Sunday, December 8, 2019

Snow Geese

Last week I picked a cold sunny day to visit the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Galloway on the New Jersey shore near Atlantic City. Click here for the refuge website. 
Forsythe features an 8-mile drive around freshwater pools and saltwater marsh. At this time of year you can spot interesting winter ducks along the way. And you will spot large flocks of big white birds from a distance. Click the photos to enlarge.
Get closer and you'll see they are snow geese, our winter visitors. You can't miss them; big white birds with black wingtips and pink bills in big noisy groups. 
There are lots and lots of them at Forsythe Refuge right now.
They're flying overhead.
And they are milling about eating the plants, honking and whistling and leaving goose footprints in the mud.
Lots of goose footprints in the mud! The place looks like goose central station.
If you would like to see a lot of snow geese, and take a turn around a lovely salt marsh, now is a good time for Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Ruddy Ducks

I think ruddy ducks might have been the original models for rubber duckies. They are small, plump, rounded, and toy-like. Bigger than robins. Smaller than crows.
This time of year they are non-breeding shades of tan and brown, making you wonder why they are called ruddy. (They get colorful in breeding season.) I've been seeing rafts of a dozen of so winter ruddies on the Delaware River near North Philadelphia for a few weeks.
Cute little ducks! Click the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

I couldn't decide between a thoughtful quote or a joke for my Thanksgiving blog.         Doing both. 

"We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives."
                                                                                                       -- John F. Kennedy

Click the photos to enlarge.

"I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage." 
                                                                        -- Erma Bombeck

Sunday, November 17, 2019


It's getting cold. The leaves are almost gone. I have to shop for ingredients to bake for Thanksgiving. Must be November! Above are black vultures ruffling their feathers on a roof. Below is a pretty poem by Clyde Watson.


“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawks are widespread and common across North America. They are often seen sitting on roadside poles and flying over woods and fields. They are tolerant of human noise and activity; I've seen them sitting on traffic lights in the heart of New York City while cars and pedestrians mill below. Click to enlarge the photos.
The hawk in this blog is a resident wildlife ambassador at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey, photographed at one of their occasional raptor photography sessions. Click here for the website of the refuge.
You've probably heard red-tailed hawks calling overhead. The call is often used as a sound effect in movies and television shows as a kind of generic raptor call.  Click here to listen to recordings of red-tailed hawks from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Somehow I made it through the entire photo shoot without a picture of the hawk's eponymous tail. Face palm! Click here to see a previous blog with some rear views.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Great Horned Owl

Some people call great horned owls "hoot owls" for their famous calls. Click here to listen to a recording from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The great horned owl is native to the Americas and is widely distributed across the United States. You can find them from old-growth forests to suburbs and even in city parks. Click on the photo to enlarge and check out its bark-like camouflage.
Great horned owls are big birds with a wingspan of from three to five feet. Their "horns" are tufts of feathers. Note the big strong feet for grasping prey -- stylishly feathered!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Happy Halloween

I guess owls are associated with Halloween because they are nocturnal and make spooky sounds in the dark. They can startle you, too, if they suddenly swoop past on silent wings.
The eastern screech-owl, Megascops asio, pictured above, is tiny -- only about the size of a robin, but it can definitely make spooky sounds. If you live in a shady suburb or near a city park -- any place in the eastern US where there are big trees for sitting and open areas for hunting -- you might have screech owl neighbors and not know it. UNTIL you are dozing off on a summer night with the windows open and hear their weird warbling whinny sounds outside. Click here to listen to recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
Eastern screech-owls come in two colors, the gray shown here and reddish brown. Regardless of color the patterns of both look like tree bark and are excellent camouflage. Click on the photos to enlarge.
The owl model for the photos above is a resident wildlife ambassador at the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey.  I took the photos during one of the occasional raptor photography sessions they host. Click here to visit the refuge's website to learn about the good work they do.
The owl is so small it fits perfectly on its handler's gloved index finger. Darned cute.