On a recent visit to Sayen Gardens, I noticed several tall (30 ft or more) magnolia trees with white flowers shooting straight up to the sky. The tree is Magnolia Tripetala, also called Big Leaf Magnolia or Umbrella Magnolia, a native plant to the Appalachian mountains in the eastern United States , the Ozarks, and the Ouachita Mountains further West. Here is a monochrome shot of this magnolia.
On a sunny day, Sayen Gardens near our house displayed hundreds of deciduous Azalea bushes and small trees. Their colors were vibrant and sunlight was just about perfect in highlighting them.
This last one is a Columbine with colors rivaling those of the Azaleas.
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.
The Eastern Bluebird couple is well established near the birdhouse they have adopted for this year. The one they used last year remains empty at the moment, until some other bird moves in. The male still comes to our bay window once in a while to peck at his mirror rival! Otherwise, it is a slow wait until the eggs are hatched and incubation begins.
Of the two, the male seems to be very active defending their space.
The intruders are other birds that perch on the magnolia branch waiting their turn at the bird feeder. Some are quite handsome, like this House Finch below.
The Eastern Bluebird couple have returned and are busy rebuilding their nest inside a birdhouse that I cleaned up a few weeks ago. It stands right next to a small magnolia tree with yellow flowers.
I took these photos through our bay window only about four feet from the birdhouse. The male Bluebird kept coming to the window ledge and knocking on the glass with its beak throughout the day. I wonder if that was because he saw his reflection and thought he had a rival!
Every spring the daffodils and flowering trees around us, magnolias, Bradford Pear, and several fruit trees, put on a spectacular display of flowers. That is until we are hit with a late frost, but so far that hasn’t happened, fingers crossed.
Tulips will come later in a few more weeks.
Yesterday our local temperature climbed to 80°F (26.67°C), the highest ever recorded for March 26th. Any snow still on the ground has already melted a few days earlier, and the crocus flowers wasted no time in coming up and bearing vibrant flowers. Here are some shots of those at the front of our driveway.
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.
Tuesday I went to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to find it closed because they were conducting controlled burns of invasive plants along the marsh edges. Rather than going home, I drove one more hour to get to the Cape May Lighthouse at the southern tip of New Jersey.
I walked down to the beach and saw a strange bunker, a World War II relic slowly being reclaimed by the ocean.
The bunker was used to defend against a possible German invasion! It had four 155 mm artillery pieces which had never been fired and were removed many years ago.
Nearby there were several small ponds where swans and various ducks were swimming and feeding.
Sparrows and one Northern Mockingbird kept flying around me as if wanting their pictures taken.
There were several bushes of holly laden with gloriously red berries.
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.
A young squirrel was looking hungrily at our squirrel-proof birdfeeder.
At the refuge, a Turkey Vulture was flying in the clear blue sky.
After a while, it landed not too far away and I drove there to shoot many photos of it. It is not the best looking bird but it is probably the best scavenger, cleaning up the countryside of road kills and dead animals that it sees or smells from high above.
As I write this, snow is falling steadily outside, with as much as 9 inches (about 23 cm) expected, and another snowstorm is forecasted for this weekend.
Recently, I saw the following Bluebird at the refuge. It came back too early and looked disappointed at the cold and bleakness of winter.
Nearby, a Great Blue Heron who did not migrate offered some advice.
Winter Wonderland at its best!
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A few weeks ago I had the fortune of spending a week or so in Bryce Canyon National Park as a winter storm passed through and transformed the magical landscape into a pure Winter Wonderland. I’d been waiting to spend some time there and hoping to catch a good storm but this year has largely been mild in SW Utah. Finally, a series of storms promised fresh snow and it coincided with my available time. Two separate storms followed by blue skies passed through during my time there and I had a chance to hike during and after these storms among the hoodoos. The days blurred together as each day was a little better than the last.
Bryce Canyon in the Winter is really a magical place, particularly after a storm. The landscape itself is overwhelming and strange when it’s clear of snow…
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Hooded Mergansers, especially males with their fan-shaped crest, look dashing in the waters of the refuge. A few days ago, one of them was swimming by himself among several ducks.
He kept diving for food, small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, although I did not see him with any in his bill.
It happened to be windy that day, and when he came up strong wind gusts played freely with his crest.
Finally, the wind subsided a little, and he regained his normal looks.
Last December 21st I went out at night to photograph the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon. There were too many clouds for that, but after a few minutes the clouds cleared just enough to allow me this last photo for the year.
Three days ago, I went out on a sunny day to the refuge for my first shoot of 2021 to be greeted by this sandpiper.
Buffleheads are the smallest diving ducks in North America, often seen at the refuge in late fall and winter. In early December of 2020 I saw one male and two female Buffleheads there.
The male gave a signal and all three of them decided to take off, giving me a unique opportunity to capture them in flight.
I took the following photos on October 1st, 2019 but did not post them as I temporarily stopped blogging to concentrate on finishing my second book. Now, more than a year later, here they are. A large group of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets (with the black bills) was taking off at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Never had I seen so many flying together.
The Siege of An Loc is the story of the defense of An Loc in 1972 during the Vietnam War. It is also a love story between a South Vietnamese soldier, Trung, and Ly, a student, daughter of a rubber plantation owner. As Trung struggles to defend his country, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Ly, but do they have a chance for happiness in the midst of war? We also see the evil of communism especially personified in the one of the characters, and two brothers are reunited, one from North Vietnam and one from South Vietnam.
I learned so much about the Vietnam War from this book. When I was in grade school and high school in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, they didn’t teach us much about it. I just knew my uncle died in this war at the age of 20, and I…
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Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts was completed in 2017. Since that time, I have been meaning to go there and photograph it, but because it was so close to home, guess what, it took me three years to finally do it. The following photos show what it looked like in early afternoon last Sunday.
I did not go inside any of the buildings which were built with esoteric materials including 21-million-year-old Lecce Stone from Italy. I would have liked to see how geothermal wells have been used to heat and cool the complex, but maybe another time. This new art center took $330 million dollar to build, including costs associated with relocating the Dinky train station and a WaWa convenience store pictured below.
This week has been rainy with only one sunny day in the middle. I drove to the refuge and by the time I arrived the sun was out but the clouds were many. The Great Blue Heron that used to stand by a sluice gate was now standing by the water.
There was a flash of white among the dried reeds. A Great Egret took off as soon as it saw me, but I managed to take a few shots of it flying away.
Toward the end of Wildlife Drive one tree still had its leaves on.
Snow Geese fly south in the Fall, and a week ago some passed by the refuge. There were only a few hundred of them, not as many as during Spring migration.
There was a group of about ten Snow Geese flying in apparent perfect formation.
But, somehow something happened.
I took the following pictures a while ago but did not post them. Today I just saw the following post from Cathy and decided this would be a good time to do so: https://wordsandherbs.wordpress.com/2020/11/25/a-week-of-flowers-day-four-25th-november-2020/
All this time I have shown you the birds and animals at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Yesterday, I shot the following photos so you can see what the refuge actually looks like at least in the fall when the green has given way to brown and sepia. The same juvenile Bald Eagle from last week was also there, ruling over the fall landscape.
This is a close-up of a Star Magnolia in our backyard. I took the photo in March of this year. As the Covid-19 pandemic was starting and lockdowns were imposed, I just could not feel like posting the image then.
This is my response to Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge at: