New and Familiar

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Last week, at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I saw for the first time an American Avocet standing among other familiar birds. In fact I did not know what it was until I got home, saw a strange bird in the photo and looked it up.

American Avocet, on the right, and Mallards.

Great Egret.

The following photo is unusually wide so that all the Cormorants in that one spot can be seen.

Cormorants drying their feathers.

Finally, many smaller birds were flying around: Grackles, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I did not get a good shot of the Red-winged Blackbirds, although they appeared to be leading packs of small birds around the marshes.

Grackles.

European Starling.

Great Egret.

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Swans

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Last week Mute Swans were preening and foraging for food at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Again, I was able to come close to take the following photos. By the way, when you see white feathers floating on the water, they were a by-product of the swans’ preening.

Juvenile Mute Swans.

Mute Swans. The one on the left is an adult, with one leg tucked under its wings.

Adult Mute Swan.

Juvenile Mute Swan.

Adult Mute Swan.

Juvenile Mute Swans preening.

American Bittern

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The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron that is supposed to be elusive, even secretive. Yesterday was the second time I saw one, but it was not hiding among the reeds. It was standing out in the open on a wooden beam by the side of Wildlife Drive at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it was relatively early in the morning, as it allowed me to come within 20 ft (6 m) of it to take these up-close pictures. It stood still in one pose, so the dozen shots I took are almost all identical.

American Bittern.

Close up of American Bittern head.

Fall Foliage

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I took this photo in the fall of 2014 at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Because of the lack of rain this past several weeks, forecasters are saying that fall colors this year will not be as colorful and bright, and will not last very long.

Autumn Leaves.

Flowers After the Rain

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After several dry weeks, rain has been falling over the past few days in our area, reviving grass and pushing flowers for more blooms. The latter, despite the fact we are already in autumn, still managed to put on dazzling colors and forms.

Black-eyed Susan.

Cosmos.

Zinnia.

Cosmos.

Zinnias.

Cosmos.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

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The link for the challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/pedestrian/

I took this photo in Viet Nam last year, and the sight of a pedestrian mother with her child climbing over the divider and crossing a street filled with cars has stayed with me ever since.

Sài Gòn traffic scene: Mother and child crossing a street after climbing over divider.

Kites and Kids

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A main event of the Long Beach Island International Kite Festival was the dropping of candy from a kite onto the sand for kids to gather. When the time came, parents, grandparents, and kids lined up in anticipation.

Lining up for candy.

They could not make the kite work, so volunteers scattered the candy by hand in front of the crowd. When the signal was given the kids rushed forward.

Kids rushing toward dropped candy.

Running to candy.

Running to candy.

Collecting candy.

Running to candy.

Collecting candy.

Meanwhile, the kites kept flying high above everyone.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite Festival

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The Long Beach Island International Kite Festival is being held over four days this weekend in Ship Bottom, NJ. I went there today to look for colorful kites and there were quite a few. This is the sight that greeted me once I climbed over the dunes and looked down on the beach.

Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites now come in fancy shapes and sizes, unlike those I made as a kid, out of two bamboo sticks and some translucent paper glued to them.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites resting at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

One More Cosmos Post

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This morning I went back to the organic farm near home to take more photos of Cosmos flowers. The weather is getting definitely cooler, and frost will soon decimate every plant, so this may be the last Cosmos for this year. Dew was still hanging on to the flowers, but that only added to their beauty.

Heirloom Cosmos. Like lace.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Meanwhile, back home our Cosmos flowers had a burst of blooming, sending up about a dozen flowers.

Homegrown Cosmos.

Homegrown Cosmos.

Shore Birds

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Last week, I saw shore birds keeping their distance from the waves and coming in calmer waters behind the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse. They were looking for food as usual, but perhaps with more urgency than on calmer days. Thus occupied, they allowed me to come close to them without flying away.

Sanderling behind the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse.

Sanderlings are well known for running in groups along the surf . This one below was running by itself, but not for very long.

Sanderling.

Sanderling.

Ruddy Turnstone in non-breeding colors.

Ruddy Turnstone: getting ready to turn a stone?

There was also a group of Semipalmated Plovers basking in the sun, not doing much of anything, with some sleeping on one foot.

Semipalmated Plover.

