Summer Scenes

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The following images, in random order, are what I am seeing this summer with limited travel, too much heat, and more time at home.

Weed flowers at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. If you know the name of this weed, please tell me.

The Eastern Bluebird couple in our backyard is still busy bringing food back for their second brood.

Eastern Bluebird mother and father discussing food situation.

Male Eastern Bluebird perched on bird feeder near birdhouse.

Asclepias Tuberosa or butterfly weed growing in our garden. No Monarch butterfly has appeared yet.

Asclepias Tuberosa growing in the back of our house.

Feamle Ruby-throated Hummingbrid diving toward feeder.

Zucchini flowers in our vegetable garden.

Butternut Squash flower.

Pawpaw (Asimina Triloba) is plentiful this year. We have two trees which give more fruit than we know what to do with. Pawpaw does not ship well, and is not available in grocery stores. It has been described as tasting like a combination of banana and mango. Chilled pawpaw was a favorite dessert of George Washington.

Pawpaw a native American fruit.

Pawpaw fruit.

Back to Refuge and Other Birds

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This week I went to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge again, after a 5-month hiatus. Greenhead flies were already out and I had to keep my car windows closed, except for brief moments to take a photo. Shots taken through the windows turned out badly. Here are some better ones taken with the window quickly open.

Snowy Egret.

Male Osprey keeping an eye on his nest.

Female Osprey feeding the young ones.

Since I was inside the car and not wearing a mask, a female Red-winged Blackbird could not resist acting like a Karen.

Female Red-winged Blackbird: “Wear your MASK!”

Following are photos taken recently at home of other birds.

Male Northern Cardinal.

Male House Finch.

Goldfinch.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been coming in greater numbers. Capturing their flight is usually a challenge, but here are some of the better shots.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Second Brood!

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Two days ago, I was watching the Eastern Bluebirds when suddenly the female brought a green caterpillar to the nest. There must be baby birds in there!

Female Bluebird feeding babies.

She went in.

Female Bluebird checking on babies.

A minute later she came back out. No diaper! This could be because the parents are known to eat the fecal sacs of young baby birds.

Female Blurbird flying out.

A little while later, the father brought more food.

Male Bluebird with more food for babies.

I took the last picture of the first brood babies on June 3. So 20 days later, these two parents have brought forth a second brood. Amazing, but credible. Eastern Bluebird incubation period is 10 to 19 days. So, it is quite feasible for this couple to lay their eggs and incubate them successfully between June 3 and now.

Four Fledgelings and Other Birds

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Instead of two Eastern Bluebird fledgelings, there are actually four! I was able to photograph them two days ago when they congregated on a high oak tree branch. They were too far, but can be recognized in the photos below.

Two Eastern Bluebird Fledgelings.

Three Eastern Bluebird Fledgelings.

Four Eastern Bluebird Fledgelings.

I don’t know whether they are all from the same brood that lived in the birdhouse in our backyard, or from that and another nest somewhere in the grove behind our house. They seemed to get along fine.

Meanwhile, the female Bluebird still lives in that birdhouse.

Female Eastern Bluebird inspecting her nest.

Yesterday, early in the morning, a House Wren came near the birdhouse and started calling out.

House Wren: “Is anybody home?”

The noisy call woke the sleeping Bluebird up, and she peered out to let him know the birdhouse belongs to her.

Female Eastern Bluebird.

The House Wren promptly left. A young Blue Jay stopped by our bird feeder.

Young Blue Jay.

Then a female Hummingbird came to the nectar feeder.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

More on Eastern Bluebirds

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When the baby Bluebirds fledged two weeks ago, a storm prevented me from watching them leave their nest and I gave up seeing them again. This past week, I noticed two new birds that were very energetic as they flew around, chased each other, or performed other types of flight acrobatics. I realized that they must be the Eastern Bluebird fledglings who are still living in our backyard. I finally got a good photo of one of them as the fledgling perched on our TV antenna.

Eastern Bluebird fledgling.

It looked darker than its parents, and had spots both on its back and chest.

Meanwhile, the parents still live in the birdhouse and did not mind posing for me.

Male Eastern Bluebird.

Female Eastern Bluebird.

I briefly saw the male bird landing on top of the female bird, but could only get a shot after she threw him off her.

Male (left) and female Eastern Bluebirds.

So there is hope for a second brood of Eastern Bluebirds this year. I read that the first brood may help their parents feed the second brood. As of now, they are still carefree, practicing their dives and swoops along the ground to catch insects.

