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Scarlet Tanager

Hi there! Confession time: Until recently, I mistakenly thought the most beautiful birds could only be found in the tropics, or at least anywhere BUT the mid-Atlantic U.S. I thought the only wild red bird in the midatlantic was the northern cardinal. While the northern cardinal is an absolutely gorgeous bird, it is quite common. When I found out there is another red bird, the scarlet tanager, I really wanted to find one.

Scarlet Tanager, Wheaton Regional Park

Look at this fella, with his red body, black wings and tail feathers. A few weeks ago, my friend and I were at a local park that was reporting high numbers of warblers. We were on our way back to the parking lot feeling quite satisfied, when a fellow birder pointed out this scarlet tanager high in a tree. What a gift to see this amazing bird!

If you are interested in finding a scarlet tanager, it is helpful to be able to recognize it’s song. They seem to like to hang out on leafy trees, making it difficult to visualize them simply by looking around. But if you HEAR the bird, you can have a better idea where to look. Be patient; it’s worth it!

Here’s a link to All About Birds website to hear the scarlet tanager song: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Scarlet_Tanager/sounds

Scarlet Tanager, Wheaton Regional Park, MD

“…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

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Cedar Waxwing

Hi there! One of my goals for this spring was to get a decent photo of a cedar waxwing. Just one was all I wanted. Finally got my wish. Here are some of the best ones:

Cedar Waxwing, Wheaton Regional Park, MD

Cedar waxwings look airbrushed, don’t they? From a far distance, you might think it’s a female cardinal, but up close, whoa! Very different!!

Cedar Waxwing, Wheaton Regional Park, MD

In the photo above, look at the yellow-tipped tail. The next things you may notice are his mask, his crest and yellow belly. Do you see the little bit of red on the wing? They usually travel in groups; so where you see one, there are probably more close by. They eat mostly insects and berries. Maybe it’s time to plant something that produces berries to attract these amazingly beautiful birds! Their sound is also distinct. Audubon describes it as a “thin lisp” and is a very high-pitched sound. The way they fly is distinct as well. I’ve learned a lot from experienced birders regarding bird behavior, including flight behavior. When cedar waxwings fly, it’s in a graceful arc or circular pattern.

Just this morning, my friend and I were talking about how relaxing birding is. It feels like a meditation. While birding, I don’t seem to worry about anything. Oftentimes I find myself silently thanking God for His creation, for the blessings of nature. I express to Him my gratitude for this life and this bountiful place in which I get to live.

What are you thankful for today? I’d really like to know! Do you like it when someone expresses appreciation for something about you or something you’ve done? Isn’t there something encouraging about it when it is shared? I imagine our Heavenly Father likes our positive feedback, too, because He loves us so much!

Cedar Waxwing, Wheaton Regional Park, MD

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Beautiful Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, MD

What a beautiful bird the Orchard Oriole is! I had not seen one in the wild before this spring. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, in Cambridge, MD, was chock full of them!!

Female Orchard Oriole, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, MD

Above is a female orchard oriole. As you can see, the male is a chestnut and black, while the female is a gold/olive color. What a pretty pair they make!

Orchard Oriole, Lake Hallowell, Olney, MD

The orchard oriole is a little smaller than the Baltimore oriole. They migrate in flocks in spring and late summer.

Is there a bird on your bucket list? This was one of mine and was such a blessing to get such good looks at them & even some pictures.

Next time, another bucket list bird! Stay tuned…

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Spring Has Sprung for the Baltimore Oriole!

It’s been TOO long since I’ve posted! My “new normal” has caused many changes in my day-to-day life these days. But the birding has not stopped and there is a lot of catching up to do!! It seems fitting to begin with a good ol’ Maryland bird, the Baltimore oriole.

Male Baltimore Oriole

Look at this beauty! It seems to be a really good year for orioles in Maryland. Goody for us!! Have you seen a more beautiful bird? Last year, I felt very lucky to get a glimpse of two Baltimore Orioles. This year, everywhere I go birding there is at least one!

The above bird looks like a female Baltimore oriole right? Wait…

See the little dark splotches on his throat? Nope, this is no female. The above bird is an immature/juvenile MALE Baltimore oriole. I really thought it was a female when looking at it with my naked eye.

Above is also a male. See, he is a little less bright orange and he may also be a little younger than the bird in the first photo. Springtime is so interesting, bringing so many birds through Maryland at different stages in life, development and breeding plumage.

During this last year, I’ve learned that when times get difficult, I look UP (literally and figuratively). I look up high into the trees where orioles like to perch. I look to the sky, to God in the heavens, for help when I need it. Have you been looking up for comfort, encouragement, protection lately?

