Yesterday, the silence was deafening! The 17-year cicadas were gone, and so was the noise they made. In our local paper, high school students were promoting cicadas as food, deep-fried or what not. Claims were made that these insects do not harm anything, but one look at our backyard convinced me otherwise. Many trees have clumps of dead leaves, as seen in the following shot of this year’s Paw-paw fruit.
Paw-paw with dead leaves left behind by cicadas.
Meanwhile Zinnias have started to bloom after the spring flowers like peonies were done with putting on their show.
Night heron babies are not among the cutest by any stretch! They do grow up to be very handsome adults, and require a lot of feeding for that. That’s why their parents come back every year to the rookery which is surrounded in all directions by an ocean brimming with crustaceans and fish.
In a nearby nest, a Black-crowned Night Heron juvenile was going through the same hunger pains.
The Ocean City Welcome Center was built as part of the Route 52 bridge that connects Ocean City, NJ to Somers Point, NJ. The 2.74 mi (4.41 km) bridge was built between 2006 and 2012, at a cost of $400 million.
A few days ago, I walked down to the bottom of the bridge. From the Welcome Center sidewalk, one would look down on the rookery with many trees where the herons, egrets, ibises and other birds nested. Few birds, if any, were nesting at the bottom. Most photographers stay on the pedestrian walk above the rookery.
There were ducks and night herons swimming and drinking from small depressions where rain water had accumulated.
When the weather is nice, the bridge is a very active place. Thousands of cars cross it every day, as do pedestrians (walkers and joggers) and cyclists. There is also an area in the middle of the above photo which is reserved for people who want to fish from the ocean.
With bright sunshine, white clouds on blue sky, bearable temperatures, and a cool breeze from time to time, it was a perfect day for photography. There were already about a dozen photographers with their massive long lenses pointed at various points of the rookery.
Except for the sleepy night herons, the birds were very active, flying in and out of the trees every minute or so. I ended up taking many more pictures of birds in flight than I had planned.
Last year I missed going to the rookery right next to the Ocean City Welcome Center in Cape May County at the southern end of New Jersey. Three days ago, I went there in mid season. The rookery was filled with many birds, some I had never seen before.
The night herons have built nests, incubated their eggs and some were busy raising the young ones. There were probably some nests well hidden behind tree branches and leaves, with eggs that had not hatched yet.
The night herons, as their names imply, are most active after dusk when their eyes serve them well. During the day they appear somnolent, almost lethargic, which of course is good for photography as they can hold their poses for a long time.
These herons migrate long distances to their nesting grounds in New Jersey, and they do look impressive in flight.
The Knock Out rose was introduced in 1989 by William Radler. It rapidly became a favorite rose for many as it proved to be sturdy, disease resistant, and also beautiful. In 2004, Double Knockout came out and we have been growing it for the past decade. All our other roses died for one reason or another, but we have two bushes of Double Knockout which are thriving. Japanese Beetles love them as food , but one or two traps seem to take care of that every year. So, here is my entry to Cee’s CFCC: Flowers:
This spring has been marked by rain and cool temperatures, and has thus prolonged the Brood X cicada season. They will live on a few weeks longer so that they can finish their mating activities and make sure, before they die, to give the world another generation in 17 years. I started seeing them in mid May, and as of now they are still singing incessantly during the day, the noise managing to penetrate closed windows and doors. Hopefully, that will end in another two weeks or so.
Our streets are littered with cicada shells and messy carcasses after they’ve been run over by cars. Our walls are sometimes covered with long rows of full-fledged cicadas. Fortunately, they don’t seem to eat any plant as they only spend their time and energy mating. Here are two pictures of them taken yesterday.
Some flowers have thrived, such as the white Bleeding Hearts pictured below.
In our vegetable garden most seeds have taken longer to sprout, but the tomato plants, bought from a big box store, are flowering and doing well.
Finally, a picture of East Point Lighthouse taken from a different perspective. This is how most people will see it as they arrive on site.
Six years ago, in 2015, I went to the East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville on the Delaware Bay coastline at the southern end of New Jersey. It is a small but working lighthouse which somehow survived Hurricane Sandy but was in danger of the next major storm as the sea continually eroded a sandy beach less than 100 ft (30 m) away.
Here are a couple of pictures taken in 2015.
Yesterday, I went back to see the lighthouse. Over the past several years, the Maurice River Historical Society which has managed the lighthouse since 1972, has done its best to restore the lighthouse. It definitely looks much improved from the outside.
To try and deal with the real danger of beach erosion and flooding, in 2019 the state of New Jersey spent $460,000 installing giant sandbags called geotubes on the beach near the lighthouse.
Critics say that the geotubes are not high enough to prevent waves at high tide from spilling over and flooding the lighthouse. In a major storm, all bets are off, and anything could happen.
In the meantime, New Jersey authorities and the Maurice River Historical Society are in a contract dispute, and the inside of the lighthouse is closed to all. Visitors could still come and walk around the beach to look at horseshoe crabs in their annual mating rituals.
On a sunny day, Sayen Gardens near our house displayed hundreds of deciduous Azalea bushes and small trees. Their colors were vibrant and sunlight was just about perfect in highlighting them.
This last one is a Columbine with colors rivaling those of the Azaleas.
Last Saturday was a very breezy and cold day, with wind chill temperatures below freezing. It was also low tide when the refuge did not offer its best views.
Most birds were sheltering from the wind and cold, although many Canada Geese were strolling around, showing off this year’s offspring. The Goslings were busy foraging and tasting food.