Fed and Fledged

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For the past few weeks, the young Eastern Bluebirds have kept their parents busy feeding them and doing diaper duties. Last week they finally poked their heads out of the birdhouse. I saw two of them, but could only photograph the dominant sibling.

Young Eastern Bluebird:”Where is my dinner?”

Mother was soon there with a nice Sloe Bug.

Mother feeding Sloe Bug to youngster.

Father brought some interesting insects too.

Father had a big insect. I can’t tell what it was.

Both parents took turns with diapers (fecal sacs).

Father quickly carried a diaper way out there.

Mother wasted no time either.

While I was photographing a heavy rainstorm arrived, forcing me back into the house. The following morning, I came out to look for them, but the two young Bluebirds had fledged and were gone out of sight. Since then both parents have been flying in and out of the birdhouse, perhaps preparing for the next brood. Bluebirds could have as many as three broods a year.

In and Out

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Both Bluebird parents have been very active bringing food to the young ones. Just this morning, the mother flew to the nest hole with a dark orange caterpillar.

Female Bluebird delivering food to the young chicks inside birdhouse.

As soon as that was done, she flew out with a fecal sac from one of the baby Bluebirds.

Female Bluebird carrying out fecal sac to dump it far away from the nest.

The male Bluebird came next with a bright green caterpillar.

Male Bluebird with green caterpillar.

Then the female followed that with another caterpillar.

Female Bluebird with more food.

And she again had to carry out another fecal sac.

Female Bluebird with another fecal sac.

In front of our house we have another birdhouse which was taken over by a breeding pair of Carolina Chickadees.  A few days ago, the parent Chickadees were very active bringing food to the young ones and performing fecal sac duties.

Carolina Chickadee before flying toward nest.

Carolina Chickadee removing fecal sac from nest.

One day I saw a House Wren inspecting the nest.

House Wren inspecting Carolina Chickadee nest.

House Wren inspecting Carolina Chickadee nest.

House Wren are known to take over other birds’ nests, but in this case nothing happened and I think the young birds were able to fledge successfully. There is no activity at the nest today, but I will keep watching from time to time.

Cold Day

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The weatherman says it has never been this cold on this day in our town. This morning the temperature is at 31°F or -0.5°C. With a strong breeze, it feels like 24 °F or -4.4°C. I will have to go out to the garden and see whether the tomato plants grown from seeds and put into the ground last week survived.

Three years ago I planted a yellow magnolia tree named Judy Zuk Magnolia, in honor of a former President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It grew one flower the first year, none the second year, and this year it is displaying a dozen of bright yellow flowers mixed with small streaks of orange-red. Here are some shots of the flowers which are bigger than those of the Butterfly Magnolia from last month.

Judy Zuk Magnolia.

Judy Zuk Magnolia.

Here’s another kind of Magnolia that is blooming late in the season. In fact, it keeps blooming during a good part of the summer when all other magnolias have come and gone.

Jane Magnolia.

I’ll finish this post with photos of our backyard birds who have been quite busy during this spring mating season.

Goldfinch ruffled by wind.

Carolina Chickadee.

Male Northern Cardinal hiding in Jane Magnolia tree.

American Robin.

Eastern Bluebirds couple taking a break from incubation chores.

Female Eastern Bluebird getting ready to go back inside birdhouse.

Then someone who thinks it is a bird.

Squirrel eating up high on an oak tree.

Finally, a shot of a Red-tailed Hawk at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on February 22, before the coronavirus lockdown.

Red-tailed Hawk.

Bluebirds Feeding II

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The male Bluebird came back to the birdhouse where his mate was incubating in the nest they had built. He was carrying a worm.

Male Bluebird with food.

He poked his head inside the entrance to offer the worm to her. She must have declined because his head came out and he proceeded to eat the worm himself.

Male Bluebird eating worm.

He hung on, considering his next move.

Male Bluebird considering what to do next.

Then he flew away to a nearby tree, stopped for a few seconds to look at the birdhouse before flying away in search of more food for her.

Male Bluebird perched on tree branch.

Bluebirds Feeding

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Nine days ago, the female Bluebird was still building up her nest.

Female Bluebird bringing dried grass to nest inside birdhouse.

Since then, I have seen both Bluebirds flying in and out of the birdhouse, and landing on the nearby magnolia tree.

Female Bluebird waiting for her mate.

Yesterday, he brought her some food, a cricket I think.

Female Bluebird eating a cricket as he watches.

Thank you, dear!

You are welcome! Shall I go get some more?

