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.
Starting in late summer, when you drive on Wildlife Drive, flocks of birds often fly in and out of both sides of the road in front of you. There could be hundreds of them, and they are mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, and sparrows, sometimes mixed together. The moment you stop your car to look closer, the birds land and disappear in the dried reed and grasses. Last week I stopped long enough to find them and take some photos.
Finally, a European Starling perched above the reeds, on a road sign.
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.
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.
I took the following photos today while visiting the Great Swamp of New Jersey, on a very windy and cold day. There were not too many birds or animals around, but some may be good eye candy for the weekend.
A Chipmunk ran across my path then took refuge in a tree hole.
The American Goldfinch stands out with its bright yellow coloring in Spring and Summer. The rest of the year, when they are not breeding, their colors are more subdued, even drab, although they still remain very cute.
Another ubiquitous bird is the Red-winged Blackbird.
The female Red-winged Blackbird does not have that red and yellow patch on her wings.
In the fall, Red-winged Blackbirds often join with European Starlings to form flocks of birds that roam through refuges, importuning even Bald Eagles.
The smaller birds temporarily took over a favorite perch of the Bald Eagles at Blackwater NWR.
Finallly, many flocks of Canada Geese flew over the non-migrating Bald Eagle.
Black-crowned Night Herons are a major presence at the rookery next to the Welcome Center at Ocean City, NJ. These birds hunt for their food starting at dusk, and their eyes are one of their most noticeable features.
Despite their size these Herons are easily intimidated by the Red-winged Blackbird, a fierce defender of its territory. I saw a Blackbird chase a Heron into a tree.
Pursued by the Blackbird, the Heron tried to hide among the branches. Unfortunately, too many leaves shielded the small Blackbird from the camera.
Red-winged Blackbirds are everywhere at the refuge, with the male birds sporting red and yellow shoulder badges. This time of the year the males fly to find high perches from which they belt out their incessant songs. They show no fear of cars and humans, and are easy to photograh.
The male Red-winged Blackbird is easily recognized by his red and yellow shoulder patches and his propensity to sing for any reason from the top of reeds or bushes. I saw the one pictured below at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland more than a week ago. He was not shy, stood his ground, and continued serenading even as my car came nearer to him.
Going through my files from this past June, I found the following series showing a Red-winged Blackbird dive-bombing a Black-crowned Night Heron that had strayed too close to its nest. This all happened in less than a minute near the Ocean City Welcome Center in New Jersey.
The Red-winged Blackbird, an ubiquitous bird in North America, likes to sing. The other day I saw and heard one belting out a famous aria.
My apologies to Puccini and any opera lover that I may have offended. If you want to hear a human tenor sing E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, here’s the best:
Last September, flocks of red-winged blackbirds were swooping up and down around me at the Abbott Marshlands. A few landed close by and I took the following shot of a juvenile blackbird. Note the more mature bird with more brilliant coloring beyond it.
Many mourning doves live in our area, and here are two examples.
In early October, I was hiking at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge when a skunk crossed the road and scurried toward me, coming as close as 30 ft. Uh, oh! I stopped and squeezed a few shots, including the one below. Fortunately, the skunk went back into the bushes and did not spray anything. However, it was an omen. The following day, I was told that my job had been eliminated.