The Knock Out rose was introduced in 1989 by William Radler. It rapidly became a favorite rose for many as it proved to be sturdy, disease resistant, and also beautiful. In 2004, Double Knockout came out and we have been growing it for the past decade. All our other roses died for one reason or another, but we have two bushes of Double Knockout which are thriving. Japanese Beetles love them as food , but one or two traps seem to take care of that every year. So, here is my entry to Cee’s CFCC: Flowers:
This spring has been marked by rain and cool temperatures, and has thus prolonged the Brood X cicada season. They will live on a few weeks longer so that they can finish their mating activities and make sure, before they die, to give the world another generation in 17 years. I started seeing them in mid May, and as of now they are still singing incessantly during the day, the noise managing to penetrate closed windows and doors. Hopefully, that will end in another two weeks or so.
Our streets are littered with cicada shells and messy carcasses after they’ve been run over by cars. Our walls are sometimes covered with long rows of full-fledged cicadas. Fortunately, they don’t seem to eat any plant as they only spend their time and energy mating. Here are two pictures of them taken yesterday.
Some flowers have thrived, such as the white Bleeding Hearts pictured below.
In our vegetable garden most seeds have taken longer to sprout, but the tomato plants, bought from a big box store, are flowering and doing well.
Finally, a picture of East Point Lighthouse taken from a different perspective. This is how most people will see it as they arrive on site.
Two days ago, the 2021 Horseshoe Crab season was at its peak with bright sunny skies during the day and a full moon at night. Horseshoe Crabs (which are not really crabs), came ashore and gathered along the geotubes in front of East Point Lighthouse. The females laid their eggs in the sand and the males attached to them tried their best to fertilize the eggs.
In late May of each year, similar mating scenes occur at many beaches in South Jersey, especially those fronting the Delaware Bay. Migratory birds swoop down to gorge themselves on the eggs. There seems to be enough eggs for such feasts. A female, which is usually 20-30% larger than a male, can produce as many as 120,000 eggs each season.
While I was photographing the above scene, a Bald Eagle flew overhead with a long fish, perhaps an eel, in its talons.
Not far from where I was, a Barn Swallow perched on an electric wire was looking at the scene and singing .
Six years ago, in 2015, I went to the East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville on the Delaware Bay coastline at the southern end of New Jersey. It is a small but working lighthouse which somehow survived Hurricane Sandy but was in danger of the next major storm as the sea continually eroded a sandy beach less than 100 ft (30 m) away.
Here are a couple of pictures taken in 2015.
Yesterday, I went back to see the lighthouse. Over the past several years, the Maurice River Historical Society which has managed the lighthouse since 1972, has done its best to restore the lighthouse. It definitely looks much improved from the outside.
To try and deal with the real danger of beach erosion and flooding, in 2019 the state of New Jersey spent $460,000 installing giant sandbags called geotubes on the beach near the lighthouse.
Critics say that the geotubes are not high enough to prevent waves at high tide from spilling over and flooding the lighthouse. In a major storm, all bets are off, and anything could happen.
In the meantime, New Jersey authorities and the Maurice River Historical Society are in a contract dispute, and the inside of the lighthouse is closed to all. Visitors could still come and walk around the beach to look at horseshoe crabs in their annual mating rituals.
2021 is the year when brood X of the 17-year cicada emerges from the ground to mate and procreate. A few weeks ago, I saw many small holes in our backyard and one corner near the woods had been turned over by some animals, perhaps red foxes, hunting cicadas for food. Not to worry, for billions of cicadas will emerge this year in North America. There will be plenty of them and enough will survive to give us their next generation.
This morning I went out with my camera to look for them. They were on tree trunks and branches, and on the grass. I had never seen so many!
Over the next few weeks, the cicadas will mate and the females will lay eggs on tree branches. Their mating calls is already starting to be a constant din that will annoy some people. Their eggs will hatch and cicada nymphs will fall to the ground and bury themselves there, eating sap from tree roots without damaging them.
On a recent visit to Sayen Gardens, I noticed several tall (30 ft or more) magnolia trees with white flowers shooting straight up to the sky. The tree is Magnolia Tripetala, also called Big Leaf Magnolia or Umbrella Magnolia, a native plant to the Appalachian mountains in the eastern United States , the Ozarks, and the Ouachita Mountains further West. Here is a monochrome shot of this magnolia.
