Christmas Cactus Blooming

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Our Christmas Cactuses began opening their flowers the day before Thanksgiving and have not stopped since. Here are a few closeups of some of the flowers in both red and white.

Red Christmas Cactus.
Red Christmas Cactus.
Red Christmas Cactus.
White Christmas Cactus.
White Christmas Cactus.
White Christmas Cactus.

Great Egret, Cormorant

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Yesterday I went to the refuge to photograph some of the last birds that are still there before the onset of winter. I spotted a Great Egret that was looking for fish by a stream next to Wildlife Drive.

Great Egret fishing.

Suddenly I saw a Cormorant (I previously misidentified it as a Common Loon) emerge from the water with a fish in its bill.

Cormorant with fish.
Cormorant with struggling fish.
Cormorant with fish.
Cormorant with fish.

The Cormorant dove into the water with the fish. A couple of minutes later, it reemerged at another part of the stream, looking happy after having ingested its meal.

Black Friday Deals on 5-Star Books: #BlackFriday #Sales

Bonnie Reads and Writes

Sales have started! Gail Meath’s new release, the prequel to the Jax Diamond series, Two of a Kind, is out now and only .99. The first three books in her series are also .99. You can get them by clicking on the cover below

Nguyen Trong Hien’s two books are both on sale. Click the covers below to get The Siege of An Loc and Village Teacher.

Happy Shopping!

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Full Moon and New Azaleas.

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There was a Blood Moon on November 8, 2022. A blood moon is when the moon falls completely within the earth shadow. It occurred around 4 AM, but I was sound asleep then and could only take the following photo at 8 PM.

Full moon November 8, 2022.

This spring I planted two new azaleas. They are named Perfecto Mundo and are said to be able to rebloom in the fall after the usual spring bloom. I put the two plants in the ground and did not pay much attention, other than regular watering during this summer’s drought. The plants were small, no more 5 or 6 inches high. A few days ago, I was totally surprised when I saw vibrant pink colors in the area where they were planted, and discovered that both had sprouted some amazing flowers.

Azalea Perfecto Mundo.
Azalea Perfecto Mundo.
Azalea Perfecto Mundo.

Cranberry Harvest 2022

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Yesterday I went to one of the cranberry fields in Southern New Jersey to see how the harvest was going this year. However, it was late in the season and most of the cranberries had already been harvested. By the side of the road, here’s how the remaining cranberries looked in a field flooded with water.

View of cranberry field and harvesting equipment.
Cranberries near sluice gate.
Closeup of floating cranberries.
Sluice gate disgorging water into cranberry field.
Cranberries floating in water ready for harvest.

There were some yellow wildflowers growing on the periphery of the cranberry fields.

Wildflower on a cranberry background.

After cranberries are harvested, water is pumped out and the fields will remain dry to wait for the planting of next year’s crop in early spring. They look purplish in color as of yesterday.

Dry cranberry fields after harvest.

Autumn Leaves and Fruit

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Yesterday, I drove around our area to look for beautiful autumn leaves and colors. However, before leaving our street, I saw the following scene and took my first shot of the day.

Autumn street scene.

In another town about 10 miles (17 km) away, there was a bright display of yellow leaves.

Yellow leaves.

At a park 7 miles (11 km) from home, leaf colors were more muted. A fern on the ground was a better subject.

Ferns.

Back home, I tried to take a picture of a Sugar Maple tree we have in our backyard. Planted 30 years ago, it turned out to be too big to fit in one shot. It may be as tall as 70-80 ft (25 m).

Sugar Maple.

I switched to a wide-angle lens and was finally able to show all of it.

Sugar Maple.

There was at least one tree that still has green leaves. It is a Fuyu Persimmon tree which is now bearing fruit. I tasted one fruit yesterday and it was sweet!

Fuyu Persimmons.

Fall Weekend Colors

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Sayen Gardens does not have many flowers in the fall, but what it has is often very colorful and showy. Sweet William (Dianthus Barbatus) almost completely surrounds the main building where wedding receptions are usually held.

Sweet William in red and white.
Sweet William in red and white.
Sweet William in red.

Another vividly red flower is the Giant Redhead Cockscomb (Celosia Cristata) along one side of the stairs leading to the banquet room.

Giant Redhead Cockscomb.

Jackie, the Golden Retriever, at 6

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Some of you may remember that I got a Golden Retriever in 2016 and named her Jackie. Here’s how Jackie looked on her first day with us.