The Osprey nests were empty at first sight and, for a moment, I thought they had flown to warmer places. However, when looking again, I could see part of a head peeking out from one nest. A female Osprey was chirping, her head clearly visible as she scanned the sky for her mate. I decided to stop and wait, but kept my window closed because of the strong wind.
Suddenly I saw the male Osprey flying in with a fish in his talons. By the time I got the window rolled down and my camera out he was already landing on the female bird.
The next photos show the Osprey mating rituals which lasted less than a minute.
He landed a short distance away, watching her for a few minutes before flying off again, perhaps to find for more fish for her.
The Eastern Bluebird couple is well established near the birdhouse they have adopted for this year. The one they used last year remains empty at the moment, until some other bird moves in. The male still comes to our bay window once in a while to peck at his mirror rival! Otherwise, it is a slow wait until the eggs are hatched and incubation begins.
Of the two, the male seems to be very active defending their space.
The intruders are other birds that perch on the magnolia branch waiting their turn at the bird feeder. Some are quite handsome, like this House Finch below.
The Eastern Bluebird couple have returned and are busy rebuilding their nest inside a birdhouse that I cleaned up a few weeks ago. It stands right next to a small magnolia tree with yellow flowers.
I took these photos through our bay window only about four feet from the birdhouse. The male Bluebird kept coming to the window ledge and knocking on the glass with its beak throughout the day. I wonder if that was because he saw his reflection and thought he had a rival!
Yesterday our local temperature climbed to 80°F (26.67°C), the highest ever recorded for March 26th. Any snow still on the ground has already melted a few days earlier, and the crocus flowers wasted no time in coming up and bearing vibrant flowers. Here are some shots of those at the front of our driveway.
Last week the refuge conducted controlled burning of areas around the marshes to get rid of some invasive plants. That cleared quite a few of the bushes while leaving blackened spots where green shoots have already managed to come up. Hopefully they are not those pesky weeds that were supposed to burn.
There was a male Red-winged Blackbird singing gleefully in a reedy area. I tried to follow it for a few minutes as it switched spots before finally finding a suitable perch and belted its song, spreading and puffing its feathers to impress potential mates.
Tuesday I went to the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to find it closed because they were conducting controlled burns of invasive plants along the marsh edges. Rather than going home, I drove one more hour to get to the Cape May Lighthouse at the southern tip of New Jersey.
I walked down to the beach and saw a strange bunker, a World War II relic slowly being reclaimed by the ocean.
The bunker was used to defend against a possible German invasion! It had four 155 mm artillery pieces which had never been fired and were removed many years ago.
Nearby there were several small ponds where swans and various ducks were swimming and feeding.
Sparrows and one Northern Mockingbird kept flying around me as if wanting their pictures taken.
There were several bushes of holly laden with gloriously red berries.
The colorful Northern Shovelers are one of the more common ducks throughout the world. During the winter at the refuge, there are at least several hundreds of them foraging for food in the marshes with their typically long bills (2.5 inches or 6.35 cm).
In the US, during duck hunting season, an average of 700,000 Northern Shovelers are brought down each year! Yet, they are not on the endangered species list. Here are some recent photos of them at the refuge.
A young squirrel was looking hungrily at our squirrel-proof birdfeeder.
At the refuge, a Turkey Vulture was flying in the clear blue sky.
After a while, it landed not too far away and I drove there to shoot many photos of it. It is not the best looking bird but it is probably the best scavenger, cleaning up the countryside of road kills and dead animals that it sees or smells from high above.
As I write this, snow is falling steadily outside, with as much as 9 inches (about 23 cm) expected, and another snowstorm is forecasted for this weekend.
Recently, I saw the following Bluebird at the refuge. It came back too early and looked disappointed at the cold and bleakness of winter.
Nearby, a Great Blue Heron who did not migrate offered some advice.
Hooded Mergansers, especially males with their fan-shaped crest, look dashing in the waters of the refuge. A few days ago, one of them was swimming by himself among several ducks.
He kept diving for food, small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, although I did not see him with any in his bill.
It happened to be windy that day, and when he came up strong wind gusts played freely with his crest.
Finally, the wind subsided a little, and he regained his normal looks.
Last December 21st I went out at night to photograph the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon. There were too many clouds for that, but after a few minutes the clouds cleared just enough to allow me this last photo for the year.
Three days ago, I went out on a sunny day to the refuge for my first shoot of 2021 to be greeted by this sandpiper.
Buffleheads are the smallest diving ducks in North America, often seen at the refuge in late fall and winter. In early December of 2020 I saw one male and two female Buffleheads there.
The male gave a signal and all three of them decided to take off, giving me a unique opportunity to capture them in flight.
I took the following photos on October 1st, 2019 but did not post them as I temporarily stopped blogging to concentrate on finishing my second book. Now, more than a year later, here they are. A large group of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets (with the black bills) was taking off at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Never had I seen so many flying together.
Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts was completed in 2017. Since that time, I have been meaning to go there and photograph it, but because it was so close to home, guess what, it took me three years to finally do it. The following photos show what it looked like in early afternoon last Sunday.
I did not go inside any of the buildings which were built with esoteric materials including 21-million-year-old Lecce Stone from Italy. I would have liked to see how geothermal wells have been used to heat and cool the complex, but maybe another time. This new art center took $330 million dollar to build, including costs associated with relocating the Dinky train station and a WaWa convenience store pictured below.