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

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!

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

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

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…

Take a Tern on the Royal Side

To be honest, when I took these photos, I may have thought these were interesting looking gulls rather than the royal terns they are! They look like balding old men to me.

Royal Terns with Common Tern & Herring Gull Cape May Point, NJ

The royal tern is about 18-21″/46-53 cm. During breeding, it has a black crest that covers the top of it’s head, but this is how the crest looks during non-breeding. Note the orange bill, as well.

Royal Tern. Cape May Point, NJ

They are likely to stay put during winter, but may migrate a little south. They eat fish and crustaceans. They begin breeding around age four.

Notice there is a common tern in the photos, along with a herring gull. One big happy friend group! Friends are very important for us all, aren’t they? All you need is one solid friend in life, in my opinion. Additional friends are the icing on the cake and the cherry on top! Hopefully you have at least one bosom buddy. I am fortunate in the friends department and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for each of them. But do I tell them how appreciative of them I am? I do, but probably not often enough…

Royal Terns with Common Tern & Herring Gull. Cape May Point, NJ

I’m going to resolve to express how dearly I love my friends this week. Life can be so short, so complicated and I wouldn’t want them to be unaware of how cared for and appreciated they are!

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

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

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!

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

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