Following are some scenes from the refuge that I photographed last Friday.
Fishing by humans is not allowed at the refuge. But the birds are free to fish since it is sometimes their best way to obtain what they need to survive. The Great Egret shown below is an excellent practitioner of fishing. Yesterday, I watched from beginning to end as it plucked a fish out of the marshes.
This morning I went to the refuge to photograph birds. There were indeed many egrets, terns, gulls, vultures, and so on. But I saw two unfamiliar butterflies and could not resist taking their pictures.
The first one, a Sleepy Orange, started to fly away as I took the shot, but you can still see its vibrant colors.
The second one was a Big Eyes Butterfly which took its time feeding and allowed me to take many shots.
According to the dictionary, a pose is “a sustained posture, especially one assumed for artistic effect”. The second part of the definition does not apply to birds. Most birds fly, and they do so gracefully as their bodies have to conform to the demands of aerodynamics. At rest, they become more compact and assume natural poses to observe their surroundings, or to preserve heat when necessary.
In one more week, summer will be ending. Some birds have already left the refuge but many remain as warm temperatures still prevail and food is abundant in the marshes. Here are some more shots of the Great Blue Heron shown in monochrome yesterday.
Great and Snowy Egrets, including juveniles born this year are everywhere around the refuge.
A Snowy Egret bristled in warning as a juvenile landed close to it.
There was a new bird for me. It was quite far away, but I think it was a Tricolored Heron.
While scanning the marshes, I saw a brilliant, shiny red spot in the middle of the milkweed. Mating season should be over by now, but two Ladybugs did not get the memo.
Last Saturday was a very breezy and cold day, with wind chill temperatures below freezing. It was also low tide when the refuge did not offer its best views.
Most birds were sheltering from the wind and cold, although many Canada Geese were strolling around, showing off this year’s offspring. The Goslings were busy foraging and tasting food.
The Osprey nests were empty at first sight and, for a moment, I thought they had flown to warmer places. However, when looking again, I could see part of a head peeking out from one nest. A female Osprey was chirping, her head clearly visible as she scanned the sky for her mate. I decided to stop and wait, but kept my window closed because of the strong wind.
Suddenly I saw the male Osprey flying in with a fish in his talons. By the time I got the window rolled down and my camera out he was already landing on the female bird.
The next photos show the Osprey mating rituals which lasted less than a minute.
He landed a short distance away, watching her for a few minutes before flying off again, perhaps to find for more fish for her.
Last week the refuge conducted controlled burning of areas around the marshes to get rid of some invasive plants. That cleared quite a few of the bushes while leaving blackened spots where green shoots have already managed to come up. Hopefully they are not those pesky weeds that were supposed to burn.
There was a male Red-winged Blackbird singing gleefully in a reedy area. I tried to follow it for a few minutes as it switched spots before finally finding a suitable perch and belted its song, spreading and puffing its feathers to impress potential mates.
The colorful Northern Shovelers are one of the more common ducks throughout the world. During the winter at the refuge, there are at least several hundreds of them foraging for food in the marshes with their typically long bills (2.5 inches or 6.35 cm).
In the US, during duck hunting season, an average of 700,000 Northern Shovelers are brought down each year! Yet, they are not on the endangered species list. Here are some recent photos of them at the refuge.
There were many Forster’s Terns at the refuge, with about half of them being still immature or juvenile. They were all superb acrobatic fliers and their diving into the marshes to catch fish was a challenge I cannot resist photographing year after year.
I often tried to capture the moment they caught a fish, but the best I could do this time is a not-so-sharp photo.
The weatherman says it has never been this cold on this day in our town. This morning the temperature is at 31°F or -0.5°C. With a strong breeze, it feels like 24 °F or -4.4°C. I will have to go out to the garden and see whether the tomato plants grown from seeds and put into the ground last week survived.
Three years ago I planted a yellow magnolia tree named Judy Zuk Magnolia, in honor of a former President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It grew one flower the first year, none the second year, and this year it is displaying a dozen of bright yellow flowers mixed with small streaks of orange-red. Here are some shots of the flowers which are bigger than those of the Butterfly Magnolia from last month.
Here’s another kind of Magnolia that is blooming late in the season. In fact, it keeps blooming during a good part of the summer when all other magnolias have come and gone.
I’ll finish this post with photos of our backyard birds who have been quite busy during this spring mating season.
Then someone who thinks it is a bird.
Finally, a shot of a Red-tailed Hawk at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on February 22, before the coronavirus lockdown.
I have not been posting here since last July, but have continued to photograph, although not as often as I used to. Hopefully, the following photos may help reduce stress for all of us during this coronavirus pandemic.
I took the following photos of Green-winged Teals at the refuge a month ago. They are the smallest among dabbling ducks, much smaller than Mallards. They feed by looking for vegetation in shallow water. The ones seen below live in North America. They differ from their Eurasian counterparts by having a white stripe on their breast. The Eurasian Green-winged Teal have that white stripe along their shoulders.
Goslings are now commonly seen at the refuge and are often the subjects of the cutest Spring scenes.
My internet connection has been very iffy these past two weeks, and it was only last night that it came back to normal and allowed me to read emails and access various sites, including WordPress. My apologies for not having been able to respond to your comments or visited your posts. I will try to catch up for sure.
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.
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.
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.
The flu has forced me to stay home these past two weeks and I have not gone out to take any picture, or visited your posts as often as before. The following photos are the results of my editing of recent shots of backyard birds that show some different views of the two most common visitors to our feeder in the winter.
About two weeks ago, I also caught a Great Blue Heron jumping around a pond, probably on a fishing expedition.
There were two male Hooded Merganser at the refuge cruising around on a patch of water amid the ice, looking for food. They swam, dove, and came up for air. These small ducks are specific to North America, with the males very noticeable because of their black and white hood.
In the water, Hooded Mergansers hunt for food by sight. They have an extra eyelid, a nictitating (blinking) membrane, that they can deploy to protect their eyes, somewhat like humans who use goggles when swimming underwater. You can see it in the following shot.
They can also adjust the refractive property of their eyes to improve their vision under water.
As temperatures slowly climbed above freezing, I ventured out yesterday to view scenes of the wintry landscape left by that Polar Vortex storm everyone was talking about last week. I was hoping that a thaw would be in full force, but everything still looked cold and encrusted in ice. The first place I went to was Sandy Hook, a barrier island in New Jersey facing New York City across Raritan Bay.
There were hardly any bird, just a few lonely gulls and three Sanderlings.
I drove around the old Fort Hancock, an abandoned Army fort, at the tip of Sandy Hook island.
There were some antique cannons, the biggest one shown below, and two Cold War era missiles.
Leaving Sandy Hook I went to my familiar haunt, the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. All the ponds there were frozen as well, and snow had fallen the previous day.
A few days ago, at Holgate I was captivated by the waves crashing on the beach and on the man-made barrier separating it from the rest of Long Beach Island.
The following photos are of the same wave as it folded and exploded under the wind.
Here are more waves assaulting the man-made barrier.
By the way, a birder reported seeing not one but two Snowy Owls at Holgate, two days after I was there!
Holgate is the southern end of Long Beach Island, NJ and a part of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. In previous years I often went there to photograph Snowy Owls, and I tried to do that again three days ago. Unfortunately surveyors were roaming Holgate that day, traipsing into dune parts that Snowy Owls frequented. As a result, even though I hiked the length of Holgate and back, there was not a single bird that day, except for one seagull.
It was cold, starting at 17°F (-8°C) and slowly climbing to above freezing. As the tide was coming in, the wind made beautiful waves.
A Herring Gull was standing on the beach. I approached it carefully, 20 steps at a time, taking a camera shot before continuing.
When I finally got too close, it flew up holding a piece of clam in its beak.
Near the entrance to Holgate, there were a dozen surfers.
When I came home and looked at the photos on my computer, I saw some Long-tailed Ducks in several of them.
Snow Geese are mostly white (white morph), but some only have a white face, with the rest of their bodies dark brown and dark blue. They are not too rare, as I usually can see at least one or more in any flock of Snow Geese.
When still immature, the blue morph colors are less pronounced while the face has not turned white yet.
There were several thousands Snow Geese at the refuge while I was taking the above photos. Suddenly they shouted to one another and rose up in the sky.
Perhaps they were wary of some Bald Eagle, for they soon settled back on another part of the refuge.