Saturday, February 25, 2012

March winds...

... Arrived a bit early this year, big surprise.

(She normally doesn't favor this feeder but it isn't swinging as madly as the other two are today.)

Isn't it time for you to go back home, darling? (Rufous Hummingbirds nest on the Pacific Coast, arriving back from their wintering grounds in March and April.) I'd like at least a couple of weeks where I don't have to fill hummer feeders! (The ruby-throateds will be back in a little more than a month.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eew. Ewww.

Gack. I thought the sign was just a more honest way of saying "calamari"...

No, it wasn't. Those are entire wee little octopi in there!!! Waahhhhh....

Not what I was planning on photographing when I stopped by the fishermen's wharf to pick up dinner.

That was.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Avalon Add-On.

The sun came out a couple of days after our Barnegat adventure, so I decided to venture on over to the seawall closer to home... Fair number of loons, and more herring gulls lining Townsend's Inlet than the entire state could have claimed a handful of decades ago. No impressive diving ducks, but I did manage a few species we missed at Barnegat Light.

I'd had enough of jetty walking, so even though "ours" is a bit safer (the gaps between boulders are cemented all the way out to the end), I stuck to the sand. Some observer I am--only the defensive shifting of these little birds let me know they were there. (There are at least five in the above photo.)

Semipalmated Plovers. One of the cutest, if not the most cute "sandpiper" ever. (Piping Plovers merely look like a bleached-out version of these, and the color on these will deepen with the oncoming spring.) 

Eye-catching red algae.

American Oystercatchers! (+ Herring Gull)

I can't ID shorebirds to save my life and to make it worse, these weren't doing anything. (Behavior can often get you at least part of the way, if not all the way, to a positive identification. For instance, Purple Sandpipers like to pick through the rocks in the surf line of a jetty... Sanderlings chase waves and are chased by the waves up and down the beach... Dowitchers feed like sewing machines along marshes... These were just standing there. Bah!)

[My flock of peeps--all these insane birders I happen to know--to the rescue!!! Thank you, Sam. Red Knot. Awesome. And not one with a band. Hmmm...]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Barnegat treasures.

Closest we get to a tide pool, and you can't really even call them that...
(Noticed a really interesting effect on this jetty; the inlet side had blue mussels and barnacles; the other, green and brown algae and no mollusks.)

Rockweed, an algae. Better known as "poppers" to kids growing up along the Jersey coast... (Dried to just the right consistency, those air bladders give a nice satisfying *pop* when squeezed.)

Lunch Wrapper. (spider crab carapace)

Tide's coming in, time to go.

One last shot.

Jim McCormac's blog is a must-see for the close-ups from our field trip!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Barnegat Lighthouse.

When a bird-watching acquaintance from Ohio manages to venture within a couple hours' drive of Cape May, naturally you ask if they will stick around a bit for some sight-seeing. Jim said yes, he was planning to, wanna come on a pelagic? Um, 12 hours on a boat headed out over fifty miles at sea in February…? No, thank you, anything else you want to do while you are here? [Shhh, don't tell him the pelagic was a resounding success.]

Well, there is one thing that the ocean and winter together contrive to bring us here on the Jersey Coast worth the effort to search out, and you don't have to leave dry land (much) to see it.

Given that living in the Cape May area spoils one so terribly, I hadn't ever actually been up to Barnegat Light to see the Harlequin Ducks. Why make the trip when the past few harsh winters have brought the quarry into waters just a handful of miles from home as the fish crow flies?

But this season has been mild even by normal standards, and to see this specialty this year meant another road trip… Despite the tales of the less-than-ideal viewing conditions experienced by most, it was still a better option for wimpy old me than the pelagic. And Mother Nature must want to see more land-locked visitors in this neck of her woods, because she held off the rain and wind typical for this time of year and even conspired to grant us the perfect tides and a well-satisfied wish list. If it was only some sunlight we were lacking, we weren't going to fuss beyond one or two half-hearted "the light could be better for photography" grumbles.

Yup, you can climb it. Nope, I didn't count the steps. Yes, I needed the breather each strategically placed landing and interpretive sign provided…

Score! Harlequin Ducks.

Yes, these are real birds and are really found in New Jersey. During the winter at least; when you nest way far north, our cold damp windy wet coast must seem like a tropical beach...

Jim had the better lens and fewer nerves (or more, depending on your viewpoint), so I just sat back and watched him as well as the birds. It's a treat for those of us who live within hearing distance of the ocean to watch people who rarely see it be so captivated.

Better weather than most people get, perfect tide, little wind, birds everywhere--and he's FaceBooking!!!

Another score...but you'll have to check out
Jim McCormac's blog  for the close-ups!

More Longwood flowers...

I believe that giant thing is a lily...

Mmmm, bird of paradise.

The petals are barely visible at the very tips; that fantastic-ness is merely the bracts of this bromeliad.

Chenille Plant. (Better than "pipe cleaner plant" I suppose...)

No idea, but who cares with that color?

Pineapple Sage: gardener and hummingbird's delight.

My hibiscus never look like that. (And it's about the size of a dessert plate...)

Most of the palms in the Palm House were in bloom this year.

Who needs a flower when your stem looks like this?
(There are little fruits on the end of the dark red threads...)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Longwood Orchids, 2012.

One of these days I'll get out into the field to see the real thing. (Yes, New Jersey has native orchids. Quite a few, I believe. Not quite this big and showy, of course, but dainty and discreet as Mother Nature intended!)

Okay, so those are bananas. But this conservatory was originally for the banana trees, with two cases of orchids at one end. As the orchid collection grew, they took over from the bananas. The Longwood conservatories were practical as well as ornamental; now you can buy bananas practically everywhere. (Their orangery isn't an orangery any more either, although they did have some grapefruit trees scattered about this time around...)

This doesn't quite do justice to the actual retina-burning color, but it's close...

Even though last year's shot was one of the best, I had to snap this one again. Perhaps you just can't take a bad photo of this whiter-than-snow lovely...

Orchids are weird.


But weird. (Or perhaps that's just what humans have done to them.)

Even Jimmy Mac succumbed to their photographic lure...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Longwood Gardens, 2012.

The first Friday in February meant it was time once again for Longwood Garden's annual horticulture symposium… And lo, once again an internet acquaintance from Ohio was on the schedule. Road trip!

The conservatories were looking a bit more lush this time around. Then again, last year there was a foot of snow on the ground outside and this year winter hasn't really put in much of an appearance yet.

The orchids were lovely, but I was really coveting the bowls!

The Green Wall.

You could see where they were going with this, and folks in the business said it was a hot new trend, but after a couple of years this one wasn't quite there yet. It was far too dry on this day for all of the ferns and tropicals in it. Luckily it is made up of small blocks, easily replaced.

Do you think he noticed the gate crasher in the back of the lecture hall? I seemed to have been the only one pointing a camera at him...