I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine Psalm 50:11

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Eastern Screech Owl

Hi there! It’s been awhile since my last post. But now, I’m ready to get going with some great new posts!! I took these photos back in November and it has taken this long to work through the hundreds of pics to share the best with you.

Eastern Screech Owl Red Morph, Lewes, DE

Three of us were going about our business, doing a little birding, when we met a nice couple who shared about this owl just a short drive away. Unfortunately, we have forgotten their names. After a bit, we decided to seek out this little fella. We drove to the site & fortunately, the couple was there already and guided us to the perfect spot! The above photo gives a sense of how far away this little eastern screech owl was. We would never have found him without the help of others.

As novice bird photographers, we began shooting pics like crazy, not paying any attention to the shadowy conditions. But then the gentleman who became our “guide” had pointed out that the light was changing and would soon be much better for photography. He was not kidding! What a difference light makes.

Eastern Screech Owl Red Morph, Lewes, DE

Eastern screech owls are only about 10″ long. They are often more of a gray or brown color but this one is a “red morph.” Despite their name, screech owls don’t screech. As with other owls, this one is nocturnal, hence his sleepy eyes. Come dusk, I’m sure this little guy perked up for a little evening munching.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve only seen two or three wild owls in my lifetime. Apparently, owls of varying types are all around if we just look in the right places for them. Experts say as you walk through or near wooded areas, look for holes in trees for owls and you just might spot one. Give it a try and let me know what you find!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

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Happy New Year!

Before saying goodbye to 2020, here is 35Sparrows year in review. Enjoy!

Song Sparrow by Amy Christianson
Mallard Ducklings

Welcome 2021! Thank you so much for following my blog & commenting. This has been a fun journey. Looking forward to sharing more bird & nature pics with you!!

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Very Special Pine Siskins!

One day this fall, looking out the window, I saw a flock of small, heavily-streaked birds with just a touch of yellow on their wings. They were a little like goldfinches, but not really. A quick search revealed these birds were pine siskins! You may ask, “What is so special about pine siskins?”

Pine Siskin

Pine siskins are finches that breed in northern North America. Some years they may migrate in small numbers and therefore bird watchers don’t have much opportunity to see them. Other years, very large flocks migrate south, affording more chances to get a good look at them. 2020 has been a significant migration year!

Pine siskins

Above is a small flock feeding from a nyjer seed feeder. Pine siskins forage together, eating mostly seeds and vegetation, but will also snack on insects. They feed in trees, shrubs and among weeds. They may be seen hanging upside down in order to reach a hard-to-reach nibble.

Pine Siskin

These birds are pretty vocal, making choruses of little buzzing sounds. They can be seen among groups of goldfinches, making identification just a little more challenging.

Pine Siskin

I included the above photo to show this particular bird has quite a bit more yellow than the others. The amount of yellow seems to be variable from bird to bird.

2020 has been a year of crisis, stress and isolation for many of us. It has also been a time of change with opportunities to develop resilience. Are you surprised by how adaptable you turned out to be? While we have been busy adapting to a new way of life, the pine siskins decided to take a nice long fall migration trip. What a blessing to be able to witness them as they passed through!

Today, I am feeling thankful for the birds who have helped me get through a long rough patch in life. I am also very thankful to God for never changing, even when our world around us is in a constant state of change! Our creator never gives up on us, never stops loving us, no matter what we do to mess everything up.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Hi again! What do you think of as a happy surprise? Finding a $50 bill on the sidewalk? Looking up at night to see a shooting star? An unexpected visit from an old friend? Well, I would be thrilled with any of those things. But my FAVORITE happy surprise is going on a walk or hike and seeing a bird I didn’t expect to see!

Red-tailed Hawk Lake Frank, Rockville, MD

Look. at. this. beautiful.bird! One dreary Saturday morning, cloudy and a little foggy, we were walking around a local lake and…Bam! A large hawk, a beautiful hawk sitting in a tree pretty close to the trail. So relaxed, looking at us while we looked at him or her. See it’s right foot poking out from under it’s belly feathers?

Red-tailed Hawk, Lake Frank, Rockville, MD

Look at this face! The beak goes from midnight to yellow. The gold eyes. The mottled-looking brown and white feathers. Such a beauty. What fun to photograph this bird!

Red-tailed Hawk, Lake Frank, Rockville, MD

The red-tailed hawk is the most widespread large hawk in North America. They have a very shrill cry. Males and females both build their nests and incubate their eggs. The male brings most of the food to the nest while the female feeds it to their young.

