Tag Archives: nature

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

Let There Be Light

This week’s Photo Challenge is “Let There Be Light.”light sky

Especially when it’s cold out, that last bit of color in the sky is an extra welcome sight.

lighthouse

When the natural light is gone, a beam from a lighthouse directs the path.

light sunset

The reflection of sunlight on the water is so peaceful.

See other photo interpretations of “Let There Be Light” at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Waiting Motionlessly

heron by fenceAt the corner of the reservoir, in a secluded spot, the hunter (a.k.a. great blue heron) waits motionlessly for a morning meal. Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Autumn Color

fence

While taking a walk in the park, I found a little section by a fence that seemed to be bursting with autumn color — from the golden, end-of-day sunlight on the trees, to the carpet of fallen leaves. There was even a bench nearby for someone to sit and contemplate the scene. Linking to “Friday’s Fences” at Life According to Jan and Jer.

Blue Jays Back


bluejay pic
As I sit at the laptop and type, I am listening to a cacophony of blue jay calls in the backyard. Lately, I’ve been noticing groups of blue jays banding together in sound and purpose just about everywhere. Blue jays have always been one of the staple backyard birds of my New Jersey upbringing. I have a vague remembrance of my father being dive-bombed by a blue jay as he mowed the lawn – perhaps he ventured too close to a nest. During the last year, blue jays seemed noticeably absent. I would glimpse an occasional lone jay but, for the most part, the usual crowd at our feeders included sparrows and finches, eating their seeds without verbal interference from blue jays.

After experiencing firsthand some of the effects of Hurricane Sandy last year, I wasn’t surprised when I read recently about the impact the storm had on birds, mostly because of storm damage to either the bird’s habitat or food sources. An article from the National Wildlife Federation specifically mentions blue jays as one of the species that flew south in search of food after the storm. Based on my own casual observations, I think they’ve now returned back to the north!