Because I need to finish writing my second book, I will stop posting for an indeterminate time as of today.
Here are some recent photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have been coming to our backyard for the past several years.
The abundant rain we have had this Spring has led to lots of vibrant summer flowers.
Some Monarch butterflies have already started to visit the milkweed.
Inside the house, the Clivia plant, now divided into three separate pots, is also blooming vigorously.
The young Eastern Bluebirds have all fledged. The birdhouse is now empty. I took it down and opened it. Nothing inside except for a nest made with dried grass. There was no eggshell (maybe it was eaten by the babies or their parents), and the nest did not look too bad. No fecal sac, just some dirt at the bottom of the nest. Still I used a hose to spray it with water thoroughly to make it clean again. It is now back in its old place waiting for the Bluebirds to raise their next brood.
The fledglings are flying around our backyard practicing their newfound skills. Some also dive to the grass to look for food. One newly fledged chirped plaintively as it landed near me on the deck.
An older sister was at the top of a magnolia tree, looking all around her to see whether she could spot her parents.
However, the parents are keeping their distance, perched very near the top of the surrounding trees. They won’t intervene, unless there is a threat from a bigger bird, like a Blue Jay.
Yesterday was an almost perfect, sunny and dry day. A male Bluebird was perched high on a tree, calling the babies to come out and try flying.
Meanwhile, Mamma Bluebird was still carrying out fecal sacs.
Seeing that, I thought it would be several more days until the babies start fledging. Then a young one poked its head out.
It chirped, its parents called, and then it jumped out, landed on the grass with parents in tow. Quickly it flew away with the parents, a beautiful threesome. The only bad thing was that I was caught flat footed and did not have time to take any shot!
After a few minutes, another baby appeared in the birdhouse entry hole. It made plaintive calls asking for food.
Soon enough, Daddy flew in with a juicy worm.
It could have been a different youngster.
Yesterday I finally saw the baby Bluebirds in their birdhouse.
They stayed inside the birdhouse, and had not fledged yet, although it could be a matter of days now. There were probably two or more baby birds. Their parents were busy as usual.
Keeping guard is essential for the survival of the Bluebirds. Last week, while both parents were away, a House Wren inspected the birdhouse thoroughly, and even went inside for a few seconds. It exited without dragging out any baby, but that was scary. House Wren can kill Bluebirds, adults as well as babies.
I have also seen a Black Crow and a Blue Jay landing on the roof of the birdhouse and bending their necks to look inside through that round hole. I had to shout and shoo them away forcefully. Later in the evening, the male Bluebird dive bombed a Blue Jay that came too close the nest.
Today there is plenty of sunshine. I was able to capture very clearly both Bluebird parents doing their chores.
Following that both parents fed their babies and checked, but no fecal sac was retrieved. They flew away to look for more food.
One more trip for Bluebird father. Maybe Father’s Day is not celebrated in the realm of birds.
Incidentally, once they fledge, young Bluebirds will not produce fecal sacs.
A Bluebird nest has no plumbing. Therefore, in addition to constantly flying around to look for worms and insects, the two parents have to keep the nest clean so that their babies can grow up in a disease free environment. The little ones naturally don’t do anything but eat and poop. Fortunately, nature has come up with a way for the parents to deal with their no-plumbing environment.
Lately I have seen them carry out what is called “fecal sacs” that they collect from the rear end of their babies. These sacs contain excretions (poop) from the digestive system, and the parents take them out to throw them far away from the nest. They are like diapers for birds.
Following is a series of photos I took these past few days to show how both parents perform their diaper duties.
With a brood of 3 to 7 babies, it really takes two adults to hunt for food and to carry out fecal sac disposal many times a day.
The female Bluebird shares with her mate the same diaper duties. The following photos, taken at different times, show her doing her share. She was too fast for me, or there was not enough light, so the photos turned out blurry.
Feeding their babies and cleaning after them constantly have taken their toll on the Bluebird parents. I think they have lost a good deal of weight compared to three or four weeks ago. Since Bluebirds usually have 2 to 3 broods each year, these parents may have a second set of babies to care for in a month or so!
Both Bluebird parents are working hard to bring food back to their babies. They disdain the store bought mealworms I put out, and prefer to catch fresh insects and worms. Still the mealworms disappear, and I suspect the Robins have something to do with it.
Nearby an American Robin was looking at the Bluebirds.
While I was searching for my Bluebird friends, a plane flew overhead as it prepared to land at Trenton Airport, about 10 miles from our house. I aimed the camera skyward and got the following shot.
A short while later, a Cooper’s Hawk appeared, and gave me enough time to snap three shots.
Our Bluebird couple was perched on the Crape Myrtle as usual.
Twice a day, the female Eastern Bluebird flies out of the birdhouse to preen herself and maybe look around for food. I’ve placed some mealworms on a big oak tree stump, but so far she has not come near them. It has been stormy with lots of rain coming down, which may explain why. In the meantime she has posed gracefully for the camera. First in the afternoon.
Then in the morning.
I have not seen the male bird these past few days, but I am sure he is somewhere nearby protecting her and their nest.
Meanwhile, other birds keep coming to the vegetarian bird feeder.
The Eastern Bluebird couple nesting in our backyard today made a joint appearance for my camera. It has been at least five years since I put up the first birdhouse, and finally this year Bluebirds are using one of them!
This afternoon, I first saw a male among the crape myrtle branches.