Red-tailed Hawk, Lake Frank, Rockville, MD

Today marks the third week in Advent and the theme is “joy.” What brings you joy? Can you think of a way to bring joy to another this Christmas season? The holiday season has always been known to affect some in a sad or negative way and with all that’s going on at the moment, those people are more vulnerable than ever. Let’s resolve to be kind in the coming weeks, even when it’s hard.

Be blessed!

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Beautiful Mallards

Mallards are pretty plentiful anywhere you go. Their beauty can be taken for granted. I don’t normally go out of my way to photograph them. But this day the light was so good!

Male Mallard, Lake Hallowell, MD

Look at how the sunlight reflects the iridescence of this male’s head feathers!

Female Mallard, Lake Hallowell, MD

And look at this exquisite lady! Every feather is perfect. Mallards pair up in fall and winter, which explains why so many mallard couples are swimming around our local lakes this time of year.

Do you remember Daffy Duck? The mallard quack reminds me of Daffy duck’s quack… or maybe a raspy old man’s laugh. Mallards are omnivorous, eating mostly vegetation but also insects.

Male Mallard, Lake Hallowell, MD

I can’t believe how this duck’s head feathers reflect the sunlight. Can you imagine a world where everyone reflects God’s light outward to those around them? During this season of giving, consider giving more of yourself to others.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

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Assateauge Island, MD

It’s been awhile since my last post. Been having computer issues but now I’m back! Been going through some older photos I thought you might like, but also working on some recent ones to share with you very soon.

Three years ago we visited Assateague Island, MD, famous for it’s wild ponies. Looking back at my photos makes me want to go back! There is also Chincoteague Island, VA, which is also famous for it’s wild ponies and their annual pony swim and auction. These two islands, I believe, are actually ONE island, but half is in one state, half in the other.

Assateague Island is maintained in it’s natural state as much as is possible. The horses/ponies roam freely and are seen in the grassy areas as well as on the beaches! The ponies graze on the salty grasses, which is why they have more rounded, bloated bellies than what we normally see in domesticated horses. Aren’t they beautiful in their natural state, though??

Tricolor Heron, Assateague Island, MD

But it’s not just ponies on Assateague! I was not into birding when these photos were taken, but was fascinated by this beauty. Today, I’d do just about anything to spot a tricolored heron!

Tricolored Heron, Assateague Island, MD

Not sure what made him fluff his head feathers out like this–something exciting going on behind the tall grasses I guess!

Have you read the children’s book, Misty of Chincoteague? I still have my tattered book from childhood & plan to read it again soon.

NOTICE: I am thinking of discontinuing my Facebook account & want to give you advance warning. So, if you receive links to my blog through FB, please make sure to follow me directly through WordPress or through Instagram, okay? I don’t want to lose my connection with you!

Be blessed & see you next time!

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Black Crowned Night Heron

Awhile back I posted a photo of a juvenile black crowned night heron.

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

Maybe the coolest-looking bird I have seen up-close in the last few months. Now, I can share with you a photo of an adult black crowned night heron!

Black Capped Night Heron, Cape May, NJ

Can you believe the difference between the young and the adult?? The adult black capped night heron measures 23″-28″. These birds migrate, sometimes short distances, sometimes travel quite far. Those who reside in warmer climates may not migrate at all. Interestingly, they nest on every continent except Antarctica & Australia.

Why is this bird called a “night” heron? Well, while they sit around in trees near water by day, they become more active in the evening. They fly, forage and feed at night. Fascinating, right?!?

When are YOU more active? Are you a morning person or a night person?? What do you think makes you the person you are–genetics or environment? I used to be a believer in nurture outweighing nature, but as time has gone on, I have flipped to thinking genes have more to do with who we are than I ever thought before.

I sincerely wish for you to ponder the person you are, not your challenges and struggles, but how wonderfully made you are! Think about the talents you have (yes, you DO have talents and wonderful qualities because you were made in the image of God Himself!) Are you artistic, musical, a social butterfly, an animal magnet, athletic, smart, beautiful inside and/or outside, compassionate, resourceful, resilient, funny, happy, empathetic, organized, creative, or something else? Thank God for making you YOU! You are special and you are loved!!

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Black-Bellied Plover

Black-Bellied Plover, Cape May, NJ

Look at this cutie pie! Another bird I had not heard of prior to this summer. The bird above still has some black on it’s belly, but likely diminished by the time of this post. During breeding, the face, throat & chest become black. In winter, they become pretty plain & lose the black belly as seen in the pic below.

Black-Bellied Plover

As a new bird watcher, I was preparing for a very dull and boring autumn. But with migration, there are so many birds passing through different areas, it’s more exciting than expected! The challenge has been determining what I am looking at. I spend a lot more time looking up fall bird images & descriptions to verify.

