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.
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.
Today was peak season for Horseshoe Crabs. I had never seen so many as evidenced by the following photos taken at Fortescue, NJ on the Delaware Bay.
The Great Blue Heron did not seem to join in the egg feast that other birds were indulging in.
A lady who was monitoring the beach to make sure people did not go near the birds told me that Horseshoe Crabs were late this year, probably because of cooler weather and abundant rain. However, migratory birds like the Red Knot landed in New Jersey at their regular time and could not find enough eggs to eat! They rely on the eggs to fuel themselves for their 9,000 mi journey (15,000 km), and alarms are going up about their fate this year. They are way underweight at the mid point of their migration.
The Semipalmated Sandpiper is a small bird about 5 to 6 in (10 to 15 cm) or about the size of Piping Plovers. I found one among a band of Semipalmated Plovers near Barnegat Lighthouse two weeks ago.
Yesterday there were quite a few of them on the South Jersey shoreline.
Semipalmated Sandpiper. Note the partially webbed feet.
Semipalmated Sandpipers were among the subject of some research by a government agency in New Jersey. While they and other birds were feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs, researchers captured some with nets. Then they were banded, measured, and blood samples were taken from them, among other indignities.
The shores of South Jersey bordering Delaware Bay are where Horseshoe Crabs come ashore every May to mate. The female crabs lay eggs in the sand and the male crabs fertilize them. The eggs are a favorite source of food for many birds, particularly for Red Knots, those long-distance migrators that travel more than 9,000 miles (15,000 km) from Tierra del Fuego at the very end of South America to the Artic in North America.
So at this time of the year. there are literally thousands and thousands of shore birds, including Red Knots, at the South Jersey shore. To protect the birds the beaches are off limits to people for one month, from May 7th to June 7th, which meant I could only take pictures from a good distance away.
Even in the above photo, you can see several Horseshoe Crab that got upended, laying on their backs waiting for the tide to help them get back on their feet. Many will eventually die if that does not happen, becoming another source of food for seagulls and other birds.
Cee’s challenge is here: https://ceenphotography.com/2017/05/16/cees-fun-foto-challenge-all-one-color/
This was not easy, but here’s my interpretation:
This challenge URL is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/reflecting/
Here’s my entry:
There is highway robbery, and then there is shore robbery. Early one morning two weeks ago, I saw a Sandpiper catching a clam on the seashore of Assateague Island in Maryland.
Out of nowhere, a Boat-tailed Grackle swooped in and stole the food.
I thought that was the end of it, but just as I turned away, another Grackle flew in, snatched the clam, and flew away.
Today is a rainy day, with up to 2 in (5 cm) of rain to fall all day long. It’s time then to show photos taken on a sunny day last week of an Oystercatcher named T2 and his companion, Lady Hamilton, as dubbed by the locals at Barnegat.
They went inside the restricted area of the beach, walked up the dunes and maybe toward their nest. Another blogger on WordPress said that this pair, together now for several years, has not yet managed to produce any offspring, but there could be hope for this year.
Oystercatcher are of national conservation concern, with several thousands living on the shore of Mid Atlantic states like New Jersey.
All these coming and goings under the watchful eye of Barnegat Lighthouse.
Semipalmated Plovers are very close to Piping Plovers in size and cuteness. They look similar but with different feather colors as you can see in the photos below. I found several dozen of them in the roped off area of the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse, with one or two Piping Plovers running through their midst.
A crucial distinction is that the Semipalmated Plover is not considered endangered, with a population estimated to be about 200,000. There are fewer than 10,000 Piping Plovers.
Piping Plovers are considered an endangered species, or they are at least on the verge of being so. That’s why a section of the beach and dunes at Barnegat Lighthouse is roped off from April to September. Signs placed at regular intervals warn that the area is a nesting site for them, and for two other kinds of shore birds, Black Skimmers and Least Terns.
Of course these cute little birds disregard the signs, and I have seen some running out to search for food on the beach and near the water. They look like cotton balls trotting up and down between the dunes and the waves.
Today was supposed to be cloudy and rainy, but there was about an hour during which the sun burst through the clouds. I went to Sayen Park Botanical Garden, a local place filled with flowers and where many weddings take place from Spring to Fall. There was just enough time to take the following shots before the sky became menacing and the good light disappeared.
Tulips were mostly gone, their leaves and stems cut to the ground, but some were still putting on a valiant show.
On the other hand, Rhododendrons were in their prime season.
The male Red-winged Blackbird is easily recognized by his red and yellow shoulder patches and his propensity to sing for any reason from the top of reeds or bushes. I saw the one pictured below at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland more than a week ago. He was not shy, stood his ground, and continued serenading even as my car came nearer to him.
I saw a couple of Oystercatchers this past Sunday near the end of the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse. They were walking on the beach, finding shellfish to eat, not minding people approaching to take their pictures. One was banded with “T2” clearly visible.
Last week at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware I saw for the first time a pair of Black-necked Stilt. They are graceful birds with long legs and striking colors that stand out from a distance. They don’t usually come to the Northeast, staying normally much further South, so it was a real treat.
Second only to Flamingos, these birds have the longest legs in proportion to their bodies, as you can see in the following photo when one of them stood next to a Lesser Yellowlegs which has pretty long legs also.
Cee’s challenge is at the following URL: https://ceenphotography.com/2017/05/02/cees-fun-foto-challenge-sky/
And here’s my entry: the sky just before sunrise near Glacier National Park in Montana.
Last Sunday I saw a vivid flash of orange fly by as I walked along a trail next to Barnegat Lighthouse. It was a male Scarlet Tanager, the first time I saw one. It kept jumping from branch to branch, even spending some time on the ground. It had to be one of the most handsome birds in the Northeast United States. Because it was so active, I had trouble focusing and only two shots turned out well enough to post here.