Sunday, May 28, 2017


"I think I hear a waterthrush calling", Patty said as she went to get her binoculars. We were preparing the house for visitors, but I too grabbed my bins and headed out.

I found this.

A female Common Snapping Turtle digging a nest.

Once before Patty had seen a snapping turtle in the yard. And I had spotted one on the neighbors lawn last year. But how cool is it that it is nesting here?

Well she may not have though it so cool. If you look closely (bigify first) you'll see nine (!) mosquitos on or about the turtle, eight of which are full of blood. That could not have been pleasant.

A while later I went back to check on the situation, and she had finished and moved to the end of our little bridge.

That white spot just above her head? Another mosquito.

As she was blocking the end of the bridge I went around and down the trail to get this shot. Known to be ornery when on land (they spend most of their life in water, coming out to lay eggs) I didn't want to get too close (I used my 100-400 mm lens and kept my distance).

I went back again later, once she had moved on from the bridge and found her relaxing in an transient pool. Alas she was gone when our guests arrived.


After she had gone we checked to see if there were any eggs. A quick look did not reveal any. I hope we did not disturb her and scare her off.

And we never did find the waterthrush, although Patty says she continues to hear it. Hmmm ...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Landscaping Interlude, with Snake

Can you spot it?

The snake?

It's right there in the center of the image.

An Eastern Garter Snake.

This was the view as I spotted it, while out moving plants around the yard (bayberry, elderberry, and phlox today). I snapped a quick shot with my iPhone (above), and then went and got my other camera, which a significantly longer lens (below). (Well, one of my other cameras ... I've a bunch.)


I don't know if this is typical behavior for this species, but it would move a bit and then stop, seemingly watching to see what I would do.

Eventually, after posing nicely, it headed off into the bushes, having had enough of me.

I do hope it is a resident and not just passing through. Or that I didn't scare it away.


A nice break from all the digging Patty makes me do. πŸ˜‰

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Signs of Spring ...

... baby birds.

Baby Eastern Phoebes to be specific.

You can see them in the nest on top of the light fixture.

Zooming in ...

... it is easy to make out the one on top. If you bigafy the image (as always, click on any image to bigafy it) you can make out three bills, and thus three birds. There are actually four chicks in the nest, piled on top of one another.

Eastern Phoebes have nested every year we've been here. And always on top of a light fixture on our little shed.

But this year they tricked us!

We had thought they weren't going to nest at the shed this year, as for the first three years they used the same nest on the same light fixture.

You can see the old nest on the fixture to the left above. That nest is just visible from from our deck. And while we heard and saw the adult phoebes around the shed we saw no activity at the nest. It was only while out in the yard that Patty noticed the new nest. And then later the chicks.

It just wouldn't be spring without our phoebe chicks. We're glad they're here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Signs of Spring ...

... aka the season of rebirth.

The New Jersey state butterfly, the Black Swallowtail.

I found this individual crawling across the deck one morning as I was headed off to work. Its wings wet and heavy, incapable of flight. As it had rained overnight I wasn't sure if it was newly emerged or rain-soaked. Either way the deck was not the place for it to be.

Black Swallowtails overwinter in their chrysalis and emerge in spring, thus this could have been a brand new butterfly. The males emerge before females and stake out territories to await the arrival of the ladies.

And thus the cycle continues.

I released the butterfly onto a Elderberry bush in our garden. After a moment it settled down, clinging to a leaf. Here's hoping it survived to fly another day.

Signs of Spring ...

... the sound of lust is in the air. Froggy style.

Click here to hear.

That cacophony includes Northern Spring Peepers, Southern Gray Treefrogs, Fowler's Toads, Green Frogs, and just maybe a couple of Pine Barrens Treefrogs (maybe - it is hard to tell and that would be a new species for here*). Along with a pair of Barred Owls calling as well. Very cool.

That's what we hear when we leave the windows open this time of year; although I recorded it just a bit down the road in front of our neighbor's place, a small horse farm.