Last Saturday was a very breezy and cold day, with wind chill temperatures below freezing. It was also low tide when the refuge did not offer its best views.
Most birds were sheltering from the wind and cold, although many Canada Geese were strolling around, showing off this year’s offspring. The Goslings were busy foraging and tasting food.
The Osprey nests were empty at first sight and, for a moment, I thought they had flown to warmer places. However, when looking again, I could see part of a head peeking out from one nest. A female Osprey was chirping, her head clearly visible as she scanned the sky for her mate. I decided to stop and wait, but kept my window closed because of the strong wind.
Suddenly I saw the male Osprey flying in with a fish in his talons. By the time I got the window rolled down and my camera out he was already landing on the female bird.
The next photos show the Osprey mating rituals which lasted less than a minute.
He landed a short distance away, watching her for a few minutes before flying off again, perhaps to find for more fish for her.
At the beginning of this week, Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere at the refuge, the males gleefully singing their territorial songs. I selected the following shots for this year’s crop of photos of this most common bird.
The Eastern Bluebird couple is well established near the birdhouse they have adopted for this year. The one they used last year remains empty at the moment, until some other bird moves in. The male still comes to our bay window once in a while to peck at his mirror rival! Otherwise, it is a slow wait until the eggs are hatched and incubation begins.
Of the two, the male seems to be very active defending their space.
The intruders are other birds that perch on the magnolia branch waiting their turn at the bird feeder. Some are quite handsome, like this House Finch below.
The Eastern Bluebird couple have returned and are busy rebuilding their nest inside a birdhouse that I cleaned up a few weeks ago. It stands right next to a small magnolia tree with yellow flowers.
I took these photos through our bay window only about four feet from the birdhouse. The male Bluebird kept coming to the window ledge and knocking on the glass with its beak throughout the day. I wonder if that was because he saw his reflection and thought he had a rival!
Every spring the daffodils and flowering trees around us, magnolias, Bradford Pear, and several fruit trees, put on a spectacular display of flowers. That is until we are hit with a late frost, but so far that hasn’t happened, fingers crossed.
Yesterday our local temperature climbed to 80°F (26.67°C), the highest ever recorded for March 26th. Any snow still on the ground has already melted a few days earlier, and the crocus flowers wasted no time in coming up and bearing vibrant flowers. Here are some shots of those at the front of our driveway.
Last week the refuge conducted controlled burning of areas around the marshes to get rid of some invasive plants. That cleared quite a few of the bushes while leaving blackened spots where green shoots have already managed to come up. Hopefully they are not those pesky weeds that were supposed to burn.
There was a male Red-winged Blackbird singing gleefully in a reedy area. I tried to follow it for a few minutes as it switched spots before finally finding a suitable perch and belted its song, spreading and puffing its feathers to impress potential mates.
Tuesday I went to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to find it closed because they were conducting controlled burns of invasive plants along the marsh edges. Rather than going home, I drove one more hour to get to the Cape May Lighthouse at the southern tip of New Jersey.
Cape May Lighthouse.
I walked down to the beach and saw a strange bunker, a World War II relic slowly being reclaimed by the ocean.
World War II bunker.
The bunker was used to defend against a possible German invasion! It had four 155 mm artillery pieces which had never been fired and were removed many years ago.
World War II bunker as seen from lighthouse.
Wood pilings in ruin.
Nearby there were several small ponds where swans and various ducks were swimming and feeding.
Sparrows and one Northern Mockingbird kept flying around me as if wanting their pictures taken.
Northern Mockingbird eating a berry.
There were several bushes of holly laden with gloriously red berries.
The colorful Northern Shovelers are one of the more common ducks throughout the world. During the winter at the refuge, there are at least several hundreds of them foraging for food in the marshes with their typically long bills (2.5 inches or 6.35 cm).
In the US, during duck hunting season, an average of 700,000 Northern Shovelers are brought down each year! Yet, they are not on the endangered species list. Here are some recent photos of them at the refuge.
A young squirrel was looking hungrily at our squirrel-proof birdfeeder.
“Please, I will only take one!”
