Our yellow Magnolia tree flowers late, and has managed to attract Bluebirds for the second year in a row.
The Bluebird, or its partner, checked out one of the birdhouses I put up.
However, there is no sign yet that the birdhouse is occupied by any bird.
Meanwhile, during a walk around Colonial Lake, I saw an abandoned Canada Goose egg on the ground, near the water. It was quite big, but there was no Canada Geese around it.
One can see many Canada Geese at Colonial Lake, either swimming in the water or grazing onshore. I have no idea why this one egg was left out in the open with no mother goose tending it. Another mystery.
American Robins don’t migrate during the winter, merely keeping out of sight most of the time. They reappear with the coming of spring, when the ground is no longer too hard for them to try to pull out worms.
Flocks of Canada Geese flying overhead is another sign that the seasons are changing. However, I can’t figure out what they are doing since they seem to be flying in all directions.
Just a minute after the above shot, those Canada Geese reversed direction and flew over me again.
I thought that was the last of that flock and started walking toward the woods. Then they flew North and passed overhead once more.
Another sure sign of spring is the return of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets. They appeared two weeks ago, then went away when the weather turned cold. Now they are back.
Finally the turtles are out sunning themselves. I think they are Diamondback Terrapins, but am not positive. They all jumped into the water as I tried to come closer to them to get a better look.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Today, following the example of Eliza Waters (https://elizawaters.com/2019/01/21/brrrr/), I went to Colonial Lake close to home to photograph ice formations. The lake is man-made, capturing water coming from Shabakunk Creek, damming it, then releasing it further downstream back into the same creek.
It was around 20 °F (-6 °C), the lake was completely iced over, but the water underneath had to flow along its usual path.
There was a Great Blue Heron nearby, wondering what all the fuss was about.
In 2018, some of my photos did not appear on this blog, normally because I didn’t want to have too many in any post. Now at year end, looking at them, some actually deserve to be shown, and here they are.
One of the must-have equipment for wildlife photography in general, and bird photography in particular, is to have a telephoto lens powerful enough to capture subjects with sufficient details and sharpness, without having to come too close to them. Since most of us can’t afford super telephoto lenses, also called second-mortgage lenses, some of us resort to using an extender, which is much less expensive, to increase the reach of our lenses. With a 1.4 extender, a 400 mm lens will be equivalent to a 560 mm lens.
I have had such an extender for two years, but almost never used it because the results had been disappointing especially in terms of sharpness. Finally, looking at photos posted by Jerry from Quiet Solo Pursuits here on WordPress, I decided to give it a try with the Canon 5D Mark IV that I have been using since last year.
Following are some of the shots I took yesterday at the refuge and at Colonial Lake under a bright sun with the 100-400 mm lens and a 1.4 extender.
Buffleheads are the smallest diving ducks, no larger than 16 in (40 cm) in length. They are a joy to see as they appear to be constantly smiling and moving about, bobbing, and diving to find food. They swallow their catch of crustaceans (shrimps) and mollusks under water, and I have yet to see a photo of one Bufflehead holding food in its short, smily bill.
In past years I usually had a hard time taking good pictures of them, especially the male ones, because their eyes are often lost in the dark patches around their heads. This year sunlight was with me, most of the time, as you can see in the following photos.
Colonial Lake close to home is quite small, but it has a good variety of wildlife. An old Canada Goose, named Hank by the locals, does not seem to fly any more and enjoys eating the bread crumbs and cookies that people throw to him.
Squirrels are abundant, and at this time of the year they are stocking up on acorns and other wild nuts to prepare for winter.
An Eastern Phoebe had something in its bill, but I couldn’t tell what it was. They usually eat small insects, and sometimes small fruit or seeds.
A Ring-billed Seagull landed with a splash and caught something in its beak.
The champ was a Great Blue Heron who caught three fishes in less than 10 minutes as I photographed him.
I walked around Colonial Lake near home yesterday and took pictures of the following flowers. I am guessing the names of the first two, so please feel free to correct me if you happen to recognize them with their proper names.
Recently I encountered a new bird, for me anyway, the Common Yellowthroat, a small warbler with a Lone Ranger black mask, a white head top, and a very yellow throat.
This House Sparrow was preening itself one morning, and looked down curiously at a photographer.
Meanwhile, a female Mallard took off from Colonial Lake.
A Common Grackle laughed at the scene.
Have a great weekend!