i buy an used sony playstation 2:

i woke up this morning and walked down to the cafe to borrow the car so i could go pick up my craig's list purchase: an used sony playstation 2 ($100). turns out the house was just a block away from the cafe anyway so i just ended up walking to the place. a british man answered the door and led my upstairs, where it took him a few minutes to get the ps2 hooked up so he could show me that it was in working condition. throughout the house toys were all over the floor and i could hear his wife in the bedroom tending to a noisy toddler. with newly acquired playstation in hand, i returned to the cafe. i borrowed the car anyway just so i could do some naturing today (the weather was cold but the sky was crystal clear).

my first katamari experience:

instead of going home first, i drove to the somerville target and bought i love katamari ($30), the game that i desperately wanted to play and was the sole reason why i bought the ps2 in the first place. i raced home, plugged in the console, and embarked on my first katamari experience. for those who don't know, you play a little space alien who rolls a ball around - the katamari. objects stick onto the ball, and the more items you collect, the bigger the ball gets, and the bigger the items you can roll. the game's from japan, and it features catchy background music like japanese bossanova, and distinctively japanese items like daruman or maneki neko which just adds to its exotic appeal.

mushrooms are blooming again:

since the start of this week my mushrooms have started to grow again. i wasn't so sure about the new setup inside of the plastic cabinet, afraid that maybe it was too warm inside, or perhaps the mushrooms just didn't like the sudden change in environment, because all the old mushroom sprouts pretty much all dried up and died. well, worry no more! not only have new mushrooms sprouted, but they're coming out on both sides of the bag as well as on top of bag. beginning of the week they were just little nodules but today they started to elongate and develop that mushroom shape. at this rate, i might get more mushrooms this time around compared to the first bloom.

halibut point (rockport):

i drove all the way out to rockport, to halibut point, to do some naturing. this place has started to become an old favorite (i've already been here once and twice before) and i came this time looking to get some tidal pool action. before i left the house i checked to make sure that it was low tide by the time i arrived. the thing i failed to consider was this was winter and the temperature was below freezing, not very good conditions to see abundant tidal pool wildlife.

the last time i came i found starfish, rock crabs, sea urchins, and hermit crabs. this time around, not a single thing was stirring in the waters except for the periwrinkles. in spots the ocean water had frozen on the rocks while in others slippery seaweed covered up these boulders. it made for some treacherous walking and for the most part i climbed around either in a crouching position if not on all fours, the while holding on to my camera with one hand. it was cold, my nose kept on dripping, and my hands froze.

winter time used to be such a dead time naturing-wise, but this season i've discovered ocean birds. normally during the summer they live further north closer to the arctic circle, but during the winter they come down to new england, where the weather seems mild in comparison. this is the only time to catch these birds and once the weather warms up, they move back north again. for most people, unless you spent some time during the winter along the seashore, you'd never see these birds - and who goes to the beaches in the middle of february? that was exactly how i felt, but within the past few weeks, every weekend nature outing has produced a new bird i've never seen before.

eiders flying

male eider

female eider

common eiders: the same kind of ducks i saw last weekend. apparently they're highly prized for their warm down, which they use to line their nests. females incubate her eggs for almost a month and doesn't eat during that whole time.

female red-breasted merganser

harlequin ducks

white-winged scoters, eiders, herring gull

female red-breasted merganser: the very first time i saw a red-breasted merganser was on the mystic river. not even sure how i got there, probably many years ago, during my proto-naturing phase. i like their crests, which look sort of punk-rockish.

harlequin ducks: probably the most beautiful birds i've seen this season (though the season is still early). when i first spotted them i thought maybe they were wood ducks but i knew they couldn't be since wood ducks live in the woods, not on the ocean. they'd cluster together, and every so often they'd all go down underwater searching for food, before re-surfacing again. they're sort of small and dark-colored, so if you weren't looking, or didn't have a scope, you'd miss them. unfortunately i left my binoculars at home, so all i had was my monocular and my telephoto, which don't have as great a magnification. harlequin ducks are so strangely patterned, they almost seem fake.

white-winged scoters: another first. not really my favorite but especially easy to indentify from the white tear drop marking by their eyes (sort of a reverse panda). i liked how all these sea birds, though different species, sort of all grouped together, floating on the water in harmony, setting an example for us all.

purple sandpipers

hermit thrush

juvenile northern harrier

purple sandpipers: an elderly birding couple spotted it first, although i did see the flock swarm up and disappear behind some rocks. i asked the man what they were looking at but he couldn't be bothered to answer me, too busy setting up his scope on a tripod. his wife turned back and saw me and pointed out that maybe they were plovers. i didn't think plover fed on the ocean (they're more walking on the sand kind of birds), and after i checked with my field guides, i realized they were actually purple sandpipers.

hermit thrush: after coming back from taking a look of the ocean view from on top of the rocky cliff, i saw a bird on the trail. it looked like a sparrow but was too big, so i knew it was something uncommon. it was close enough that i was able to snap some close photos (closer than the ocean ducks, which were just tiny dots far away) and later identified it as a hermit thrush. they look like fatty sparrows, except their beaks are more like pointy pliers versus the triangular seed-cracking shape of the sparrow. apparently they have one of the most beautiful songs, but i didn't hear it making any noises.

northern harrier: also from the cliff i saw what looked to be a hawk flying low and disappearing into the trees. from a cursory look i thought maybe it was a red-tailed hawk and snapped a few blurry photos. it was weird because it had a small (dark) head, and after consulting with the guides, there was no doubt that it was a northern harrier, from the tell-tale white patch on its rump. while looking up the bird online i found some interesting facts about the harrier. they have a global distribution, all the way to eurasia. unlike most hawks, harriers hunt not by sight but through sound, like owls. their small heads have similar owl-like features. juveniles can be identified by their colors and their dark heads.

the closer it got to sunset, the more clouds started rolling in, and the colder it got. my hands were frozen stiff. i made it back to the parking lot and drove home. in the car i realized that all this dry weather had chafed the inside of my legs and i was in a little bit of pain. i was eager to get back home so i could play more katamari. my mother delivered some dinner (she was going out shopping) and i spent the rest of the night either playing with the PS2 or watching the olympics.