Barn Swallows live throughout the world and number some 190 million birds. In the 19th century they were often killed to supply decorative feathers for the millinery trade, but that has come to an end. Now Barn Swallows live happily among humans who benefit from their voracious appetite for flies and other flying insects.
Yesterday I went to the refuge and saw beautiful Barn Swallows perched at two different locations.
I took photos of a female Northern Harrier a year ago, and posted some of them last January. Today, while looking through the archive, I found another photo that outshines those. As you can see below, an eye of this raptor is clearly visible on its owlish face.
Yesterday at the refuge several Buffleheads were diving for food. If they catch anything, they eat that while still underwater, so I won’t be bragging about any photo of a Bufflehead with food in its bill. However, their dive can be quite dramatic.
Buffleheads are very small ducks, as you can see in the following shot.
The weather has not been too nice lately. I went out to Barnegat Lighthouse, but it was very windy and cold, and there were no birds other than seagulls flying around. So I dug into my archives and came up with the following shots taken at the beginning of 2022.
I took these last two photos from our deck during and after a snowstorm.
Buffleheads are the smallest ducks in North America. They have more often than not proved to be difficult for me to photograph. When they are close enough, lighting would not be coming from the right direction for a photo to show their eyes and faces. Buffleheads are also very shy and will fly away if one comes too close or makes any kind of noise.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky to see a group of Buffleheads at the refuge busy swimming around and diving for food. Somehow, they paid scant attention to me! So here are a few shots of them that day, taken from a good distance away.
Yesterday I went to the refuge to photograph some of the last birds that are still there before the onset of winter. I spotted a Great Egret that was looking for fish by a stream next to Wildlife Drive.
Suddenly I saw a Cormorant (I previously misidentified it as a Common Loon) emerge from the water with a fish in its bill.
The Cormorant dove into the water with the fish. A couple of minutes later, it reemerged at another part of the stream, looking happy after having ingested its meal.
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.
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.
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.
Red-breasted Mergansers are fairly common in the winter along the coast of New Jersey. In the past two weeks, I took their photos at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and also near the Barnegat Lighthouse on two different occasions.
According to All About Birds, a Red-breasted Merganser has to eat 15 to 20 fish per day, requiring it to dive under water for 250 to 300 times a day! The Red-breasted Merganser population in North America is stable and has been estimated at 500,000 in 2017.
Winter would be very dull at the refuge if there were no duck. When most other birds and egrets have migrated, the ducks arrive and entertain us. Following are some images of them that I took yesterday. Duck hunting season will end in three days but I did not see or heard any hunter.
It was a beautiful and cold three days ago at the refuge. After hiding for most of the week, the sun was out. The wind was blowing fairly strongly and lifted the clouds toward the heavens.
As I drove on Wildlife Drive, a Northern Harrier pair was hunting for food, such as voles and mice, among the low vegetation along the marshes. They cut in front of my car, disappeared in the grasses at times. I tried to follow them and only managed to get an occasional shot.
Meanwhile, ducks and geese took off in dramatic formations against the blue sky.
I have looked many times at the following image of a Red-winged Blackbird chasing a much bigger Fish Crow away from the vicinity of its nest. It was actually chasing two Fish Crows, but only one was caught by the camera. Gumption and tenacity are words that apply well to the Red-winged Blackbird.
This year, one big bird was everywhere around the refuge. I shot many pictures and even have one post dedicated to it, Great Blue Heron. However, the following monochrome shot was liked by many.
In November, I saw Yellow-rumped Warblers for the first time. They were eating Juniper berries and did not fly away allowing me to take many shots. Here are two more unpublished until today.
Hundreds of egrets stay at the refuge almost year round from the end of February until December. They spend their time fishing, and sometimes fighting each other, jumping up like ballet dancers.
With so many egrets and other birds , I sometimes wondered whether there ever is enough fish for them. One day a few weeks ago, I looked down into a shallow part of the refuge and saw thousands and thousands of fish swimming around, with not a bird in sight.
This concludes this 2021 Images in Review series. I wish all of you a Great and Happy New Year in 2022!
I planted small sunflower plants this year. The deer left them alone since they had so much else to eat. The one below adorned a side of our driveway.
In the spring and early summer Sayen Gardens was the ideal place for photographing flowers. One day, their pond looked milky white (I don’t know why) and the few plants showing through the water got an unusual and striking background. The following shot is in monochrome.
My year-round favorite place is the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. In these days of coronavirus, it is the perfect place to find fresh air and solitude. Audubon groups of birdwatchers with their binoculars came there almost every day, but they tended to congregate at places near the entrance to the refuge. I prefer to drive on the 8-mile long Wildlife Drive.
In the summer familiar, and sometimes unusual, butterflies abound along Wildlife Drive.
Egrets were in abundance at the refuge and provided many photo opportunities.
Peregrine Falcons stay year-round along the ocean in New Jersey. I see them occasionally but usually they fly too fast for a good photo. In the fall they make a habit of perching themselves on nests that Ospreys abandon when they migrate to warmer climates. Two days ago I saw a Peregrine Falcon on Wildlife Drive at the refuge, surrounded by several cars like mine.
Like a fashion model, it knew how to pose and obligingly turned its head for another shot.
Finally too many cars had stopped, and it flew to another Osprey nest on the other side of the road and turned its back on all the humans.
Yesterday the refuge was mostly deserted. Only a few white egrets remained, the rest having migrated just before the cold arrived. However, there were many ducks which come and stay during the colder months, and Great Blue Herons which do not migrate. I found several of them as soon as I arrived and, when the light was right, got the following shots.
Yesterday, driving along Wildlife Drive I saw several birds jumping in and out of a juniper tree on one side of the road. I stopped and took photos of Yellow-rumped Warblers, birds which are quite abundant in the fall as they eat the plentiful berries on the juniper. These birds normally eat insects but in the fall they love the juniper berries which are too bitter for human consumption.
I think they were female warblers. Some took time to look at the photographer.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, even if you are not in the US.
The other day, when I arrived at the refuge a flock of several hundred birds flew up into the sky as if they were starting to migrate. They did not look like Canada Geese, and could have been Lesser Yellowlegs starting their migration to warmer places. Please let me know if you can identify them as another kind of bird.
Two Great Egrets were fighting at the refuge. I have seen them do that before, with most “fights” lasting a few seconds. The following lasted almost a minute, over several bouts in succession until everything quieted down. Were they competing for territory, or for some female egret?