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

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!

White-Throated Sparrow

Here’s a sweet sparrow for ya. The white-throated sparrow resides in the mid-Atlantic region during fall and winter. As a new birder, I honestly thought fall/winter would be boring, but have been proven wrong!

White-throated sparrow

These little fellas are quite plentiful and sing a beautiful song! On our hikes, it makes my heart happy to hear them sing their “sweet sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” song. They do breed in Canada, so the song fits!

White-throated Sparrow Singing

This bird is perched in the burning bush in my backyard. He just sang his little heart out! He gave me such a good look and listen, there’s no mistaking one anywhere I go!

White-Throated Sparrow

The White-throated sparrow migrates mostly at night. The “bird people” say we should all try to turn off our outdoor lights at night during migration to save the lives of little birds like these. The outdoor lights affect their clarity of sight & they can end up flying straight into a window or side of a building. I’ve had a few birds fly into my home this season & a couple didn’t survive, which broke my heart.

White-Throated Sparrow

It kind of reminds me of the prayer asking God to forgive us for our sins we are aware of and those we aren’t. I didn’t know shining bright lights at night could harm anyone–human or otherwise. It makes me glad for grace! We can try to be perfect, but it’s impossible. Thank the Lord for His grace!!

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

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.

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Be blessed & see you next time!

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!!

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

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