Black-Bellied Plover, Cape May, NJ

As life goes on and my tastes for about everything changes, I have also learned to appreciate the more muted tones of birds in fall and winter.

Black-Bellied Plover, Cape May, NJ
Black-Bellied Plover

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” Genesis 1:20

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Don’t Mock Me!

Northern Mockingbird. Cape May Hawkwatch

Taking a short break from the shorebirds, here’s a sweet northern mockingbird who was hanging around the Cape May Hawkwatch in September. To be honest, I see them everyday at home and have taken these lovely birds quite for granted. They are really pretty birds!

Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbirds measure about 9-11″/23-28 cm & are named as such because they often imitate other birds. They also sing at night. Mockingbirds are easiest to identify by their long tail and also the white wing patches that show when they fly. But look at the eyes — so pretty!

Northern Mockingbird

I’ve been thinking a lot about “making amends” lately. It has been an evolving thought process, starting with reading a book by Latasha Morrison, Be the Bridge, about race relations in the Christian church here in the US. She quotes the Bible to support the idea of making amends to populations who had been oppressed in past generations by immoral government policies. Next, I caught wind of a local teen who committed the apparently unforgivable crime of ringing a doorbell & hiding in the bushes, then running to a waiting vehicle when the “coast was clear.” (all caught on surveillance video) The local community has been quite upset and demanding the police hunt this teen down and punish him any way they can for this dastardly deed. Do you ever find yourself thinking you are living in an alternative universe? I hear the teen is a pretty nice kid from a nice family who are punishing him appropriately for his offense. Maybe a visit (with parents) to the homeowner would be a nice gesture of peace, rather than sending the poor child to Juvie…

Have you ever had to make amends to somebody you hurt or offended? Or do you have children who had to make amends for an error in judgment? I think making amends can be healthy and lead to increased peace between people, as well as inside oneself. Yes, I have had to make amends (thank you mom!). I have found that owning up to my part in an offense is a way of setting aside my own feelings for the sake of another. It is a good thing! I would love to hear your thoughts about your experience in this area.

“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright” Proverbs 14:9

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Greater vs. Lesser Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs. Cape May, NJ

Yeehaw look at them legs! Again, thanks to boat movement, not the sharpest shots. But these are great birds! According to Bob, the Captain of the Osprey, these are greater yellowlegs. As a novice, I would not be able to tell the difference between greater or lesser yellowlegs, as they are very similar in size and appearance.

Aren’t these interesting looking birds?! To me, they look like someone accidentally put a little bird body onto a larger bird’s legs. I love the way their “knees” bend back rather than forward. Yet somehow, it all works! The greater yellowlegs is about 14″/36 cm, and lesser yellowlegs measure 10 1/2″/27 cm, which is not a big difference visually.

Greater Yellowlegs. Cape May, NJ

If you got ’em, you gotta flaunt ’em!

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Great vs. Snowy Egret

Confession time… This post was going to be about the Great Egret only. I had some decent photos, so I thought. But wait… something is wrong here. The egret below does not have a yellow bill. It is a SNOWY egret!

Snowy Egret, Cape May Point, NJ

The egret pictured above is pretty large, somewhere between 20-27″/51-69 cm. This feathered friend has a BLACK bill & black legs. It should also have yellow feet, but unfortunately I didn’t get to photograph them.

Snowy Egret, Cape May Point, NJ

Above, you can see the yellow around his or her eye & the hint of a crest behind the head.

Great Egret, Cape May Point, NJ

Above is a great egret. A beautiful white egret, larger than the snowy egret, measuring 35-41″/89-104 cm. Slightly smaller than a great blue heron, this great egret has black legs and a large yellow bill.

Great egret with three snowy egrets, Cape May Point, NJ

Above is a photo (taken from a boat, excuse the blur) showing one great egret along with three (I’m pretty sure) snowy egrets. There are so many white egrets of varying sizes, bill & leg colors!

I wonder how many different types of white shore birds there are in the world??

“…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18b

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Mute Swan “Ornamental”?

Mute Swan, Lake Lily, Cape May Point, NJ

Ahh the mute swan. What a beautiful bird! This native of Eurosiberia was introduced to this continent in the 1870s as decorative, captive waterfowl. Some of the captives found freedom in the early 1900s and we now enjoy them throughout the continent, mostly around lakes.

Mute swan pair with young, Lake Lily, Cape May Point, NJ

Mute swans are reported to mate for life. Above is a lovely couple with whom I assume is one of their young on the left of them. Maybe this is why swans are seen as a symbol of love in our culture.

To be honest, I never really thought about the origin of swans until this trip to Cape May, when the person working at the Hawkwatch didn’t seem to want us to pay much mind to the dozens of swans in the water around us. Someone asked a question about the swans and his reply was that they are “ornamental” and then turned the conversation to the other feathered friends in the area.

