos depart for points farther north, our Nature Guide Jon Latimer gives us some information about them.

"The Slate-colored Junco is generally found in our area only during winter. It is a sparrow-sized bird with a rounded head, a short pink bill and a fairly long tail. The Slate-colored Junco is the most common of several varieties of a species known as the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).

"Male Slate-colored Juncos have a dark gray head and chest, and a white belly. Females are a lighter gray or brown on the head and chest, and also have a white belly. But the surest identification marks are the white outer feathers on a junco's tail. In flight, Juncos pump their tails so the white tail feathers flash. Their flight is very agile, allowing the bird to maneuver through the tangle of underbrush.

"Slate-colored Juncos usually travel in small flocks. They prefer partially wooded areas containing shrubs and bushes that provide cover, especially fields, roadsides, parks and gardens. Juncos tend to move around low branches or hop on the ground near the bases of trees and shrubs. Slate-colored Juncos are primarily seed-eaters, so they also venture out onto lawns looking for fallen seeds.

"You may hear a Junco's twittering call or trilling song before you see them. They make high chip notes while foraging, which become more rapid and intense when they take flight.

"Juncos are among the most common birds in North America. A recent estimate put the total population for all varieties in North America at approximately 630 million individuals."

Monday, February 21, 2011

On New Ground

In a previous post, we reported on remarks about mulching made by the chairperson (now former chairperson) of the Landscape Committee. She had said that mulch raises a soil's pH, making the soil more alkaline and that using mulch will eventually kill acid-loving plants in Princeton Landing such as rhododendrons and azaleas. She had also made it clear that she would like to eliminate the use of mulch in the community altogether because of its cost. We noted that she was simply wrong about this, and that experts agree mulching is essential to the proper care of rhododendrons and azaleas.

At the Landscape Committee meeting on February 16, the (now former) chairperson reversed herself and admitted that what she'd said about mulching at the previous meeting was wrong. She also indicated that cutting back or removing some of our overgrown trees and shrubs would be good for the health of the landscape. By saying this, she reversed another of her opinions that had long been disputed by knowledgeable people in the community.

Later in the meeting, the committee elected a new chairperson for the coming landscape season. With new leadership and with the previous chair's position now reversed on two important maintenance issues, a better future may lie ahead for our beautiful but recently mismanaged landscape.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Parcel 6 Evening Sky — 5:48 pm

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simply Nic's Now at Whole Foods

Great news just in—Simply Nic's Artisanal Shortbread is now sold at Whole Foods Princeton! Stop by the bakery department of our local store tonight from 5 to 8 pm and you can sample some of Nic's freshly baked shortbread. It's available in both 2-packs and 6-packs. If you haven't tried Simply Nic's yummy sweet and savory shortbread yet—even after our posts here and here and here—what can we say but . . . you simply should!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Animated Short

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

The Heart of Santorini by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Sunday, February 13, 2011

ro●mance |rōˈmans; ˈrōˌmans|

1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love . . .

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nature Guide: Gray Fox

Our article on the Red Fox continues to draw readers almost daily, some of whom also show an interest in learning about the Gray Fox. Although the Gray Fox is found in our area, seeing one is difficult because they are normally active only at night. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us more about the other fox, the Gray Fox.

“The Gray Fox (
Urocyon cinereoargenteus) can be found from Alaska and southern Canada to northern Venezuela and Colombia. It prefers brushy or forested habitats, but in many parts of its range it has been replaced by the Red Fox, especially where humans make their homes.

“Fully grown, a Gray Fox is 32 to 45 inches long and weighs 7 to 13 pounds. Its coat is grizzled gray on top, with white on its throat and chest. Its tail has a long black stripe on its top and a dark gray or black tip. It has rusty-red fur on its ears and neck, and along the sides, which is why it can be confused with the Red Fox. But a Gray Fox has a shorter muzzle and its ears are usually held erect and pointed forward.

“The Gray Fox is a nocturnal hunter, although it sometimes forages during the day. It preys on small mammals but will also eat eggs, insects, birds, fruits, acorns and berries. During the day it usually sleeps in a hollow tree or in a burrow taken over from a groundhog or other animal.

“Gray Foxes are thought to mate for life. The female (vixen) may dig a den or enlarge the burrow of another animal. A den is often used year after year and can be as much as 75 feet long. It may have numerous side chambers used for storing food and keeping young kits safe. Male Gray Foxes bring food to the female and help teach the kits to hunt

“The Gray Fox has unusually strong, hooked claws that allow it to scramble up a tree. In fact, it is one of only two species of dog that regularly climb trees to escape predators or to obtain food (the other is the Raccoon Dog, Nyctereutes procyonoides, of east Asia). Gray Foxes sometimes climb trees to take a nap in a sunny location. They have even been known to hide or sleep in the nest of a hawk or owl. This unusual behavior is another reason why the the Gray Fox is seldom seen."

Photos: USBR; R. Robinson, NPS; Dave Schaffer, USFWS; Gary M. Stolz, USFWS; Dcrjsr

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PSO POPS! Plays Broadway

There's still time to catch a musical Valentine treat this Saturday night at Richardson Auditorium. Rossen Milanov, conductor of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, will lead the PSO POPS! in an evening of hits that went from the Broadway stage to the silver screen. "Hollywood in Love" highlights love songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The cast includes Brent Barrett (left), known for his work on Broadway in Chicago and Kiss Me, Kate, and Anna Bergman (above), known internationally for concert, cabaret, theater and opera performances. The concert will begin at 8 pm in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. Tickets are $20 to $64. For more information, call 609-497-0020 or click here to visit the PSO website.

Photos: Princeton Symphony Orchestra

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trader Joe's Valentine Ideas

Trader Joe's fans . . . we know you're out there . . . here's the latest—their ideas for Valentine's Day. Click here or on the image to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ice Storm — 8:26 am