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

Osprey Feeding Time

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Just before I arrived at the Osprey nest, I saw the father finishing the head of a big fish that he had caught. He flew with the rest of it to the nest, handed it over to the mother, then perched up high, keeping watch.

Thank you dear!

Go on with your feeding. I’ll keep watch.

Open wide!

There! That will make you grow up to be a strong Osprey.

Monarchs in Backyard

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There are definitely two Monarch butterflies in our backyard. We have been seeing them fluttering back and forth among the pink milkweed plants, or flying in tandem up and down. As soon as I got home yesterday, they swung by the glass patio door, challenging me to come out and take their pictures.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Prairie Sun Redux

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A few weeks ago, our Rudbeckia Prairie Sun flowers were all eaten by deer. However, the plants continued sending up more flowers and yesterday I took the following photo of them. Their colors are not as vibrant and intense as the earlier ones, but they still put on a good show this second time around.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun. The cut stems are remains from the first flowers a few weeks ago.

Monarchs and Milkweed

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While driving at the Edwin B Forsythe Wildlife Refuge this past Sunday, I saw a few Monarch butterflies from time to time. What made me stop and take the following pictures is the intense orange of the milkweed flowers (Asclepias Tuberosa) which perfectly matched the Monarch’s colors. There were many other weeds around the area, but the Monarchs did not mind.

Monarch butterfly and milkweed.

Monarch butterflies and milkweed.

Monarch butterfly and milkweed, and a tiny green insect.

Monday Monochrome: Lotus, Dragonfly

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Usually I photograph lotus blossoms in early morning, but yesterday I arrived at the pond around 2 PM. Sunlight was falling almost straight down on top of the flowers. Looking at the results, I thought a monochrome rendering of the images would be appropriate.

White Lotus.

White Lotus.

White Lotus.

Finally, a monochrome dragonfly shot, taken about the same time.

Dragonfly.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a name that is more appropriate for the male bird who does indeed have a throat seemingly adorned with rubies under the proper lighting. He lives in our area and comes to the feeder, but never at the same time as the two females. In fact male and female hummingbirds do not share the same nest like many other birds do.

Today, in the afternoon, lighting was good and perfect for photographing him.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird arriving at feeder.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird flying away.

That’s My Feeder

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For several years, two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been fighting over the feeder I put out for them. Today was the first time I was able to capture them together, one chasing away the other from “her” feeder.

First female Ruby-throated Hummingbird arriving.

She looked into a feeding hole.

Oh, oh. She saw the other one coming.

Chased away, in a fraction of a second.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the “owner” of the feeder in a victory dance.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying her drink.

First Monarch

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Three years ago, I planted pink milkweed, Asclepias Incarnata, in the back of our house to attract and help Monarch butterflies, whose number has been in decline in recent years. The first year several came, and then there were Monarch caterpillars crawling on the milkweed plants. Then after a few days they disappeared, maybe eaten by the many birds flying around our bird feeder. Last year, not one single Monarch showed up.

This year, at least one did appear, captured in the following photos.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Some Regular Bird Visitors

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The following birds are regular visitors to our backyard, and here are some shots of them near the bird feeder.

This year a band of Blue Jays have come swarming in our neighborhood. You can tell when they come as all the smaller birds have to scatter out of their way. Fortunately, they don’t eat everything at once and they leave enough food for others.

Blue Jay.

Turtle (or Mourning) Doves are always there also, not as aggressive as Blue Jays, but persistent. They will perch on high branches and patiently wait their turn. The one below flew down to our deck to check out some scattered sunflower seeds.

Turtle or Mourning Dove.

The Downy Woodpeckers are also always there, no matter what season it is.

Downy Woodpecker.

A regular summer visitor is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, very small and very territorial. The following female will attack attack any other hummingbird that tries to use the special feeder I put out for hummingbirds. It even tried to shoo away bigger birds.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovering over feeder.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird landing on feeder.

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird either comes out in late evening, or when I am not home. So far I have seen him but it’s been too dark to photograph him.

Red Hot Summer

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It was 101 °F (38 °C) when I got out of work this afternoon. The following photos of a handsome Northern Cardinal who has been coming to our bird feeder is illustrative of the red hot summer we have been enduring over these past few days.

Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal.

Cooling rains are coming this weekend.

Black & White Sunday: After and Before

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This is in response to a challenge by Paula at the following link: https://bopaula.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/black-white-sunday-after-and-before-2/

White Lotus: converted to B&W.

White Lotus, original in color.

Which version do you prefer?

I’d Rather Be Sailing

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I’d rather be sailing, but the following sailboats are not mine. I only saw them last week as they left Barnegat Bay to go toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Sailboat at Barnegat Light. The motor boat came close, but not too close.

Sailboat in Atlantic Ocean near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Sailboat in Atlantic Ocean near Barnegat Lighthouse.

Early Lotus

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This morning started with fog, followed by rain, then finally sunshine. After making sure the sun was there to stay, I went to the lotus pond near our house to photograph this year’s flowers. There were not many yet, it’s still too early for them.

White Lotus with visitor.

White Lotus.

Lotus leaves. Note the two fishes at the bottom of the leaf on the left.

There were many dragonflies flying around the pond. The Eastern Amberwings darted here and there, their orange color contrasting sharply with the green lotus leaves.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly.

Deer Ate Them

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Rudbeckia Prairie Sun is supposed to be deer resistant. However, they are now all gone, including buds that had not opened yet. At the height they were cut, I am suspecting that the deer ate them. All I have left is this picture, taken the day before they disappeared.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun, before the deer ate them.

Fawns and Fox

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Yesterday, in late afternoon, Fawns came back to our backyard to graze and eat the still green fruit from our peach tree. They were not the only visitors.

Fawn.

Fawn.

Doe, Fawn, and Red Fox in the back.

Red Fox and Doe.

The Fawns were excited but did not run away.

The Red Fox perked up every time I pressed the shutter on my camera.

Red Fox.

Red Fox.

The Red Fox, with a peach in its mouth, suddenly took off and ran into the woods. My panning skills could be much improved, but you get the idea.

Red Fox with peach.

Seagull and Crab

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Yesterday at the end of the Barnegat Lighthouse jetty, a Great Black-backed Gull Seagull grabbed a good-sized crab from the ocean.

Great Black-backed Gull catching a crab. It brought the crab to shore and ate most of it within five minutes.

Meanwhile a Herring Gull hovered, looking for a similar lunch.

Herring Gull.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridge

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

Following are photos that I took of bridges in my travels.

Bridge over Carnegie lake in Princeton, NJ.

New River Gorge bridge near Fayetteville, WV.

Bixby bridge at dusk, south of Carmel, CA.

Japanese bridge in Hoi An, Viet Nam.

Bridge to nowhere, in South Jersey. There is no road on the other side, only a dirt path and weeds.

Empress of India

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While photographing Rudbeckia Prairie Sun (see preceding post from yesterday), I noticed a much smaller flower, a Nasturtium commonly named Empress of India. Its red color was beckoning me, and here’s the resulting photo.

Nasturtium “Empress of India”.

Prairie Sun

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This Spring I planted from seeds a new flower called Rudbeckia Prairie Sun, a cousin of the Black-eyed Susan of yesteryear. It has started to bloom after only a few months, just like a Cosmos. Here are some shots of the stunning first bloom that eclipses all the Cosmos flowers in sheer beauty and vigor.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun. In the background are Coreopsis Moonbeam flowers that have lived in the border for some 30 years.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun.

Summer Flowers

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It rained again last evening. Early today I went out and found our summer flowers in full bloom, still in the shade or gently caressed by rays from a sunrise that was not yet too hot. It was a feast for the eyes, and for my macro lens.

Asclepias Incarnata (Butterfly Weed).

Daylily.

Cosmos.

Nasturtium.

Cosmos.

Cosmos with landing insect helicopter.

Cosmos.

Cowbirds

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I saw Cowbirds for the first time this year. They looked like House Finches, but were visibly bigger.

Female Cowbird.

Female Cowbirds are brood parasites, laying their eggs in other birds’ nests, and letting their children be raised by other birds. These new Cowbirds appeared with the bunch of House Finches that we usually see around our bird feeder, so maybe they had House Finches as surrogate parents and siblings.

Female Cowbird.

For comparison, here’s a shot of a male House Finch.

Male House Finch.

Because of their aggressive brood parasitism, Cowbirds are said to be a threat to other bird specie by overwhelming and outgrowing them

Afternoon Fawns

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Late this afternoon, two fawns wandered through our backyard behind their mother, and laid down on the grass, innocent and with not a worry in the world.

Fawns.

They stayed there for long time, perhaps even settling in for the night. Tired of waiting for them to stand up and move around, I took a picture of one of our roses.

Knockout rose.

Young Birds

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There seems to be a lot more juvenile birds in our backyard this year. They look young, and they are not too shy. They strike poses that exude youthful confidence and vigor.

Tufted Titmouse.

Tufted Titmouse: “Hey, you, Finches! I can fly too!”

Female House Finch.

Female House Finch.

Male House Finch.

Male House Finch: “What? You want me to jump now?”

Male House Finch: “Dive, dive!”

Southern Magnolia

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It’s been raining off and on again, and getting very hot, well above 90 °F (32 °C), so I stayed home and went around the yard to see if there are any summer flowers to photograph. I was immediately attracted to a large blooming Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) flower.

Southern Magnolia flower. It was about 12 in (30 cm) across.

Closer look.

Southern Magnolia.

Since the flower was mostly white, I converted the above shot to monochrome. Which version do you prefer?

Southern Magnolia, monochrome.

Great Swamp: Other Animals and Plants

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Along the walkways at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, I only had to look over the railings to see frogs, turtles, and beautiful wildflowers which added vibrant colors to the green (vegetation) and blackness (water) of the swamp.

(11-Jun-2017: Eliza Waters gave me pointers on the names of the turtles and flowers and I have updated this post accordingly.)

At first I thought this was a rock, but then it moved very slowly. It was a Snapping Turtle.

Snapping Turtle at Great Swamp.

There was another more recognizable Eastern Painted Turtle which only poked its head above the water. It was smaller than the one above.

Box Turtle at Great Swamp.

A handsome Green Frog was basking in the early morning sun.

Green Frog at Great Swamp.

Green Frog at Great Swamp, from another angle. A prince maybe?

A tiny but brilliant Buttercup growing on land at Great Swamp.

Blue Flag Iris at Great Swamp.

Barred Owl, Eastern Phoebe

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Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge extends over the marshy remains of a large lake that existed in Northern New Jersey some 15,000 years ago. I don’t go there often, and today’s trip was the first in five years.

Great Swamp has wooden walkways so that you don’t have to muddy your shoes, and blinds to observe and photograph birds. However, the Barred Owl below was standing on a tree branch by one of the walkways, and it barely budged even though several people were pointing their scopes, smartphones, or cameras at it.

Barred Owl at Great Swamp NWR.

Barred Owl at Great Swamp.

The owl has beautiful black eyes needed to hunt at night, but this owl was probably taking a daytime nap.

Barred Owl at Great Swamp.

Eastern Phoebes is a songbird living in the East of North America, from Canada to Mexico. It is quite common and not on the endangered list. I saw this one from a blind at Great Swamp NWR.

Eastern Phoebe at Great Swamp.

Eastern Phoebe at Great Swamp.

Backyard Birds

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Lately our weather has been nothing but rain and clouds, so I have not gone out much, relying on the birds around our bird feeder to pose for photographs. They did not disappoint.

Goldfinch.

A moody House Finch.

Northern Cardinal.

House Finch.

Young female House Finch with stray feather.

This last one is not a bird, although it would like to be one to get at the food.

Squirrel at bird feeder.

Singers

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After building their nests, the House Wrens do not shy from singing their prowess to attract potential mates. Here are some shots of the House Wren that was so busy the other day amassing twigs for its nest.

House Wren singing, eyes closed.

House Wren in between songs.

House Wren singing from the top of birdhouse. Note the feet beating time!

House Wren singing from rooftop.

House Wren singing from oak branch.

Backyard Red Foxes 2017

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There are Red Foxes in a wooded corner of our backyard for many years now. A few years ago, there were six of them, but this year we only have two that I can see, a mother and her cub. Being Foxes, they are naturally shy and I had to take the following photos from about 300 ft (100 m) away. However, the evening sunlight was bright and directed perfectly at the spot.

Mother fox and cub running.

Mother Red Fox.

Mother Red Fox, probably telling her young one that those leaves were nothing worth worrying about.

Young Fox.

Mother, seated, and son.

Nest Builder

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For several years, I’ve put up birdhouses in the hope of attracting Bluebirds. I must have placed them in the wrong places, because no Bluebird came, and only Chickadees and House Wrens have taken advantage of my birdhouses. Yesterday, I saw an energetic House Wren busy building its nest inside one of the birdhouses.

House Wren bringing twig to add to its nest inside birdhouse.

House Wren handling long twig.

House Wren and long twig.

House Wren, eyes half closed, cramming another twig into nest.

House Wren flying in nest material.

House Wren and another twig!

Air House Wren.

When will it stop bringing in more materials?

House Wrens are mostly plain brown, but they sing well and are one of the most common birds in North America and South America.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

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The Sharp-shinned Hawk landed on a tree branch in our backyard, about 100 ft (30 m) away. It stayed there for a good ten minutes, allowing me to go get my camera, tripod, and set up. It was late evening on a cloudy day, forcing me to bump up the ISO to 1000, then to 2000.

Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was holding a twig in its beak, probably to build a nest somewhere in the woods.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Monday Monochrome

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Here are some monochrome photos to highlight this Horseshoe Crab season. Currently, the populations of Horseshoe Crabs, as well as of the birds that eat their eggs, Red Knots, Dunlins, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone, are all supposed to be in decline. There is no single cause and probably many unknowns as well.

Female Horseshoe Crab, its outer shell encrusted with sea snails and other sea shells. She was trying to shelter under a bridge over Oyster Creek at Fortescue, NJ.

Dunlins eating Horseshoe Crab eggs. They must have found a food spot!

A good scratch: Ruddy Turnstone between feedings on Forstescue beach.