There are many Double-crested Cormorants at Colonial Lake. A few days ago, they took turns taking off and flying around the lake, sometimes right over my head. I had plenty of opportunities to practice camera panning to follow their flights.
Naturally all this flying around requires a lot of energy. I saw at least two Cormorants diving and coming up with fish that they promptly swallowed in a few seconds.
Our region does not have too many Spring flowers yet. A few days ago, I went to Sayen Park Botanical Garden, a local park famous for the many weddings that are held there. Most of the flowers were still in hiding. Even Hellebores were still low on the ground, and among the Narcissus, the only blooming flowers were miniature daffodils like Tete-a-Tete and Jetfire.
One the other hand, there were an abundance of clusters of Japanese Andromeda, Pieris Japonica, in long pendulous clusters of red and white. At least that’s what I think they are. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Yesterday, after I arrived at a parking lot near Merrill Creek Reservoir in Harmony township, I heard what sounded like a dozen of birds singing lustily. Looking around I only saw a single bird perched up high on an electric wire.
It was a Mockingbird, a species with a unique ability to learn other birds’ songs and sing them day and night. In the following photos, you will see that its bill was almost constantly open as it went through its repertoire. A repertoire could include as many as 150 distinct songs, and may include two groups, one for spring and the other for autumn.
It was not shy and let me come very close to it before flying away and landing a short distance away.
Because they sang so well, in the 19th century people caught Mockingbirds and sold them as caged birds. This nearly led to their disappearance from parts of the East Coast.
Wood Ducks are among the most stunning ducks, rivaling Mandarin Ducks from Asia. I have been looking in New Jersey to photograph them for several years, going in vain to places where people have reported seeing them. Then yesterday, while I was taking pictures at Colonial Lake about 5 miles from home, I saw two ducks jump down from a tree onto the lake. It was a beautiful couple of Wood Ducks, and they were worth waiting for all this time!
As usual for ducks, the male Wood Duck was more striking, but the female was very pretty.
Red-Breasted Mergansers are high energy birds that migrate in the winter to our coastline from Canada. Whenever I see them, they are always busy diving and looking for food. They have to eat 15 to 20 fish a day and must spend 4 to 5 hours every day diving for fish!
I usually wait until they surface to photograph them, and as a result they have a constant wet look with water beading all over their faces and bodies. Both male and female birds have the spiky and shaggy head prized by some young people today.
More photos of the Bald Eagles at Colonial Lake, NJ, taken three days ago.
About a week ago, Colonial Lake was stocked with 170 Trout. That may explain why Bald Eagles have been coming there to fish, although other lakes in New Jersey were also restocked with Trout, mainly for recreation fishing by humans.
For some reason, the half-eaten fish fell to the ground (I did not know that until much later when I passed by the tree the Bald Eagle was on).
I took the following photos today while visiting the Great Swamp of New Jersey, on a very windy and cold day. There were not too many birds or animals around, but some may be good eye candy for the weekend.
A Chipmunk ran across my path then took refuge in a tree hole.
A few days ago, while I was photographing Long-tailed Ducks, there were two or three Common Loons swimming around the same area.
At one point, I heard a big crunching noise. Turning toward the source of the noise, I saw a Common Loon eating part of a crab that it had caught and broken apart.
It practically swallowed that part, then dipped into the water and brought up several more parts to eat.
After finishing the crab, it took a drink of water and tilted its head up to swallow it and perhaps the mashed up crab also.
Two days ago I happened upon about a dozen Buffleheads involved in their annual courtship rituals at the refuge. Male Buffeheads court their future mates by a vigorous exercise of head bobbing, diving, running on water, and flying over the head of the female ducks.
Sometimes, a female Bufflehead chased a male away.
The courtship also took place underwater, perhaps with the males trying to prove they could be good foragers. I saw them dive and spend a minute or two submerged, but unfortunately was not equipped to take photos under water.
As temperatures today climbed above 50 °F (10 °C), I went to Colonial Lake to see if the birds responded to the sudden warmth after a long winter. At first I only saw seagulls and Mallard ducks, then just as I got back into the car to go home, two Bald Eagles appeared! They flew around the lake.
Then they went to perch on tree branches and looked down on walkers, joggers, and photographers. Apparently, they had caught and eaten some fish and were just happy to sit up high and enjoy the scenery.
Buffleheads are among the smallest ducks, one with a large head relative to the body. A small group of them was swimming near the Barnegat Lighthouse a few days ago. These ducks live mainly in North America, but may be seen in some Western European countries and Japan, but only rarely.
Suddenly they took off flying toward the open sea.
Then they began landing on the water.
Here are two of them swimming around, watching the humans and the other ducks and loons.
Long-tailed Ducks also breed in the Artic Coasts and winter in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic coast, although New Jersey, Delaware, and parts of Maryland are as far South as they will go. There were many of them yesterday near Barnegat Lighthouse. They swam back and forth during the time I spent there, providing many opportunities for photographs.
Just before I left, a male Long-tailed Duck flew around several times, at least three, calling out constantly, perhaps reminding all the other ducks that migration time was fast approaching. It was quite a show and a photographer’s dream.
A Brant is a relatively small goose that breeds on the Artic coasts of Western Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. In late fall, they migrate to Western Europe from Siberia. In North America, they fly down from Alaska and the upper reaches of Canada to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, at times making non-stop flights that could be as long as 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or more. While the Pacific and European Brants have black bellies, the Atlantic Brants that I see have white ones.
Yesterday, as temperatures climbed to the 50’s (10 °C) I went to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park where the Brants put on quite a show in preparation for their impending flight back to their breeding grounds.
Overnight wet and heavy snow fell in our area, bending and sometimes breaking the branches of some trees. Many birds came to our feeder, among them a pretty female Downy Woodpecker that looked for insects on a nearby magnolia tree. Here is a shot of her, rendered in monochrome for this Monday.
Three years ago, when I went to bring Jackie, the Golden Retriever, home, I saw a farm in South Jersey that raised miniature horses. Going through the photos I took at the time, there are some that have not been published yet, and one, the last one below, that can be republished.