Young Mute Swan, Lake Lily, Cape May Point, NJ

Downy young, called cygnets, come in two color morphs: a gray form, as pictured above, and a white form. The gray chicks start off with gray down & grow in gray-brown and white feathers, giving a mottled appearance. The white chicks have all-white down and feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs & feet, instead of black. Regardless of their type, all the adults are white.

Mute Swans Flying, Cape May Hawkwatch, NJ

Mute swans are non-migratory. The problem with animals & plants that are not native to an area is they can really take over a place! Their voracious appetites can really mess up a local ecosystem, displacing native bird species. A Maryland study reported that a swan can eat up to 8 pounds of aquatic vegetation A DAY. Also, these beautiful birds can be aggressive toward humans, so be careful approaching them!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31.30

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Butterfly Break

Monarch Butterfly in My Backyard

Hello there! Hope you don’t mind my taking a little break–a butterfly break!! This has been a pretty good year for butterflies around here. I was happy to see monarch butterflies in my own yard. The flowers I planted a couple years ago are paying off. Do you have plants in your yard that attract butterflies? No time like the present to start planning for next year!

Above is a tiger swallowtail so beautiful at Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, MD. SO lovely.

Here we have a couple beauties we found in Cape May Point, NJ. The photo on the left is a Buckeye at Rea Farm in Cape May Point, NJ. A little rough, but the first I have ever seen in person. On the right is an eastern black swallowtail.

Above is a little slide show of monarch butterflies on Cape May, NJ. Cape May is a migration thoroughfare for monarch butterflies! While we went to Cape May for the migratory birds, it was super exciting to see so many monarch butterflies in one place!

My book club is reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver this month. If you are interested in butterflies and a fan of a modern-day novel, it may be worth giving it a read. Let me know if you do and how you like it! I am only on chapter 7…

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Whimbrel

Well, here is another bird I had never heard of before this summer! What a beautiful bill!!

Whimbrel, Cape May Point, NJ

This is another photo taken from the boat and I did not know at the time what exactly this bird was. The whimbrel is a shorebird that’s larger than most, at 17″/43 cm. Notice how the bill curves downward. These birds breed in Arctic Alaska & Canada and winter in southern CA, Gulf Coast & southern Atlantic coast north to VA. So, this one must be on his or her way south! Is this where the term “snowbird” comes from? I wish I could have taken more photos of this brown beauty. Maybe we will encounter each other again in spring!

Birding, to me, has become like a meditation. It requires me to look away from myself, my problems, my daily worries. It causes me to look out and up to the sky, and makes me feel more connected to this beautiful world around me. I hope you are able to get outside during this beautiful time of year, enjoy the fresh, clean air and the leaves that may be changing where you live!

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2

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American Oystercatcher

This season has been shorebird heaven for me! While visiting Cape May, NJ, my friends and I took a boat ride to explore what shorebirds might be there. Whoa! Were there shorebirds!!

American Oystercatcher, Cape May Point, NJ

There were many American oystercatchers like the one above. They were walking along during low tide, poking their bills into the sand, foraging for food. While they do eat oysters, they will also eat shellfish, marine worms, sand crabs, etc. I did a google search to find out what sea worms are… Ew, I don’t ever ever want to see one in person! It may be what the bird below has caught, though.

These birds are pretty large, at 17″-21″, and weigh over a pound.

American oystercatchers are pretty solitary much of the time, but are known to hang around in their family groups. In winter, they will also flock together in larger groups.

In the photos above and below, notice the semi-webbed feet. They are able to walk around easily, but are also great swimmers!

It’s hard to get good shots while on a boat! The up and down of the boat is an issue. The jockeying with other passengers for a good vantage point was challenging, as well.

It’s hard to miss the long, reddish orange bill.

Notice the yellow eye and the red eye ring.

I am so thankful to God for the beauty of this world. It’s easy to get distracted by the negative happenings all around us, isn’t it? But this day, let’s focus on the simple & most important things: those we love, nature all around us, enough food, a roof over our heads…

Have a blessed and peaceful day!

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ParulaPalooza!

Northern Parula, Cape May, NJ, Hawkwatch

What a surprise to come across this Northern Parula from the Cape May Hawkwatch Platform! It took awhile for me to shift attention to this bird, as we were there to look for raptors! As nice as the raptor viewing was, this little bird caught my heart.

Northern Parula, Cape May Hawkwatch, NJ

The Northern Parula is a small warbler at 4 1/2″/11 cm. This is a teensy tiny bird. This is an active bird. This is usually a difficult bird to find, yet I lucked out! What a cutie, and posing like crazy as I clicked away. At the time, I was completely unaware of the rarity of this photo op!

