Wanamassa Birds

I frequently stroll the streets of Wanamassa, NJ, with camera at the ready to take pictures of birds. Here are the results for 2006.

My Photo
Name:Dave Saunders
Location:Ocean, New Jersey, United States

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Young Yellowlegs?

I go years without seeing a yellowlegs and then I get a second sighting only a few weeks after the one I saw in Secaucus. This one was at the Fireman's Pond the other evening. It looks like a young version of the earlier bird. The plumage is less well developed. The bird seems smaller and fluffier, but the white ring around the eyes and the shape of the beak says that this is a young greater yellowlegs. (Not to mention the color of the legs.)

I watched it for nearly half an hour hoping it would give me a better look at its legs and this is as good as it got:

Compared to the bird at Secaucus, this one seems to have a somewhat longer neck (proportionally speaking), but I suspect that this is just a sign that the bird isn't yet fully developed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Memorable Large Birds

It's taken me a while to get around to posting this, but on Memorial Day (May 29), I took it into my head to drive up to the Cablevision office at the end of Sunset Ave., because there's an Osprey nest at the top of the tower there that is closer to the ground than the one in Palaia Park. And, I was rewarded with this shot as an adult left the nest:

But the bird flew off towards the ocean so I reckoned it was a dead loss hanging around there any longer. So I drove over to the library hoping that perhaps there I could get a close-up of a turkey vulture. There's been a lot of them around lately. But no such luck that day. However, I did spot this rather large crow who obliged me by taking wing as I was photographing it:

From there, I went over to the church and was very pleased to discover that a red-tailed hawk was perched on the spire:

What was fascinating was to see the behavior of the other birds in the vicinity. The blue jays in particular were incensed and kept making bombing runs at the hawk:

Generally speaking, the hawk was unimpressed with the antics of the blue jays. The jays were clearly stretching their ability to just fly up that high because they could only stay for a few moments making two or three passes at the hawk before returning to a nearby tree for rest, albeit noisy rest.

Meanwhile, this robin was equally fascinated by the hawk, but all it did the whole time I was there was perch alertly on this branch staring at the hawk:

At one point, a blue jay chose the same tree to take a break:

Eventually, the hawk decided it was time to move on. It turned around and flew away from me heading towards the ocean, although, unlike the osprey, I doubt that was actually its destination:

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Now This is a Baltimore Oriole

I had wandered off to the ocean without telling anyone where I was going. The truth is that I only made the decision when I reached the bridge on Sunset that joins Wanamassa to Asbury Park. Even then, I nearly changed my mind because my feet were already aching. But I persevered. Meanwhile, Pam and Denise decided to go for a walk around Deal Test Site and they came upon a Baltimore Oriole that was acting rather oddly. It was in the grass and hardly moving. Indeed, it almost let Pam pick it up before fluttering off.

Pam and Denise came searching for me, but it didn't occur to them that I would have gone all the way to the ocean. This was, after all, the first time I've ever walked the whole way there are back (about a mile each way). When I finally arrived home at about 4:30, Pam suggested we pop along to Deal Test Site to see if the bird was still there. At first, we couldn't find it, but as luck would have it we guessed right about the direction it had taken and there it was, still in the grass:

This time, it was clearly nervous at my close approach, although I was nowhere near as close as Pam had been earlier, and it flew off and up into a nearby tree where I was able to get these two shots:

We checked back later before leaving the park and it had moved on, so we're hoping that there was in fact nothing wrong with it.

Black & White Swan Show!

I walked to the ocean and back this afternoon -- seemed like a good idea at the time. I was hopiing there'd be sanderlings at the beach, but no such luck. However, on the way there I saw this pair of black swans in the water by Sunset Avenue in Asbury Park:

and then, on the way back, in Loch Arbour, I saw these white swans:

For the record, the bird I photographed closest to the ocean was this robin who was kicking up a fuss and looking rather unhappy on top of a bush in the yard of a building that backs on to the ocean:

Green Heron

My first sighting this year of a green heron. I had a rather frustrating time trying to get a better picture. For some reason the camera kept focusing past the bird, so this is the only picture worth publishing. I took this at the duck pond. Later, I saw another green heron at the firemen's pond where last year a pair nested. I check the site of last year's nest and there is no sign yet that it is being rebuilt.


Earlier, as I wandered the paths through the swamps that characterize the undeveloped parts of the Meadowlands, I disturbed this bird as it was tasting the delights on the mud right next to the path. Fortunately, it didn't fly too far away and I was able to get these shots:

The question is: is this a greater or lesser yellowlegs? I'm inclined to think it is a greater because of the white around its eyes and the white underbelly. But I'm so often wrong about these things that I once again seek input. How do you tell one from the other when they're not available for side-by-side comparison?

