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.

 

 

 

 

Damsels and Dragons

I have been noticing large numbers of damselflies and dragonflies lately.  I am not that great at identifying them, but I love to photograph them.   I learned recently that dragonflies in particular are protective of their territory and will come back to perch in nearly the same spot over and over.

Now, when I flush a dragonfly, I’ll hang out near the same spot and wait for it to return.  To my surprise, they really do tend to come back to the same spot.  When I approach them slowly, a step or two at a time, I’ve found that dragonflies are pretty tolerant of my presence.

I love the coloring of this damselfly, a bluet but I really have no idea which one.  I suppose I ought to dust of my dragonfly and damselfly guide and get busy learning to identify these interesting bugs.

In the meantime, if you know the identities of these three, could you leave a comment with the identification?  If it helps, I photographed them at Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Management Area in mid-July in southern New Jersey.   Thanks!

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.