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.
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!
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.
Above, you can see the yellow around his or her eye & the hint of a crest behind the head.
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.
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
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 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.
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 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
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…
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.
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.
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…
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
Well, here is another bird I had never heard of before this summer! What a beautiful bill!!
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
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!!
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…
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.
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 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.
They may hang upside down on twigs or forage on the ground for food.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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!!
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.
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.
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!
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.