Paintings 2D and 3D

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A dozen years ago, I dabbled in painting. First I painted on canvas using water-mixable oil paints, because I did not want to clean my brushes with chemicals.

Seaside landscape.

Young Vietnamese woman.

Delicate Arch.

One year I grew birdhouse gourds just for fun. Some of them were fairly big, and once they dried up I could not resist trying 3D painting on them.

Birdhouse Gourd I.

Birdhouse Gourd II.

Finally, a smaller one.

Birdhouse Gourd.

The gourds are now used as decoration in our house. Visitors always ask about them, puzzled by their size and shape, and their painted look.

More Monarchs

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Going through the photos I took this past Saturday, the following look more audacious than the ones I posted on that day.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Pawpaw Updates

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We had two pawpaw trees with a total of 18 fruit that I told you about in a post six weeks ago. I kept checking on them every few days to make sure they remained on the trees. Ten days ago, one fruit disappeared without a trace. I sprayed the tree leaves with deer repellent, a lot of it, to the point that Jackie, the Golden Retriever, was sneezing constantly as she came close.

A few days later, three more went into oblivion, and one tree had no fruit left. The pawpaws were still green and quite firm, but, to be safe, I cut the 14 remaining fruit off and took them inside.

Green pawpaws freshly harvested.

Our weather has been very warm, perhaps hastening the ripening process. After three days, one fruit became soft and yesterday I cut it in half.

Ripe pawpaw.

It tasted quite good, mildly sweet and soft, almost like eating custard. Next year, I will have to find a way to discourage the deer from eating them. It will be a challenge.

Monarch Waystation

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After photographing waves crashing on the beach, I walked back to Barnegat Lighthouse and could not help but notice at least two Monarch butterflies flying around. One of them landed and held still long enough to have its picture taken.

Monarch on the beach.

Later I went to the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, located in the nearby community with the unusual name of Loveladies, NJ. It is named after Thomas Lovelady who owned an island near the area. Over time the name of the place evolved into its current version, with a very visible sign welcoming visitors to Loveladies community…

As I walked around the grounds of the foundation, I stumbled on its Monarch butterfly waystation where many Monarch butterflies were feeding on milkweed and other kinds of flowers to replenish their energy for their annual migration to as far South as Mexico. This was the most I had seen in over 40 years!

Monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies.

There were also other butterflies, fellow diners.

Painted Lady butterfly.

Yellow Cabbage Butterfly.

Painted Lady.

Waves

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The remnants of Hurricane Jose were way out on the ocean, but the weathermen predicted big waves for New Jersey shoreline, so I went there today. The waves were indeed more violent than usual, a little bit higher, but nowhere near the big Kahuna that surfers crave for.

Waves near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Waves near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Waves near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Waves near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Heirloom Cosmos

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Near our house, there is an organic farm, Z Food Farm, that grows heirloom vegetables and flowers. I pass by it on my way to work every morning, but it was always too dark so I didn’t notice their flower beds until today. They had many flowers, and I may come back for more. Today, the heirloom Cosmos were stunning, and I took a lot of pictures of them.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Cosmos at Z Food Farm.

Bird Diversity

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Going through some unpublished photos I took over the last few months, I am struck by the many different kinds of birds that live in our small part of New Jersey. Here’s how diversity looks among birds.

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird.

Black Skimmer.

Snow Geese. They are not all white.

Peacock.

Snowy Egret.

Did They Smile?

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Unlike Great Blue Herons which prefer large fish, Great Egrets stick with smaller ones. The following Great Egrets each caught a small fish as I was photographing them. Looking closer at their photos, did they actually smile at the prospect of more food filling up their stomach?

Great Egret with fish it had just caught.

Great Egret with fish: was the egret smiling?

Great Egret with fish it had just caught.

Diving for Food

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On a drive on Wildlife Drive at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I kept hearing splash sounds in the ponds on either side of the drive. They were made by dozens of Forster’s Terns as they dove into the water to catch small fish. The Terns were amazingly energetic and fast, perhaps not to the level of Peregrine Falcons, but still way too fast for me. By the time I heard a splash sound, they were already in and out of the water, climbing toward the sky.

I tried to photograph them diving but found that I missed them practically all the time. Finally, I stopped following them with my camera as they were flying around, and aimed it at an an area of a pond where many Terns were diving, and then waited. As soon as I heard a splash, I clicked on the shutter. The images shown below are combined from two passes around Wildlife Drive.

Forster’s Tern looking for food.

Forster’s Tern looking for food.

Forster’s Tern looking for food.

The following photo is not sharp, but the Tern’s speed left me no time to react and focus properly.

Forster’s Tern diving.

Forster’s Tern diving into water.

Forster’s Tern coming out of dive.

Forster’s Tern out of water.

Forster’s Tern emerging from dive.

Forster’s Tern flying up.

End of Summer Flowers

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At the end of the summer about the only annual flowers that remain are the ever reliable Cosmos, while fall flowers are getting ready to put on their own show.

Green Bee visiting Cosmos.

Close-up of Green Bee (Agapostemon).

Cosmos.

Sedum “Autumn Joy” just starting to bloom.

Flying Birds – Continued

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There must have been at least a hundred Egrets and several Great Blue Herons at the refuge yesterday. They were very active fishing and flying from spot to spot, a golden opportunity for me to capture more BIF photos.

Great Egret.

Great Egret.

Here’s a sequence of a Great Blue Heron taking off.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron..

Flying Birds

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Most of us are fascinated by photos of birds in flight (BIF), probably one of the hardest kinds of photography. Ever since I started to become serious in photography five years ago, I have occasionally attempted to shoot BIF pictures, most of the time with disappointing results. I still have a long way to go, but over the past few months I have kept the following photos to post.

Great Egret.

Great Egret.

Seagull.

Seagull.

The birds shown above are relatively large and easy to photograph. The hardest one, for me anyway, is the tiny but very fast Hummingbird.

Hummingbird.

Osprey Drama – Continued

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In my first Osprey Drama post, I wrongly attributed selfishness to the male Osprey who denied food to what I thought was his mate. As Donna pointed out, that younger Osprey was in fact an Osprey chick, his child. Adult Ospreys, male or female, encourage their fledglings to go find their own food by intentionally denying them the food they usually bring back to the nest. Once hungry enough the young ones have to fly out and find fish on their own.

Today I went back to the nest and found the father with another fish in his talon.

Osprey father with fish in his talon.

He kept looking around, as if searching for the young one.

He looked to his left.

He looked to his right.

I too waited for the young one to return to the nest, for almost 20 minutes. When I left him, he was still waiting.

Osprey at empty nest.

Osprey Drama

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This post is now updated to reflect the correct information given by bayphotosbydonna in her comments below. Thank you Donna!

This morning I drove to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the Osprey nests were empty, perhaps because the young chicks have fledged and have begun migrating South with their parents. At one nest, however, the male Osprey had caught a big fish.

Male Osprey with big fish.

He ate the head of the fish while I could hear the young chick clamoring for food at their nest nearby. It called out to its father, asking him to hurry up and bring the fish back to their nest.

Osprey chick calling out to father.

He went on eating.

… and eating. That sashimi must really taste good.

Osprey chick called him several more times.

Finally, after waiting 25 minutes, it flew over to his perch.

It attempted to peck at the fish.

He flew away. Osprey parents usually hold back giving food to their fledged chicks to encourage them to be independent and go find food on their own.

The chick could only look at him. Neither of them noticed a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull flying toward their nest.

Osprey chick dejected.

Meanwhile, the Gull had snatched something from the Osprey nest.

The chick saw the intruder and immediately flew back. It made repeated alarm calls, but the Gull had already left.

Osprey father came back with the fish.

The chick was very agitated, spreading out its wings.

Not a happy Osprey chick.

When I left them, it was still fussing around the nest, not bothering to eat the fish.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Structure

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The link for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/structure/

Last year I took the two photos shown below in Sapa, on the Northwest corner of Viet Nam. They show a water-driven mortar and pestle used to pound grains of rice to remove husks. The structure still works but maybe it is now only displayed for tourists to snap pictures.

Water powered mortar and pestle: accumulation.

Water powered mortar and pestle: release.

Magnolia Fruit

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Two months ago, the Southern Magnolias (Magnolia Grandiflora) in our yard were blooming and I posted a photo of a flower much like the one below.

Southern Magnolia flower.

The flowers have now matured, losing all their curvaceous petals, and have become fruit.

Southern Magnolia fruit.

The fruit is still immature, with seeds embedded inside. When ripe it will split apart, revealing seeds that birds love to eat. I will try to photograph a ripe fruit when the time comes.

