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).
I took the following photos today while visiting the Great Swamp of New Jersey, on a very windy and cold day. There were not too many birds or animals around, but some may be good eye candy for the weekend.
A Chipmunk ran across my path then took refuge in a tree hole.
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.
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.
Buffleheads are among the smallest ducks, one with a large head relative to the body. A small group of them was swimming near the Barnegat Lighthouse a few days ago. These ducks live mainly in North America, but may be seen in some Western European countries and Japan, but only rarely.
Suddenly they took off flying toward the open sea.
Then they began landing on the water.
Here are two of them swimming around, watching the humans and the other ducks and loons.
Long-tailed Ducks also breed in the Artic Coasts and winter in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic coast, although New Jersey, Delaware, and parts of Maryland are as far South as they will go. There were many of them yesterday near Barnegat Lighthouse. They swam back and forth during the time I spent there, providing many opportunities for photographs.
Just before I left, a male Long-tailed Duck flew around several times, at least three, calling out constantly, perhaps reminding all the other ducks that migration time was fast approaching. It was quite a show and a photographer’s dream.
A Brant is a relatively small goose that breeds on the Artic coasts of Western Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. In late fall, they migrate to Western Europe from Siberia. In North America, they fly down from Alaska and the upper reaches of Canada to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, at times making non-stop flights that could be as long as 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or more. While the Pacific and European Brants have black bellies, the Atlantic Brants that I see have white ones.
Yesterday, as temperatures climbed to the 50’s (10 °C) I went to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park where the Brants put on quite a show in preparation for their impending flight back to their breeding grounds.
Overnight wet and heavy snow fell in our area, bending and sometimes breaking the branches of some trees. Many birds came to our feeder, among them a pretty female Downy Woodpecker that looked for insects on a nearby magnolia tree. Here is a shot of her, rendered in monochrome for this Monday.
Three years ago, when I went to bring Jackie, the Golden Retriever, home, I saw a farm in South Jersey that raised miniature horses. Going through the photos I took at the time, there are some that have not been published yet, and one, the last one below, that can be republished.
I have been twice to Monument Valley, a famous place used as the backdrop for many Western movies made by John Ford. It lies within the Navajo Nation, on the border of Utah and Arizona.
We got there one late afternoon in June, with the setting sun creating a wonder of light and shadows on the iconic buttes and the surrounding desolate landscape.
The Wright Brothers flew their airplane successfully on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in the Outer Banks. Today there is a Wright Brothers National Memorial at the spot, with a visitor center, a monument, and sculptures of their bi-plane and that historic moment.
The two brothers each flew their bi-plane twice that day. Their final flight covered 852 ft (260 m) before the bi-plane struck the ground and broke part of its frame.
We visited this place almost five years ago. We arrived too early, before the visitor center was open. But it was a beautiful day for photography.
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.
Even though temperatures plunged and the wind was fierce, our area only got a dusting of snow. I filled the bird feeder beforehand, and for the past two days bird traffic picked up significantly, even while snow was falling. All the birds looked fluffier and bigger than in warmer months.
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.
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.
There were about a dozen Tundra Swans at the refuge, far away from the road and apart from the larger Mute Swans which are all-year residents. As their name indicates, Tundra Swans migrate from the artic tundra to the Midlantic shore to spend their winters under warmer conditions.
As I began shooting a Tundra Swan was landing.
In addition to Northern Cardinals, other regular birds at our bird feeder include Carolina Chickadees and two kinds of Woodpeckers. On the same cloudy days that brightly lit the cardinals, I was able to get several good shots of these other birds.
One more photo taken on January 1st, 2019.
Readers of this blog know that I am mainly a bird photographer, with infrequent landscape and flower images. Recently I went to Bonnet Island, a newly opened section of the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge, also called Manahawkin Bay Bridge, linking mainland New Jersey to Long Beach Island goes through Bonnet Island, and it has been undergoing repairs since 2010.
The part of EBF NWR on Bonnet Island, opened since last July, looks underwhelming at this time of the year.
What one sees is mostly weeds and new plantings, all with different variations of the color ochre. There were a few birds or waterfowls, but they were all too far away for my lens, even with the 1.4 extender attached. As soon as I took a picture of the following hawk, it flew away.
There were mergansers and ducks swimming in the bay waters, but they appear tiny and blurry in all the images I took. So I turned toward the bridge itself and started photographing it from different angles.
The town of Manahawkin is a coastal community facing Long Beach Island. Manahawkin comes from a Lenape Native American word meaning “fertile land sloping into the water”.