Thursday, July 29, 2021

RANDOM PHOTO ...

or two. 


I took these photos at Walney Pond.  There was a bug in the middle causing all the ripples.  I liked the effect.  It is not a black and white photo, it just turned out that way.

My next post I will be sharing more from Huntley Meadows.

Thanks for looking and enjoy your day.




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THE DUCKS CAME MARCHING IN

It was the most darling, comical sight as we watched this family of ducks heading our way.  There were six juveniles with no parent in sight.  I don't know enough about them to know at what age they are left on their own.

They followed the edge of the water mostly.

The stream soon changed direction and as I walked to the part of the boardwalk it went under, I was just in time to take several photos of these pretty young ducks.
You can read about mallard ducks at this link.











I will end this post with that very famous poem, 
The Duck by Ogden Nash.


Behold the duck, 

It does not cluck,

A cluck it lacks.

It quacks.

It is especially fond

Of a puddle or pond.

When it dines or sups,

It bottoms ups.










Tuesday, July 27, 2021

ROSEATE SPOONBILLS AT HUNTLEY MEADOWS IN ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

I am very happy that we got to see these extraordinary wading birds.  This is a very unusual sighting and many birders have visited the park.  (Our visit was last Friday, July 23rd, 2021.) 

We arrived just after 9.00 a.m. and walked through the wood that takes us to the boardwalk.  The boardwalk crosses the marsh area.  All we had to do was follow the photographers.  There were those heading out of the park, and I asked one lady if she had seen the Spoonbills.  She had and told me to look for the other photographers.  

The birds were not close but Gregg got great photos and we were very happy with them.  We saw several photographers with longer lenses than we had, and their photos are probably the ones we have been seeing on Instagram.  There was another line of long lenses behind me as I took this photo.

In the United States, the Roseate Spoonbill can be found in southern Florida, coastal Texas and southwestern Louisiana. Their breeding range extends south from Florida through the Greater Antilles to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Roseate Spoonbills usually live in marsh-like areas and mangroves, and for a short spell at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.  Color us pink and very happy!
I have another post on this bird that I shared last week.  You can click here if you missed it.  It has more information.  I took those photos on a trip to Florida.  Gregg took most of these.
Originally I was told by one of the photographers, that there had been three Spoonbills, but no one had sighted the third for several days.  We only saw two.
Having read that they are very social, we were not surprised to see them looking comfortable in the presence of a small flock of Canada Geese, and a family of ducks.
Its mate was out of view of these photos.
A female lays a clutch of one to five eggs. Both parents share incubation duties, which last about 22 to 24 days. A newly hatched chick has mostly pink skin with a sparse covering of white down.  After one month, the chick will begin to exercise by clambering through the branches or foliage surrounding the nest, and by six weeks it will have developed wing feathers large enough for flight.
They can live up 10 years in the wild. 
Roseate Spoonbills have an interesting gait.  When they walk they swing their head back and forth in a sideways motion.
  • The light colored Roseate Spoonbills are the younger generation and they will darken as they mature.
Roseate Spoonbills will feed in both fresh and saltwater during the early morning and evening, competing with larger birds such as egrets, herons, and pelicans.  I have seen egrets and herons here but not pelicans.  Who knows what will turn up at the park.  I never thought we would see the Spoonbill.  
They will slowly walk with their beaks dipped into the water slightly open, allowing their bill to easily sift through the mud. Using their sense of touch more than sight, the Spoonbill will scoop up crustaceans, insects, newts, some plants, and more. Similar to flamingos, the canthaxanthin and astaxanthin in the Spoonbill diet causes their pink coloration!
We watched from a distance as a waddling march of young mallards made their way across the marsh.  They were very cute and I will have more photos of these ducks in another post.
The Spoonbill can be seen nearest the water with the Canada Geese resting nearby.
I have a few more photos and will share them soon.   For the most part this is all for now on the Roseate Spoonbill.  I am not sure how long they will be here but my goodness, I am so happy we were able to see them.  

If you would like to see great photos, you can find those if you click on this link.  It is an article by Alexandria Living Magazine.   If the link doesn't work for you, you can use the actual address following: 



In the article it says that a recent tropical storm in the southeast may have sent many birds flying for safer locales.

Thanks for looking and I hope the rest of your week is a great one.




