This week I went to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge again, after a 5-month hiatus. Greenhead flies were already out and I had to keep my car windows closed, except for brief moments to take a photo. Shots taken through the windows turned out badly. Here are some better ones taken with the window quickly open.
Since I was inside the car and not wearing a mask, a female Red-winged Blackbird could not resist acting like a Karen.
Following are photos taken recently at home of other birds.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been coming in greater numbers. Capturing their flight is usually a challenge, but here are some of the better shots.
Two days ago, I was watching the Eastern Bluebirds when suddenly the female brought a green caterpillar to the nest. There must be baby birds in there!
She went in.
A minute later she came back out. No diaper! This could be because the parents are known to eat the fecal sacs of young baby birds.
A little while later, the father brought more food.
I took the last picture of the first brood babies on June 3. So 20 days later, these two parents have brought forth a second brood. Amazing, but credible. Eastern Bluebird incubation period is 10 to 19 days. So, it is quite feasible for this couple to lay their eggs and incubate them successfully between June 3 and now.
Instead of two Eastern Bluebird fledgelings, there are actually four! I was able to photograph them two days ago when they congregated on a high oak tree branch. They were too far, but can be recognized in the photos below.
I don’t know whether they are all from the same brood that lived in the birdhouse in our backyard, or from that and another nest somewhere in the grove behind our house. They seemed to get along fine.
Meanwhile, the female Bluebird still lives in that birdhouse.
Yesterday, early in the morning, a House Wren came near the birdhouse and started calling out.
The noisy call woke the sleeping Bluebird up, and she peered out to let him know the birdhouse belongs to her.
The House Wren promptly left. A young Blue Jay stopped by our bird feeder.
Then a female Hummingbird came to the nectar feeder.
When the baby Bluebirds fledged two weeks ago, a storm prevented me from watching them leave their nest and I gave up seeing them again. This past week, I noticed two new birds that were very energetic as they flew around, chased each other, or performed other types of flight acrobatics. I realized that they must be the Eastern Bluebird fledglings who are still living in our backyard. I finally got a good photo of one of them as the fledgling perched on our TV antenna.
It looked darker than its parents, and had spots both on its back and chest.
Meanwhile, the parents still live in the birdhouse and did not mind posing for me.
I briefly saw the male bird landing on top of the female bird, but could only get a shot after she threw him off her.
So there is hope for a second brood of Eastern Bluebirds this year. I read that the first brood may help their parents feed the second brood. As of now, they are still carefree, practicing their dives and swoops along the ground to catch insects.
For the past few weeks, the young Eastern Bluebirds have kept their parents busy feeding them and doing diaper duties. Last week they finally poked their heads out of the birdhouse. I saw two of them, but could only photograph the dominant sibling.
Mother was soon there with a nice Sloe Bug.
Father brought some interesting insects too.
Both parents took turns with diapers (fecal sacs).
While I was photographing a heavy rainstorm arrived, forcing me back into the house. The following morning, I came out to look for them, but the two young Bluebirds had fledged and were gone out of sight. Since then both parents have been flying in and out of the birdhouse, perhaps preparing for the next brood. Bluebirds could have as many as three broods a year.
Both Bluebird parents have been very active bringing food to the young ones. Just this morning, the mother flew to the nest hole with a dark orange caterpillar.
As soon as that was done, she flew out with a fecal sac from one of the baby Bluebirds.
The male Bluebird came next with a bright green caterpillar.
Then the female followed that with another caterpillar.
And she again had to carry out another fecal sac.
In front of our house we have another birdhouse which was taken over by a breeding pair of Carolina Chickadees. A few days ago, the parent Chickadees were very active bringing food to the young ones and performing fecal sac duties.
One day I saw a House Wren inspecting the nest.
House Wren are known to take over other birds’ nests, but in this case nothing happened and I think the young birds were able to fledge successfully. There is no activity at the nest today, but I will keep watching from time to time.
The weatherman says it has never been this cold on this day in our town. This morning the temperature is at 31°F or -0.5°C. With a strong breeze, it feels like 24 °F or -4.4°C. I will have to go out to the garden and see whether the tomato plants grown from seeds and put into the ground last week survived.
Three years ago I planted a yellow magnolia tree named Judy Zuk Magnolia, in honor of a former President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It grew one flower the first year, none the second year, and this year it is displaying a dozen of bright yellow flowers mixed with small streaks of orange-red. Here are some shots of the flowers which are bigger than those of the Butterfly Magnolia from last month.
Here’s another kind of Magnolia that is blooming late in the season. In fact, it keeps blooming during a good part of the summer when all other magnolias have come and gone.
I’ll finish this post with photos of our backyard birds who have been quite busy during this spring mating season.
Then someone who thinks it is a bird.
Finally, a shot of a Red-tailed Hawk at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on February 22, before the coronavirus lockdown.
The male Bluebird came back to the birdhouse where his mate was incubating in the nest they had built. He was carrying a worm.
He poked his head inside the entrance to offer the worm to her. She must have declined because his head came out and he proceeded to eat the worm himself.
He hung on, considering his next move.
Then he flew away to a nearby tree, stopped for a few seconds to look at the birdhouse before flying away in search of more food for her.
Nine days ago, the female Bluebird was still building up her nest.
Since then, I have seen both Bluebirds flying in and out of the birdhouse, and landing on the nearby magnolia tree.
Yesterday, he brought her some food, a cricket I think.
She went back into the birdhouse. He flew away. About an hour later, he came back and fed her something white, maybe a larva? It happened too quickly for me to get a shot.
Among our backyard birds, a couple of Eastern Bluebirds are setting up their nest in a birdhouse right in the back of our family room. Here are some shots of them, taken this past weekend.
There are other birds which come to the birdfeeder, sometimes landing on the Yellow Magnolia tree to wait for their turn.
I have not been posting here since last July, but have continued to photograph, although not as often as I used to. Hopefully, the following photos may help reduce stress for all of us during this coronavirus pandemic.
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.