Northern Parula, Cape May, NJ Hawkwatch Platform

Northern parula typically forage in the dense foliage of treetops. They hide their nests inside Spanish moss in the south, or in lichens in the north. They feast on insects and sometimes on small berries.

Northern Parula, Cape May, NJ, Hawkwatch

They may hang upside down on twigs or forage on the ground for food.

Northern Parula, Cape May, NJ, Hawkwatch

This was the most gratifying photo shoot of my Cape May trip! What a photogenic little bird. Isn’t nature endlessly awe inspiring? The intricacy of God’s creation, even in the tiniest of beings, blows my mind. The suggestion that we all came about by some chemical accident rather than intelligent design? Naaa.

Northern Parula, Cape May, NJ, Hawkwatch

You are deeply loved. You were created with a purpose. Use the life you were given for good!

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they?” Matthew 6:26

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The Perfect Perch

Before this past summer, I had never heard of a double crested cormorant. When I first saw one at Great Falls, VA, I was fascinated by this black duck-like bird floating around on the Potomac River. As the summer drew on, it became apparent that double crested cormorants are wherever a body of water is. AND, they are not ducks at all. However, some other names for them are crow-ducks, Florida or Farallon cormorants and Taunton turkeys.

Double Crested Cormorants atop the Atlantus, Sunset Beach, Cape May Point, NJ

Double crested cormorants are primarily black sea birds that love to sit on things that are near or emerging from bodies of water. Above is what is left of the Atlantus, an old concrete ship from World War I. Long story short, post-WWI, the ship was salvaged & eventually brought to Cape May Point in 1926 to be a ferry between Cape May, NJ & Lewes, DE. Unfortunately, a storm sunk the ship before it was used for it’s new purpose & was not able to be removed. The old hull of the Atlantus acts as the perfect perch for countless birds, including these double crested cormorants! Behind the Atlantus, note today’s Cape May/Lewes ferry.

Double Crested Cormorant, Cape May, NJ

I love their teal green eyes & their long hooked bill! During breeding season, they develop a white double head crest. Notice also, the yellow throat patch which is visible in the photo above.

Double Crested Cormorants, Cape May, NJ

If you want to be guaranteed to see these beautiful creatures, visit Cape May, NJ! It really is a beautiful, peaceful place. It is obvious the Cape May community has worked hard to maintain a natural environment which supports the needs of all the migrating birds & butterflies that travel through their very special island.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and BE AT PEACE WITH EACH OTHER.” Mark 9:50

Peace

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Take a Tern!

September has taken a tern for the better for me any my travel buddies! We just got back from a long weekend on Cape May, NJ after hearing that it is a great place to spot migrating birds. No kidding! I haven’t even gone through all the photos taken on this trip. Hopefully you will enjoy these Forster’s tern pics!!

Forster’s Tern, Cape May Point, NJ, Sunset Beach

On our first day, after an early morning birding expedition, we were on our way back to the rental when we took a wrong tern and ended up at Sunset Beach. There, I saw bunches of birds of all different shapes, sizes and plumage. Some I recognized, some not.

Forster’s Tern, Cape May Point, NJ, Sunset Beach

So, in spite of inappropriate shoes & jeans wet from a dewy bird walk, I climbed out of the car and onto the beach to get a closer look. I was not about to tern a blind eye to the amazing quantity of feathered friends on this beach! Snap, snap, snap. Honestly, I did not know what this lovely bird was when I photographed it. Later on, I opened my handy Audubon app & figured it out.

Forster’s Tern, Cape May Point, NJ, Sunset Beach

The tables have really terned this fall, as all the birds are looking different from spring and summer. It’s a real learning curve. In spring/summer, Forster’s terns have a black cap. But in fall/winter, they have a white head with black ear patches. If I’d known about the forked tail, I would’ve worked harder to get a better shot of it. Next time for sure!

Forster’s Tern, Cape May Point, NJ, Sunset Beach

With summer terning to fall, the air cool and crisp, I pray you take the time to look up, wish the migrating birds well on their journey, and thank our Creator for the beauty around us this season.

Blessings to you!

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Think Blue

Blue Heron, Great Falls Park, Maryland

As I’ve said before, I love blue heron as a new birder & photographer! They are big. They are beautiful. They don’t usually move very fast. They are a dream for practicing bird photography with! In fact, earlier the same morning this photo was taken, I got what I thought would be fantastic shots. I was sure I would be sharing them with you. But the light was so dim that my flash opened. If I thought the flash would ruin the pics, I would have taken the time to turn it off. But I thought well, maybe it will brighten up the photos because it is pretty dark. Sadly, when I opened the photos on my computer the next day, poor Mr. Heron had bright red eyes and looked quite devilish! Uggggg.

