I took my kids to visit their cousins who live near Barnegat. It was a bit warmer than it had been in previous days, so we decided to take a quick beach walk by the lighthouse. To our pleasant surprise, we were able to get a nice look at some Harlequin Ducks (both male and female), Greater Scaups and a female Long-Tailed Duck. I didn’t get the greatest pictures, but good enough to document a few “lifers” (the females).
Here are a few more visitors I have had the pleasure of seeing in my yard during this winter’s snow…
The male Goldfinches will be getting their beautiful bright yellow feathers as soon as the spring arrives. For now, they still have their winter colors.
This Song Sparrow was fun to watch as he “drank” the snow. It’s hard to see in this image, but he still has snow on his short bill.
The abundance of small birds in my yard also brings in some larger ones…. The Sharped-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks often dive in and chase the little ones in and out of the trees. It is very interesting to see, but I can’t help but wish for a failed attempt while I’m watching.
Other year-round visitors that spend a lot of time in my yard stuffing themselves full of sunflower seeds, is the Grey Squirrel. They wreak havoc on my feeders, but I enjoy their antics anyway!
It has been a cold winter with more snow than I expected. The snow makes driving more difficult, of course, and there have been an unusually high number of delayed openings and days off from school this season. Even though I have heard many people complain about the harsh weather and express their opinion that they are ready for spring, I can’t help but enjoy every snowfall we have had. I love the snow. I love the beauty of the snowflakes and the way the snow coats the trees and ground. If we are going to have the cold, we might as well have snow to accompany it. Along with the beauty of the snow, comes some wonderful nature photo opportunities….
I wanted to share a few images I shot today on my first just-for-fun photo outing in far too long. In January I decided to take several classes at one of our local colleges. I didn’t think it would be that difficult to add in a few classes to my already hectic life, but it was! Once involved in my classes, I realized that I would not be able to devote as much time to my family and my photography and do well in all aspects. So, photography had to get put on the “back burner” for a while. Fortunately the load has been lifted; as of this past Friday I am officially done with all classes and finals and back in photographic business!
I’d like to apologize to anyone that I have not gotten back to, who may have tried to reach me via email recently. Between being busy with school and getting a new computer, I have missed and lost many emails in the transition and have not had the time to find them and get back to everyone. Although my modified summer hours will begin as soon my children’s school year ends, I should have a little more time to work on my personal photography as well as take on more portrait sessions.
In the meantime, here is one set of the images I got today, “Dogwoods and Dandelion Seeds”….
An afternoon walk at Jacobsburg State Park to look for some Spring migrants, started and ended with a wonderful find… the Ovenbird. The Ovenbird is a small warbler that breeds in Pennsylvania (and many other surrounding states). It’s song, a loud “teacher, teacher, teacher”, can easily heard throughout the forests, but the bird itself is often difficult to get a glimpse of. I was lucky this past Wednesday when at the end of my walk (after hearing several right when I got out of my car and throughout the walk) I could hear two birds calling nearby, just off the edge of the trail. Finally after scanning the area with and without binoculars, I caught sight of one of these beautiful birds and was able to quickly capture a few nice images.
I also came across this poem about the Ovenbird, written by one of my favorite poets. Enjoy.
The Oven Bird
THERE is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
Spring is almost here! Now through the end of April 2011, you can purchase any of the following 3 different style packs of blank 4×5.5 nature notecards for only $15.00: “Damselflies & Dragonflies”, “Up Close & Floral” or “Nature’s Artwork”. Each of these come as a pack of 8 cards (two each of 4 different designs) and all feature locally taken images. Below are the styles that are on sale. Visit my main website to see additional available packs &/or to place your order. Or feel free to contact me via email for more information and to make a purchase.
Today was an extra special day for some of the hikers at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. My kids and I went for a hike on the main path towards the North Overlook and stopped at some of the other overlooks along the way. I was behind my kids as they approached the rocks at the end of the Appalachian Overlook. My son jumped off the large rock they were standing on and to his surprise landed right next to a large Timber Rattlesnake! The boys yelled to let me know it was a rattlesnake. I didn’t believe them at first (although they are very good at identifying wildlife), until I actually heard the loud rattle! So, of course, I asked them all to back away while I got close enough to see myself.
The rattlesnake was just lying there, coiled up halfway under that large rock. He would rattle his tail as we would approach, but did not even move his head to give us any real attention. His eyes were white, a sign that he was getting ready to shed his skin. From my past experience working with snakes at the Monmouth County Park System, I knew that also meant that the snake could be more irritable. (That was one reason we never used the snakes that were about to shed in our educational snake talks.) The Timber Rattlesnake grows to an average of 3-5 feet long. It is considered “seriously venomous” but its bite is not usually lethal. I have read that you can not count on this snake retreating or giving a warning rattle before it strikes. So, I guess my son was lucky today that this individual snake did not consider him a real threat when he landed near him and did give us a warning rattle to keep our distance, which we did for the most part. However, I did need to get a picture of our great find….
Even though I didn’t have the right lens with me for the job, I managed to get a few photos. I only had my one longer lens (better for the birds we were hoping to see), that can not focus when I am too close to my subject. I could not position myself very well on the rocks around the snake to get the picture I would have really liked. It would have been great to be able to stand directly above him on the big rock he was under and get the image with a view of both his eyes in the middle of his coiled body, but that was just too close for my lens. Still, I was happy to get any picture and we were just thrilled to see a Timber Rattlesnake in the wild.
Here is one of the shots I got. Also below is a neat picture of a Turkey Vulture. He actually flew slightly below us as we stood on the overlooking rocks. We saw several Turkey Vultures, a Broad-Winged Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Rufous-Sided Towhee, a Goldfinch and several Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (always a thrill to see!). The last image is one taken at the North Overlook. While we sat there watching for birds and eating our lunch, the winds and heavy clouds moved in and it was really quite a beautiful scene, (although the picture doesn’t do it justice). Every trip to Hawk Mountain turns out to be a wonderful day, but it will be hard to top the excitement of this hike!
I was able to capture this interesting view of a dragonfly on a trip to Florida visiting with friends. The image was taken in the natural area beyond their backyard where an alligator (or two) now resides. Dragonflies are my favorite insects. I love their delicate-looking wings and large eyes and the way they fly and can turn their heads. They are also beautiful and come in a great variety of colors. This “Green-Eyed Dragonfly” was hanging out on a branch in the wind and kept putting his wings down farther than I am used to seeing. He seemed to be staring right at me!
I entered the image in the Hillcrest Camera Club’s monthly nature competition for June as well as in the flickr “Wonderful World of Macro” insect-themed June competition. The image received a second place in both!