Wanamassa Birds

I frequently stroll the streets of Wanamassa, NJ, with camera at the ready to take pictures of birds.

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Location: Ocean, New Jersey, United States

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wrens are back

Great excitement! The wrens have returned to the nest box in the backyard. After last year's fiasco (house sparrows chased them off when we had a tree felled that had the house sparrow nest in it -- at least, that's my theory), we weren't sure they'd return, but look:

Later, the bird perched atop the box and sang a long song about how this was his house and he wanted the world to know:

First Catbird of Year

Thursday, I waited patiently at the duckpond for nearly an hour in the hope that the kingfisher would put in another appearance. But no such luck. In that hour, I watched a couple of Canada geese swim from bank to bank, and I caught sight of one of the very large snapper turtles that live in the pond. The highlight of my hour was a male mallard that flew in, sat in the middle of the pond for a few minutes and then flew out again.

I gave up and set off back home, but my attention was caught by a familiar sound. And then I spotted the first catbird I've seen this year. It hid in a bush, so it was difficult to get a really good shot, but this one isn't too bad:

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

First Sandpiper of the Year

I took a break after work today and checked out first the Fireman's Pond. The most interesting thing there was a male Mallard who was resting on the verge of the road and who wasn't at all worried by my relatively close approach. I went on to North Wanamassa Drive and again there was nothing to see -- at first.

But then I noticed a duck on the lake making unusual head movements as it swam. I realized that there was a little colony of wood ducks in among the Canada geese. But, try as I might, I could neither get close enough to them nor get a good angle -- the sun was quite low in the sky.

So, I set off back home and there on a high branch right by the bridge on Wickapecko was an adult Black-crowned Night Heron. I know that it hadn't been there when I'd arrived maybe a quarter of an hour earlier. Unlike on Sunday, this bird took quick exception to my approach and flew to another tree, where it was impossible to see from the road. With Sunday's pictures under my belt, I decided to come home via the duckpond.

Again, there was very little activity, but then I realized that a kingfisher was flying along the north bank and it alighted in a tree. I was too far away for a good shot, but I've had no luck at all with this bird, so even a halfway decent blur from 50 yards would be better than nothing. But by the time I positioned myself and steadied the camera, it was gone. I put my glasses back on in the hope of spotting it again and my attention was caught by this bird:

This is my first sighting of a spotted sandpiper this year. But it too didn't hang around for long. As I was torn between taking pictures of this relatively easy bird to capture and the elusive kingfisher, the sandpiper flew off without my noticing! But then I caught another glimpse of the kingfisher as it flew to a branch that I knew I could get close to. But by the time I got there it had gone again.

One of these days, I'm going to have to muster the spare time to sit and watch that branch for maybe and hour or two and then perhaps I'll get lucky.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pair of Night Herons

It had rained all Saturday and well into Sunday, but late afternoon the sun came out. The Mets were losing 5-0, so I decided to take a walk to see what I could find in the late afternoon sun. At first, I thought I was on a wild goose chase -- all I saw between home and the bridge at Wickapecko were three Canada Geese, a pair of mourning doves and a mockingbird. The mocker was on the roof of a house, so I didn't take a picture because I don't like pointing my camera at people's houses -- people don't realize just how much zoom I have so they could think I'm taking pictures through their windows.

But as I approached the bridge my luck turned as I caught a glimpse through the trees of the familiar shape of an adult black-crowned night heron. I was able to get reasonably close, even though it was across the water:

However, it didn't take kindly to my encroaching on its space and it hopped up to a higher branch:

I decided to walk on along North Wanamassa Drive in the hope of seeing some warblers, but I had hardly started when I caught sight of another black-crowned night heron. At first, I thought it was the same bird, but a quick scan of the other bank made me realize that this was a second bird. It was on my side of the water and it was at first less concerned by my approach:

But as I got closer it became a bit agitated as you can see by the way it seemed to sprout a tuft in its head feathers:

And when I got underneath and slightly behind the bird, the tuft became even more pronounced:

Later, this bird flew to the other side of the water, nearer to the first bird. I had spent a fruitless quarter of an hour trying to get a shot with both birds in it, but it just wasn't possible. With them closer together my hopes rose, but they had positioned themselves in such a way that this was the only shot I was able to get. If I moved left and down to get more of a straight line between the birds, the one at extreme top right of this picture disappeared behind the branches.

I really like these birds, so I'm glad that we have them here again. Now I have to keep an eye out for the green herons. I've not seen any of them yet.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Different Teal!

Having given up on the egret, I set off towards the Firemen's Pond in the hope of seeing a great blue heron there. I'd caught sight of one flying in that general direction earlier. But it was not to be. There was also no sign of the green winged teals that I have been seeing there for weeks. Instead, I saw this solitary bird in the water:

At the time, I didn't realize that this was a blue winged teal. Unlike its green winged cousins, this bird didn't seem to be at all upset by my arrival. It even came closer to me as I waited on the bank for a better picture:

And to my surprise, it obliged.

