I had bought four spicy (with added cayenne pepper) suet cakes for the birds and, as of today, the last of the four is on its way to being consumed by tomorrow. The birds did not come out much in our current 2022 big freeze with temperatures hovering around 8 °F (-13 °C). Here are some shots of birds enjoying (loving) the spicy suet.
Three European Starlings came at one time and chased away the Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Lately I have been hanging suet cakes for our backyard birds which seem to like them very much, especially those labelled as “hot” by the manufacturer. For Red-bellied Woodpeckers in particular, the hot suet cakes are their favorite. One of them, a male, only spent five seconds at the suet holder but really enjoyed the suet.
Meanwhile, a smaller Dark-eyed Junco got the crumbs.
I took photos of a female Northern Harrier a year ago, and posted some of them last January. Today, while looking through the archive, I found another photo that outshines those. As you can see below, an eye of this raptor is clearly visible on its owlish face.
Yesterday at the refuge several Buffleheads were diving for food. If they catch anything, they eat that while still underwater, so I won’t be bragging about any photo of a Bufflehead with food in its bill. However, their dive can be quite dramatic.
Buffleheads are very small ducks, as you can see in the following shot.
The weather has been too cold and stormy to go out and take pictures. We escaped the snow, but yesterday temperatures went from 50°F (10°C) in the morning to 6°F (-14°C) in the evening, and the winds are still howling outside today, although with less urgency.
So I went through my archives and reprocessed some of my favorite photos from 2012 to display here. They are various views of McWay Falls in Big Sur, CA. It is one of seven places in the United States where a waterfall falls on a beach. Of the seven places, McWay Falls is probably the most famous and most photogenic. Enjoy, and keep warm!
The weather has not been too nice lately. I went out to Barnegat Lighthouse, but it was very windy and cold, and there were no birds other than seagulls flying around. So I dug into my archives and came up with the following shots taken at the beginning of 2022.
I took these last two photos from our deck during and after a snowstorm.
Buffleheads are the smallest ducks in North America. They have more often than not proved to be difficult for me to photograph. When they are close enough, lighting would not be coming from the right direction for a photo to show their eyes and faces. Buffleheads are also very shy and will fly away if one comes too close or makes any kind of noise.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky to see a group of Buffleheads at the refuge busy swimming around and diving for food. Somehow, they paid scant attention to me! So here are a few shots of them that day, taken from a good distance away.
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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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.
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.
I am tentatively identifying the above berries as Winterberries (Ilex verticillata), with one plant showing red berries, and the other orange ones. These photos were taken at Sayen Gardens in Hamilton, NJ.
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.
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.