What Kind of Sandpiper?

I was up in Secaucus on Friday afternoon and I stumbled upon these sandpipers as I was on my way back to the meeting I was attending. I thought they were spotted sandpipers (although I was suprised to see more than two at once—there were six of them in a little flock), and now that I examine the pictures, they don't seem quite right for spotted sandpipers.

I don't have a good front-on picture, so it's hard to tell what the markings are on the birds' chests. This one looks a little more like a spotted sandpiper, but I'm thinking that perhaps these are least sandpipers.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Other Birds in Trees

This afternoon was a time for birds to pose in trees for me. In addition to the warbler shots I just posted, I also saw these.

First, this great blue flew in from the west and perched opposite me. I was at the time trying to see where a kingfisher had landed. That darned elusive bird will not pose for me. I had seen it a few moments earlier and I thought it had perched in the tree across the duckpond. While I was scanning the tree in the hope of spotting the kingfisher, this great blue heron arrived:

and moments after it arrived, I agan saw the kingfisher flying towards the ocean. After taking pictures of the great blue, I set out in optimistic pursuit of the kingfisher and instead encountered the warblers.

But I also saw this house sparrow preening itself in a tree. It is very unusual for a house sparrow to be so unconcerned by my close approach:

And later, while I was still seeking out warblers, I spotted this bird. I would have missed it altogether had I not seen it fly across the water when I was fifty yards away. My good budy, the black-crowned night heron:

Warblers are hard to identify

It turns out that six of the pictures I took of warblers this afternoon all turned out to be yellow-rumpted warblers.

but the seventh is a different kettle of fish!

The problem is, I didn't get a decent shot of its head. Indeed, I didn't get a decent look at its head. This is the best look and it's not very good:

When I first glimpsed the bird it was alighting near the top of a tall tree, and all I saw was its chest lit up by the low afternoon sun. I thought for a second it was a robin. But then it flew past me to a nearby tree, and then my thought was that it might be a Balitmore oriole, but I quickly realized it was too small for that. It must be a warbler, but what? Perhaps a redstart, but it doesn't seem to have the right mix of colors.

Update The consensus of the folks who visit the bird watching forum is that these last two shots are indeed of a Baltimore Oriole. Wasn't so long ago that a picture of an oriole would have had me jumping for joy, but somehow this feels anticlimactic because I was oh so hoping it would be a warbler!

A different Goose

Canada geese are so common around here that to see a different kind is a novelty. Pam arrived home from a trip to Asbury Park excited to have seen some Brant geese by the side of the road at the intersection of Allenhurst, Interlaken and Asbury Park. So I popped over on Monday and took this picture:

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:

Monday, March 27, 2006

Double Lens -- Not Bad!

Today is the first sunny day since I started using the new camera, so I took the opportunity to screw both C-8 1.6x teleconverters on the front. The results are not bad. Consider that without the combination (which gives me the eqivalent of a 1,075mm lens for a 35mm camera), I would never have gotten close enough to this house finch to take any picture:

I also took a picture of a robin that came fairly close. The color in this picture is not as good as I would have hoped, but I think it might have been that I was pointing into the sun some:

When I compare these shots with what I used to get with both lenses attached to the Oympus, the results are marvelous. First, there's no vignetting at all. I even have a little bit of zoom wiggle-room. And the atificially crackled effect (as I used to think of it) is gone.

Of course, the fact that I am collecting more pixels helps a lot. The house finch image is reduced from 1600 x 1000 pixels I cropped from the image. The robin shot is reduced from a crop of 2000 x 1250.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Damp Sunday Afternoon

Determined to make the best of a damp afternoon, I set off on my usual walk, first to the duck pond, then along North Wanamassa Drive. At the duck pond, the only picture I took was of a female American Black Duck which had wandered up on to the bank:

But then, as I was walking along the south bank towards Foodtown, I heard, but didn't see, a kingfisher. Three times, it made its distinctive call, but none of the times did I catch any kind of glimpse of it. I crossed Wickapecko and looked along Deal Lake from the bridge, and lo! There was the kingfisher flying towards the ocean. I tried to follow it, but there was no sign of it. If it did alight on any of the overhanging branches, I didn't see it.

This has been an unprecedented year for kingfisher sightings. I've never before had more than one sighting a year, and already I'm up to four sightings this year, but with narry a picture to prove it.

To add to my frustration, it started to rain. I took shelter under a tree halfway down the bank. It was just a shower and there was no lightning to worry about. While I was there, I saw a pair of great blue herons. They flew along the lake towards me from the ocean but circled back just before they reached me. I waited out the shower and set off in pursuit, hoping to find them together. But the sky was by now looking very threatening, so I decided to head back home lest if pour, because I was wearing just a jacket.

