Bright Blooms and Poem for Peace

Morning walks are my meditation; sweet scents my solace.

A year ago, we were frozen in place. When the pandemic shut our world down, my family asked, “How long will this last?” “Surely, a few weeks.” “Surely, not past July 4th.” As the months dragged on, and everyday was the same as the last, several walks a day was our way to break the monotony. And guess what, hon? Senses heightened. Flowers were more vivid than ever. Garden scents filled the air. Songbirds were distinguishable. And the antics of our sweet furry angels, Lucy and Midnight, entertained us. I’m still walking, discovering wonders everyday. And everyday, those wonders bring me bits of peace.

Click here to learn more about Maya Angelou.

Outdoor Inspiration, Chalk Art

My neighbors have added more inspiration (and beauty) to the neighborhood. I love to come across a surprise on the street–a quote, saying, or picture rendered in chalk. Check out the burgeoning “collection” of chalk art care of @millburnchalklove and other street artists. I’m building upon posts Chalk Walk and Road Quotes.

Chalk Walk!

Do extraordinary things with ordinary love.

In a recent post,  Road Quotes, I shared pics of the beautiful chalk art popping up on my street. Care of the Instagram account @millburnchalklove and some other artistic neighbors, there’s more outdoor art to add to the collection. It truly lifts my “quarantine family’s” spirits to see creativity emerge from the asphalt.

“Quarantine Family” (Taken on a winter-cold day in May!):  Eli, Hannah, Darcy, me, Hubby and Teddy.

Road Quotes!

The art may be fleeting, but the sentiment remains.

One of the bright spots in a sea of uncertainty is the chalk art in my neighborhood. When we walk our sweet-angel-aka-barking-maniac Lucy, we look forward to seeing the new creations of some very talented people. Check out the Instagram account @millburnchalklove.

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Coywolf Country?!

Wolf, Coyote, or a Combination?

Three of us thought we saw a wolf in our backyard, but according to Endangered New Jersey, “There are no wolves in the wild in NJ.” Here’s what the site says:

Wolves can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Expanding development, farming, and ranching activity has drastically reduced the wolf’s range and population. Suitable habitat now restricts wolves to remote areas of their traditional range.

But conservation and education efforts will hopefully protect and preserve wolves throughout the world. There are no wolves in the wild in NJ, but you can visit them in captivity.

Reintroduction programs are being implemented and captive wolves in zoos, and wolf research centers are being maintained to insure that the genetic purity of wolf species is preserved. Turtle Back Zoo’s wolves come from Wolf Park Research Center in Battle Ground, Indiana.

In the urban wilderness of Essex County, you can visit wolves at the Turtleback Zoo which has a Wolf Woods habitat. You can see timber wolves close up but safely through glass panels that let you feel like a member of the pack. Several viewing stations let you see the wolves from different angles. You will wolves see crossing a stream, resting on logs and rocky outcroppings and nose-close right at the window.

If you want to hear the howling of wolves in NJ, you can also head to the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap in Warren County, NJ. At the Lakota Wolf Preserve, (Pics above are wolves I photographed at the Lakota Wolf Preserve.) there are great photo opportunities with packs of Tundra, Timber, and Arctic wolves in a natural surrounding. There are also bobcats and foxes at the reserve. The preserve is at at 89 Mt. Pleasant Road, Columbia, NJ.

If it wasn’t a wolf, what was it?!

Animal spotted at about 10am Thursday, February 13, 2020.

Could it be a Coywolf?! What is a Coywolf?

Shout out to my critique partner, Kathy, for introducing me to New Jersey’s “apex predator!”

In an article by by

Coywolves are said to be Eastern coyotes, “the latest cool-sounding hybrid animal that researchers say now can be found by the millions throughout the Northeast.”

The coywolf is actually a cross between a coyote and a wolf, and it’s pretty common in the Northeast U.S., including N.J., according to several reports.

What used to be considered an eastern coyote is more accurately called a coywolf, according to Smithsonian Magazine, since eastern wolves interbred with western coyotes when deforestation and hunting threatened their population.

Researchers have learned that the coywolf is about twice the size of a coyote, with larger jaws and bigger muscles that allow it to kill deer, the UK Independent reports. The animals were dubbed the new “superpredators” by Field and Stream.

