South Cape May Meadows – Part 1

After dinner on the first full day of the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival, we headed over to South Cape May Meadows, 200 acres near Cape May Point that is owned by The Nature Conservancy. There are two Purple Martin houses near the entrance; I photographed the birds and the ‘green roof’ of the nearby shed while we waited for our group to accumulate.

There were active Black Skimmers on the wetlands. It will take some practice (and more magnification) to truly capture the action. The Canada goose provides a good comparison for size in this sequence.

I caught a portrait of a skimmer that was momentarily still a little later

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And a shimmer showing off its wings as the light was fading.

Tomorrow’s post will continue the sights from our late-in-the-day visit to South Cape May Meadows.

Belleplain State Forest

We got up at 3:30 AM to get to our first organized field trip of the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival by 5:30 AM – a very early start to the day at Belleplain State Forest.  As the sun came up, the forest was full of bird song. We heard a lot of birds…saw fleeting glimpses of a few. I am in awe of people that can identify birds by simply hearing them! I enjoyed the morning light for photography of the forest itself while I listened to the birds and tried to spot them with my binoculars.

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The mountain laurels were in all stages of their bloom. They like the shade under oaks but sometimes the sunlight streamed through the canopy to spotlight the clusters of blooms. The buds look very pink…the petals make a ‘balloon’ before they open into the full flower that looks white with red specks.

On one of the early stops – before it was fully light – I noticed a tree full of burls. These are swellings in the trunks or big limbs of trees that are covered by bark. They are part of the tree’s response to stress like injury or disease. Because of the number of them in this case, it’s more likely to be a disease of some kind.

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The only easy birds to photograph during the trip were some Canada Geese (with goslings) on a small lake.

The lighting makes quite a difference. I liked the green background but the painterly look (nearer the limit of the digital zoom) of the bright picture is also appealing.

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There was moss growing over the roots of a tree near a lake – a carpet melded to every nook and cranny of the surface with the roots on the surface showing through.

Some Virginia Creeper was growing on a stop sign.

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There were wet woods along the road. Some frogs croaked. There were water bugs on the surface – interference patterns and the tree reflections.

One of my favorite pictures of the morning was the tip of a pine branch – dying or dead – spotlighted – surrounded by green.

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 Overall – it was a great morning to be out in the forest – getting a fill of the forest before be headed to the shore.

Three Water Birds at Centennial Park

Last week my husband wanted to try out some new camera gear and decided to do it at Centennial Park. I tagged along to do some photography myself.  The lake is settling into winter.

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I saw three birds on the water.

Canada geese were the most numerous although still a smaller number than I often see. The water was high in the lake and   the stone jetty near the boat launch (closed for the winter) was partially submerged. A goose stood on one – like a game of ‘king of the hill’ with the other geese.

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There was a female bufflehead was periodically visible. Buffleheads are diving ducks that are very hard to photograph while they are feeding.

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I managed to capture a sequence of the bird just after it surfaced…and then it dove again!

The third bird I saw on the water was a female common merganser. This bird was not feeding but quickly swam further away than I could follow with my zoomed lens.

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That was it – less that a dozen Canada geese and then two lone ducks!

Walking back toward the car, I photographed some old birds nest fungus. There were still some ‘eggs’ in some of them…but probably thoroughly dried out by now.

There was also a very robust lichen on a dogwood tree. With all the extra rain we have recently the lichens and mosses are bigger and brighter than usual.

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Josey Ranch Birds – Part II

There was finally another sunny day in Carrollton TX and I headed over to Josey Ranch Park again. I was lucky enough to arrive about the same time two women arrived with food for the birds. Two swans were at the boardwalk before the women could make their way from the parking lot to the boardwalk; the swans must recognize the signs of a forthcoming meal. The pigeons and seagulls flew in quickly.

After the crowd of birds gathered to enjoy the feast – the coots seemed to be arguing – chasing each other and churning the water. The northern shovelers in the background did not hurry over like the other birds.

How many birds can you identify in this picture? (see the bottom of this blog post for the most prominent ones). This is a good picture to see the relative size of the birds as well.

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There are not very many mallards at the lake this time of year. The light changes the green coloring of their head; sometimes the feathers look black!

Lesser Scaups are more prevalent.

The Great Egret is there every time ago – must be a resident.

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Pigeons are on the roof of the nearby senior center and library except with there is food! Iridescent neck feather and red eye – oh my!

The Northern Shovelers are not quite as numerous as the Lesser Scaups and they seem relatively used to people being about.

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I managed to get a seagull taking off from the lake – watch the one to the center right.

Birds in the ID quiz picture: swan (partial) on the far left, Canada geese in the upper third, ducks with large bills and rust colored sides are male Northern Shovelers, ducks with light sides and brown heads (yellow eyes) are male Lesser Scaups, coot in lower right (black with pointy beak), pigeon (partial) on bottom margin, gull?  Inflight in the upper left.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part I

After the sadness of seeing the dead crow, I headed over to the Josey Ranch Lake to see the birds that were still very much alive. The day was still cloudy…but the birds didn’t seem to care.

