Yesterday, conditions were almost ideal for photography. The refuge was dry, the sun was shining bright, and an ocean breeze was cool if at times gusty. I had just stepped out when a Great Egret flew toward me. I barely had enough time to lean against the car and bring my camera up to shoot. This was likely the closest I ever came to a Great Egret in flight.
The Great Egret and Snowy Egret shown below were feeding in the marsh, stabbing the water, and jumping and turning around on a dime. They were very successful and got a fish at every attempt.
In this last photo, it was amazing to see the Snowy Egret twisting itself while looking for fish.
American Robins don’t migrate during the winter, merely keeping out of sight most of the time. They reappear with the coming of spring, when the ground is no longer too hard for them to try to pull out worms.
Flocks of Canada Geese flying overhead is another sign that the seasons are changing. However, I can’t figure out what they are doing since they seem to be flying in all directions.
Just a minute after the above shot, those Canada Geese reversed direction and flew over me again.
I thought that was the last of that flock and started walking toward the woods. Then they flew North and passed overhead once more.
Another sure sign of spring is the return of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets. They appeared two weeks ago, then went away when the weather turned cold. Now they are back.
Finally the turtles are out sunning themselves. I think they are Diamondback Terrapins, but am not positive. They all jumped into the water as I tried to come closer to them to get a better look.
In 2018, some of my photos did not appear on this blog, normally because I didn’t want to have too many in any post. Now at year end, looking at them, some actually deserve to be shown, and here they are.
You won’t believe how many times I have missed capturing, or badly captured, birds in flight. Two days ago, at the refuge, I finally was able to get several good shots of a Great Blue Heron as it took off from the marsh.
On the same day, a Great Egret also put on a good show.
bald eagle, barn swallow, barnegat lighthouse, Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, great egret, Long-billed Dowitcher, mourning dove, photography, postaday, ring-billed gull, sanderling, year of the bird
2018 is the Year of the Bird, as declared by the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I didn’t know about that until now, but here are seven photos I took recently of birds around New Jersey.
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is at the Northern end of Cayuga Lake, one of the 11 finger lakes in New York state. It is less than a quarter of the size of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, but has much of the same wildlife, with the addition of Sandhill Cranes and Black Terns that are not usually seen in New Jersey.
We drove on Wildlife Drive through Montezuma NWR, stopping occasionally to take pictures.
A young Bald Eagle surprised me by swooping overhead and diving toward the marshes. It was too fast and moved around too much for me to get good pictures, but the following will give you an idea of the drama evolving in the sky.
However, the young Bald Eagle failed to catch any fish.
There were several Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets that landed near Wildlife Drive then stood or walked in the water.
There were many Ring-billed Gulls and Canada Geese at Montezuma NWR. One gull was hovering over the marshes and crisscrossing the sky, asking to be photographed.
Temperatures went as high as 84°F (29°C) yesterday, but today they are back down to 40°F (4°C), and it is very windy and cold. Even though I took the following photos last month and last week, they illustrate well this challenging weather we are having.
Hundreds of Great Egrets were still sleeping or waking up and preening at a pond at the refuge. It was a bit nippy and there was some fog and frost on the brown reeds. I had never seen that many Great Egrets in one place, but could not capture the entire flock in one photo.
All the birds were in their best breeding plumage and colors, with long white aigrettes that ladies at the beginning of the last century would have paid dearly to adorn their headdresses with.
Like many of us, whenever I see a colorful sunrise or sunset I try to take a picture of it, if possible. Since the refuge is where I go most often to shoot pictures, in the past several years I did manage to have some sunrise and sunset shots from that place.
The following photo was taken 14 minutes after the shot of the pinkish sunrise I posted here a few days ago at https://neihtn.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/fall-at-the-refuge
In the shot below, the sun hid behind thick clouds, but as it plunged below the horizon it produced magnificent colors ranging from blue and purple to red and yellow.
Egrets stayed around at the refuge later this year because the weather has been warmer than usual. Not today though as Artic air has brought temperatures to lows unheard of since the 1930’s. Anyway, last week I saw a Snowy Egret by Wildlife Drive at the refuge and stopped my car not more than 20 ft (6 m) from it.
