This morning I walked out to our backyard and saw the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) covered with beautiful blooms. The rising sunrays were showing the flowers at their best, and these are my entries to Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.
This post is my response to Tina’s challenge at Lens-Artists Challenge #205 – The Eyes Have it. I almost never photograph humans, so my entries will consist of pictures of birds that I encounter in a rookery, a wildlife refuge, or in our backyard.
Yesterday the rookery next to the New Jersey Ocean City Welcome Center was teeming with egrets, herons, ibises, and many other smaller birds. The Great Egrets breeding season was at its peak as you can see from the following images.
The parent egret will eat the eel then regurgitate it into the bottom of the nest. Then the young chicks will be able to eat it.
Two days ago, in the morning I saw both Bluebird parents catching insects and bringing them to their babies.
I thought it was about time for the young birds to fledge and leave their nest. Then, in the afternoon, our backyard was suddenly very quiet. No more Bluebirds flying around or calling each other. Very cautiously, I opened the door of the birdhouse. No bird was inside. The young ones had all fledged, and I missed seeing them leave their nest.
Then this morning, the male Bluebird was back flying around and attacking his image on our patio door. I went out and saw him perched on the birdhouse. Then the female Bluebird reappeared, and the pair kept taking turns diving toward the grass to catch insects. Life was back to normal.
Bluebirds may have from one to three broods. It looks like this Bluebird couple will start a second brood in the same birdhouse. I’ll keep watching them and try to photograph the second brood as they fledge.
Every day the pair of Eastern Bluebirds living in our backyard have to find food for their babies, which could be fledging in a week or so. Fortunately, our neighborhood has many spots, including lawns, an empty lot and a wooded area, where they can easily find food. The female is the one that works the hardest, with the male relishing his role as her protector against other birds and even a photographer!
Sometimes they take a break and watch their nest from the top of our birdfeeder hanging pole.
One essential function of both parents is to keep the nest clean by taking out the fecal sacs they pull out of their young ones several times a day.
The female also does that type of diaper duty. In fact, she carries out more fecal sacs than he does! On the other hand, he spends a lot of time keeping other birds clear of their birdhouse. Yesterday I watched as he repeatedly attacked the Bluebird he saw in the driver side mirror of a car parked on our driveway. At times, the noise that he made pecking at his image in the mirror sounded like a mini machine gun. This morning we put a bag over the mirror to put a stop to that.
After I posted my 2022 photos of Eastern Bluebirds, I heard many loud bird cries in our backyard. I went out to see what the hubbub was about.
We now have two couples of Bluebirds, four adult Bluebirds in total, and four baby Bluebirds! The newcomers were flying all over, looking for a birdhouse they could occupy. The original Bluebirds of course felt threatened since they had four newly hatched babies in their nest. They chased away the new pair, and those two birds have been knocking on our bay window which faces the backyard.
I cannot positively distinguish the newcomers from the old-timers, but I think the following shots show the new Bluebirds.
The original Bluebird couple had built a nest inside a birdhouse that used to be occupied by House Wrens. However, the Bluebirds did not use it and took over another nest we can see from our kitchen window. The House Wrens went to settle in another birdhouse in front of our house.
I opened the unused birdhouse in the backyard and threw out the nest that the original Bluebirds had built but did not use. After that I saw the new Bluebird pair visit the empty birdhouse several times. I hope they will settle in it and stop knocking on our windows.
This is the fourth year that Eastern Bluebirds have come back to nest at the birdhouse I put up for them in the back of our house. Today I saw the Bluebird parents fly in and out to bring food to a brood of four baby Bluebirds.
The parents were very efficient, bringing back newly captured insects and worms every five minutes.
As I start writing this, outside temperature is 88°F (31°C) and tomorrow promises to be even hotter. Looking out I saw a couple of Northern Cardinals arrive on our deck intent on checking out the birdfeeder.
Meanwhile, the female was waiting for her turn in the shadow of the magnolia branches.
White-breasted Nuthatches are again coming to our birdfeeder, feeding themselves at their preferred angle, i.e. vertically and upside down. Sometimes I wonder how they manage to swallow those sunflower kernels, but they do.
Most birds eat like the female Downy Woodpecker and House Finch shown below.
Other birds have their breakfast delivered.
Following are images of an Osprey couple sharing a fish around 8:24 AM yesterday. I saw the male Osprey fly in with a fish, but by the time I was ready to take pictures, he was already standing on a side of the nest where the female was incubating.
Usually, he would have eaten the head of the fish, leaving the rest to her.
I have been saving photos of birds over the past several weeks, waiting for an opportunity to post them. Here are most of them, in no particular order.
A lo largo de los días no puedo abstraerme de las imágenes y noticias sobre la invasión de Ucrania. Es imposible no dejar de pensar en la vida tan dolorosa, inhumana, de sus habitantes que malviven en las ciudades destruidas, condenados a bajar al subsuelo de la tierra y vivir en corredores infrahumanos con el sonido de fondo de las alarmas, y las bombas cayendo sin cesar. Tantas personas inocentes que han perdido la vida serán recordadas como víctimas del genocidio perpetrado por Putin y su ejército en los comienzos del siglo XXI.
