Birding Again

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American Bittern

I really enjoy birding (or bird watching, if you like that term better).  However, I had very little spare time to get outdoors and bird while I was completing my master’s degree.  That changed a couple weeks ago and I took my first opportunity to visit a favorite spot – Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge includes an eight mile wildlife drive that, sadly, was mostly closed for repairs.  However, there were still some really good birds along the parts that were open, including this very cooperative American Bittern.

 

 

 

 

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Life Gets Busy – Sometimes

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Happy New Year’s Eve!  It has been a few months since my last post and, yep, it has been busy.  But I am missing my blog and that’s probably a good thing.  As I make up the list of stuff I want to change for 2016, being here a bit more ranks very high.

Here’s a shot of one of my favorite lighthouses – Barnegat Light.  I was there a few days ago with a group of friends, birding along the bay.  The weather patterns of the past few weeks have been very unusual, unusually warm, and the “regular” winter birds were not there in the number or variety that we anticipated. Still, it was a very good day – a bad day of birding is better than a good day at work!

I will get deeper into the reasons for my absence in following posts.  Until then – I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Marsh Birding

 

Wet areas like marshes and swamps are extremely productive for a variety of plants and animals, especially birds.  Many species of birds live out their entire lives near these wet areas.  Here is a juvenile Black-crowned night-heron which, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, is one of the most wide spread species in the world.  According to Cornell,  “With a range that spans five continents, including much of North America, the Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world. It is most active at dusk and at night, feeding in the same areas that other heron species frequent during the day.”

This young fellow simply stood on the mudflat and watched me as I took several photos.  He didn’t seem at all preturbed by my presence or any of the dozens of cars which drove by while I observed him.

Double-crested cormorant is another common species along the New Jersey shore.  These birds are experts at fishing but must leave the water periodically to allow their feathers to dry.  Unlike most other water fowl, their feathers lack the natural oils that would help keep them afloat.   As they remain in the water, they slowly become less bouyant and will gradually begin to sink.  You can tell how long a cormorant has been fishing by how much of his body remains above the water’s surface.  Looks like these two were just getting started.

Clapper rails are very secretive bird and are much more often heard than seen.  However, at low tide , you might get lucky enough to find one foraging along the water’s edge – like this fellow.  The body of Clappers, like many of the rails, are laterally compressed  so that they appear very thin for their height.  Ever heard the saying “thin as a rail”? 

This bird hung out for quite some time along the water’s edge and allowed me to capture this image.  All together, a pretty neat day in the marsh!

Osprey

A few weeks ago I spent the morning exploring the wildlife drive at Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Oceanville, New Jersey and was happy to spy this beautiful adult Osprey keeping watch over a fledgling still in the nest.   While their numbers have been rebounding lately, this was still a very challenging year for Osprey nesting in South Jersey.

During the early morning hours of June 30th this year, a line of severe thunderstorms sweep through several counties of southern New Jersey.  Called a derecho, the storms severely damaged homes, ripped up trees, and tore down power lines with wind gusts that exceeded hurricane strength.

The timing of these storms could not have been worse for nesting Osprey, who were right in the middle of their breeding season.  Volunteers from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey rushed out to find several young Osprey blown from their nests.  For a fortunate few, volunteers arrive before they succumbed to exposure or predators.  Returned to their nests, many of the young survived and this one appeared nearly ready to take flight on the day of my visit.

Kudos to the Conserve Wildlife volunteers!!

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmers are summer residents of the Jersey shore, breeding in areas protected from beach goers and pets. I usually find them in late summer as they are preparing for their long commute to winter homes along the shores of Central and South America.  Skimmers feed by flying near the top of the water with their lower bill partly submerged. An encounter a small fish causes the Skimmer to snap shut its bill, hopefull catching a tasty meal.

According to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, “the remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper.”   I watched several Skimmers feeding in the shallow waterways of Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago and managed to snap some photos as they skirted along the water’s surface.  Their flight is deceptively fast, so tracking them with the camera was a challenge.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Dickcissel is a small, sparrow-sized bird found during breeding season in prairie grasslands of the United States.  Rarely, a few will make their way as far east as New Jersey, especially when environmental factors stress the species’ breed population, like a prolonged drought in their primary breeding area.

This beautiful bird has been hanging out in the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge for the past several days.  I don’t often have success when I chase rarities, but today was an exception and I got great looks of this fellow.  He spent lots of time in the open, singing away.

Pretty bird!!