Our Christmas Cactuses began opening their flowers the day before Thanksgiving and have not stopped since. Here are a few closeups of some of the flowers in both red and white.
Yesterday I went to the refuge to photograph some of the last birds that are still there before the onset of winter. I spotted a Great Egret that was looking for fish by a stream next to Wildlife Drive.
Suddenly I saw a Cormorant (I previously misidentified it as a Common Loon) emerge from the water with a fish in its bill.
The Cormorant dove into the water with the fish. A couple of minutes later, it reemerged at another part of the stream, looking happy after having ingested its meal.
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Nguyen Trong Hien’s two books are both on sale. Click the covers below to get The Siege of An Loc and Village Teacher.
There was a Blood Moon on November 8, 2022. A blood moon is when the moon falls completely within the earth shadow. It occurred around 4 AM, but I was sound asleep then and could only take the following photo at 8 PM.
This spring I planted two new azaleas. They are named Perfecto Mundo and are said to be able to rebloom in the fall after the usual spring bloom. I put the two plants in the ground and did not pay much attention, other than regular watering during this summer’s drought. The plants were small, no more 5 or 6 inches high. A few days ago, I was totally surprised when I saw vibrant pink colors in the area where they were planted, and discovered that both had sprouted some amazing flowers.
Yesterday I went to one of the cranberry fields in Southern New Jersey to see how the harvest was going this year. However, it was late in the season and most of the cranberries had already been harvested. By the side of the road, here’s how the remaining cranberries looked in a field flooded with water.
There were some yellow wildflowers growing on the periphery of the cranberry fields.
After cranberries are harvested, water is pumped out and the fields will remain dry to wait for the planting of next year’s crop in early spring. They look purplish in color as of yesterday.
Yesterday, I drove around our area to look for beautiful autumn leaves and colors. However, before leaving our street, I saw the following scene and took my first shot of the day.
In another town about 10 miles (17 km) away, there was a bright display of yellow leaves.
At a park 7 miles (11 km) from home, leaf colors were more muted. A fern on the ground was a better subject.
Back home, I tried to take a picture of a Sugar Maple tree we have in our backyard. Planted 30 years ago, it turned out to be too big to fit in one shot. It may be as tall as 70-80 ft (25 m).
I switched to a wide-angle lens and was finally able to show all of it.
There was at least one tree that still has green leaves. It is a Fuyu Persimmon tree which is now bearing fruit. I tasted one fruit yesterday and it was sweet!
Sayen Gardens does not have many flowers in the fall, but what it has is often very colorful and showy. Sweet William (Dianthus Barbatus) almost completely surrounds the main building where wedding receptions are usually held.
Another vividly red flower is the Giant Redhead Cockscomb (Celosia Cristata) along one side of the stairs leading to the banquet room.
The main purpose of my visit was to observe and photograph Monarch butterflies at the waystation near Barnegat Lighthouse, but I could not help noticing other subjects also.
There were many people fishing at the lighthouse jetty, but two of them were turning up some rocks.
Last but not least, many Monarchs were feeding on flower nectar for their trip to Mexico.
As I strolled along the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse, Monarch butterflies flew in from the ocean constantly, usually in pairs but sometimes in groups of four or five. They flew too fast for me to get any picture. They landed here and there among the vegetation for a few seconds before flying again toward the waystation where butterfly bushes with their pink and purple flowers and berries provide needed nourishment for the rest of their journey.
Every fall, Eastern Monarch butterflies migrate down the Eastern seaboard before veering toward Texas and eventually settling in the Oyamel fir tree forests west of Mexico City in the states of Michoacán and Mexico. They will spend the winter there before flying North again in the spring. On the West Coast, Monarchs only spend the winter along the California coast and do not fly to Mexico. Monarchs in southern Florida do not migrate at all.
Monarchs have done this annual migration for millions of years, and hopefully will continue to do so for millions more.
I took the photos below after a first batch more than a week ago. These Monarchs seem to be younger, more energetic, and I only saw one with a slightly damaged wing.
A Northern Mockingbird followed me around the waystation, maybe because it wanted to protect its nest somewhere in the bushes.
If you want to learn more about Monarch migration, here’s a good link: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration
Yesterday, Barnegat Lighthouse looked more renovated than nine days earlier. More of the scaffolding had been removed. However, there were no workers since it was a Saturday.
I went strolling in the dunes toward the ocean and captured the following sights.
About one mile from Barnegat Lighthouse is a waystation for Monarch butterflies. It is located on the grounds of the Long Beach Island Foundation (LBIF) in the community of Loveladies, NJ.
Yesterday, after a two-hour drive, I arrived there at 9 AM with temperatures still in the low sixties (around 15°C) and no Monarch or any other butterfly in sight. I went to the lighthouse and walked for almost two hours before driving back to LBIF. It had warmed up by then and there were Monarchs fluttering around from flower to flower. Monarch migration has begun and will last until October.
As temperatures rose into the eighties, other Monarchs came to the waystation.
I have not been to Barnegat Lighthouse since March of this year. Yesterday, I went there and was surprised by what I saw.