Leo una entrevista al psiquiatra Luis Rojas Marcos en La Voz de Galicia del 26 de abril. Luis Rojas Marcos vivió en primera línea el atentado del 11-S cuando dirigía el Sistema de Hospitales de la ciudad de New York. Al preguntarle sobre Putin, dice: “Yo no puedo comentar la salud mental de Putin porque no lo…
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It rained all day yesterday. I thought I heard rainfall also during the night. It continued this morning and did not stop until mid morning. I went out to see what survived or was ruined, and was pleasantly surprised as all the flowers came through and actually seemed to thrive.
The Black-headed Gull comes from Europe and, about fifty years ago, has begun appearing in North America in small numbers. I saw a group of about a dozen of them on Wildlife Drive for the first time last week. They did not seem too shy, like most gulls, and I was able to come close to them.
Other birds that I photographed are well known to most of us.
A cold beginning for Spring 2022 has decimated our early magnolias and Asian pear flowers. Today, at the end of April, temperatures climbed above 50°F (10°C) but a strong wind makes it feel much colder. The “Judy Zuk” Magnolia tree that I planted five years ago is bearing vibrant yellow flowers. Judy Zuk was the president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from 1990 to 2005, and this magnolia is a hybrid developed there.
Another late bloomer that has escaped frost is the Susan Magnolia, a smaller tree than the Soulangeana Magnolia (Saucer Magnolia). We have two trees of the Soulangeana but both lost all of their flowers this year. Fortunately, we have three Susan Magnolias.
Last but not least are the dependable Bleeding Hearts which have started to come up.
The Crabapple is a most colorful spring blooming tree. There was one near the entrance of our public library and it easily drew everyone’s attention.
At nearby Colonial Lake ducks and birds were also welcoming the sun and a much needed increase in temperature.
American Robins were everywhere. I followed one as it walked on the shore of Colonial Lake.
At one point there was a face off with an European Starling.
Although bigger than the Robin, the Starling flew away.
In my previous post about a Cormorant, I should have mentioned that it was a Double-Crested Cormorant, the most common type found in North America. It sports a double crest of feathers on its head during breeding season. However, when it plunges into the water to look for fish, the double crest is flattened on its head and cannot be seen then.
A few days ago, I saw a couple of Cormorants sunning themselves in the middle of Colonial Lake, one with a visible double crest.
The crest color is white for Double-crested Cormorants in Alaska, but is black in other regions.
This time of the year, birds are very busy building their nests. A male Cormorant at the refuge emerged from the water with a stick.
In nest building, the male Cormorant only gathers building materials. The female Cormorant is the one that arranges such materials into a nest.
The EBF refuge’s Visitor Center puts up Purple Martin houses every spring. Those birds take them over and create a busy intersection as they fly into and out of their chosen condo. A photographer only has to stand below and aim a camera up to photograph the birds. However, they fly very fast and one has to be quick on the shutter!
Late Spring sounds like the name of a movie by Yasujirō Ozu, but it is very real for us this year. Almost a month after it was supposed to start, this year’s spring has been dragged kicking and screaming to make its entry, and it exacted extensive revenge on all sorts of plants and flowers. Our magnolia trees which normally bloom with thousands of vibrant flowers have had most of their buds killed by frost. I can count less than a dozen yellow flowers on our Butterfly Magnolia. It usually has several hundreds in April.
And here’s a view taken last week of the refuge.
The Ospreys have arrived and became occupants of six platform nests along Wildlife Drive. Yesterday, I saw a male Osprey dining on the head of a fish.
Meanwhile his mate seemed to be still sleeping.
Further down the road, the Osprey couple that lost a fish to another Osprey a few days ago were waking up. He, on the right, did not appear to be in any hurry to go catch a fish.
Rather than wait for them, I drove on to go see the night herons in Ocean City. On the way out, a very small turtle crossed my path.
Finally a beautiful dove was standing by the side of the road.
As I arrived at my favorite Osprey nest site, I saw and heard the female Osprey whistling. Usually, a female Osprey whistles to clamor for food when she sees her mate come back with a fish that he has caught. Then as he lands somewhere within sight of the nest, he proceeds to eat the head of the fish and only brings what remains to her.
This time, the female was whistling loudly, almost belligerently. Then I saw not one but two male Ospreys fighting.
Male Ospreys fighting.
Unfortunately, the one that fled had a fish in its talons. In the following photo, the fish is missing its head which was very likely eaten by the other male Osprey.
The Osprey that had its fish stolen flew after the thief. After a while I could not see either of them any longer. Meanwhile, at the nest, the female Osprey was facing a Fish Crow which came by to see whether it could steal anything from the nest.
I also waited for the male Osprey to fly back to the nest with a new catch. But I had to leave after almost half an hour of waiting without seeing him. The female Osprey did not whistle once during that time.
I recently read “Village Teacher” by Nguyễn Trọng Hiền. I was fascinated by this book and decided to share my review.
Yes, I admit, my time in Vietnam has stayed with me and I’m drawn to stories of that country, but I liked this book so much that I couldn’t stay quiet about it. My review on Goodreads follows.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
To me, this story was engrossing. I’ve become a slow, undisciplined reader, but this tale carried me along throughout the entire book.
The story takes place during the early years of the French colonization of Vietnam. It is the story of the schoolteacher in a village in northern Vietnam who participates in the royal examinations in the imperial city of Hue. During his time there, he meets a woman of Vietnamese/French descent and the two are strongly attracted…
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