Snow Geese Migration – Part 2

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Today was the warmest February day for this area, and it felt like summer as I stood at the observation area near the Inlet/Outlet Tower of Merrill Creek Reservoir in Harmony Township, NJ, and watched tens of thousands of Snow Geese resting on the water during their migration back to their tundra breeding grounds. In the photo below, the geese form that white band in the middle. A birder next to me estimated there was probably 50,000 Snow Geese in that long band.

Snow Geese at Merrill Creek Reservoir in New Jersey.

Suddenly, something disturbed the geese and they flew up in the air.

Snow Geese flying up.

The sound was extraordinary, like the noise a million bees would make when they swarm. The undulating cloud of thousands and thousands of Snow Geese was a sight not to be missed, with shapes and colors changing as the geese turned in synchronized motion according to signals that only they could understand.

Snow Geese flying up.

Snow Geese flying up.

Once again, there was no easy way to get closer to the geese, so these photos taken from at least half a mile away will have to do. However, I may try again another day.

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Snow Geese Migration – Part 1

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Shortly after the Snowy Owls, thousands of Snow Geese appeared at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. New Jersey is on their migration path, and the refuge is a rest stop for them as they fly back to breeding grounds in the Canadian and Alaskan tundras.

The sky was a painterly mix of blue with gray and white clouds, and it was good to be clicking away knowing that one can get good shots no matter what. If you miss one there were always more geese to oblige you.

Snow Geese migrating North.

Snow Geese.

Snow Goose.

Snow Goose.

Snow Geese.

Snow Geese.

Snowy Owls 2018

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I photographed my first Snowy Owl in December 2013, and again in January 2014 and 2015. Then for two years in a row, it made itself scarce. There were reported sightings in New Jersey, but every time I went to those places it was nowhere to be seen.

This past Sunday, there were two Snowy Owls at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. However, they were quite far, and there was no way to come nearer to them. I had to crop as much as 90% of the images, and the final results are disappointing.

Snowy Owl 2018.

Snowy Owl 2018.

Update: the banner image is from a photo taken in 2015.

Year of the Dog

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Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, and according to the Chinese zodiac, it is the Year of the Dog. I thought it would be appropriate to post a photo taken of a man and his dog in October of 2015 at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Happy New Year of the Dog!

Dark-eyed Juncos on Snowy Day

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On a snowy day three years ago, I watched the birds flock to our feeder. Traffic was heavy, with the Dark-eyed Juncos being the most assiduous and energetic. With my camera on a tripod from inside the house I tried to get shots of them flying and competing for seeds.

Dark-eyed Junco preparing to land.

Food fight?

Four Birds from Three Years Ago

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I took the following photos in 2015 on the 11th of February. Today, going through my archives and seeing them, I am surprised I had not posted them at that time.

Female Northern Cardinal. In other shots, it was obvious that she was blind in her left eye.

Nuthatch.

White-throated Sparrow.

Dark-eyed Junco.

Merganser and Wind Gust

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The male Hooded Merganser had a handsome crest that it displayed with great panache. However, nature in the form of a wind gust can create a little bit of a problem for it, as shown in the following series of shots.

Male Hooded Merganser preening.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male Hooded Merganser. Wind gust started.

Male Hooded Merganser. Hood flattened down by wind.

Male Hooded Merganser after wind gust.

Male Hooded Merganser, as regal as before.

Two Woodpeckers

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Two kinds of Woodpeckers are regular visitors to our backyard feeder: the smaller bird is the Downy Woodpecker, and the much larger one is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Here are two shots of them as they perched on nearby trees.

Male Downy Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Blue Jays and Others

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I still have not ventured out since coming down with the flu. There may also be quite a few people similarly afflicted for the local pharmacy shelves have been laid bare of the more popular flu and cold medicines. The weather has not been cooperating either, being mostly cold, snowy at times, and windy almost always. This has given me time to cull through some recent shots of Blue Jays and other birds in our backyard.

Blue Jay.

Blue Jay.

Blue Jay.

Young House Sparrow.

Female Northern Cardinal.

Male Northern Cardinal.

Mourning Doves

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On a short trip to California, I came down with the flu last week and have not gone out to take any picture after coming home. Hopefully soon, as I am feeling better today. In the meantime, here are some pictures of Mourning Doves taken since 2017, including one taken at the beginning of this year.

Mourning Dove, 2018.

Mourning Doves, 2017.

Mourning Dove, 2017.

Red-breasted Merganser

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Red-breasted Merganser spend their winter on both coasts of North America. There were quite a few of them a week ago swimming and diving in the Barnegat inlet. The male duck can be very striking, and even funny looking with its Mohawk head feathers.

Male Red-breasted Merganser.

Male Red-breasted Merganser.

However, the female ducks are very pretty, with their super model looks and colors.

Female Red-breasted Merganser.

Female Red-breasted Merganser.

Female Red-breasted Merganser.

While they are considered large ducks, they look small when swimming by a seagull.

Female Red-breasted Mergansers and Herring Gull.

Orchid and Crape Myrtle in Winter

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Our orchids usually don’t bloom until March, but this year a new white orchid has been doing that since early January. No complaints from me, as we have no other plants with flowers at this time of the year.

January orchid.

Meanwhile, some more snow fell and provided interesting photos of the Crape Myrtle tree covered with it.

Crape Myrtle branches covered with snow.

A closer look at Crape Myrtle branch.

Sleeping on Ice

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Canada Geese are always present in our area, even in the deep of winter. I found a group of them sleeping on ice at the EBF refuge, with temperatures in the teens (-10°C)  during the day and even colder at night.

Canada Geese sleeping.

Some, however, were not sleeping and were already dabbling for food in a patch of water.

Canada Goose dabbling. Note the open eyes of the two other geese next to it.

Canada Goose dabbling.

Buffleheads

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Buffleheads are very small ducks, about half the size of Mallards. I have found them to be difficult to photograph because of their size and colors. Females are gray brown with white patches on their cheeks. Males are white and black. In both sexes, the eyes are hard to distinguish from the dark areas surrounding them, unless there is good light, which is not always the case in winter.

A few days ago, I went to the refuge on a cold and windy day. The marshes were mostly frozen and there were only several gulls and Buffleheads. There were also very few cars, and so I was able to zoom in closer on some female Buffleheads who were actively diving for food.

Female Bufflehead.

Female Bufflehead.

Female Bufflehead diving.

There was no male Bufflehead at EBF on that day. The following photo shows one taken a few days earlier near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Male Bufflehead.

Here’s how the refuge looked on a cold day, when the highest temperature was well below freezing.

Marshes in winter.

Marsh plant in winter.

All You Can Eat

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Like many of us, shore birds or ducks like to eat and are often busy fishing or foraging for food. Two days ago, I saw quite a few Red-breasted Merganser swimming and diving along the Barnegat Lighthouse jetty. A female Merganser was particularly energetic in her diving and was eventually rewarded with a good catch.

Red-breasted Merganser caught a fish.

Red-breasted Merganser eating fish.

Meanwhile, on the jetty rocks some Ruddy Turnstones were having an all-you-can-eat buffet. These birds don’t go in the water much and prefer to remain on shore where they sometimes can find actual smorgasbords.

Ruddy Turnstones.

Ruddy Turnstone picking at oysters.

Ruddy Turnstone.

Thaw

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It was foggy at Barnegat Lighthouse yesterday, as you can see from the photo below. However, it was not cold, and the ice that covered most of the bay was starting to break up, helped along by two Coast Guard vessels.

Island Beach as seen from Barnegat Lighthouse.

There was a thaw indeed. In the two hours I was there, snow had retreated quite a bit from the sand, or was melting away even if the sun was hidden by clouds.

Melting snow.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

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The URL for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/weathered/

Here’s a photo of a well-weathered Bristlecone Pine that probably lived for several thousand years:

Bristlecone pine in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, California.

More Snow

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It was a balmy 19 °F (-7 °C) this morning, but without the wind it was bearable. I did not have to wear too many layers when I took Jackie out. They do predict more snow tonight, but then temperatures will rise by 20 degrees or so in the next several days, a much welcomed heat wave.

Meanwhile the snow that fell last week has not melted much, as you can see in the following photos of birds that are not red Cardinals.

Dark-eyed Junco.

White-throated Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow.

Cardinals After Blizzard

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Yesterday the blizzard started at 6 AM and ended a few minutes after 3 PM, after dumping about 5 inches (12 cm) in our area, but up to 17 inches (42 cm) in other counties closer to the ocean.

Once the snow stopped blowing around, I refilled the bird feeder. There were so many birds that the sunflower seeds were gone in a day as compared to 3-5 days normally.

With their brilliant colors, Northern Cardinals stood out against the snow, so I opened the patio door a crack and photographed several that came close to the feeder.

Male Northern Cardinal.

I had spilled some seeds on a table. A male Cardinal took his time eating those seeds.

Male Northern Cardinal.

Male Northern Cardinal.

A female Northern Cardinal waited patiently for her turn.

Female Northern Cardinal.

Female Northern Cardinal.

Male Northern Cardinal, looking at camera after he had his fill.

Cardinals in Blizzard

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The first blizzard of 2018 is in full force outside. I can hear it as I write these words. Earlier I saw a couple of Northern Cardinals near the bird feeder. I took their pictures through the patio glass door.

Northern Cardinal on magnolia branch during blizzard.

Mr. Red on snow covered deck railing.

Same pose, Mrs. Red.

Female Northern Cardinal on magnolia branch.

Small Birds

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One consequence of the cold that has been gripping our region is that all open water is frozen and the birds have a hard time finding water to drink. I saw a Carolina Chickadee jump on one of our deck railing next to the feeder, and it hesitated for a moment looking at some melted snow.

Carolina Chickadee: “Should I, should I not?”

Then it decided to go ahead and drink. The bird feeder was only a couple feet away but it ignored it.

Carolina Chickadee drinking snow melt.

A Dark-eyed Junco was nearby, perhaps waiting its turn.