Monday, July 26, 2021

MONDAY RECIPE POST - TOFU, BROCCOLI AND OTHER VEGGIES WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA

I subscribe to Yeung Man Cooking on YouTube, and enjoy his easy and pleasant cooking style.  Tonight (7-25-21) we put together one of his meals adding a few changes to suit pantry supply and also cooking tastes.  You can see his delicious version at this link.


Angel Hair Pasta (we used 1/2 of a 16 ozs. box)

1 14 oz. container of extra firm Tofu

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 to 2 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine

1 head of broccoli cut into small florets

14 ozs. container of extra firm tofu

1 teaspoon potato starch (you can substitute cornstarch)

1 tablespoon oyster sauce (can be plant based)

1/2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Drizzle of olive oil


We added the following:


1 whole onion, sliced

1 whole zucchini, sliced

1 tablespoon of Chili Crisp


After draining the tofu when you remove it from its container, wrap a clean kitchen towel around it (or paper towels). Add a heavy-ish pan on the top so that it safely rests without falling off.  Leave for half an hour, replacing the wet towel with dry ones if necessary.  The more water you can squeeze out, the crispier it will be when you fry the tofu.  

When it is dry slice into bite-size cubes.  

Put the cornstarch in a bowl and add the tofu, stirring until it is thoroughly coated.  Set aside for a few minutes.

Somewhere in all this, heat your water to boiling for the angel hair pasta.

Finely chop the garlic and ginger.

Chop the broccoli into bite-size pieces, and prepare the other vegetables also.

To make the sauce add to a bowl the potato starch and 1/4 cup water.  Mix together.  Next add the oyster sauce, low-sodium soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, maple syrup and 1 heaping tablespoon of Chili Crisp, depending on how much heat you like.  We didn't find it all that hot after adding it.  If you don't have the Chili Crisp you can add chili flakes from out of your spice cabinet, or not if you don’t want hot and spicy.  Stir the sauce to mix thoroughly.

Heat up a nonstick pan to medium heat.  Drizzle in the olive oil.  If you have another oil you prefer you can use that as long as it has a relatively high smoking point (you can read here for advice on that).

Shake excess cornstarch off the tofu and add it to the pan.  Depending on how brown and crispy you like your tofu, you can cook it anywhere from a few minutes up to 12 minutes, depending how hot your element gets and how crispy you like your tofu.  We are into extra crispy so it was around twelve minutes, but we turned the pieces over after each side became brown.  

When done to your liking carefully take the tofu out, put it in a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan add a little oil if needed, and cook the broccoli, onions, zucchini, garlic and ginger, stirring the veggies to combine.  Cook on medium heat about 4 minutes.

Start cooking your pasta according to the directions on the box.  Our angel hair pasta only takes 4-1/2 minutes before it becomes al dente.  

Add the tofu back into the veggies, along with the sauce. After stirring for about 10 seconds add 1/4 cup of water and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Carefully drain your pasta when it is cooked.  Use a plate or a bowl and arrange your pasta and tofu mixture to whatever pleases your eye.  

Sliced green onions would have been nice but I didn't have any.  I did put a good dash of Furikaki on the top, which is my popular go-to at the moment.

We have leftovers so no cooking tomorrow, and I know it is going to taste even better.


Thanks for looking and have a great week.




Yeung Man Cookin

Friday, July 23, 2021

A FAVORITE POEM, YES ONE OF MANY..

 I have shared this before but I think it is worth repeating, especially now.  Just in case you didn't see it last time, here is a favorite of mine by Wendell Berry.  I thank Mr. Berry for his beautiful poem.


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair of the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound,
In fear of what may life and my children's lives may be,
I go lie down where the wood drake 
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the  peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Or grief.  I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.




Thursday, July 22, 2021

ROSEATE SPOONBILL

 We have learned that there are Roseate Spoonbills visiting Huntley Meadows, one of our favorite places we visit during the year.  There have been several photos local photographers have taken of them and shared on our local website.  I am not sure whether we will be able to get out there before they move on, and keeping fingers crossed!  In all the years we have been going to Huntley Meadows, this is the only time we have heard of them visiting.

Must be positive about it, however.  In the meantime...
I am resharing these shots of one we saw years ago in Florida.  You can read all about him at this link.  Such an extraordinary bird!
Did you know...

A group of spoonbills is a called a bowl.  Well, look over there, a bowl of spoonbills.  (I hope I see that bowl again one day.)

Just like Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbills get their pink color from their food.  They feed on crustaceans who in turn have fed on algae.