Egret on the Bank

I'd given up hope of seeing any herons or other interesting birds and was heading back home from Wanamassa Drive North, crossing over the bridge on Wickapecko when I caught sight of a flash of white in the trees on the north bank of the water. It was the egret (perhaps there's more than one in the area, but I've never seen more than one at any point in tme) taking a break from wading:

I waited for quite a long time in the hope that there would be some action, but nothing.

Northern Cardinal Poses

Shortly after the episode with the sparrows, our local male northern cardinal dropped by and obligingly posed for this picture:

We have this family of cardinals who seem to be here all year around, but most of the time they don't pose for pictures. For a long time i despaired of ever getting a good shot, but lately I've been luckier.

This Year, It's the Sparrows' Turn

Two years ago, I happened to be pointing my camera at a female cardinal in the backyard, and was astonished to get this picture:

Well, this year, the house sparrow was not so much a voyeur as a participant:

At first, I had no idea what I was capturing with the camera. The birds were some distance away; they were hardly filling the little focusing square in the middle of the image viewer. But it didn't take me long to realize. What struck me most was just how gentle an encounter it seemed to be. Between sessions, the two birds would sit comfortably on a couple of adjacent branches:

I found myself musing about the difference in style between these two surprisingly gentle birds and the sight of a mallard chasing through the water after a female, edged on by all his buddies before coupling with much quacking and flapping of wings -- mind you, doing it on the surface of the water must of itself create an extra level of tension.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Second Call for Blue Jays

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I realized that blue jays have a second call. The one that is so easy to recognize is a kind of cawing noise, something like the sound a crow makes, but pitched about half an octave higher -- I can imitate the crow's call, but not the blue jay's: too high for my baritone. But a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a blue jay in a tree in our front yard. And it was making the familiar cawing noise.

But then it seemed to fly off and I heard a different call. More like a whistle. And I realized that the jay had flown only a few feet to another branch and was issuing this other call that I had never before heard.

Well, yesterday, I heard it again. This blue jay:

made the same whistling call. And there was no doubt at all that it was this bird because I watched it for quite a while. It was a bit far away for a really good shot (the camera was pointing almost straight up for this one), but this is far better than I could possibly have achieved with my previous camera.

I wonder if one of the calls is territorial while the other is a mating call. I expect I could find that out with some suitable googling!

Cormorants are back

I remember the excitement the first time I saw the cormorants sitting on the wooden piles near the bridge that links Wanamassa to Asbury Park on Sunset Ave. They've become old hat now; such easy targets. Still, they seem to winter further south because yesterday was the first time I've seen them since last year. I was lucky to get this picture of one on a pole as another went into its take-off run right beside it:

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pied-Billed Grebes! (and Empty Eagle's Nest)

I went down to Manasquan Reservoir in Howell this afternoon. It was the first day of daylight savings time and the weather cooperated beautifully. But the eagles didn't. They were nowhere to be seen. No young have hatched this year, so I suppose there's not a lot of incentive for them to hang around the nest. The thinking is that the new female is still rather immature and she may have lacked the experience to look after the eggs properly.

While waiting in vain for one or other of them to appear, I noticed a duck-like bird on the water quite close-by. I was struck by how long it was spending under the water each time it dived, so I elected to take some pictures. I had both C-8 adaptors on the front of the camera for this shot -- I was, of course, prepared to take eagle shots from a great distance -- so I'm rather pleased at just how good a shot it is:

That's the male bird. Later, with just one C-8 on the front of the camera, I was able to get this picture of the female:

For the record, the eagle's nest is very easy to see at this time of year, with most of the trees not yet covered in foliage. Here's a shot from the causeway with just one C-8 on the front:

Close Encounter with an Egret

Friday was a beautiful day, so I allowed myself the luxury of an afternoon walk and look what I found at the duckpond!

The bird was obviously a bit apprehensive about my proximity, but it tolerated my taking quite a few shots, including this marvelous close-up (I took this shot without any supplemental lens on the front):

Finally, it got fed up with me and flew up into a tree, allowing me to get this shot:

Generally speaking, we only see egrets during the migration months. They stop by here on their way north. Unlike the herons, some of which stay here for the summer, the egrets are just passing through.


You'd think that sparrows would be easy to photograph -- there's so many of them. But actually it's hard trying to get a really good shot. I've taken some sparrow pictures, this week, but none of them will knock your socks off:

That song sparrow was in a neighbor's front yard. It wasn't about to let me get very close.

While this song sparrow was on the feeder. I took this picture through the very long lens from the top of the front steps. I was hoping to be able to get another shot using my normal setup to compare the quality, but so far the birds have not cooperated.

This house sparrow shot was taken from the other side of the feeder, and the bird was moving its head, hence the slightly fuzzy look. Still, it shows what will be possible when the right moment arrives:

Finally, another song sparrow in another neighbor's front yard. This one was perched here for just a few seconds. I had to move quite quickly to get to a halfway decent angle; even then, I had to help this shot some after the fact in Photoshop: