Sunday, May 19, 2019

Dragon's Mouth Orchid

In honor of tonight's Game of Thrones finale, I give you the dragon's mouth orchid, Arethusa bulbosa. I found this one growing on the edge of a pine barrens bog a few days ago. GOT is ending but South Jersey's wild orchid season has just begun. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day!

 A crowded nest of great egrets, Ardea alba.
The kids are acting up. 
Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

My Favorite Bee

The Golden Northern Bumble Bee, Bombus fervidus. Ta Da!
Big and fuzzy with a lot of yellow -- the teddy bear of bees.
It is also called the Yellow Bumble Bee. I look for them all summer long, but rarely see them, even though I live within their range across the northern states of the U.S. The USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership publication Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States (click on the title to see it) says Bombus fervidus is uncommon, so maybe it's not just me. That's one fine looking bumble bee. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Favorite Vulture Quotes

Black vultures, Coragyps atratus, are dramatic looking birds. They're big, with just over a five foot wingspan, and have creepy looking featherless skin heads, the better to eat carrion with. Click to enlarge for a closer look.
A couple of vulture quotes: 

"Fear the vulture, and the vulture will come. Fear nothing, and you are the vulture." Suzy Kassem

"Don't play dead with the vulture. That's exactly what they want." Kevin Nealon

And a couple of vulture jokes: 

Two vultures eating a dead clown. First vulture says to the other, "does this taste funny to you?"

A vulture boards a plane with three dead mice. The flight attendant says,"I'm sorry, only two carrions per passenger." 


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Spring Colors

I have the most remarkable palette of colors among the photos in my camera right now, of things I've photographed this week. First there was a peach orchard along a road near Hammonton, NJ. Click to enlarge.
Then a "blue hole" at Winslow, New Jersey, a tropical-looking lake in a abandoned quarry fringed with pines.
Then I picked a bowl of fresh spring violets.
And made jelly with them!

Lovely colors, aren't they? Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote this about spring:

Everything is blooming most recklessly; If it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. 


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Onion Mystery Solved

I was planting wildflower seedlings outside and I kept smelling onions. I looked around for onion grass, you know, those clumps of slender hollow green stems that grow everywhere and smell like onions when you step on them? Found none. There were just some simple pale lavender flowers like the one above. I didn't recognize this flower, but was able to identify it as a spring starflower, Ipheion uniflorum. Click to enlarge.
Guess what made the identification easy -- the grassy leaves of spring starflowers smell like onions when crushed.
So I'm adding this to the list of flowers I know. I read that spring starflowers are native to Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, but planted here as ornamentals. The ones around my place seem to have become established in the grass. They are short lived and will be gone by summer.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Swan of a Different Color

I'd call this a purple-billed black swan. Lovely isn't it?
April Fool! I made it up! It's a normal black swan with a normal red bill like in this photo. I painted it purple in Photoshop. Be warned that tomorrow is April 1st, April Fool's Day.       Be on the lookout for more silly pranks!
 Here are some awful swan jokes suited to the holiday: 

Where do swans invest their cash? 
In the stork market! 

Why don't swans grow up?
Because they grow down! 

Do you know why swans stay home on winter days?
Fowl weather!

What do swans watch on TV? 

A skunk, a herd of mostly female deer, and a swan go out to eat. When it comes time to pay the skunk only has a scent, the deer just have one buck. They end up putting it on the swan's bill!  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Flowers and A Turkey

I went for a walk on Saturday to look for signs of spring. It was too easy! There are flowers blooming like crazy out there.
So many colors of crocus. Click to enlarge.
Then I turned a corner and saw this...
A turkey! A big tom turkey all puffed up and ready to breed! He was gobbling and strutting like he was the king of all the turkeys. I was as impressed as I was surprised.
I've seen turkeys in New Jersey before, where they are becoming common, and I've written a couple of blogs about them (click here for one, here for another). But I usually spot them out of breeding season when they large but not too flashy, like in the photo above. 
But this guy was dressed to kill! Here's his other side.
Here's his amazing head. The turkey sighting drove all my thoughts of spring flowers right out of mind and turned this into a turkey blog. You have just been turkey bombed!
Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Winter's End

Crocus flowers are open in my neighborhood!

 "The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
                                                                                          Gertrude S. Wister 

Spring starts on Wednesday, March 20! 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Tree

I was minding my own business, taking a walk in the woods, and I saw this tree.
Here's a closer view. There's a letter A there, right? I'm pretty sure it grew naturally on this tree's flaky plate-like bark. The tree is in a swampy place and would have been difficult to get to, climb, and initial. So I'm just saying, hmm.
Is this just puzzling?
Or is it scary? Click to enlarge. Sorry about the lost hour of sleep.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Duck Walks Into A Bar

There are lots of cool ducks in the coastal waters of New Jersey and New York these days, like this gang of male northern shovelers, Anas clypeata, that I saw at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge this week. Click to enlarge.
Here are some canvasback ducks, Aythya valisineria,  with a a photo-bombing northern pintail, Anas acuta, star of last week's blog, heading left near the margin. These were at Forsythe last week, but I've been seeing canvasbacks in the Delaware River lately, too.

The ducks above are wild ducks of course, but they reminded me of this story that features their barnyard cousins. 
It's by Garrison Keillor, from Truckstop and Other Lake Wobegon Stories

“He takes a kitchen chair and sits in the yard and all the ducks come around. He holds up the cheese curls in one hand and caramel popcorn in the other and his audience looks up and he tells them a joke. He says: So one day a duck come into this bar and ordered a whiskey and a bump and the bartender was pretty surprised, he says, "You know we don't get many of you ducks in here." The duck says, "At these prices I'm not surprised.* And he tosses out the popcorn and they laugh. 'Wak wak wak wak wak. I was shot in the leg in the war.' Have a scar? 'No thanks, I don't smoke.”

And here's a portrait of a handsome male mallard duck,
Anas platyrhynchos.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rabbits in Clover

I found a folder of photos I'd labeled "June" and put aside. One was the image above of neighborhood rabbits in a patch of clover. It started me thinking about how close we are to the end of winter (23 days to the vernal equinox) and seeing scenes like this again.      Click to enlarge.
Here's a quote from Watership Down by Richard Adams with advice for rabbits: 

"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Synchronized Pintails

Northern pintail ducks, Anas acuta, breed in summer in Northern Eurasia, Alaska, and across Canada. They fly south to spend the winter along the east and west coasts of North America and across the southern half of the United States and into South America. Some pintails, like these two males, show up in winter at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
Long-necked, long-tailed, brown-headed, beautiful pintail ducks.
They are dabbling ducks that feed by dipping their heads under the water, dabbling, rather than diving.
Sometimes they seem as coordinated in their movements as an Olympic synchronized swim team!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Lions! Pigs!

There were unusual urban wildlife sightings in Philadelphia today during a traditional Chinese celebration of lunar new year. It's the Year of the Pig!
There were lots of lions.

And lots of pigs.
Click to enlarge.
The lions stopped at stores and restaurants and danced to accompaniment of drums, cymbals, and firecrackers.
Here's a little one coming out of a store. 
Apparently lions can be attracted with lettuce.
You can dangle from a ladder.
Or do it like this.
Got one!
There were other unusual things out there today, too.
And so many firecrackers that the sidewalks were smoking.
It was a great celebration and a good time was had by all. Happy Year of the Pig!