Cardinal and Other Birds This Winter

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Today, the 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.

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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.

Berry Breakfast

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I am not sure about this bird’s name, which may be Cape May Warbler. If you know that it should have a different name, please let me know. Update: Jerry from https://quietsolopursuits.wordpress.com/ has been kind to identify it as a female Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Anyway, last Saturday morning I found her eating juniper berries. She did not fly away when I came near enough to photograph her.

Yellow-rumped Warbler eating breakfast.

She even turned around to look directly at me.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Hooded Mergansers and a Swan

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Hooded Mergansers are my favorite winter ducks. The males really look cute with their black and white hood, especially when they try to get a female’s attention, like the one below. He was among many of its kind at the refuge yesterday.

Hooded Merganser.

Hooded Mergansers.

Hooded Merganser couple.

Meanwhile, a Mute Swan flew overhead, a rare sight for me.

Mute Swan.

Hooded Mergansers. Was he looking up at the swan?

Hooded Merganser.

Lesser Yellow Legs

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A bird with a name like Lesser Yellow Legs must have something to show for it. Indeed it has bright yellow legs, which are shorter than those of the Greater Yellow Legs, but still quite long, making it stand out among the birds of the marshes. I saw one while it was searching for food.

Lesser Yellow Legs.

The next instant it was half submerged in water.

Lesser Yellow Legs.

Lesser Yellow Legs with fish it had just caught.

Lesser Yellow Legs eating fish it had just caught.

Lesser Yellow Legs looking for next victim.

Dunlins in Flight

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According to Audubon, Dunlin means “little dun-colored (gray-brown) bird”. It is a very common shore bird migrating about now from their breeding grounds in the Artic to coastal areas of the United States.

Dunlins are easily identified as they fly in groups ranging from a few dozens to hundreds or even thousands. They seem to have a way of communicating effectively with one another as they bank, turn, or climb up and dive down in perfect unison. Their flight is an amazing sight that I tried to capture in the following photos, with just a few members of a band of Dunlins.

Dunlins in flight.

Dunlins in flight.

Yellow Leaves

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Fall season in our area has been disappointing to say the least. It seemed like we went from summer to winter, with a handful of autumn days thrown in between. I went back to some photos taken two years ago in Montana to see some real yellow leaves, the way they should be in the fall.

Glacier National Park, Montana. On the way to Two Medicine Lake.

Yellow aspens at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Yellow aspens at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Yellow aspens at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Backyard Birds in the Fall

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I filled up our backyard feeder with sunflower seeds to help out the birds when it is so windy and cold. They came within minutes, and I took the following shots of two of our regular fall visitors.

Blue Jay.

Blue Jay.

House Finch looking up at bird feeder.

House Finch.

Tundra Swans

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Tundra Swans number over a hundred thousand, making them the largest swan population in North America. Yesterday some of them arrived at the refuge from arctic tundra regions, then faced a strong wind as they landed in one of the pools inhabited by Mute Swans. They were a good distance from me, so they appear small in the following shots. In fact, they are only slightly smaller than Mute Swans, and have a black bill compared to the orange bill of Mute Swans.

A family of Tundra Swans with the two young ones on the right and the parents on the left.

Tundra Swans landing among Mute Swans and other Tundra Swans. The swan in the water to the right of the photo with an orange bill is a Mute Swan.

Tundra Swans landing and displacing another Tundra Swan.

Tundra Swans landing.

Tundra Swans after landing.

Young Bald Eagle

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This morning was cloudy and windy, but I went to the refuge anyway, and among the many birds and ducks I saw a young Bald Eagle who put on an impressive flying exhibition.

Young Bald Eagle on Osprey nest. The Ospreys had migrated South a month or so ago.

People in several cars were trying to take its picture, so the Bald Eagle took off.

Young Bald Eagle.

It looked as if it was preparing to dive.

Young Bald Eagle.

Young Bald Eagle.

But it just banked and flew away.

Young Bald Eagle.

Here’s another shot of it against a small portion of the sky that was blue.

Young Bald Eagle.

Sunrise Sunset

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Like many of us, whenever I see a colorful sunrise or sunset I try to take a picture of it, if possible. Since the refuge is where I go most often to shoot pictures, in the past several years I did manage to have some sunrise and sunset shots from that place.

The following photo was taken 14 minutes after the shot of the pinkish sunrise I posted here a few days ago at https://neihtn.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/fall-at-the-refuge

Sunrise September 15, 2013.