Other cars then began stopping behind me, and the Snowy Egret decided it had enough and flew away.
Looking through my files, I saw the following photo taken in November 2014 at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I did not post it before, perhaps because at first glance it appeared too dark. But lighting was falling on the egret and not on the marshy background. So here it is.
Last week, at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I saw for the first time an American Avocet standing among other familiar birds. In fact I did not know what it was until I got home, saw a strange bird in the photo and looked it up.
The following photo is unusually wide so that all the Cormorants in that one spot can be seen.
Finally, many smaller birds were flying around: Grackles, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I did not get a good shot of the Red-winged Blackbirds, although they appeared to be leading packs of small birds around the marshes.
Unlike Great Blue Herons which prefer large fish, Great Egrets stick with smaller ones. The following Great Egrets each caught a small fish as I was photographing them. Looking closer at their photos, did they actually smile at the prospect of more food filling up their stomach?
There must have been at least a hundred Egrets and several Great Blue Herons at the refuge yesterday. They were very active fishing and flying from spot to spot, a golden opportunity for me to capture more BIF photos.
Here’s a sequence of a Great Blue Heron taking off.
Most of us are fascinated by photos of birds in flight (BIF), probably one of the hardest kinds of photography. Ever since I started to become serious in photography five years ago, I have occasionally attempted to shoot BIF pictures, most of the time with disappointing results. I still have a long way to go, but over the past few months I have kept the following photos to post.
The birds shown above are relatively large and easy to photograph. The hardest one, for me anyway, is the tiny but very fast Hummingbird.
As predicted, the eggs in the Night Heron nests have begun to hatch. I went to the Ocean City Welcome Center today to look at them, and saw little balls of fur moving while the parents were busy preening or redecorating their nests.
At another nest, the male heron brought a twig back.
At yet another nest, no eggs had hatched.
There were many other birds around the herons. I only managed to get shots of Ibises and Great Egret.
Snowy Egrets are probably among the best egrets at catching fish. Here’s a series of photos I took at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge last week when there were many of them, together with Great Egrets, flying around and fishing.
The Great Egrets were not so successful at finding fish. At least I did not see any of them catching anything while the Snowy Egrets were plucking fish now and then out of the same pond.
Around this time of the year, breeding season makes the Great Egret grow long feathers called aigrettes. Those were much in demand by women more than a hundred years ago, leading to the extermination of 95% of the Great Egret population by the end of the 19th century. Today, they are no longer an endangered species and can often be seen in wetlands in North and South America. The one pictured below was standing by itself, occasionally straightening his neck to look for fish.
Two days ago, a Great Blue Heron was stalking fish at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
I saw it repeatedly stab at something in the water, but never saw it catch anything, unless it swallowed its prey even before coming up for air.
Meanwhile, a nearby Great Egret had better luck and seemed to enjoy its tossed fish.
Monday was a cloudy and rainy day. At the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge a Great Egret was standing by himself, very dainty and haughty in full breeding plumage.
A family of Cannada Geese with nine goslings loved the weather and went in for a swim.
Of course, the goslings thoroughly enjoyed the water.
Spring means mating season for many birds, and to be at their best their feathers change to more vivid colors, their breeding plumage in other words. Here are a few photos of this phenomenon taken at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge within the past two weeks.
As its name implies, the Black-bellied Plover displays a black belly in breeding colors. Normally its belly is white.
The Willet is of a gray dull color when it is not breeding, otherwise it is mottled brown and much more noticeable.
Incidentally, in the 19th century people used to eat Willet eggs and meat for food, just like chickens. That brought this bird almost to extinction until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped that practice. Now it is abundant again and very striking when it flies with blank and white stripes on its wings.
The Great Egret is always white, but during breeding season it shows some green color on its face and it sports long plumes of feathers. Those airgrettes used to adorn ladies’ hats in the 19th century. That fashion craze led to a serious decline in egret population until the fad was eventually banned.
Yesterday at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, several egrets were standing enjoying the rising sun. They were wearing their breeding plumage with long airy feathers (see https://janthinaimages.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/she-sits-in-her-beauty-upon-her-nest/).
One was playing pickaboo as it preened itself.