Grounds for Sculpture – Continued

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Grounds for Sculpture extends over 42 acres (17 hectares), which will take several hours for anyone to walk around and view, even partially, what is on display. In addition to sculptures by Seward Johnson, there are also works by other artists.

“Eolith” by Isaac Witkin.

“Radiant Landscape” by Daniel Clayman.

“Double Check” by Seward Johnson.

“Portal Rest” by Horace Farlowe.

Grounds for Sculpture

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Grounds for Sculptures is a sculpture park in Hamilton, NJ, nor far from where I live. Its founder is Seward Johnson whose work has long been criticized by art critics as “kitsch”, with some even refusing to call him an artist. From the throngs of visitors yesterday, it seems that the public does not share those views. It was a beautiful, sunny day for photography, and here is a sample of what I saw. They are mainly sculptures based on famous paintings that you will easily recognize.

Entrance to Grounds for Sculptures.

A sculpture based on Edouard Manet’s Olympia looks on the entrance and parking lot.

A Turn of the Century, based on Dance at Bougival by Pierre Auguste Renoir.

Sculpture based on Claude Monet’s Woman with a Parasol.

Welcome Home, a sculpture of Van Gogh’s bedroom.

Were you Invited? Based on Pierre Auguste Renoir’s ‘The Luncheon of the Boating Party’.

Sculpture of The Scream by Edvard Munch.

Forever Marilyn, in small size inside.

Herring Gulls

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Herring Gulls are large birds, not shy of humans, and easy to photograph. I saw the ones below on the shore of Chincoteague Bay on Assateague Island in Maryland. The younger ones were flying back and forth, while two adults stood and rested not far from where I was.

Herring Gull:”Did you see my baby fly?”

“There he goes? Isn’t he handsome?”

She: “Junior does quite well by himself, right dear?” He: “Just as you said, dear.”

Juvenile Herring Gull flying over the above pair.

Deep-Cut Gardens

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Deep-Cut Gardens is a park in Middletown, NJ located on 54 acres of land, most of which used to belong to Vito Genovese, a Mafia don that may have inspired some of the stories behind the Godfather (Vito Corleone) movies. Don Genovese purchased the land in 1935 and had it built up in a mixture of Italian (Naples was his hometown) and English style. Its centerpiece was a rose garden with a Pergola, both of which are still in existence.

Rose garden and pergola at Deep-Cut Gardens.

One of the features that Genovese insisted on was a model of the cone of Mt Vesuvius, a volcano located only 5 miles (9 km) from Naples.

Vesuvius at Deep-Cut Gardens.

The Mafia boss fled to Naples 1937, and since then the property has changed hands several times. The last owners donated it to the county, which acquired additional land to make it into today’s very peaceful and popular park, dedicated to home gardeners.

I took the following photos last Sunday as I walked around various areas of the gardens.

Tiger Swallowtail.

Silver-spotted Skipper.

Painted Lady.

Bee on Cosmos.

‘Grandpa Ott’ Morning Glory.

Hydrangea.

Dragonfly.

Summer Magnolia

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“Jane” Magnolia, although not as prolific as earlier blooming Magnolias, never suffer from frost damage, and usually have a second blooming period in mid summer. When most other flowers have come and gone, the Jane Magnolias peek out proudly from upper branches, like the one I captured this morning.

Jane Magnolia.

Pawpaw

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Pawpaw (Asimina Triloba) is a fruit tree native to the Northeast of the United States. I have been growing several of them for five or more years. At first, the deer tried to destroy them by chewing on their bark and branches. However, the trees kept growing bigger and bigger, and this year two of them are finally bearing about a dozen fruit. They are still ripening so I can’t tell how good they are yet, but they are said to taste like custard apple and cherimoya. So far the deer have spared the fruit.

Pawpaw.

Pawpaw from another tree.

Pawpaw.

Those Deer!

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Last week, in Prairie Sun Redux I posted a photo of three Rudbeckia Prairie Sun which had bloomed after their predecessors had been eaten by deer. Well, those deer also ate them and there is no bud left to bloom for the rest of the year. Sigh.

Only milkweed and Cosmos flowers remain. Here are a few shots of them at the height of the season.

Bee and butterfly on milkweed.

Cosmos

Cosmos