The extensive coywolf studies of Pepperdine University biology professor Javier MonzA3n concluded that coyote DNA dominates, but the animal is also 10 percent dog and 25 percent wolf, the Economist reported.

A 2014 PBS special on the coywolf observed that the coywolf may be taking over the region but its appearance only began within the last 90 years.

Coyotes now exist in at least 400 towns across the state, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, NJ Advance Media has reported.

One eastern Coyote/coywolf research site says that the animal is found from New Jersey to Maine, weighs 30 to 45 pounds on average, and ranges in color from “blonde to darker black and brown, but is usually tawny brown.” While the animal may be stronger than the coyote, coywolf attacks are extremely rare, and there’s no reason for “wolf hysteria,” the Coywolf Association says.

Photo of a coywolf courtesy of WMHT.
So cool!

Wolf Sighting In My Backyard!

Three Women and a Wolf

You’re not going to believe what me, my daughter and a friend witnessed this week…a wolf walking alongside our fence!

We couldn’t believe what we were seeing and as I was shouting, “It’s a coyote!” my daughter and friend disagreed and were yelling, “No, it’s a wolf!” Hon, you may remember my post about living in New Jersey, Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs, but I’ve never seen–or even heard–of a Grey Wolf sighting in the area! The only wolves I’ve seen in the Garden State are the ones I photographed at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in  Columbia, NJ. They were gorgeous, interesting, and on the other side of a chain link fence. The wolf in my backyard looked lost, like how the heck did I end up here and how can I get back up to the South Mountain Reservation? He wasn’t hunting and, though he was larger and taller than a full breed German Shepherd, didn’t look scary. I wasn’t quick enough to get a good photo–in the one I snapped, he’s hunkering down.

So cool!

Grey Wolf seen in my backyard.

 

Bandit Alert! Raccoon Caught Mid-Theft!

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

In my recent post, “Suburban Watering Hole,” I was unsure if wet paw prints on the back deck belonged to an opossum or raccoon. It turns out they belong to both! How do I know? I happened to witness a raccoon eating from Midnight’s bowl! The bandit was caught red-handed–or should I say kibble-handed?!

Five funny things I observed:

  1. The raccoon didn’t eat from the bowl; instead it scooped up pawfuls of kibble and then brought them to its mouth to eat. So people-like.
  2. When I opened the door and said “hello,” the raccoon paused to check me out. It wasn’t really afraid, but then it was unsure and ran off. So curious. 
  3. The minute I closed the door, even though the raccoon could see me through the window, it returned. So determined. 
  4. Midnight wasn’t afraid of the raccoon at all! He sat and watched as it ate the remainder of his dinner. And the raccoon didn’t feel threatened by Midnight. So neighborly. 
  5. The raccoon was fluffy and many shades of gray. It’s “mask” fit perfectly over its eyes. So pretty.

You never know what you’ll see in the Wilds of New Jersey! 

Suburban Watering Hole

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

One water bowl. So many sippers!

Who knew Midnight’s water bowl would attract so many animals? On any given day, I expect one, two, or even three stray cats to stop by. And sure, Lucy our barking, rambunctious beast (Midnight’s view of her), laps Midnight’s water, but why does she have to inhale the cat kibble, grab the dish, take a bite out of it, and scatter it willy nilly in the yard? Hon, I digress.

Back to the bowl.

I suspected extra visitors when the water in the bowl started, mysteriously, appearing dirty every morning. Who was washing paws or taking a bath in the bowl? Not the blue jays, who squawked and fought for a nibble of kibble during the day. Could it be mice? Chipmunks? Groundhogs? Foxes? Wild turkeys? Our neighborhood coyote?

Then, one morning, footprints were imprinted in the planks! “Aha!” I said, “Raccoons! So, I turned to authorities on the subject–umm, I mean the KidLit Twitter community–and asked,

“Are those footprints more than circumstantial evidence?”

“That raccoon was framed! If the pawprints don’t fit, you must acquit!” answered @BrobergMatthew.

(Hmm…much chin scratching.)

Later that night, I attempted to catch the culprits by flicking on the outdoor light. Who did I see but two opossums circling the food dish?! Not just any two opossums, but one enormous opossum mommy and her joey. The mommy was about the size of a twenty pound dog! Looking up the size of female opossums, I found out females aren’t that big. So, now I wonder…

…Do daddy oppossums take their joeys out for a midnight snack?!