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.


More from my day at the Shore


A few more photos from my Sunday at the Shore.  This little fellow kept running past me, as Sanderling will do.

GBB Gull and Turnstone
Greater Black-backed Gull & Ruddy Turnstone

This Greater Black-backed Gull was enjoying some fresh fish, while a Ruddy Turnstone stayed close by looking for any opportunity to run in for a quick bite.  These Gulls are very, very large and will prey on smaller birds if given a chance.  The Turnstone kept a respectful distance but didn’t run too far away.

Photographers and Birders

It seemed to me that these folks were paying a lot of attention to this group of Turnstones.  Then I noticed the smaller, darker birds.

Purple Sandpiper with Ruddy Turnstones

A Purple Sandpiper was hanging out with this flock of Turnstones.  Purple Sandpipers are rare visitors to the Jersey Shore, but can often be found at Barnegat Lighthouse.


Spring is on the way!

Grassland Survey - Lakehurst NAS

I am so incredibly happy that this winter is finally coming to a close.  Unusual for me.  I typically enjoy all seasons and continue with my outdoor activities – hiking, birding, photography can be done anytime really.   This winter was challenging on several fronts with a combination of extraordinarily snowy weather and probably the worst cold I’ve had in years.   So I’m happy this year to kick February and the first part of March to the curb and start gearing up Spring.

 Good news arrived in the form of an e-mail a few days ago.  The New Jersey Audubon Society has begun planning for the grassland bird surveys and I’ve been selected to survey one of the very best grassland areas  in the state, Lakehurst NAS.   This photo of me was taken by one of the NJAS research scientist, Kristin Mylecraine, as I was walking out of the field after completing last year’s survey.   Because of the large open fields on either side of their runways, airports and military bases are considered some of the best remaining grassland areas in New Jersey and provides safe harbor for many species that have lost most of their habitat to development and changes in farming techniques. 

 Lakehurst is one of three surveys in which I take part.  I complete grassland surveys on several large farms in northwestern New Jersey and, along with my son, complete a nighttime survey of nightjars (whip-poor-wills, nighthawks) deep in the Pine Barrens.   And I’m planning other activities that’ll keep me outdoors and taking photos throughout the summer, including several guided walks through the pine barrens and a pinelands botany course run by another great organization, the Pineland Preservation Alliance.  

Finally, thanks to those of you in my new discussion group that have stopped by.  I’m going to spend some of this very rainy weekend catching up on your blogs and placing links on mine.  Happy Spring!!

Theme 161 – It’s Saturday Morning

Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning

I was in Boston a couple weekends ago with my wife and son.  Saturday morning we decided to take a walk along the Freedom Trail and enjoy Boston by foot.  As we entered Paul Revere park, I noticed this fellow feeding the pigeons.  He’d tear a piece of bread from the loaf, and then slowly, deliberately tear it into smaller pieces and toss it to the birds.  I watched him for a while and took several photos.  He glance up at me once or twice and didn’t seem to mind that I was there, as long as I didn’t disturb his small charges.  So I kept a respectful distance and smiled, and he fed the pigeons.

Wildlife Conservation Corps – Great Blue Heron Survey

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

I am a volunteer for the Wildlife Conservation Corps (WCC) for the  New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, which allows me to participate in Citizen Science programs for the New Jersey Audubon Society and other similar program.  This year I have signed on for a survey of nesting areas of Great Blue Heron and Black-Crowned Night-Heron for the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program.  There is concern as some studies suggest that there are declines in both species’ populations.  I have several nesting sites to visit during the next several months.  Hopefully, there will be plenty of parents and babies to count!

I took this photo last fall while watching a Great Blue Heron wading and fishing at one of the national wildlife areas in southern New Jersey.  There was no wind this day, resulting in calm and flat water and a pretty nice reflection.

Theme 283 – Silhouette

Morning Gull Flight
Morning Gull Flight

Early mornings and late afternoons are great times to find small flocks of gulls flying here or there.  I often wonder where they’re going.  I spotted this small flock early one morning while hiking through the pine barrens and, fortunately, was able to snap a quick shot as they flew by clouds lit brightly by the rising sun.

Theme 4 – A Pair Of……

Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Ducks

A pair of amorous male Harlequin Ducks faithfully pursued this female Harlequin Duck around Barnegat Lighthouse inlet.  I took this photo in early February from the jetty at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, around the time when these types of duck behaviours become more noticeable.  Harlequin Ducks winter in a few places along the Jersey shore.  Barnegat Lighthouse is one of the most reliable places to find them each year, attracting as many photographers as birders on sunny (and cold) winter mornings.