She went back into the birdhouse. He flew away. About an hour later, he came back and fed her something white, maybe a larva? It happened too quickly for me to get a shot.

Backyard Birds 2020

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Among our backyard birds, a couple of Eastern Bluebirds are setting up their nest in a birdhouse right in the back of our family room. Here are some shots of them, taken this past weekend.

Female Bluebird.

Male Bluebird.

Female Bluebird.

There are other birds which come to the birdfeeder, sometimes landing on the Yellow Magnolia tree to wait for their turn.

Male Northern Cardinal.

Carolina Chickadee.

Tufted Titmouse.

Chipping Sparrow.

More Photos Less Stress

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I have not been posting here since last July, but have continued to photograph, although not as often as I used to. Hopefully, the following photos may help reduce stress for all of us during this coronavirus pandemic.

Harlequin Ducks at Barnegat Light , January 2020.

Mute Swan at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, January 2020.

Snow Geese at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, February 2020.

Northern Shovelers at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, March 2020.

Star Magnolia in our backyard, March 2020.

Clivia at home, March 2020.

Hummingbirds

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Because I need to finish writing my second book, I will stop posting for an indeterminate time as of today.

Here are some recent photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have been coming to our backyard for the past several years.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Summer Flowers

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The abundant rain we have had this Spring has led to lots of vibrant summer flowers.

Milkweed ( Asclepias tuberosa).

Milkweed ( Asclepias tuberosa).

Some Monarch butterflies have already started to visit the milkweed.

Astilbe.

Orange Echinacea.

Kabocha (winter squash) flower in vegetable garden.

Inside the house, the Clivia plant, now divided into three separate pots, is also blooming vigorously.

Clivia.

Clivia.

Cleome.

All Gone

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The young Eastern Bluebirds have all fledged. The birdhouse is now empty. I took it down and opened it. Nothing inside except for a nest made with dried grass. There was no eggshell (maybe it was eaten by the babies or their parents), and the nest did not look too bad. No fecal sac, just some dirt at the bottom of the nest. Still I used a hose to spray it with water thoroughly to make it clean again. It is now back in its old place waiting for the Bluebirds to raise their next brood.

The fledglings are flying around our backyard practicing their newfound skills. Some also dive to the grass to look for food. One newly fledged chirped plaintively as it landed near me on the deck.

Bluebird fledgling.

Bluebird fledgling.

An older sister was at the top of a magnolia tree, looking all around her to see whether she could spot her parents.

Female fledgling.

Female fledgling.

However, the parents are keeping their distance, perched very near the top of the surrounding trees. They won’t intervene, unless there is a threat from a bigger bird, like a Blue Jay.

Bluebird fledgling contemplating a new world.

Eastern Bluebirds – First Fledgling

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Yesterday was an almost perfect, sunny and dry day. A male Bluebird was perched high on a tree, calling the babies to come out and try flying.

Male Bluebird.

Meanwhile, Mamma Bluebird was still carrying out fecal sacs.

Mamma Bluebird.

Seeing that, I thought it would be several more days until the babies start fledging. Then a young one poked its head out.

Young Bluebird.

It chirped, its parents called, and then it jumped out, landed on the grass with parents in tow. Quickly it flew away with the parents, a beautiful threesome. The only bad thing was that I was caught flat footed and did not have time to take any shot!

After a few minutes, another baby appeared in the birdhouse entry hole. It made plaintive calls asking for food.

Young, hungry Bluebird: “You are not going to let me starve, are you?”

Soon enough, Daddy flew in with a juicy worm.

Daddy with worm and youngster.

Daddy with worm and youngster.

Daddy feeding youngster.

Young, hungry Bluebird, still hungry.

It could have been a different youngster.

Mamma Bluebird flew in with an insect.

“Happy now?”

Eastern Bluebird – Babies First Look

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Yesterday I finally saw the baby Bluebirds in their birdhouse.

Eastern Bluebird.

Eastern Bluebird.

They stayed inside the birdhouse, and had not fledged yet, although it could be a matter of days now. There were probably two or more baby birds. Their parents were busy as usual.

Daddy with food.

Mommy retrieving diaper.

Mommy with food.

Both parents kept a close watch on their birdhouse.

Keeping guard is essential for the survival of the Bluebirds. Last week, while both parents were away, a House Wren inspected the birdhouse thoroughly, and even went inside for a few seconds. It exited without dragging out any baby, but that was scary. House Wren can kill Bluebirds, adults as well as babies.