Snowy and Great Egrets at sunrise September 15, 2013.

In the shot below, the sun hid behind thick clouds, but as it plunged below the horizon it produced magnificent colors ranging from blue and purple to red and yellow.

Sunset January 5, 2015.

The Conductor II

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Here are some more photos of the swan that conducted from the marshes at the refuge. It spent a long time preening, diving into the water, splashing around, and must have ended with a thorough washing of its entire body.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan: “You taking my pictures, right?”

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Fall Egrets

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Egrets stayed around at the refuge later this year because the weather has been warmer than usual. Not today though as Artic air has brought temperatures to lows unheard of since the 1930’s. Anyway, last week I saw a Snowy Egret by Wildlife Drive at the refuge and stopped my car not more than 20 ft (6 m) from it.

Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret.

Other cars then began stopping behind me, and the Snowy Egret decided it had enough and flew away.

Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret.

Looking through my files, I saw the following photo taken in November 2014 at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I did not post it before, perhaps because at first glance it appeared too dark. But lighting was falling on the egret and not on the marshy background. So here it is.

Great Egret.

Fall at the Refuge

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Fall colors at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge have not been as vivid this year as in the past, mainly because of sparse rain during the summer. Still I tried some landscape shots to see how they would turn out.

Fall colors at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlfie Refuge.

Phragmites, an invasive grass, did very well this year, with widespread stands of dried tall grass in many parts of the refuge.

Dried invasive grass.

I had to to dig out of my archives the following sunrise shot of the refuge taken four years ago in September. Things looked prettier then.

Sunrise at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

Caught Fish

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At high tide, ocean water pours into the salt marshes at the refuge, and provides a fish bonanza to the birds that hover near the sluice gates. I saw a band of Seagulls diving with abandon into the churning water and I began shooting them. Only when I came home and looked at the images on the computer did I see that some of them actually had caught small fish.

Ring-billed Gull with fish.

Ring-billed Gull with fish.

Ring-billed Gull with fish.

A Cormorant was equally successful, though they usually catch much bigger fish. Perhaps this one was young and still learning.

Cormorant with fish.

Sunday Odds and Ends

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As a side effect of hurricane Philippe, we are being drenched with rain today, and I am staying home. Here are a few shots taken over the past several weeks that did not fit into any previous post.

Cormorants. They were moving fast in the water as evidenced by the wake they created.

Another group of Cormorants taking off.

Squirrel eating a walnut from our trees.

American Avocet.

American Avocet.

I am guessing the following two birds are immature Yellow-crowned Night Herons. October has been warm this year, and these two had not yet migrated South.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Flying and Diving Aces

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Once the fog had completely dissipated, Forster’s Terns came out and again earned their reputation as ace flyers and divers. I had my camera set to capture them at 1/3000 sec, but even that was barely enough to freeze their motion in mid air, especially during their almost vertical dives.

Forster’s Tern.

Forster’s Tern.

Forster’s Tern.

Forster’s Tern.

Forster’s Tern diving into water.

Forster’s Tern pulling out of dive.

Finally I was able to catch one of these birds with a fish it had just caught.

Forster’s Tern with fish.

Spider Webs

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There were literally thousands of spider webs along both sides of Wildlife Drive, and the dew made them scintillate under the rising sun. Here are two: one with the classic  shape; the other, seen from the side, is more unusual. I did not see any spider. Maybe they were still in their warm hideouts.

Spider web.

Spider web.

The Conductor

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The light kept getting better at the refuge. Sunlight became more abundant, inundating the pond and the birds floating on it. One swan was particularly exuberant, showing characteristics of an orchestra conductor.

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, conducting?

Mute Swan, done conducting?

Mute Swan: “Done!”

Beauty and the Fog

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It was very foggy yesterday. On my way to Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge I could see no more than 100 ft (30 m) ahead, and twice almost ran into deer crosssing the road! When I arrived at the refuge, the usual scenery looked very iffy in the thick fog, but I was not about to go back after a two-hour drive.

Pond in fog.

Slowly the fog lifted, and after half an hour, sunlight fell on beautiful swans and other birds swimming in the sweet water pond. The swans were probably the same I photographed last week, but they had lost their juvenile colors and were all white. They had been preening and looked much cleaner than last week.

Mute Swans.

Mute Swan with Canada Geese in the background.

The following photos show a Mute Swan flapping its wings after it had finished preening and taken a dip in the water.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

Mute Swan.

New and Familiar

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Last week, at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I saw for the first time an American Avocet standing among other familiar birds. In fact I did not know what it was until I got home, saw a strange bird in the photo and looked it up.

American Avocet, on the right, and Mallards.

Great Egret.

The following photo is unusually wide so that all the Cormorants in that one spot can be seen.

Cormorants drying their feathers.

Finally, many smaller birds were flying around: Grackles, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I did not get a good shot of the Red-winged Blackbirds, although they appeared to be leading packs of small birds around the marshes.

Grackles.

European Starling.

Great Egret.

Swans

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Last week Mute Swans were preening and foraging for food at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Again, I was able to come close to take the following photos. By the way, when you see white feathers floating on the water, they were a by-product of the swans’ preening.

Juvenile Mute Swans.

Mute Swans. The one on the left is an adult, with one leg tucked under its wings.

Adult Mute Swan.

Juvenile Mute Swan.

Adult Mute Swan.

Juvenile Mute Swans preening.

American Bittern

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The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron that is supposed to be elusive, even secretive. Yesterday was the second time I saw one, but it was not hiding among the reeds. It was standing out in the open on a wooden beam by the side of Wildlife Drive at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it was relatively early in the morning, as it allowed me to come within 20 ft (6 m) of it to take these up-close pictures. It stood still in one pose, so the dozen shots I took are almost all identical.

American Bittern.

Close up of American Bittern head.

Fall Foliage

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I took this photo in the fall of 2014 at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Because of the lack of rain this past several weeks, forecasters are saying that fall colors this year will not be as colorful and bright, and will not last very long.

Autumn Leaves.

Flowers After the Rain

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After several dry weeks, rain has been falling over the past few days in our area, reviving grass and pushing flowers for more blooms. The latter, despite the fact we are already in autumn, still managed to put on dazzling colors and forms.

Black-eyed Susan.

Cosmos.

Zinnia.

Cosmos.

Zinnias.

Cosmos.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

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The link for the challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/pedestrian/

I took this photo in Viet Nam last year, and the sight of a pedestrian mother with her child climbing over the divider and crossing a street filled with cars has stayed with me ever since.

Sài Gòn traffic scene: Mother and child crossing a street after climbing over divider.

Kites and Kids

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A main event of the Long Beach Island International Kite Festival was the dropping of candy from a kite onto the sand for kids to gather. When the time came, parents, grandparents, and kids lined up in anticipation.

Lining up for candy.

They could not make the kite work, so volunteers scattered the candy by hand in front of the crowd. When the signal was given the kids rushed forward.

Kids rushing toward dropped candy.

Running to candy.

Running to candy.

Collecting candy.

Running to candy.

Collecting candy.

Meanwhile, the kites kept flying high above everyone.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite Festival

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The Long Beach Island International Kite Festival is being held over four days this weekend in Ship Bottom, NJ. I went there today to look for colorful kites and there were quite a few. This is the sight that greeted me once I climbed over the dunes and looked down on the beach.

Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites now come in fancy shapes and sizes, unlike those I made as a kid, out of two bamboo sticks and some translucent paper glued to them.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kites resting at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

Kite at Long Beach Island International Kite Festival.

One More Cosmos Post

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This morning I went back to the organic farm near home to take more photos of Cosmos flowers. The weather is getting definitely cooler, and frost will soon decimate every plant, so this may be the last Cosmos for this year. Dew was still hanging on to the flowers, but that only added to their beauty.

Heirloom Cosmos. Like lace.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Heirloom Cosmos.

Meanwhile, back home our Cosmos flowers had a burst of blooming, sending up about a dozen flowers.

Homegrown Cosmos.

Homegrown Cosmos.

Shore Birds

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Last week, I saw shore birds keeping their distance from the waves and coming in calmer waters behind the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse. They were looking for food as usual, but perhaps with more urgency than on calmer days. Thus occupied, they allowed me to come close to them without flying away.

Sanderling behind the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse.

Sanderlings are well known for running in groups along the surf . This one below was running by itself, but not for very long.

Sanderling.

Sanderling.

Ruddy Turnstone in non-breeding colors.

Ruddy Turnstone: getting ready to turn a stone?

There was also a group of Semipalmated Plovers basking in the sun, not doing much of anything, with some sleeping on one foot.

Semipalmated Plover.