In parts of their range, especially in Florida, Roseate Spoonbills are sometimes confused with that large pink wading bird, the Flamingo!
There are six species of Spoonbill in the world; the Roseate Spoonbill is the only one with pink plumage.

The Roseate Spoonbill is also the only spoonbill species found in the Americas.

The beaks of chick Spoonbill are straight; the spoon-shape grows as the chick develops.
Spoonbills use their specialized bills to feed.  They sweep their open bills through the water, and when a prey item like a fish or insect comes between the mandibles, the bill snaps shut.

The oldest wild Roseate Spoonbill was discovered in the Florida Keys in 2006.  The bird had been banded in 1990, and was found to be 16 years old.  The previous known longevity record for the species was seven years.

Roseate Spoonbills are highly social.  They feed with each other and with other wading birds.  They also nest in colonies and fly in flocks.
The scientific name of a Roseate Spoonbill is Platalea ajaja, and is also known as Ajaia ajaja.  It is from the family Threskiornithidae, the family of spoonbills and ibises.

Roseate Spoonbills generally grow to be 23.6 to 31.5 inches (60 to 80 centimeters) in height, and have a wingspan of 43 to 51 inches (110 to 130 centimeters).

The plumage color of Roseate Spoonbills is a combination of pinks, whites and reds, and they often have some pale green, grey and orange features.

Roseate Spoonbills are wading birds and as such their diet consists primarily of aquatic insects, small fish and shrimp.
Something of the prehistoric when looking at these feet don't you think?  As mentioned above, Spoonbill are closely related to ibises whose fossil records are dated back 60 million years.  It is not known exactly when Spoonbills diverged from the ibises, since the fossil record is spotty.

A Spoonbill’s nostrils are located at the top of the bill, making it possible for the bird to breathe while the bill is under water.
  





Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A QUICK TRIP UP TO SKYLINE DRIVE

 At the end of June before it go too hot, we were eager for a trip to Skyline Drive because, like so many places we have put on hold, it had been well over a year since our last visit.  For a while we followed and admired the Rolls Royce with its convertible top.  Its driver had probably been waiting for a day like this too.

 We drove through beautiful countryside and...

we reached the foothills in a little less than an hour.  

Not too long after we enter the Shenandoah National Park.  

Today was a day for driving but we did stop at a few overlooks and took in all those incredible views.

Skyline Drive is a 105 mile (169 km) road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and the road mostly takes you along the ridge of the mountains.   
You can read about the history of Skyline Drive at this link.  
The above photo I took from part of one of those explanation boards you find at each overlook.





I could not pass up the opportunity to take a few photos of wildflowers.  This is one I had never noticed before and is a species of Catchflies (Silene).  It goes by many names: Bird’s eggs, bladder campion, blue root, bubble-poppy, cobwell, devil’s rattlebox, maiden’s tears, rattlebox, rattleweed, sea pink, snappery, white bottle, white hen, bladder silene and cowbell to name a few.  

Its botanical name is Silene vulgaris and is native to Europe and western Asia but naturalized throughout southern Australia and in New Zealand. Nowadays it has been introduced in many other regions of the world, including ours.  It is very popular with pollinators, a perennial that grows in Spring, Summer and Fall.  Quite hardy too and it can survive in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  You can see more photos here.  

Next we have Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis).  It goes by many names also: Sweetclover, Yellow sweet-clover, Common melilot,  Ribbed melilot, Cornilla real, Yellow melilot and Field melilot.  A member of the legume family, sweet clovers are native to Europe but were brought to the United States as early as 1600 for forage and the production of honey.  The above and a lot more information was found here.

Next is a Common Milkweed which I found in the middle of tall grasses.  Its other names are Silkweed, Butterfly flower and Silky swallow-wort. Its botanical name is Asclepias syriaca and it is native to North America.  The genus was formally described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, who named it after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Butterflies, especially Monarchs, use milkweed to lay their eggs, and it is the only plant that the developing larvae will feed on. Monarch populations are declining, and I am hearing of more and more people planting Milkweed in their gardens to help with the Monarch's migration and ultimate survival. You can read more information about Milkweed here, and there is a very interesting YouTube on Monarchs and Milkweeds here, where you will learn how important Milkweed is to this butterfly.  

One of our shorter rides up here but very enjoyable nonetheless.


Thanks for looking and enjoy your day.