Why did the frog cross the road? Because that was where the action was, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

But crossing the road is a dangerous endeavor, even out here were the traffic is light. Sadly, we still find plenty of squished frogs. So on nights when it is particularly loud we try to save as many as possible.

These are three that will live to croak another night.

All three Green Frogs. We also helped a few Fowler's Toads. But we didn't see any of the others.


* So far we've see or heard in our yard the following: Bull, Green, Southern Leopard, Wood, Southern Gray Tree, Northern Spring Peepers, and New Jersey Chorus Frogs and Fowlers Toads.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Woody's Back

On of the benefits of working from home is that you get to see things like this:

It does make it hard to stay focused on work!

Perhaps this means they are breeding here?

Signs of Spring ...

... aka "allergy season".


At least this stuff is no longer in the air.

My eyes are still itchy though ...

Monday, May 8, 2017

Listera australis

Our friend Rosanne asked if we'd like to photograph an orchid in the Pine Barrens. We said yes. She warned us that the habitat would be wet. We still said yes.

She wasn't kidding, as can be seen below. It was very squishy.

It is sites like this that were the inspiration for my bog.

The orchid we were looking for is small. Really small. We spent several good minutes looking for them. And Rosanne had been there the prior week and knew where they were!

The knife is four inches long*. The orchid is immediately above it.

It is the Southern Twayblade Orchid. Here are the flowers.

Howard Boyd, in his Wild Flowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, notes "Rare in low, damp, well-shaded woodlands. ... a very difficult flower to spot. Extremely rare in southern New Jersey. This writer knows of only two locations for it ...".

I've now seen it in two locations in southern New Jersey, one inside and one outside the Pine Barrens.

Photography was made difficult by the quaking nature of the bog, a slight breeze, and the lack of sunlight in the under-story. There were more plants towards the center of the bog, out from under the trees and in better light. But the 'ground' would not have held my weight (I so need to go on a diet ...).

Thanks to Rosanne for sharing. And for New Jersey for having the foresight to preserve such a wonderful ecosystem.


* No orchids, or any other plants, were harmed to create this post. We can't say the same for the mosquitos and ticks.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Little Egret

We arrived at Heislerville WMA, after a few unplanned U-turns, and were happy to hear that the Little Egret had been seen that morning.

We were unhappy to learn that it had flown away, from the guys who had seen it fly just minutes before. Arrrgggghhh!

Little Egret is an old world native. This was the first ever to be seen in New Jersey (and it is reported to be the first seen this year on mainland North or South America). Now we had seen them in Africa, so it wasn't a total disaster that we had arrived apparently five minutes late (our friend Alex, who arrived slightly after we did, had set out at 4:00 am to get there! We left the house around six). But still, it would be nice to have such a bird on our New Jersey list.

Spoiler Alert: We do.

We were scoping the other birds in the impoundments, looking for a reported Red-necked Phalarope ("it was just here ..."), another good bird, but no Little Egret, when we got word the egret had been spotted just around the bend. Off we went.

Alex was already there, and pointed out the bird to us.

It is the back-most bird in the image below. And this is the view we had, when it wasn't hidden down in the reeds. Very annoying those reeds!

As more people arrived, it, along with the Snowy and Great Egrets which were foraging together, kept moving further down and away. Patty and I, and Alex, had had our views, and headed off.

Another U-turn, this one planned, was needed, and as the dirt road between the impoundments was not wide enough to do so safely, I drove down past the birds. And when we drove back past they had come much closer to the road. I parked behind some cedars, hidden from the birds, and quietly got out of the car and retrieved my camera. And was rewarded with the shot below as they decided to once again move off.

If it wasn't for that damn reed right in front of the Little Egret this would be a great shot. You can see the egret's plumes trailing behind its head; its blue lores; and golden feet.

Here is the bird without the offending reed in the way (now blocking a Great Egret). Alas, nowhere near as nice a composition.

I hope the bird enjoys its stay in New Jersey. It was originally found on April 27th and had disappeared until May 4th. We suspect that it will be here for the summer, although as there is plenty of good habitat, so it may not always be easy to find.

And yes, we did see that Phalarope too.