eregyrn: (-Saw-whet - cold)
[personal profile] eregyrn
Last weekend I went and visited my Mom, only two months after seeing her at Xmas. The biggest issue here is that it's a long drive and I get SO BORED with all of the possible routes, which I have done multiple times a year for years and years. SO BORED. I have gotten to the point where I will plot a route that is out of my way and on slower roads, just so that I have something to look forward to. It takes longer to get there, but at least I'm mentally stimulated.

On the drive back, therefore, I routed myself through Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks (NY) as has become my custom, and then noodled my way up the east side of the Hudson Valley, discovering things as I went. Alas, a few of them I did not get any pictures of -- like the several deer and for-real beaver dams seen in the aforementioned state park. So for the collection below, you know it had to be truly arresting for me to have stopped to take a picture of it.

But let's start somewhere familiar: bird identification!


As I was getting gas while leaving the island that Mom lives on, I noticed a bird on nearby power lines, and I looked at it idly, as you do. "Huh," I said to myself, "that's the size of a mourning dove, and it has a long tail... but that is NOT a dove's head shape".


Imagine the above only farther away and more backlit.

So I pulled over into a parking lot right below the bird and dug out my good camera, to get better pictures for later identification.


The above was good for the slightly-spread tail. I did get to see it open its wings once, and could see they were the pointy type of wing common to falcons.


The yellow ring around the eye is not a very narrow iris with a dark pupil, but yellow skin around a dark eye.


I love the little delicately-crossed talons there.

It was such a tiny bird that my immediate guess was "juvenile kestrel?", since I wasn't sure how those are marked. But upon later Sibley consultation, this turns out to be a merlin! Which, in NJ, must be migrating. Possibly a juvenile merlin. At any rate, very exciting!

I mean, I have only been going to LBI for 40+ years, and I have never, ever seen any kind of raptor there. Yes, the place is lousy with seagulls of many species, and terns, and other shorebirds, and songbirds. But a little merlin? What fun!

Before we leave LBI...


Yes: the beach, still there. Actually, the beach is very notably wide right now. Probably because the island has not suffered a big storm in a while. This is high tide.

The weather was pretty balmy down there for February, so I was shocked to go up to the beach and find that the wind from the south was bitingly cold, and very steady and strong. Those people out walking on it are fools. It did create some really beautiful blowing sand and little ripply surfaces.


I took the above photo in order to post it as a contrast with a photo from the Christmas Blizzard a year ago, when I TRIED to walk up to the beach and only got so far, with the snow up to my upper thighs and the wind very cold, and said "screw it". Below is that "screw it" photo. This gives a better sense of how high that damned snow was.


And then, feeling arty, liking the sandy ripples:


What's notable about this is that I was standing right where the storm-fencing ended. Only about 2 hours before this, a group of 8 people had walked up to the beach and down onto it. Please note that the wind has erased any evidence of their ever having done so. That was some wind, even though once off the beach it couldn't be felt at all.

So, after the nice state park and the deer and the beaver-dams and all, I'm driving up the Hudson Valley on roads I'd never been on before, and I come to a junction where I turn from one little state route to another and WHAM:


What made this especially creepy was not just the size of this complex, but the fact that about a half-dozen turkey vultures were circling low over it.


They really liked the roof of that outbuilding to the left.



It was all utterly mysterious. No signs to say what the hell it was, or had been. It was HUGE.

I only discovered after coming home and doing some Googling that it was Bennet College for Women in Millbrook, NY. Why it is even still standing, when the Wikipedia page says it was slated for demolition in Oct 2011, I don't know.

Millbrook, which I went through next (5 minutes away) is an extremely quaint little town that someday I will have to make the time to get out and walk around in. Apparently it is very expensive and exclusive in a Hamptons-like way, though. Most of it looks little and quaint, but then you're driving along and coming to stuff like this:


Which was really a "what the hell?" moment. It turns out to be the gatehouse of Danhein Castle (which is still a private residence, I guess). The Disney-Bavaria style is really out of step with the early-New England look of Millbrook, I can tell you that.

Nearby village Sharon was also extremely picturesque. I think exploring the Hudson Valley would be a fun trip in itself.

Coming up this weekend: bald eagles! And maybe, if we are very very lucky, snowy owls.
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