The lighthouse is undergoing renovation including recoating the outside, minor repairs to its brick structure, a new inside steel platform, new light, new roof and new windows. The $1.3 million work is supposed to be completed in October of this year. Of course, no one except workers can go inside, and a special walkway to the lighthouse jetty was put in place for visitors to walk a safe distance from the construction activities before reaching the jetty.
As I walked toward the beach, a wild rabbit crossed my path and scurried into the grass. It remained absolutely still as it observed me.
Sayen Gardens in Hamilton, NJ is a favorite place for hosting weddings. In the Spring, almost every spot is filled with flowers of all colors and shapes. In the summer, especially during this year’s drought, you see more green than any other color, and there is no brown spot anywhere. However, as you walk Sayen’s grounds, your eyes will be drawn toward patches of flowers in the most vibrant, almost outrageous colors.
The above should make brides and grooms happy, but Sayen holds even more surprises.
If they look closely, dragonflies and Koi fish are also near and in the water of the small pond where many newlyweds have had their photos taken.
Cleome Serrulata, commonly known as Spider Flower and other not so flattering names, has done very well this drought year. It came up naturally around our house and required no hand watering at all.
I looked up Cleome and discovered it has many uses as food for Native Americans, dye, medicine. It is also an excellent pollinator as it attracts bees. This morning, coming back from an early walk with my dog, Jackie, the early sun shone brightly on the Cleome flowers and I could not resist taking the following shots.
Today I went to the rookery at Ocean City Welcome Center. Dispersed among the trees were hundreds of egrets, ibises, night herons, and other shore birds. It was a photographer’s paradise as one could look in almost any direction and click away.
Finally, the parent was able to fly away to look for more food. White Ibises eat insects and crustaceans that they find in the mud.
Last night, loud thunder announced the arrival of rain which gave everything a good soaking and lowered temperatures a bit. The weatherman said we may get some more rain tonight and next week, so maybe this year’s drought is over.
This morning, I went around the yard taking pictures of the only flowers that survived and are thriving this summer: Cleome (spider plant), Crape Myrtle, and Hibiscus.
These Cleome plants require little care and have endured for several years despite my intentional neglect of them.
Since 2014, I have been going to the Lotus Pond in Carnegie Center in Princeton, NJ every summer to photograph its beautiful Lotus flowers and the bees and dragonflies that flew over the pond. Unfortunately, last year all the Lotus plants died or were killed for some unknown reason and the Lotus Pond is no more. It is just a small pond with water but no vegetation growing in or on it.
The photos below show the flowers at their best eight years ago in 2014. I have reprocessed some of them using newer software, while other photos have never been published before.
This is how the Lotus Pond looked at its prime.
This morning I walked out to our backyard and saw the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) covered with beautiful blooms. The rising sunrays were showing the flowers at their best, and these are my entries to Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.
This post is my response to Tina’s challenge at Lens-Artists Challenge #205 – The Eyes Have it. I almost never photograph humans, so my entries will consist of pictures of birds that I encounter in a rookery, a wildlife refuge, or in our backyard.
Yesterday the rookery next to the New Jersey Ocean City Welcome Center was teeming with egrets, herons, ibises, and many other smaller birds. The Great Egrets breeding season was at its peak as you can see from the following images.
The parent egret will eat the eel then regurgitate it into the bottom of the nest. Then the young chicks will be able to eat it.
Two days ago, in the morning I saw both Bluebird parents catching insects and bringing them to their babies.
I thought it was about time for the young birds to fledge and leave their nest. Then, in the afternoon, our backyard was suddenly very quiet. No more Bluebirds flying around or calling each other. Very cautiously, I opened the door of the birdhouse. No bird was inside. The young ones had all fledged, and I missed seeing them leave their nest.
Then this morning, the male Bluebird was back flying around and attacking his image on our patio door. I went out and saw him perched on the birdhouse. Then the female Bluebird reappeared, and the pair kept taking turns diving toward the grass to catch insects. Life was back to normal.
Bluebirds may have from one to three broods. It looks like this Bluebird couple will start a second brood in the same birdhouse. I’ll keep watching them and try to photograph the second brood as they fledge.
Every day the pair of Eastern Bluebirds living in our backyard have to find food for their babies, which could be fledging in a week or so. Fortunately, our neighborhood has many spots, including lawns, an empty lot and a wooded area, where they can easily find food. The female is the one that works the hardest, with the male relishing his role as her protector against other birds and even a photographer!
Sometimes they take a break and watch their nest from the top of our birdfeeder hanging pole.
One essential function of both parents is to keep the nest clean by taking out the fecal sacs they pull out of their young ones several times a day.
The female also does that type of diaper duty. In fact, she carries out more fecal sacs than he does! On the other hand, he spends a lot of time keeping other birds clear of their birdhouse. Yesterday I watched as he repeatedly attacked the Bluebird he saw in the driver side mirror of a car parked on our driveway. At times, the noise that he made pecking at his image in the mirror sounded like a mini machine gun. This morning we put a bag over the mirror to put a stop to that.