More photos of the beautiful blue sky from a few days ago.
In the above photo you can see the ice begin to form on the surface of the marsh. Down below is a closer look at the ice.
It was a beautiful and cold three days ago at the refuge. After hiding for most of the week, the sun was out. The wind was blowing fairly strongly and lifted the clouds toward the heavens.
As I drove on Wildlife Drive, a Northern Harrier pair was hunting for food, such as voles and mice, among the low vegetation along the marshes. They cut in front of my car, disappeared in the grasses at times. I tried to follow them and only managed to get an occasional shot.
Meanwhile, ducks and geese took off in dramatic formations against the blue sky.
I have looked many times at the following image of a Red-winged Blackbird chasing a much bigger Fish Crow away from the vicinity of its nest. It was actually chasing two Fish Crows, but only one was caught by the camera. Gumption and tenacity are words that apply well to the Red-winged Blackbird.
This year, one big bird was everywhere around the refuge. I shot many pictures and even have one post dedicated to it, Great Blue Heron. However, the following monochrome shot was liked by many.
In November, I saw Yellow-rumped Warblers for the first time. They were eating Juniper berries and did not fly away allowing me to take many shots. Here are two more unpublished until today.
Hundreds of egrets stay at the refuge almost year round from the end of February until December. They spend their time fishing, and sometimes fighting each other, jumping up like ballet dancers.
With so many egrets and other birds , I sometimes wondered whether there ever is enough fish for them. One day a few weeks ago, I looked down into a shallow part of the refuge and saw thousands and thousands of fish swimming around, with not a bird in sight.
This concludes this 2021 Images in Review series. I wish all of you a Great and Happy New Year in 2022!
I planted small sunflower plants this year. The deer left them alone since they had so much else to eat. The one below adorned a side of our driveway.
In the spring and early summer Sayen Gardens was the ideal place for photographing flowers. One day, their pond looked milky white (I don’t know why) and the few plants showing through the water got an unusual and striking background. The following shot is in monochrome.
My year-round favorite place is the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. In these days of coronavirus, it is the perfect place to find fresh air and solitude. Audubon groups of birdwatchers with their binoculars came there almost every day, but they tended to congregate at places near the entrance to the refuge. I prefer to drive on the 8-mile long Wildlife Drive.
In the summer familiar, and sometimes unusual, butterflies abound along Wildlife Drive.
Egrets were in abundance at the refuge and provided many photo opportunities.
Peregrine Falcons stay year-round along the ocean in New Jersey. I see them occasionally but usually they fly too fast for a good photo. In the fall they make a habit of perching themselves on nests that Ospreys abandon when they migrate to warmer climates. Two days ago I saw a Peregrine Falcon on Wildlife Drive at the refuge, surrounded by several cars like mine.
Like a fashion model, it knew how to pose and obligingly turned its head for another shot.
Finally too many cars had stopped, and it flew to another Osprey nest on the other side of the road and turned its back on all the humans.
Then it flew away very fast.
Yesterday the refuge was mostly deserted. Only a few white egrets remained, the rest having migrated just before the cold arrived. However, there were many ducks which come and stay during the colder months, and Great Blue Herons which do not migrate. I found several of them as soon as I arrived and, when the light was right, got the following shots.
Last week, a flock of some twenty Tundra Swans could be heard whistling noisily as they fed on one of the refuge marshes. I did not see them until the last part of Wildlife Drive. They were swimming around near a similar number of Ring-necked Ducks. This was the first time I saw and recognized these ducks.
High in the sky a UPS plane was heading toward Newark airport, probably bringing in all those Christmas gifts.
Yesterday, driving along Wildlife Drive I saw several birds jumping in and out of a juniper tree on one side of the road. I stopped and took photos of Yellow-rumped Warblers, birds which are quite abundant in the fall as they eat the plentiful berries on the juniper. These birds normally eat insects but in the fall they love the juniper berries which are too bitter for human consumption.
I think they were female warblers. Some took time to look at the photographer.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, even if you are not in the US.
This morning a Bald Eagle perched on an abandoned Osprey nest was surveying the marshes.
It looked directly at me as I got out of the car to take its picture.
I took a few shots and turned away. At that instant it flew up in the air and I missed most of the flight shots, except for the following.
The other day, when I arrived at the refuge a flock of several hundred birds flew up into the sky as if they were starting to migrate. They did not look like Canada Geese, and could have been Lesser Yellowlegs starting their migration to warmer places. Please let me know if you can identify them as another kind of bird.
Two Great Egrets were fighting at the refuge. I have seen them do that before, with most “fights” lasting a few seconds. The following lasted almost a minute, over several bouts in succession until everything quieted down. Were they competing for territory, or for some female egret?
While I was photographing egrets at the refuge, a hawk flew down and landed no more than 20 ft (6 m) from me. I adjusted my camera and got the following shot.
It did not stay long and I only got three shots before it flew away. The other two shots don’t show the hawk’s face.
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 Common Buckeye (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.