Dark-eyed Junco.

Another Dar-eyed Junco  was perched on a magnolia branch, all puffed up like a toy bird.

Dark-eyed Junco.

Happy New Year – 2018

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Happy New Year to all my blogger friends and visitors. May 2018 bring you happiness, health, and whatever you wish for.

There is a small farm near our house that I used to pass by on my way to work every day. At times, especially in the winter, the sunrises are simply spectacular, but I always had to hurry on to get to the office. This morning, the temperature was 1℉ (or -17 ℃), but I went there anyway to try and capture the sunrise. There was nary a cloud in the sky and the photos turned out  to be very disappointing. So I am using the following shot taken last Sunday a week ago, when there were lots of clouds.

Sunrise at Cherry Grove Farm. Happy New Year!

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2017 Favorites – 3

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The URL for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/2017-favorites/

This is my third and final submission.

Great Blue Heron spearing a fish.

The following photo has not yet been published previously.

The eye of a wave near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Red and Blue

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Not much snow fell, somewhat less than 2 in (5 cm), but the cold is staying with temperatures in the teens and twenties (-10 C to -5 C). Nothing is melting. Many birds came to our feeder, and I even saw a new one that was gray with black wings. It was too quick and only appears as a blur in a shot I took.

But Mr. Blue and Mr. Red were there of course and lingered long enough for me to photograph them leisurely.

Blue Jay.

Mr. Red especially took his time, even checking out the photographer several times.

Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal.

A Tufted Titmouse patiently waited for its turn at the feeder.

Tufted Titmouse.

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2017 Favorites – 2

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The URL for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/2017-favorites/

Mute Swans were the favorites of many this past October.  As the swans preened during a foggy morning, they struck poses that were bold and beautiful.

Mute Swan.

You may also be ineterested in two posts with more photos of the swans:

https://neihtn.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/beauty-and-the-fog/

https://neihtn.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/the-conductor/

 

Weekly Photyo Challenge: 2017 Favorites

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The URL for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/2017-favorites/

In early May 2017, I went to Barnegat Lighthouse Park and walked the short (0.2 mi) Maritime Forest Trail looking for birds to photograph. Suddenly a red bird, a male Northern Cardinal flew by with a seed in his bill. He went to a branch on which a female was already perched and began to feed her in a gesture of love and courtship, as you can see in the following shots.

Northern Cardinals.

Northern Cardinals. Her eyes say it all.

House Finches: Feeding Time

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A female House Finch snatched a sunflower seed from the feeder and flew to join her younger ones on a branch of the magnolia tree. Curious as to why she would not eat it right away, I soon found out.

House Finches.

House Finches. Juvenile male demanding his food.

House Finches. She gave it to him.

All happy now.

Juncos, Chickadee, Blue Jay

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The following three kinds of birds are regular visitors to our feeder, especially when it snows like it did yesterday. Not much fell, less than 2 inches (5 cm), but enough to double my commute time and to cover everything with a white coat that has already melted by a half today.

Dark-eyed Junco taking off near bird feeder.

Dark-eyed Junco posing.

Unlike the Juncos who only come in the winter, Carolina Chickadees live all year round in our area, and there may be more of them than of any other bird.

Carolina Chickadee.

Then Blue Jays, of course, with their piercing jeers as they call one another.

Blue Jay.

Blue Jay checking the photographer.

Two Red Birds

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The first one if not red all over, but the House Finch is one of the more dominant birds in our neighborhood. They are also not native to our area, but over the years have migrated from the West Coast to the East Coast.

Male House Finch.

A Northern Cardinal, all red except for some black patches around its beak, stands out especially well amid the whiteness of yesterday’s snow.

Northern Cardinal.

Cardinal and Other Birds This Winter

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Today skies are mostly sunny and snow is melting at a good pace. I took the opportunity to photograph the various birds that come to our feeder all day long.

Blue Jay, checking out the bird feeder. They rule the place and whenever they land, all other birds scatter away.

Blue Jay.

Junco about to jump.

Female Downy Woodpecker.

Female House Finch.

Male House Finch.

House Sparrow.

Tufted Titmouse, working on a sunflower seed.

Finally, the one and the only Northern Cardinal, resplendent in colors rivaling its human counterparts in Rome.

Northern Cardinal.

Cardinal in Winter

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Snow fell today in our region for the first time this winter. We did not get much, maybe 4 inches (10 cm), but the sky was gray all day and although many birds came to our feeder I did not try to take their pictures. So here are a couple shots of a Northern Cardinal from last year, under similar weather. The banner shot is also from last year.

Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal. Same guy, different pose.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

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

Here are my entries for it, a sunrise photo taken in Ocean City, MD and a sunset photo taken in Marina, CA.

Sunrise over Ocean City, MD.

Sunset over beach at Marina, CA.

Good Fishing

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This Great Blue Heron was catching fish literally left and right. In the five minutes I spent photographing it, it managed to snatch five fishes out of the water. They were small but enough of them would be equal to a big catch. When I left, it was still looking for fish.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron.