Around this time of the year, breeding season makes the Great Egret grow long feathers called aigrettes. Those were much in demand by women more than a hundred years ago, leading to the extermination of 95% of the Great Egret population by the end of the 19th century. Today, they are no longer an endangered species and can often be seen in wetlands in North and South America. The one pictured below was standing by itself, occasionally straightening his neck to look for fish.
Yesterday, without knowing about this week’s photo challenge (https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/half-light/) I had shot the following pictures of a PJM Rhododendron bush that was starting to flower. The sun was very low on the horizon and only tiny rays of light managed to get through the branches.
Ospreys have been back at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge for at least two weeks already. Yesterday, I saw four nests that had been built up by them with twigs and branches. At one of them, the male Osprey was eating a fish on a perch not far from the nest where the female was incubating. By the time I got set up with my camera and tripod, he had finished eating the head and took the rest of the fish to her.
Chickadees are on the small side compared to other birds. However, they are very energetic, flying to and from the bird feeder, grabbing one seed or peanut at a time, and taking it somewhere else to eat. We have a magnolia tree about 10 ft (3 m) from our bird feeder, and that’s where many of them choose to perch and eat their loot.
The Spring flowers survived the cold for several nights and as of today they still proudly display their colors. Even the magnolia trees are in full bloom, this afternoon I only had enough time to photograph crocuses and daffodils.
Not to be outdone, the Daffodils, with the help of a late afternoon sun, were at their most vibrant yellow.
It is supposed to snow tomorrow, the first day of Spring for 2016, so I hurried out to capture some shots of the flowers that are starting to bloom around our house. Who knows, they may die if it gets below freezing tonight or in the next few nights.
In years past, I’ve seen our Magnolia Soulangeana trees covered with thousands of pink blooms, and withered brown flowers the next day, after a freeze. The yellow Butterfly Magnolia tree blooms later, so its flowers are usually, but not always, safe from frost.
Crocuses, among the earliest to flower, may also be subjected to the same fate, although some will survive as they are supposed to be quite cold hardy.
Most of the daffodils have not opened yet, and some may even survive a light frost as they close down their flowers at night.
Meanwhile, inside the house, our ever dependable Moth or Phalaenopsis Orchid has started to bloom. So worse comes to worst, we will still be able to enjoy some Spring flowers.
Snow Geese migrate every year between the tundras of Alaska and Canada to as far south as Mexico. They have become very efficient flyers, taking advantage of high thermal currents to move great distances. When they are not flying, they are foraging for food and eating their way across fields and swamp lands. Here are a few shots taken last month of these birds doing what they do best, flying. They were among a flock of several thousands at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, and all I had to do was point the camera up and click away.
The May like temperatures of the last few days, reaching as high as the 80F’s (27 C) brought good light and birds to our backyard. Here are a few shots that I took a couple days ago, directly outside and not through the glass of the patio door.
Buffleheads fossils have been found going back as far as half a million to two million years ago, so they have been around a long time. They are ducks that are somewhat smaller than Hooded Mergansers, but they have a large head. Male heads are mostly white, making them visible at a distance.
A month ago, when I saw them, the sky was cloudy and lighting was below average at best. There was some commotion in one of the ponds at Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. A male Bufflehead was mating with a female and was holding her under water for a few seconds at least. She finally came up for air.
Here are two shots of perhaps the same pair, taken two weeks later in the same pond. The weather had not changed: cloudy, no sun to speak of.
On the inland side of Barnegat Lighthouse some thirty Long-tailed Ducks were foraging for food. They are the same size as the nearby Harlequin Ducks. They swam back and forth, diving frequently for what seemed like a long time. They are reputed to be capable of reaching depths up to 200 ft (60 m). They live near the Artic and winter on the East Coast. Only the males have the distinctive long black tail that curves upward.
When Harlequin Ducks preen and groom themselves, they go through deliberate contortions which create peculiar sights. I thought of sailboats when I saw this duck.
Moving slightly to the left, he can be seen working diligently behind his wing.
Other Harlequins were even more vigorous.
Mostly they were peaceful and just swam around, diving occasionally for food. When that happens you may be looking at Harlequins one moment, and a second later there would be nothing but water.
Female Harlequins are not as colorful as their male counterparts, appearing mostly brown, with some white patches.
In a few weeks they will be going back way up North, closing this chapter on Harlequin sightings during the 2015-2016 winter season at the Barnegat Lighthouse.
The waves around the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse in New Jersey are the favorite winter playground for Harlequin Ducks that come down from Greenland and Iceland. With their unique coloring and markings these ducks stand out from all ducks and photographers don’t walk but run toward them as soon as somebody points out their location.
Last Sunday was my lucky day. There were many Harlequins in several places along the jetty, the sun was shining brightly over everything, and I was able to get some really close shots of these ducks.
The link for Cee’s challenge is: http://ceenphotography.com/2016/02/29/cees-fun-foto-challenge-things-that-are-wet/
A flock of Ruddy Turnstones was basking in the sun at the Barnegat Lighthouse jetty at the northern tip of Long Beach Island in New Jersey. I took a few pictures of them, and of one in particular that was shaking off water perhaps coming from a wave that got too close.