I caught sight of a gull that I'd noticed sitting on the lake when I went the other way. Thinking I might get some shots of it taking off, I hurried to find a place on the bank where I wouldn't have to worry too much about the overhanging trees and focused on the bird. Before I could press the shutter release, the bird took off, and I was able to get one picture only. But it's a pretty good one under the circumstances:

I decided to return home via Fireman's Pond. It is only slightly out of my way. To my surprise, I spotted the Northern Shoveler. I thought this was the same bird as the one I captured on Friday. I thought it had flown from one pond to the other. But now I compare the pictures, this one has a white mark near the top of its beak that was not present on Friday's bird. I had seen a shoveler at Fireman's pond before, so perhaps this was that bird.

I was also able to get a slightly better picture of the male teal, although I've still not gotten close enough. The first chance I get on a sunny day, I'm going to take my longer lens along.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

GBH Action Shots

It was overcast and somewhere between brisk and chilly this morning, but undetered I went out hoping to find the egret and/or great blue heron again. No sign of the egret, and I would have missed the great blue had it not flown across the water at Wanamassa Drive North just as I was approaching. Had it flown across a minute or two earlier, I might never have noticed it in the tree across the water because it blended right into the background.

As it was, it gave me the chance to try out a feature of the new camera whereby it will continually take pictures, but only keep the last ten shots. This allows me to point the camera at a stationary bird and keep on shooting until something happens. As anyone who has watched a great blue heron for any length of time will tell you, it can be quite a long time before it does anything more interesting than turning its head this way or that and occasionally curling its neck.

But this morning, I got lucky!

Take your marks:

Get set:


Fasten your seatbelts:

Chair backs in the vertical position:

Turn off all electronic gadgets:

Thank you for flying GBH:

Unfortunately, I took my finger off the button a couple of shots too early. The bird alighted on that branch, and ten minutes later was still there (I took this picture at a different angle to get the white house out of the frame):

Had it been either warmer or brighter, I might have hung around some to see if anything else was going to happen, but it was too cold, so I walked back home to see how good these pictures were. Brighter light would have given me sharper images but all-in-all, I can't complain.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mourning Doves

In the great scheme of things, taking pictures of mourning doves is no big achievement. Like mallards and Canada geese they're on my list of "too easy to bother with" birds. But these two seemed to have created a nest for themselves in the front yard of one of the houses on North Wanamassa Drive and so I snapped this rather nice shot:

And today, an Egret

Hot on the heels of yesterday's great blue heron, today I spotted an egret. I first saw it in flight and it was headed up the same north-side arm of Deal Lake where the great blue had eluded me yesterday. But it didn't stay there long. Unfamiliarity with the camera cost me an excellent chance to get some shots of it in flight, but I followed it and found it in yet another of those side-arms. But this one is not as long and so I was at least able to take this picture:

Experience says that this bird will be around for a few days before continuing north, so I'll go out for another look tomorrow (weather permitting).

I did see the great blue heron again a few minutes later at the duck pond, but just as I got into position to take a picture it upped and flew off. I last saw it flying past some houses close-by the lake and heading off in a north-westerly direction. I'm not sure where it was going because there's not much in the way of open water in that direction.

Great Blue & Great News!

Yesterday, I was checking out the part of Deal Lake that is bounded by North Wanamassa Drive yesterday when I spotted a Great Blue. It put on a little show for me and I was particularly pleased with this shot:

but as I tried to get closer, it flew off and took refuge up one of the side-arms on the north side of the lake, too far away to even bother trying to take a picture.

So, what's the great news? Well, the accessory I ordered for my camera to allow attaching filters was delivered that afternoon, so now I have the equivalent of a 672mm lens thanks to my trusty on Canon C-8 which fits even better on my new camera than on the old. [Thinks: I should try it out with both C-8s attached the next time it's a really sunny day.]

It was the C-8 that made those shoveler shots I posted earlier so much better than the previous shots.

Shovel Off

For the last few days, each time I've tried to get a picture of the solitary shoveler it has presented me with essentially this view:

as it hightailed it to the other side of the pond. With all the tree branches cluttering up the bank, particularly on the south side where I normally first appear in order to keep the sun behind me, by the time I'm ready to take a picture, it's already across the other side and the best I can do is something like this:

But today was overcast and so taking pictures into the sun was possible. In that first shot, the bird had just noticed me on the north bank and had set off back to the south side. But for some reason, it turned and gave me the side-on shot before moving on: