Archive for September, 2014

Connecticut Hosts an Unusual Shorebird

Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

The annual shorebird migration is in full swing and vigilant eyes can pick out some rarities, like the Marbled Godwit that appeared in Connecticut last week.  While not a Connecticut record, this bird’s presence spiked a lot of interest in local birding enthusiasts.  The Marbled Godwit is a large sandpiper, 18″ tall, that breeds in Montana, the Dakotas and southern Canada (orange blob on map) and migrates (yellow) to more southern shores for the winter (blue portions on map).   I saw it among a group of gulls in a flooded parking lot in Stratford, Connecticut.  It breeds in marshy, prairie wetlands which is where I first saw one on a visit to North Dakota.  According to Cornell University’s All About Birds , their nests are hard to find as they don’t flush off the nest readily when disturbed, and can even be picked up off the nest.  It made for an exciting Sunday morning.

 

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Experimenting with Vegetarian Lasagna

Summer Squash Vegetarian Lasagne

Summer Squash Vegetarian Lasagne

I’ve been trying out new ideas for vegetarian lasagna during these days of vegetable abundance.  I build on my basic lasagna, which has a tomato sauce and a cheese layer with the pre-boiled Barilla lasagna noodles but I’ve been varying a layer for which I would ordinarily use a meat mixture, trying out different combinations of vegetables.  I came up with a winner a couple of nights ago.  Always on the lookout for another way to use my yellow summer squash, I first sweated chopped onions in olive oil until they were golden, then added chopped (unpeeled) summer squash, salted it and sauteed it until it lost all its extra moisture and began to brown.  I then added minced garlic, chopped green pepper and red pepper seeds.  I decided to try using Herbes de Provence for my herb mixture.  I continued to saute this mixture until the green pepper softened, adding more olive oil when needed.

I built the lasagna with a layer of half the tomato sauce spread evenly on the bottom, a layer of the noodles, then spread out the sauteed vegetable mixture and topped it with another layer of noodles.  I next mixed ricotta cheese 2/3-1/3 with feta cheese and added more Herbes de Provence, salt and an egg, mixed that well, and spread it out for the next layer.  I covered that with another layer of noodles and spread the remaining tomato sauce on the top.  I tented a loose layer of tin foil over it and baked it at 350º  (the tinfoil as I didn’t want it to dry out on top but I did want extra moisture to be able to evaporate).  When I could pierce the lasagna easily with a fork, I added shredded mozzarella cheese on the top and put it back for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the top a bit.

The result was a light but filling dish.  I served it with a kale salad, some crusty bread and white wine.  I chose a baking dish that fits my toaster oven, so as not to heat up the house.  Obviously amounts of the ingredients will vary with the size of the container and it’s always a good idea to make two (one for the freezer) when you make something a little more time consuming like this dish.

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Another Bird Banding Season Begins

The faithful assemble to put up the nets for the fall.

The faithful assemble to put up the nets for the fall.

The nets are up and we have began banding the fall migration at Connecticut Audubon’s Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary.  What treasures will we find this fall?  We occasionally capture a real rarity such as Bicknell’s Thrush but our usual fare is dozens and dozens of Gray Catbirds which are replaced in about mid-October by so many White-throated Sparrows that they have their own string of bands and page in our record book.  We delight in these common birds of course, but you never know what may turn up next.  We keep the nets open until we trap a Fox Sparrow, the last species to migrate in our area, usually in mid-November.  Banding has been going on at Birdcraft continuously for nearly fifty years.

This Blue-winged Warbler captured last spring is one of many warbler species possibilities.

This Blue-winged Warbler captured last spring is one of many warbler species possibilities.

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Blackberry Season in East Boothbay

From these...

From these…

Labor Day Weekend is when our favorite woodland path yields its crop of blackberries.  We prepared ourselves before our daily walk by taking bags to hold the expected bounty and we were not disappointed.  After a pleasant hour seeking out the little jewels, we had enough for a pie.

to this...

to this…

For us, the flavor of a wild blackberry pie is unsurpassed but the berries are very seedy, so we strained the seeds out of all but one cup of the largest and juiciest.  A cup of berries would give us plenty of seeds to capture the berry pie experience.  I use tapioca as a thickener and added a little extra because the seedless berry pulp was very liquid.  The pie turned out to be a little juicier than I intended, but oh, so delicious.  We enjoyed that epitome of New England breakfasts; pie!

to the reward!

to the reward!

Is it a blackberry or a black raspberry?  The difference is in the rasp, or core, of the berry.  With raspberries, black or red, the rasp comes off with the stem leaving the berry hollow.  With blackberries, the rasp stays in the berry and the stem comes off clean.

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