I have also seen a Black Crow and a Blue Jay landing on the roof of the birdhouse and bending their necks to look inside through that round hole. I had to shout and shoo them away forcefully. Later in the evening, the male Bluebird dive bombed a Blue Jay that came too close the nest.

No Plumbing 2

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Today there is plenty of sunshine. I was able to capture very clearly both Bluebird parents doing their chores.

Female Bluebird getting fecal sac while male Bluebird waits with food.

Got it!

She flew away to dump fecal sac.

Following that both parents fed their babies and checked, but no fecal sac was retrieved. They flew away to look for more food.

Male Bluebird flying away from nest.

Female Bluebird flying away from nest.

One more trip for Bluebird father. Maybe Father’s Day is not celebrated in the realm of birds.

Male Bluebird flying away from nest.

Incidentally, once they fledge, young Bluebirds will not produce fecal sacs.

No Plumbing or Why Parenting Is a Hard Job

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A Bluebird nest has no plumbing. Therefore, in addition to constantly flying around to look for worms and insects, the two parents have to keep the nest clean so that their babies can grow up in a disease free environment. The little ones naturally don’t do anything but eat and poop. Fortunately, nature has come up with a way for the parents to deal with their no-plumbing environment.

Lately I have seen them carry out what is called “fecal sacs” that they collect from the rear end of their babies. These sacs contain excretions (poop) from the digestive system, and the parents take them out to throw them far away from the nest. They are like diapers for birds.

Following is a series of photos I took these past few days to show how both parents perform their diaper duties.

Male Bluebird inspecting nest.

Male Bluebird reaching in to get fecal sac from a baby bird.

Male Blurbird carrying fecal sac away to dump somewhere else.

Male Bluebird taking fecal sac away.

With a brood of 3 to 7 babies, it really takes two adults to hunt for food and to carry out fecal sac disposal many times a day.

The female Bluebird shares with her mate the same diaper duties. The following photos, taken at different times, show her doing her share. She was too fast for me, or there was not enough light, so the photos turned out blurry.

Female Bluebird flying fecal sac away from nest.

Female Bluebird flying fecal sac away from nest.

Female Bluebird with worm.

Feeding their babies and cleaning after them constantly have taken their toll on the Bluebird parents. I think they have lost a good deal of weight compared to three or four weeks ago. Since Bluebirds usually have 2 to 3 broods each year, these parents may have a second set of babies to care for in a month or so!

Feeding Time 2

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Both Bluebird parents are working hard to bring food back to their babies. They disdain the store bought mealworms I put out, and prefer to catch fresh insects and worms. Still the mealworms disappear, and I suspect the Robins have something to do with it.

Female Bluebird flapping her wings as her mate approached.

He’s flying in!

Each parent with their food package.

She flies first to their nest.

She feeds the babies.

“Don’t worry. Daddy has more food!”

“Come quick, they are still hungry!”

“I’m ready with a nice insect!”

He feeds the babies.

Daddy feeding.

“All done, but they are still asking for more.”

Female Bluebird, with more food.

Wary female Bluebird.

Nearby an American Robin was looking at the Bluebirds.

American Robin eyeing Bluebirds.

Feeding Time

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Both Bluebirds have been busy going out to find food and bring it back to their nest. I suspect they now have babies, but I have not seen them yet. Meanwhile, the parents have been flying around our backyard, paying little attention to me.

Male Bluebird with insect.

Male Bluebird with mealworm.

Male Bluebird on top of birdhouse.

Female Bluebird with worm.

Female Bluebird with insect.

Male Bluebird bringing food to nest.

Male Bluebird feeding babies.

Male Bluebird after feeding.

“Honey, we need more food!”

Looking Up

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While I was searching for my Bluebird friends, a plane flew overhead as it prepared to land at Trenton Airport, about 10 miles from our house. I aimed the camera skyward and got the following shot.

Jet flying toward Trenton.

A short while later, a Cooper’s Hawk appeared, and gave me enough time to snap three shots.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Our Bluebird couple was perched on the Crape Myrtle as usual.

Female Bluebird.

Bluebirds, female on left, male to the right. She seemed to be telling him to get busy and go get some food for their nest.

Male Bluebird. He did fly in with something in his beak, but I did not get a good shot.

Bluebird house.

Eastern Bluebird and Others

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Twice a day, the female Eastern Bluebird flies out of the birdhouse to preen herself and maybe look around for food. I’ve placed some mealworms on a big oak tree stump, but so far she has not come near them. It has been stormy with lots of rain coming down, which may explain why. In the meantime she has posed gracefully for the camera. First in the afternoon.