Great Blue Heron, Great Falls, Maryland

Fortunately I didn’t pass this beauty by! Fortunately, no flash this time! Maybe he sensed my appreciation of his loveliness or he knew I would need more pictures than I thought? Maybe he knows how amazingly beautiful he is and enjoyed the admiration he was receiving? You may be thinking, “probably just a big bird standing still” and you are probably right!

View From Bridge to Olmstead Island, MD

John 4:14 “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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Think Green

Thinking green today–green heron! Prior to May, I had never heard of a green heron. Now, I am quite taken with them! They are pretty plentiful around lakes and marshy areas.

Green Heron, Great Falls Park, MD

We spotted this beauty in a swampy area beside the C&O Canal Towpath at Great Falls Park, Maryland side (The Potomac River runs between Maryland and Virginia). The lighting was just perfect to catch all the iridescence of the bird’s feathers.

We saw a total of three green heron this day. The one below appears to be a young/juvenile green heron, just a few feet away from the one pictured above.

Juvenile Green Heron, Great Falls Park, Maryland

This juvenile green heron has more prominent striping down it’s neck and chest, as well as spotted wings. Also, notice his black cap.

These birds are pretty small compared with some other heron. I’d describe them as about the size of a crow, but with longer legs. They spend their time in shallow wetland areas and also climbing/perching on vegetation surrounding the water.

They are usually spotted wading for fish, staring intently into the water. In fact, they are one of the few tool-using bird species. They often create fish lures out of crusts of bread, insects & feathers, dropping them on the water’s surface to lure small fish. Occasionally, they may dive into deeper water for prey.

Have you ever seen a green heron? If not, look for them next time you are close to a lake or wetlands. You just might spot one!

From Bridge at Olmstead Island, Great Falls Park, Maryland

Psalm 42:7 “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

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My Mother’s Legacy

Photo By My Mother, Bonnie, Rockport, ME

The above photo was taken by my mom, whom I lost to breast cancer eight years ago today. She was an artistic person who loved all animals and nature. When she retired and moved from Virginia to Maine, she began taking photos of what she saw, whether it was the lupines in her yard, a pond glistening in the sunlight or the above photo of a hummingbird. The thing is, I believe (but am not certain) that this photo was taken using film. I love digital photography. One can take thousands of frames, delete the bad pics, save the good ones. Do you remember film cameras? You never knew how your pictures would turn out until they came back from development. When I see a beautiful photo taken with film, I see it as much more of an accomplishment! I am really proud of my mom’s picture and it makes me feel happy every time I see it.

I’ve been following in my mother’s footsteps by seeking to record nature’s beauty in photographs. Last week, I have focused on capturing the movements of hummingbird wings when they fly.

Hummingbirds flap their wings 80 times per SECOND! Also, they have a ball-and-socket joint at the shoulder which allows them to rotate their wings 180 degrees in all directions. Because of their special ability, they can hover and even backwards! Thankfully, film photography is a thing of the past for most of us. Digital photography allows a novice like me to experiment and improve skill with practice and immediate gratification.

I’m thankful every day for the influence of my mother. She shared her love of nature with me and now, in my fifties, I’m finally beginning to share her passion. Apparently, I am a slow learner. If she can see me now, I’m confident she is glad I finally caught on!

If you have someone in your life who shared a special part of themself with you, thank them while you can. If you have a talent, passion, interest or hobby, please share it with another person. If you think you have nothing to give to another, show them care and love–that’s the BEST gift you could ever give. THANKS MOM!

Female ruby throated hummingbird, beak open with tongue
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What the Hawk?!?

Hawkstravaganza 2020

Continuing with my baby bird series… Last year, I noticed a hawk family had taken up residence in the woods behind my home. I wasn’t “into” birding at that time, but was certainly interested in this new development. The impact they would have on my feeder birds was of concern as well. At that time, I observed what seemed to be two adults and a young hawk. I tried to figure out what type of hawks they were: Sharp shinned hawks or cooper’s hawks, I wasn’t sure.

This summer, equipped with binoculars, camera and Audubon app on my iPhone, I began noticing hawks in the yard again. But it seemed like they were EVERYWHERE. What the hawk was going on?!? One day, I looked up and saw FIVE hawks on one singular pine tree! Strangely, most, if not all of them appear to be young. It has been a backyard hawkstravaganza!! With the aforementioned equipment, I determined them to be Cooper’s hawks, which are common in my area. Judging by appearance, one might think sharp shinned hawks, but these ladies and gents are too large. Also, their calls are different & what I’ve been hearing are definitely Cooper’s hawks’ kiks, caks & calls.

