Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

golden glow split secondThe sunset was quite pretty at the park last night, but that goldeny-glow on the park bench lasted only a short while, a.k.a. a split second. A few quick clicks on my camera and the glow was gone. See other interpretations of the “Split Second Story” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Pothole Bathing

pothole bathrobin bathWe have two areas in our yard where birds in the neighborhood can get freshened up on a dusty day. In front, there is a large stone birdbath. In the rear, we have a small pond with a very shallow stream of water running over a ledge. Many birds land by the pond and walk over to the ledge for a quick rinse. By far, however, the all-time favorite bathing spot is the pothole in the street in front of our house. Every time it rains and water collects in the hole, a variety of birds come – some solo, some in small groups – to bathe. Maybe the hole is the perfect depth and width to attract them, or maybe they just like muddy rainwater, whatever the reason, it attracts more visitors than the birdbath and the pond.grackle bath

Sunset Fence

picket fence sunset
Linking to “Good Fences” at Run-A-Round Ranch.

Reblog: The Song Sparrow’s Friend (or Foe?)

Reblog: The Song Sparrow’s Friend (or Foe?).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

rat inside flower pot, backyard wildlife

Our backyard wood rat. He pilfers birdseed from inside an overturned flower pot.

We have a new backyard visitor. Actually, he thinks he’s a long-term resident. A wood rat has been living in the yard for at least 6 months. For the past month or so, he’s been burrowed underneath a thick layer of snow and ice. Now that spring is coming and the snow is melting, the rat is no longer staying inside. We’ve been watching him prancing back and forth along his self-made trail. First, he runs straight from his den to the seeds that have spilled from the bird feeders. Then, he returns back to store the seeds inside. Today, he found a nice cache of seeds that had fallen inside an overturned flower pot.

The video below shows him racing back and forth to collect the seeds. You can see why they are called pack rats.

See other interpretations of the “Inside” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Winter at the Beach (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

See other interpretations of the “Threes” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Identifying the Red Tail

Are they red-tailed hawks?

Are they red-tailed hawks?

The  red feathers are starting to fan out

The red feathers are starting to fan out

Notice the distinctive red tail feathers

Notice the distinctive red tail feathers

I have trouble identifying hawks because they all seem to look so similar. Looking for clues to a raptor’s identity — by zeroing in on features such as size, shape, coloring, stripes on the feathers or behavior — doesn’t always help me figure out what I’ve seen. Factor in distance or poor lighting and it’s even more difficult; if the hawk is a fledgling or a juvenile, “fuh-gedda-boud-dit!” The young ones are almost impossible for me to distinguish. Despite my difficulty ID’ing hawks, there is one type that is not too difficult to determine from the rear.

The red-tailed hawk is aptly named for its distinctively colored reddish tail feathers. Like many other hawks, the body and wings are brown and the breast is lightly speckled, but the color of the tail really stands out. It’s especially noticeable when the feathers are fanned in flight.

About a month ago, I saw two hawks perched high in a tree. I was uncertain about their identity, although I assumed they were red-tailed hawks because they are so common in my area. Once the hawks began to fly though, the red-brown tail was clearly evident. When you are out and about, look for the red tail to identify the red-tailed hawk.

Vulture Hangout

black vulture on fencepost trio of vulturesThis is THE place to hang out if you’re a black vulture. Linking to Friday’s Fences at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Sunning Tail Feathers

For a bird, a fence makes a great place for sunning your tail feathers after the snow.junco in snowsparrow on fence
Linking to Friday’s Fences at Life According to Jan and Jer.

One Loud Wren

wren We only have one wren that visits our backyard, but he makes his presence known very loudly!

See other “One” photos at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Our Owl-less Outing Near the Ocean

sand and snow fence

Snow on the beach, but no owls

snowy owl bag

This trash sure looked like a snowy owl from a distance!

seawall fence

Lots of gulls, but no owls

heron on the path

A great blue heron on the path near the cove

sanderlings

A group of sanderlings

After reading all the news articles and blog posts about this year’s snowy owl irruption in coastal northeastern areas of the U.S., we decided it was our turn to see a snowy owl in the wild. So, earlier this week, on a very cold and windy day, we drove to Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, New Jersey, to have a firsthand look. We chose to go to Sandy Hook because snowy owl sightings had been reported there. My eagerness was fanned even more after viewing some of the gorgeous snowy owl photos posted on Flickr by fortunate owl spotters.

Sandy Hook has several different beaches along the Atlantic Ocean for swimming, fishing and nude sunbathing(!), as well as a historic military area, nature/hiking/biking trails and a bay side. Since it was quite frigid, there were very few people at the park. At first, we explored some of the beach areas, then we headed toward Ft. Hancock. After that, we walked along a cove on the bay side. The scenery was beautiful. Unfortunately, we did not see any snowy owls, not even a quick glimpse of one. As a consolation for our owl-less outing, however, there were plenty of entertaining gulls, several great blue herons and a small group of sanderlings running back and forth with the waves.

Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Foggy Fence

A foggy day near the Raritan River. Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.fence in the fog foggy bridge