Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy 2020 to All!

Domestic geese on a pond near me. The one in the center with neck outstretched is very bossy. Click to enlarge.

Here's a thought for the New Year from the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson: 

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...” 

And more geese. Don't they look like they are gossiping about the white one?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Winter Solstice!

Winter is here! Autumn officially ended last night. The shortest day of the year will soon be behind us and we'll begin to see increasingly longer days and shorter nights from now until Spring. Here is a quote from the painter Andrew Wyeth in appreciation of the season.

I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future - the timelessness of the rocks and the hills - all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it,
the whole story doesn't show." 

Click on the photos to enlarge. 

Merry Christmas to all!
And to all, a shorter night!  

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Butterfly Wing Kaleidoscopes

Take a cold rainy day, a few pictures of butterflies, and Photoshop. Isolate, duplicate, cut, paste, flip, and before you know it you have a collection of beautiful butterfly wing kaleidoscopic images. Well, I do. Here's one. Click to enlarge.
This one was made from bits of monarch and tiger swallowtail wings and a purple flower that made it into the photo.
A relatively simple image like this...
Can be repeated to make this. Pretty, isn't it?
This simple one, repeated, makes...
This! Like rich brocaded fabric.
Here are some of my butterfly models. The ubiquitous cabbage white, Pieris rapae.

The lovely Eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus.
And this acrobatic upside-down Red-spotted purple, Limenitis arthemis.

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.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Autumn is my favorite season. Here is an autumn poem by one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from German by another of my favorite poets, Robert Bly.

October Day

Oh Lord, it's time. It was a great summer. 
Lay your shadow now on the sundials,
and on the open fields let the winds go! 

Give the tardy fruits the command to fill;
give them two more Mediterranean days,
drive them on into their greatness, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine. 

Whoever has no house by now will not build. 
Whoever is alone now, will remain alone,
will wait up, read, write long letters,
and walk along sidewalks under large trees,
not going home, as the leaves fall and blow away.  

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Going to Miss the Butterflies

As autumn begins and the days grow cold, butterflies disappear from the north. Some migrate away, some pupate to emerge next spring, others leave eggs, and some overwinter as dormant adults. I'll miss the butterflies; they are one of the best things about summer. Here are some of the beautiful butterflies of the summer of 2019. Click to enlarge, a monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus.
An orange sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme.
A buckeye, Junonia coenia.
A summer azure, Celastrina neglecta.
A black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes -- the state butterfly of New Jersey!
A variegated fritillary, Euptoieta claudia.
An American lady butterfly, Vanessa virginiensis.
A spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus.
An eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus.
A red-spotted purple butterfly, Limenitis arthemis, hanging upside down from a butterfly bush blossom showing off the red spots on its lower surface.
Bye butterflies! Turning my attention to the anticipation of the pretty things of autumn.