Having these glorious creatures in my yard has been mixed–really fun at times & other times, a little hawkward. It’s been exciting to watch them fly and swoop through the yard, across the deck & into the woods. Also, it’s been entertaining to observe these young cooper’s hawks romp and play in the woods behind my yard, chasing each other, hopping around, leaping over fallen trees and vocalizing. However, in my yard at the same time have been two bird houses containing bluebird & house wren hatchlings as well as a feeder full of songbirds. After reading up on hawks, I stopped stocking the feeder. The experts say once the feeder birds move elsewhere for lack of food, so will the hawks. It’s been two weeks since I stopped filling the feeder and the hawk presence has decreased a little, but they are still around. In fact, I spotted a red shouldered hawk in my yard the other day, but no good photos. Today, the baby birds have all fledged from the bird houses, so I may chance filling the feeder again soon.

What about you? Have you noticed hawks in your area? They really are fun to watch with their soaring and daring flight moves! While they enjoy feasting on our beautiful songbirds (bad!), they also feed on small mammals such as mice (good!).

Thank you so much for reading this far. I know this was a longer entry than usual and it took some commitment to read it to the end! Hopefully, the end result will be for you to go on a hawkventure of your own! By September in the mid-atlantic area, many varieties of hawks will be seen migrating south in large numbers, so dust off your binoculars and go find some!!

Hawkstravaganza2 2020
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Little Pop of Color

Female Juvenile Northern Cardinal 6/23/20 Lake Hallowell, Olney, MD

Here’s another installment of the baby bird series! Look at this cutie!! A little female northern cardinal youngster. Everything I read says that juvenile northern cardinals have black beaks until their first molt… but this little lady had her orange beak, but with what looks to me to be juvenile plumage. No matter what her age, isn’t she lovely?

Female Juvenile Northern Cardinal. 6/23/20. Lake Hallowell, Olney, MD

Having such an early and long, cool spring seems to have brought about much fertility in the bird world, at least here in Maryland. It has been so much fun watching little families expanding & growing every day. Stay tuned for more babies!

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Wings of Eagles

I am continuing with the baby series. Today, I’d like to share my joy in locating a bald eagle nest this spring! After a hike around a local lake, my friends & I met a nice birding couple who asked if we eyed the eagle nest. Eagle nest?? WHAT EAGLE NEST?!? They were kind enough, even during scary COVID times, to share the location with us. They even told us about a sneaky spot to get a good waterfront look! So next time, we set out with binocs, cameras, etc., to find said eagles.

Is this adult bald eagle a beauty or what?!? What a thrill to see eagles thriving in nature practically out my back door. There were two fledglings in and around the nest. Hard to call them fledglings when they are so large, but they are babies, hatched this spring. It makes sense when they live 20-30 years or more. It takes four years for bald eagles to develop their adult plumage.

The male and female usually mate for life & build their nest together. They may return to it year after year. If they return, they will add onto it, making it quite large–eagle McMansion? The female lays 1-3 eggs per season and both parents incubate them. Yay male eagles for helping out!

Next year, we will look earlier in spring for the nest in hopes of finding a new batch of eggs and/or eaglets. Do you know of bald eagles near you? If yes, please share!

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

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Play Ball!

Do you enjoy baseball? Are you a Baltimore Oriole’s fan?? Well, it’s okay either way, but let’s talk about birds! This spring was the first time I had ever seen a Baltimore oriole at all, let alone a nest and babies!

This nest! The female builds this pouch-like nest near the end of a thin branch high in a tree. It looks like it could easily be knocked off that spindly branch, but apparently it is strongly woven in place.

The three top photos are the striking male with his blood orange-color body contrasted by his deep black wings and back. He was helping keep an eye on the young-uns and feeding them, which is the LEAST he can do after allowing his woman to build the nest by herself. Mom was shy about showing herself for the camera, but if you look carefully, she is behind leaves in the last photo. The Baltimore oriole female has a lighter, softer orange underside with brown back and wings and some black on her head.

Thanks for taking a look at my blog!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

What do you think of this sweet juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker? Such a pretty bird!

Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Black Hill Regional Park

This happens to be the most migratory of the woodpeckers. This bird is eyeing the fruit on the tree & we had the pleasure of watching it put a big dent in it. Sapsuckers are known to drill uniform rows of holes in trees, returning to them periodically to eat the sap that has oozed out.

I think this may be a male because it’s throat has a red tinge to it. Mature males have a red head and throat. Adult females have a smaller red patch on the head and the throat is white.

I love the facial stripes. They look painted on, don’t they? And the golden hue of the under side as well as above. The markings are so striking!