At the refuge, a Turkey Vulture was flying in the clear blue sky.
After a while, it landed not too far away and I drove there to shoot many photos of it. It is not the best looking bird but it is probably the best scavenger, cleaning up the countryside of road kills and dead animals that it sees or smells from high above.
In the last few days, temperatures have managed to climb into the thirties and low forties, causing snow to melt everywhere around us. I was watching a birdhouse in our backyard and saw droplets of water from the snow on the roof make their way to the ground.
All I ever had known about it that it was a very unpopular war as far as the USA was concerned.
This book tells us how the People of South Vietnam fought to keep their country free from the Communists in North Vietnam.
It looks to me that South Vietnam governed their country with respect of their people who did not want to fall under the Communist regime of North Vietnam.
They fought valiantly and courageously with the help of the Americans and succeeded until the U.S withdrew from it all and left them to fall in the hands of the Communists who received all the help they needed from Russia and China.
It broke my heart to read how it ended.
The Author is very knowledgeable about the various battles and regiments involved with the Siege of An Loc.
Village Teacher by Neihtn, who also writes as Nguyen Trong Hien, is a well-written novel set in Vietnam in the late 19th or early 20th century while Vietnam was under French colonization. Teacher Tâm has traveled to the Imperial City of Hue to take the national examinations, challenging tests that help the country choose its leaders. He meets Giang, the daughter of a powerful Frenchman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman. The teacher becomes the student as Giang begins teaching him to write Vietnamese in Romanized script without using the Chinese characters. Outside forces begin to intervene in Tâm’s life in many ways, and the reader is taken on a journey through Vietnamese history, language, and customs as the Village Teacher and those who love him fight for his life and his rights.
This is such a beautiful historical love story. The author is an expert in Vietnamese history and I…
A few weeks ago I had the fortune of spending a week or so in Bryce Canyon National Park as a winter storm passed through and transformed the magical landscape into a pure Winter Wonderland. I’d been waiting to spend some time there and hoping to catch a good storm but this year has largely been mild in SW Utah. Finally, a series of storms promised fresh snow and it coincided with my available time. Two separate storms followed by blue skies passed through during my time there and I had a chance to hike during and after these storms among the hoodoos. The days blurred together as each day was a little better than the last.
Bryce Canyon in the Winter is really a magical place, particularly after a storm. The landscape itself is overwhelming and strange when it’s clear of snow…
Snow started falling Sunday afternoon, then all day Monday, and this morning, Tuesday. Our area received 13 inches (33 cm) in all, not a record but still a lot. I went out to take the following photos as everything looked so beautiful covered in white.
Our snow covered deck.
This hibiscus bush looked so colorful just five months ago.
My first novel, Village Teacher, is still available and was reviewed on Amazon in November of last year. I did not see the review until now, so without further ado, here it is:
“Catrinel Tromp A superb, wonderfully-written novel Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2020
A beautifully written, cogent, and well-developed narrative that begs for a sequel! It combines wonderful details about Vietnam — especially atmospheric and informative for those readers who are not as familiar with its history or geography — with suspenseful action and a moving, overarching love story. Such a smoothly flowing and engrossing read! Highly recommended.”
Last December 21st I went out at night to photograph the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon. There were too many clouds for that, but after a few minutes the clouds cleared just enough to allow me this last photo for the year.
Moon on December 21, 2020.
Three days ago, I went out on a sunny day to the refuge for my first shoot of 2021 to be greeted by this sandpiper.
I took the following photos on October 1st, 2019 but did not post them as I temporarily stopped blogging to concentrate on finishing my second book. Now, more than a year later, here they are. A large group of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets (with the black bills) was taking off at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Never had I seen so many flying together.
The Siege of An Loc is the story of the defense of An Loc in 1972 during the Vietnam War. It is also a love story between a South Vietnamese soldier, Trung, and Ly, a student, daughter of a rubber plantation owner. As Trung struggles to defend his country, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Ly, but do they have a chance for happiness in the midst of war? We also see the evil of communism especially personified in the one of the characters, and two brothers are reunited, one from North Vietnam and one from South Vietnam.
I learned so much about the Vietnam War from this book. When I was in grade school and high school in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, they didn’t teach us much about it. I just knew my uncle died in this war at the age of 20, and I…