Tuesday, December 16, 2008:
My last day at work until 2009. I’ll be seeking stripers for Christmas foodstuff but I’m kinda sure I’ll be having far better luck ice fishing at Pathmark or Shop-rite. Looking at my notes of years back, there was a time about a decade past when we were ice fishing a week before Christmas. That ain’t gonna happen, though it’ll be chilled for Xmas week. Longer range forecasts are now incorporating data based on a weakening of the Canadian jet stream, long-term. That means milder but stormier conditions. Bad news for Holgate’s erosion zones.
Notable ice fishing trivia: Being a nondrinker, this will go out to imbibers – who likely know this already. The iciest cold beer you’ll ever drink comes from ice fishing holes. Da boys up north learned long ago that cans of beer float, as do cans of diet soda. Cans of regular soda sink, heavy with corn syrup, sink.
Below are some odd items from my weekly blog – many sections were already published in here.
SNOWY WHITE IN FLIGHT: Along the LBI beachfront, there were some avian hookups to be had, albeit visual hookups.
Always-impressive snowy owls are appearing in Holgate.
A number of years back, for the first time that I could recall, we had half a dozen of these stunning owl settle in for a high-profile overwintering on the far south end. Since then, the comely white raptors have only made passes, seemingly heading further south.
Whether or not these 2008 owls stay put on LBI, remains to be seen. And they should be seen. What a display, as they perch atop posts or (far eerier) when they stand fully motionless on the beach, usually at the high points of the berms nearest the water -- looking for all the world like some astounding stuffed toy. Actually, they’re eyeing the remaining sanderlings and such with bad intent.
I’ve written a few times about that year the snowy owls appeared in Holgate. I was driving along the beach and approached one as it perched on the beach. I had never seen one before. Even with my experience at tracking and nature watching, I figured someone had somehow lost a toy. I jumped out of my truck, ran over to pick it up – maybe give it to some needy kids – when the hairs on my neck stood up. If you’ve ever gotten eye-to-eye with an owl – a very big-ass owl – you know you won’t be winning a stare-down with it. It swiveled its head slightly toward me. I let out a spontaneous “Whoa!” coupled with an insta-stop. I muttered some inanity, like “Damn, you sure ain’t no toy” and backed down to rethink the situation. The bird nonchalantly took off.
Oddly, in the following weeks, I never got a tenth that close to the snowy owls, which overwintered there until spring. I conducted over a dozen tours driving bird people and reporters down to get looks and photos of the birds.
ODD OWL NOTE: The year we had the “snowies” thick in Holgate, I collected boluses. Those are balls of digested owl eatings.
No, they’re not of an excremental nature at all. The owl’s stomach works miracles on whole-swallowed meals, digesting (absorbing) every morsel of meat while retaining every hair or feather or bone of indigestible material. The waste is then regurgitated in a very neat ball, or bolus. It lands right below a favorite roosting place.
Boluses are in high demand in academic circles, as I found out in a profitable manner. Biology teachers right up to the university level are hot to get their hands on “natural” boluses – none of those lowly boluses from captive owls. What’s more, yawn-able barn owl blouses are so common that the mere mention of a bolus from a snowy owl had buyers bidding up the price – to well over $30 a pop.
Why the demand? Biology classes can ever so slowly take apart a bolus and recover every single bone, hair or feather of the digested animal. Fully restructuring a creature is the ultimate lesson skeletal physiology.
By the by, I kept a couple snowy owl boluses for myself and monitored all those I sold. Eighty percent were small shorebirds. Surprisingly, only 20 percent were field mice and assorted voles, which are everywhere in Holgate.
Back to today times.
In the woods, shotgun season is over so the Outback is returning to a relatively safe level. The muzzleloaders and bow folks are still out there in goodly numbers still. I bring up those black powder and archer folks not out of fear of them misfiring at a human – they’re very skilled and attentive hunters – but to make sure, if hiking, biking and such, not to “spook” an area where they’ve been patently waiting for hours in tree stands. The trick when cruising the woods during hunting season is to always look up in the trees for occupied deer stands. If looking for them, they can be seen even in the distance. Also, it’s best to just clear out of the woods about an hour before sunset -- the golden hour for deer hunters.
GALS OF GREEN: I have to go far a-field on this bit of out-there news – though I came across it during an on-line search for camouflage face paints to wear when I do serious tracking in the Pinelands.
The story grabbed my Googeling eye when I glanced the headline, “Scientist discovers women are green.”
My first thought: it’s referring to the skin tone of seasick women. Not so. Seems the green skin is universal – and seldom involves projectile vomiting, per se.
Michael J. Tarr, a Brown University scientist, researched hundreds of faces and came up with the colorful supposition that the facial skin of women, genetically and subtly speaking, has greenish tints, while the faces of men tend toward a more reddish look.
By extension, this color-coding plays an understated yet significant role in mate seeking, per Tarr, the Sidney A. and Dorothea Doctors Fox Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences.
Tarr goes cosmetic when he asserts that the underlying greenness of women’s faces come into play “during makeup application.”
Hey, I have to admit there’s something irresistible about a gal wearing thick green camo face paint, flashing a smile with teeth white as a possum’s. Um-um good.
For me, this green-skin thing helps make sense of that famed episode of Star Trek ("Whom Gods Destroy"), where Captain James Kirk drops his habitual indifference toward even the sexiest multi-organ alien creatures by going lip-to-lip with a moss green slave girl, Marta. Oddly, Tarr’s report never once brings up this obvious Star Trek verification of his theory on the green femininity attraction, so I emailed him to about it. Of course, by now, Marta has had a dozen kids and looks more like the Jolly Green Giant than a verdant femme fatale.
As with all colorful reports, Brown’s has its vagaries.
“Color information is very robust and useful for telling a man from a woman,” wrote Tarr.
Right about there, Tarr creates some serious shades of gray. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if it comes down to subtle green skin tints in making the final determination of whether someone is a man or a woman mightn’t there be far larger issues at hand than mere epidermal pigmentation?
Yes, I see the applicability of the expression “Green with envy.” It is almost always applied to women – since men just get red around the necks when royally pissed off.
IT ALL ADZ UP: I had an email from a churchgoin’ type who faithfully reads my column. He questioned my occasional use of certain low-level cuss words, among them “half-assed.”
Although some of my more colorful swear-ish words are admittedly vulgar, half-assed is actually not as improper as you might think – providing you even stop to think about such a half-assed expression as half-assed.
Unadvised logic would dictate half-assed must mean that just half of your buttocks is accomplishing some task -- while the other half just sits around eating frozen bonbons.
Not so – and I might add that’s a half-assed definition. The truer meaning of the term is full-assed.
Get this: Back in the day, wealthy folks would buy fireplace mantels that were hand shaped with a carved blade tool called an adz. As a display of arrogant affluence, the well-heeled would have a woodworker not only adz carve the front-facing part of the mantel– the part viewed by one and all – but also have the artisan carve the back half of the mantel, even though that part would be sealed out of view when the mason completed the fireplace. Now, if you didn’t have big bucks to spend on what amounted to concealed workmanship, you could have just half the showy side of the mantel adz crafted. Such workmanship was called half-adzed. Over the years, half-adzed decayed into half-assed. Absolutely true story. Check on the term’s origins if you disbelieve. So when I used that expression it is respectfully rooted in artistic craftsmanship. Of course, when I say something is a pain in the adz …