There were Lesser Scaup – which I had seen during precious visits to Carrolton during the winter and early spring (February 2015, January 2017, and March 2017).

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The Northern Shovelers are there for the winter as well.

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The Great Egret is there all through the year.

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As are the Mute Swans.

Canadian geese are not as common. I had not seen them before this year at this small lake in Texas.

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American Coots and pigeons were plentiful and sometimes were in mixed groups on the shore.

The sea gulls – far from any sea – seem happier on the water.

Festival of the Cranes – part 9

After the Raptor ID tour, we had lunch then rested at our hotel until time for the ‘fly in’ at sunset. It was the only day we managed to be available at that time.  We decided to observe from the ponds along the refuge’s wildlife loop. There were other people that had the same idea but not enough to make it crowded. There was a crowd of snow geese already on the water and feeding on shore as well. I find myself drawn to the blue morphs…just to see something other than white mounds.

By the time the sandhill cranes started coming in it was too dark to get good pictures at the water level. I took a few images with the evening light…birds – cliffs – trees.

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Some Canadian geese were seeking their evening roost as well.

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Right before we left – I too a picture of the moon…pretty good shot for a bridge camera on a monopod!

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Zooming – October 2018

The fall foliage had not been as colorful as usual this fall…but there has still been a lot to see outdoors – aided my the zoom on my camera: Canadian geese, a common buckeye butterfly, webs of funnel spiders on a root ball of an overturned tree, colorful ferns, milkweed seeds spilling out, tiny mushrooms in mulch, a spider web highlighted by water droplets, and a female cardinal with fluffed feathers. Enjoy the slide show!

Foggy Morning at Centennial Park

Earlier this week, I enjoyed doing some photography at Centennial Park on a foggy morning. The lake was a little high from the recent rains and the fog muted the colors of the trees (still mostly green).

I stopped at a dogwood tree to capture the buds for next season and the seeds from this year.

There were some colorful leaves that showed up better at close range.

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There were some fall flowers at the edge of the lake – somewhat protected from the water run off by a large rock.

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There were not very many birds around:  a few Canadian geese on the lake

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And a mockingbird. Note the small spider web in the picture with the mockingbird.

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The spider webs and small mushroom growing on rotting mulch were the photographic high points of the walk. I post more about them next week.

Belmont BioBlitz Field Trip

I went early to help set up for the first Belmont BioBlitz for 5th graders this fall at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. I arranged the discovery tables with pelts, skulls, insects in jars/acrylic, and leaves/seeds of common trees neatly framed in cases backed with cotton. Another table held reference books. The volunteers arrived and we all went out to wait for the buses. The new item for this year is a rugged tablet! Otherwise we had the usual BioBlitz backpack: ruler, tape measure, magnifiers, clip boards, some id books…things we would need in the field.

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It’s good to feel that we are ready – and enjoy the morning calm as we wait for the buses.

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And then the buses arrive and it all begins.

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With my first group we stayed on pavement since we had one student with a cast and were using a wheel chair for her to help with the distance. We documented some trees along the entrance road and some insects on the trunks. Some geese flew to the pond as we watched, and I used the zoom on my camera to take some pictures to include with their documentation. It was the only time I got my camera out during the field trip. Otherwise the students did all the picture taking and documenting of what they found. The big find for the first group was a wolf spider.

The second group went in a different direction and said – at the beginning – that they wanted to look at plants and fungi. They documented an oak and the ivy growing on it. Then they found several kinds of mushroom type fungi. And there were some insects along the way…they were more interested than they thought they would be in insects. They were looking around for acorns and discovered a different kind of nut….and then the tree. A hickory. They got some good pictures of the nuts and leaves, and the way the leaves are on the branch…so they should be able to determine the type of hickory it is!

It was a good field trip. All the students had already done a BioBlitz on their schoolyard so were well versed with the mechanics of what to do. Belmont is a very different place than a schoolyard!

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens – Part 2

We saw quite a few animals among the plants at Kenilworth last Saturday. The dragonflies were not quite as numerous as they will be later when the lotuses are blooming. There wasn’t as much vegetation for them to set on either. The best shot I got of one was on the path.

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There was a scruffy looking Great Blue Heron on a path as well. It was preening and then spread its wings – stretching. I was surprised it did not fly away --- but maybe it did not notice we were around. There were not many people in the garden when we first got there.

A little further along a snapping turtle crossed the path to get to another pool. We let it continue along its way. It was bigger than a dinner plate!

As we were walking back toward the entrance after our trek on the boardwalk over the flood plain of the Anacostia River, we saw a muskrat in on of the water lily ponds. It looked like it was eating a tuber. Hopefully the animals do not take a big toll on the water lilies and lotuses of the garden.

Close to the visitor center there was a group of Canadian geese – adults and large goslings. We gave them plenty of room since the parents can be very aggressive if they have their young. We managed to not be attacked!