Female Eastern Bluebird in the afternoon sun.

Then in the morning.

Female Eastern Bluebird.

Female Eastern Bluebird.

Female Eastern Bluebird.

I have not seen the male bird these past few days, but I am sure he is somewhere nearby protecting her and their nest.

Meanwhile, other birds keep coming to the vegetarian bird feeder.

Male House Finch.

Female House Finch.

Eastern Bluebird Couple

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The Eastern Bluebird couple nesting in our backyard today made a joint appearance for my camera. It has been at least five years since I put up the first birdhouse, and finally this year Bluebirds are using one of them!

Female Eastern Bluebird.

Female Eastern Bluebird singing.

This afternoon, I first saw a male among the crape myrtle branches.

Male Eastern Bluebird.

Male Eastern Bluebird.

Male Eastern Bluebird jumping as his mate landed nearby.

Eastern Bluebird couple.

Eastern Bluebird couple.

Following the above shot, she flew away, perhaps after seeing a worm or insect on the ground. Bluebirds do not eat from the bird feeder filled with sunflower seeds that I put up for other kinds of birds.

Male Eastern Bluebird looking in the direction where his mate flew.

Eastern Bluebird

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A pair of Eastern Bluebird is now residing in one of the birdhouses I put up around our backyard. Recently I have seen them flying around, but today I finally saw a female come out of a birdhouse. After some waiting, I saw her perched on a nearby crape myrtle branch, preening herself and inspecting her surroundings.

Female Bluebird preening.

Female Bluebird.

Female Bluebird.

Feisty Red-winged Blackbird

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Red-winged Blackbirds were very active at the beach at Fortescue, NJ while the birds were feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs. I couldn’t help noticing the following male who seemed quite feisty patrolling the beach close to its territory in the dunes.

Male Red-winged Blackbird.

Male Red-winged Blackbird.

Male Red-winged Blackbird: “You guys keep out of my way!”

When not on the beach, he perched on a nearby tree and belted out his warning calls.

Male Red-winged Blackbird.

Male Red-winged Blackbird.

He was not scared of and studiously ignored a bigger Boat-tailed Grackle that was only a short distance away, singing his own warning calls.

Male Red-winged Blackbird and Boat-tailed Grackle.

Horseshoe Crab 2019

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Last week I went to Forstecue, NJ to see Horseshoe Crabs come ashore for their annual mating. The weather was cool and the tide high which may explain why there were not many Horseshoe Crabs to be seen. However, the birds were very busy feasting on the crabs’ eggs.

Shore birds eating eggs. A female Horseshoe Crab was surrounded by three males in photo center.

As usual some Horseshoe Crabs were upended and helpless on the beach.

Horseshoe Crab laying on his back.

Upended Horseshoe Crabs.

Birds eating Horseshoe Crab eggs at Fortescue, NJ.

Boat-tailed Grackle watching the feast.

Boat-tailed Grackle taking off.

Ruddy Turnstone flying away from beach.

Oculus

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Oculus is the name of the World Trade Center station in New York City completed in 2016. Today I went there for the first time to take photographs from different angles of the wonderfully striking building. However, I forgot to bring a spare battery for my camera, which cut drastically short that plan. In the end I was only able to take the following shots.

Oculus, outside.

Oculus.

Oculus.

Oculus, inside.

Oculus.

Oculus.

One of these days, I will have to make another trip to the city to take other photos of the rest of Oculus and the World Trade Center, with at least one spare battery.

Miniature Horses 2019

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The South Jersey farm where miniature horses are raised has been on sale for a few years, so I was not too hopeful when I drove there to photograph them a few days ago. But they are still there, at least some of them, grazing peacefully on two lush fields covered with yellow flowers. As usual, the male and female horses were kept apart, separated by a wire fence.

A white mare saw me and approached, looking for a treat that I did not have! She looked very pregnant.

Very pregnant looking mare.

She came close to the fence, batting her eyelashes …

White mare.

I did not see any baby horse, perhaps because it is too early in the season? Meanwhile the male horses were grazing peacefully in an adjacent field.

Male miniature horse.

Male miniature horses.

Male miniature horses.

Miniature horses.

Male miniature horse.

More Longwood Gardens Flowers

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Here are more photos I took at Longwood Gardens last week, both inside the Conservatory and outside. There were many more flowers, but rain and time were the limiting factors to our visit.

Lilly.

Allium.

Allium.

Anthurium.

Foxglove.

Carolina Silver Bell.

Lilly.