Following the above shot, she flew away, perhaps after seeing a worm or insect on the ground. Bluebirds do not eat from the bird feeder filled with sunflower seeds that I put up for other kinds of birds.
A pair of Eastern Bluebird is now residing in one of the birdhouses I put up around our backyard. Recently I have seen them flying around, but today I finally saw a female come out of a birdhouse. After some waiting, I saw her perched on a nearby crape myrtle branch, preening herself and inspecting her surroundings.
Red-winged Blackbirds were very active at the beach at Fortescue, NJ while the birds were feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs. I couldn’t help noticing the following male who seemed quite feisty patrolling the beach close to its territory in the dunes.
When not on the beach, he perched on a nearby tree and belted out his warning calls.
He was not scared of and studiously ignored a bigger Boat-tailed Grackle that was only a short distance away, singing his own warning calls.
Last week I went to Forstecue, NJ to see Horseshoe Crabs come ashore for their annual mating. The weather was cool and the tide high which may explain why there were not many Horseshoe Crabs to be seen. However, the birds were very busy feasting on the crabs’ eggs.
As usual some Horseshoe Crabs were upended and helpless on the beach.
Oculus is the name of the World Trade Center station in New York City completed in 2016. Today I went there for the first time to take photographs from different angles of the wonderfully striking building. However, I forgot to bring a spare battery for my camera, which cut drastically short that plan. In the end I was only able to take the following shots.
One of these days, I will have to make another trip to the city to take other photos of the rest of Oculus and the World Trade Center, with at least one spare battery.
The South Jersey farm where miniature horses are raised has been on sale for a few years, so I was not too hopeful when I drove there to photograph them a few days ago. But they are still there, at least some of them, grazing peacefully on two lush fields covered with yellow flowers. As usual, the male and female horses were kept apart, separated by a wire fence.
A white mare saw me and approached, looking for a treat that I did not have! She looked very pregnant.
She came close to the fence, batting her eyelashes …
I did not see any baby horse, perhaps because it is too early in the season? Meanwhile the male horses were grazing peacefully in an adjacent field.
Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden in Pennsylvania about 75 miles (121 km) from our house. We took some friends there on a rainy day last week and saw flowers mainly in its Conservatory rather than in the many gardens extending over 1,077 acres (436 hectares). Here are some of the flowers that were most prominent and colorful.
A Mallard mother was leading her 13 ducklings around a small pond at the Sayen Garden in Hamilton, NJ.
She seemed very proud of her brood. They in turn enjoyed her tour, nibbling at plants in and out of the water.
Here are some closeups of the Ducklings.
The fish are mostly gone from Colonial Lake. They were either eaten by Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Cormorants, or humans fished them out of existence not too long after the state allowed fishing in mid March after stocking the lake with trout. The large raptors are now rarely seen at the lake. However, Mallards are plentiful and didn’t mind my coming close to them to take the following photos.
Some were strolling or marching down to the water as if they owned the lake, which they probably do.
Some male Mallards were completely brown from their neck down, and were perhaps hybrids of Mallard with some other type of duck.
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.
Usually Monday would be reserved for monochrome photos, but yesterday some spring flowers were so vibrantly displaying their colors that an exception can easily be made for them. The tulips are from our garden, while the other two are plants we grow inside the house.
One afternoon, a Bald Eagle flew in and circled Colonial Lake several times looking for fish. It even dove toward the water once but still came up with no fish, but it provided good opportunities for photographing in the waning sun.
A few weeks ago, a Turkey Vulture was also soaring above Colonial Lake for several minutes, looking for carrion in the nearby woods, or perhaps for dead fish dropped by the eagles.
It came down low enough for me to take a shot looking at its back. I did not see it catch anything.
Then a Red-tailed Hawk (tentative identification) also made its appearance.
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.
Our Butterflies Magnolia tree is in full bloom, covered with flowers and hardly any leaf.
I planted the tree near the bird feeder, which is why many birds perch on its branches while waiting for their turn. They also tend to land on it as a place to break apart the sunflower seeds they pick out from the feeder.
Today I noticed some birds that resemble House Finches. Looking them up at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site, it turns out they are Purple Finches. These birds are losing out to the House Finches which came to the East Coast after they were brought to New York City in the 1950’s. Between 1966 and 2014, populations of Purple Finches have declined by 52%!
Here’s a photo of a House Finch on the same Magnolia tree.
Our yellow Magnolia tree flowers late, and has managed to attract Bluebirds for the second year in a row.
The Bluebird, or its partner, checked out one of the birdhouses I put up.
However, there is no sign yet that the birdhouse is occupied by any bird.
Meanwhile, during a walk around Colonial Lake, I saw an abandoned Canada Goose egg on the ground, near the water. It was quite big, but there was no Canada Geese around it.
One can see many Canada Geese at Colonial Lake, either swimming in the water or grazing onshore. I have no idea why this one egg was left out in the open with no mother goose tending it. Another mystery.
In answer to RyanPhotography challenge: https://ryanphotography.uk/2019/04/10/mid-week-monochrome-mwm-15-flowers/
We received a good soaking of rain yesterday, while temperatures soared into the 70’s (20’s Celsius). The Magnolias trees outdid each another to bloom and open up their flowers. We have two trees and together they have thousands of buds opening up today.
A Star Magnolia (Magnolia Stellata) is normally the first one to bloom, but this year it yielded to the above trees.