Jackie, on June 30, 2016.

Here’s Jackie a few days later.

Jackie, the puppy on July 10, 2016.

Here she is recently at a little over six years old.

Jackie on July 31, 2022.

Scenes Near Barnegat Lighthouse

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The main purpose of my visit was to observe and photograph Monarch butterflies at the waystation near Barnegat Lighthouse, but I could not help noticing other subjects also.

Airplane flying over beach, the Red Baron perhaps?
A sculpture reading a book right next to bushes beloved by Monarch butterflies.

There were many people fishing at the lighthouse jetty, but two of them were turning up some rocks.

Woman lifting rocks. When I asked, she said she was looking for small crabs to use as fishing bait.
Goldenrod blooming on the sand dunes.

Last but not least, many Monarchs were feeding on flower nectar for their trip to Mexico.

Male Monarch identifiable by the two dots on its wings.
Male Monarch.
Monarch on dried (milkweed?) flowers.
Monarch on Verbena flowers.

Monarch Migration

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As I strolled along the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse, Monarch butterflies flew in from the ocean constantly, usually in pairs but sometimes in groups of four or five. They flew too fast for me to get any picture. They landed here and there among the vegetation for a few seconds before flying again toward the waystation where butterfly bushes with their pink and purple flowers and berries provide needed nourishment for the rest of their journey.

Every fall, Eastern Monarch butterflies migrate down the Eastern seaboard before veering toward Texas and eventually settling in the Oyamel fir tree forests west of Mexico City in the states of Michoacán and Mexico. They will spend the winter there before flying North again in the spring. On the West Coast, Monarchs only spend the winter along the California coast and do not fly to Mexico. Monarchs in southern Florida do not migrate at all.

Monarchs have done this annual migration for millions of years, and hopefully will continue to do so for millions more.

I took the photos below after a first batch more than a week ago. These Monarchs seem to be younger, more energetic, and I only saw one with a slightly damaged wing.

Monarch at waystation.
Monarch at waystation.
Monarch at waystation.
Monarch at waystation.
Monarch at waystation.
Monarch at waystation.

A Northern Mockingbird followed me around the waystation, maybe because it wanted to protect its nest somewhere in the bushes.

Northern Mockingbird at waystation.
Northern Mockingbird on a fence.

If you want to learn more about Monarch migration, here’s a good link: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration

Scenes at Barnegat Lighthouse Beach

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Yesterday, Barnegat Lighthouse looked more renovated than nine days earlier. More of the scaffolding had been removed. However, there were no workers since it was a Saturday.

Barnegat Lighthouse. Beachgoers had to walk along a new path skirting the lighthouse.

I went strolling in the dunes toward the ocean and captured the following sights.

Beach house at Barnegat.
Trail to the Atlantic ocean.
Brown Pelicans landing.
Fishing from a boat and from the jetty. The sea looked rough.
Someone caught a nice dinner.
Canada Geese landing.

Monarchs at Waystation (continued)

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More eye candies of Monarch photos taken two days ago at the Long Beach Island Foundation (LBIF) waystation in Loveladies, NJ.

Monarch feeding from the aptly named Butterfly Bush flowers.
Monarch on Butterfly Bush.
Monarch on Butterfly Bush.
Monarch bliss?
Monarch on Butterfly Bush.
Monarch on Butterfly Bush.
Monarch favoring purple flower from Butterfly Bush.
This Monarch prefers yellow flowers.
This Monarch likes a riot of colors.

Monarchs at Waystation

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About one mile from Barnegat Lighthouse is a waystation for Monarch butterflies. It is located on the grounds of the Long Beach Island Foundation (LBIF) in the community of Loveladies, NJ.

Yesterday, after a two-hour drive, I arrived there at 9 AM with temperatures still in the low sixties (around 15°C) and no Monarch or any other butterfly in sight. I went to the lighthouse and walked for almost two hours before driving back to LBIF. It had warmed up by then and there were Monarchs fluttering around from flower to flower. Monarch migration has begun and will last until October.

Monarch with damaged wing.
Monarch on buddleia (Butterfly Bush) flowers.
Monarch on buddleia (Butterfly Bush) flowers.

As temperatures rose into the eighties, other Monarchs came to the waystation.

Another Monarch with its wings intact.
Monarch butterfly feeding as sunlight shone through it.
Male Monarch with two black dots on its hindwings.
Monarch butterfly, probably a female.

Barnegat Lighthouse Face-Lift

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I have not been to Barnegat Lighthouse since March of this year. Yesterday, I went there and was surprised by what I saw.

Barnegat Lighthouse being renovated.

The lighthouse is undergoing renovation including recoating the outside, minor repairs to its brick structure, a new inside steel platform, new light, new roof and new windows. The $1.3 million work is supposed to be completed in October of this year. Of course, no one except workers can go inside, and a special walkway to the lighthouse jetty was put in place for visitors to walk a safe distance from the construction activities before reaching the jetty.

As I walked toward the beach, a wild rabbit crossed my path and scurried into the grass. It remained absolutely still as it observed me.

Wild rabbit.
Barnegat Lighthouse as seen from the beach.

Hot Summer Flowers

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Sayen Gardens in Hamilton, NJ is a favorite place for hosting weddings. In the Spring, almost every spot is filled with flowers of all colors and shapes. In the summer, especially during this year’s drought, you see more green than any other color, and there is no brown spot anywhere. However, as you walk Sayen’s grounds, your eyes will be drawn toward patches of flowers in the most vibrant, almost outrageous colors.

Salvias.
Dianthus.

The above should make brides and grooms happy, but Sayen holds even more surprises.

Great Blue Lobelia.
Hydrangea.
Fern.

If they look closely, dragonflies and Koi fish are also near and in the water of the small pond where many newlyweds have had their photos taken.

Blue Dasher.
Koi fishes.

The Lazy Gardener Flower

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Cleome Serrulata, commonly known as Spider Flower and other not so flattering names, has done very well this drought year. It came up naturally around our house and required no hand watering at all.

I looked up Cleome and discovered it has many uses as food for Native Americans, dye, medicine. It is also an excellent pollinator as it attracts bees. This morning, coming back from an early walk with my dog, Jackie, the early sun shone brightly on the Cleome flowers and I could not resist taking the following shots.

Cleome.
Cleome.
Bee visiting Cleome.
Bee getting nectar from Cleome.
Cleome, the lazy gardener flower.

Flight of the White Ibis

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In the preceding post, a juvenile White Ibis was pestering its parent with its demands for food.

Parent White Ibis getting ready to fly away.
Juvenile yelling: “Bring me back lots of goodies!”
White Ibis in flight.

At another nest a juvenile launched itself into the air.

Juvenile White Ibis launching out of nest.
White Ibis adult preparing to land.
“I’ll show you how to fly!”
“Watch me!”

White Ibis Feeding Time

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Today I went to the rookery at Ocean City Welcome Center. Dispersed among the trees were hundreds of egrets, ibises, night herons, and other shore birds. It was a photographer’s paradise as one could look in almost any direction and click away.

An adult White Ibis landed on top of a tree.

A young ibis immediately jumped next to it.
The young one begged for food.
And it begged …
The adult ibis allowed the juvenile to feed from its throat.
In no time all the food was gone.
“I am still starving!”
The adult Ibis wanted to fly away.
The juvenile tried to restrain it by draping a wing over the adult’s back.
“If you want more food, you have to let me go!”

Finally, the parent was able to fly away to look for more food. White Ibises eat insects and crustaceans that they find in the mud.

Drought Ended?

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Last night, loud thunder announced the arrival of rain which gave everything a good soaking and lowered temperatures a bit. The weatherman said we may get some more rain tonight and next week, so maybe this year’s drought is over.

This morning, I went around the yard taking pictures of the only flowers that survived and are thriving this summer: Cleome (spider plant), Crape Myrtle, and Hibiscus.

Cleome.
Cleome.
Cleome.

These Cleome plants require little care and have endured for several years despite my intentional neglect of them.

Crape Myrtle.
Hibiscus.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

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This morning a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in to our backyard and perched on an oak branch to look at our empty bird feeder. I thought I would take its picture first before filling up the feeder.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Sharp-shinned Hawk.

There was no small bird at the feeder and the hawk flew away quickly.

Remembrance of Lotus Pond

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Since 2014, I have been going to the Lotus Pond in Carnegie Center in Princeton, NJ every summer to photograph its beautiful Lotus flowers and the bees and dragonflies that flew over the pond. Unfortunately, last year all the Lotus plants died or were killed for some unknown reason and the Lotus Pond is no more. It is just a small pond with water but no vegetation growing in or on it.

The photos below show the flowers at their best eight years ago in 2014. I have reprocessed some of them using newer software, while other photos have never been published before.

This is how the Lotus Pond looked at its prime.

Lotus Pond in 2014.
White Lotus with a red one in the background.
Pink Lotus flowers.
Pink Lotus flower.
Red Lotus flower.
White Lotus flower.
White Lotus flower.
Pink Lotus flower.
Bee hovering over white Lotus flower.

Cee’s Photo Challenge – Flower of the Day

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This morning I walked out to our backyard and saw the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) covered with beautiful blooms. The rising sunrays were showing the flowers at their best, and these are my entries to Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora).
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora).

Lens-Artists Challenge #205 – The Eyes Have it

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This post is my response to Tina’s challenge at Lens-Artists Challenge #205 – The Eyes Have it. I almost never photograph humans, so my entries will consist of pictures of birds that I encounter in a rookery, a wildlife refuge, or in our backyard.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron shielding her eggs from the hot sun. You can see part on an eye behind her right wing.
Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron just waking up grumpy.
White Ibis after returning from a fishing trip.
Bluejay drinking from the birdbath in our backyard.
White Ibis preening.
Eastern Bluebird on top of Southern Magnolia tree.
Eastern Bluebird staring at photographer.
Great Egret landing on a branch.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder.

Rookery at Ocean City Welcome Center

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Yesterday the rookery next to the New Jersey Ocean City Welcome Center was teeming with egrets, herons, ibises, and many other smaller birds. The Great Egrets breeding season was at its peak as you can see from the following images.

Great Egret pair and newly hatched chicks.
Great Egret with chick and a still unhatched egg.
Great Egret bringing an eel to the nest.

The parent egret will eat the eel then regurgitate it into the bottom of the nest. Then the young chicks will be able to eat it.

Great Egret with three chicks. Not all of the young chicks may survive due to competition among them, unless the parents can provide plenty of food.

Bluebirds – New Brood?

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Two days ago, in the morning I saw both Bluebird parents catching insects and bringing them to their babies.

Bluebird parents on top of birdhouse.

Bluebird female feeding the young ones.
Bluebird male calling out to female.
Male Bluebird bringing food toward the birdhouse.

I thought it was about time for the young birds to fledge and leave their nest. Then, in the afternoon, our backyard was suddenly very quiet. No more Bluebirds flying around or calling each other. Very cautiously, I opened the door of the birdhouse. No bird was inside. The young ones had all fledged, and I missed seeing them leave their nest.

Then this morning, the male Bluebird was back flying around and attacking his image on our patio door. I went out and saw him perched on the birdhouse. Then the female Bluebird reappeared, and the pair kept taking turns diving toward the grass to catch insects. Life was back to normal.

Bluebirds may have from one to three broods. It looks like this Bluebird couple will start a second brood in the same birdhouse. I’ll keep watching them and try to photograph the second brood as they fledge.

A Day in the Life of Our Bluebirds

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Every day the pair of Eastern Bluebirds living in our backyard have to find food for their babies, which could be fledging in a week or so. Fortunately, our neighborhood has many spots, including lawns, an empty lot and a wooded area, where they can easily find food. The female is the one that works the hardest, with the male relishing his role as her protector against other birds and even a photographer!

Male Bluebird arriving with butterfly (or moth) as food.
Female Bluebird with a worm.
Female Bluebird bringing spider for food.
Female Bluebird flying out of nest.

Sometimes they take a break and watch their nest from the top of our birdfeeder hanging pole.

Eastern Bluebird couple watching their birdhouse.

One essential function of both parents is to keep the nest clean by taking out the fecal sacs they pull out of their young ones several times a day.

Male Bluebird with a spider.
Male Blurbird feeding their babies.
Male Bluebird going inside nest.
Male Bluebird flying out holding a fecal sac. He will drop it somewhere far away from the nest.

The female also does that type of diaper duty. In fact, she carries out more fecal sacs than he does! On the other hand, he spends a lot of time keeping other birds clear of their birdhouse. Yesterday I watched as he repeatedly attacked the Bluebird he saw in the driver side mirror of a car parked on our driveway. At times, the noise that he made pecking at his image in the mirror sounded like a mini machine gun. This morning we put a bag over the mirror to put a stop to that.