Green Herons at Almshouse Creek

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While spending time watching the Ospreys at Almshouse Creek,…

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… I noticed that there’s also a family of Green Herons who have taken up residence in the same area.

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Yesterday, baby Green Heron was hanging out in a secluded corner of the cove at Almshouse Creek.

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This morning, four Green Herons were hunting from the rocks along the shore. Uncharacteristically, they didn’t spook when they saw me, but continued hunting, gifting me with lots of opportunities for photos.

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One of the Herons snatched an incredibly large spider among the rocks.

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The Spider did what it could to escape the Heron, …

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but the Heron tenaciously maneuvered the spider…

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until a flip of his beak…

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… and the Heron gulped the spider down.

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Meanwhile, another Heron hunted further up the shoreline…

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… as one of the juveniles explored the boat dock…

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… and another made use of a water hose to assist with his hunting…

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before settling down to rest for a bit.

The Ospreys at Almshouse Creek

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The Osprey family at Almshouse Creek seems to be doing well at their nesting site. The creek is full of fish, so much so that each time I saw the Ospreys leave the nest, they returned with an offering for the chick.

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One look at the claws reveals why the Osprey is such an efficient hunter.

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The Osprey flew back and forth from the nest repeatedly. Here the Osprey is landing in a bit of a tail wind.

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Here the Osprey shows off her incredible wing span.

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No matter what is happening, Mama Osprey’s attention is on the chick. There’s at least one chick in the nest, though it’s still young enough that it’s spending it’s time deep in the nest, and I’ve only occasionally gotten a glimpse of the baby through the tangle of tree branches.

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Within moments, the chick drops down under cover of the nest, and Mama continues to watch over her baby.

Patterns in the Garden

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Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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It has been a rainy month in the midst of a rainy season here in the Mid-Atlantic states. In fact, June was the third rainiest month on record. As a result, I’ve spent much less time birding recently. What has caught my attention? The garden. Or rather, the patterns I see within the garden. Jewels of infinity set in a garden plot that measures at most sixteen feet by twenty feet.

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Baltimore Orioles Tend to Their Babies

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I just went for a short walk today at a nearby park. As I strolled around the backside of a small pond, I heard a bird chastising me from a nearby tree. We’ve had a very wet spring and early summer, so the leaves are thick and lush. So it took  me awhile to locate the bird. It was a Baltimore Oriole.

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I was surprised when the Oriole didn’t fly off. He continued to chastise me, but stayed within a two-tree radius.

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I also noticed that although he was snagging bugs, he wasn’t gulping them down, but instead was flying back and forth to one section of a Sycamore tree that was overhanging the pond.

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I sat on the path, and eventually  the Oriole decided that I posed no threat. He continued to go back and forth to this one branch of the Sycamore. For about fifteen minutes, I couldn’t spot the nest, though I knew it was there.

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Finally, the Oriole paused just over the nest and I saw it! Baltimore Orioles build really cool nests that hang from tree branches almost like a Christmas stocking hangs from a mantle. The female Oriole uses grass fibers, strips of grapevine bark, wool, horsehair or even man-made artificial materials such as fishing line. She weaves the materials together and lashes it to the surrounding twigs and branches.

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For another fifteen minutes or so, I heard the female Oriole in the trees behind me, but it took awhile before she felt comfortable enough to approach the nest. But finally, she came.

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Finally, both the male and the female were comfortable enough with my presence to come to the nest at the same time.

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They continued flying back and forth. I never did see the chicks, though that seems reasonable considering the depth of the nest.

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I’ll be back in the coming days to see if I can spot the chicks and I’ll be sure to update you when I see them!!

The Epitome of Biting Off More Than One Can Chew

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As I drove through Bombay Hook, I saw this Great Blue Heron struggling to carry a fish to shallow water.

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Now, Great Blues swallow their prey whole. I just couldn’t quite imagine how this bird was going to get that great big fish down it’s skinny neck. He struggled for over a half an hour…

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… sometimes dropping the fish in the water…

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… other times grabbing the fish head first to get it in position for swallowing!

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Then, the Heron would flip the bird up in a gesture that would nearly pull the bird into the water before he would drop the fish and start all over.

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Finally, the Heron maneuvered the bird just so…

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… and with a sudden jerk, flipped the fish up so that it began to slide down his throat.

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Amazingly, the Heron’s throat seemed to expand to fit the widest part of the fish.

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One giant gulp, and down the fish slid!

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The most surprising part of all? Within five minutes of swallowing that fish, the Heron went back to hunting for more!

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Protective Mama

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Mama Willet was protectively watching over her two chicks this morning, though only one shows up in the photo. The serene moment was broken when a Black-Necked Stilt flew in near the chicks.

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Mama Willet sprang into action, chasing the Stilt from her baby. The Stilt rang the alarm, and several more Stilts joined the fray.

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Mama Willet was relentless, chasing the Stilts over and over.

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Eventually, the Stilts retreated to the far end of the island in the middle of the impound, and Mama Willet returned to her chicks, who had hidden in the tall grass.

Summer Moves On at the Bluebird Boxes

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The first babies to hatch, a brood of Chickadees, fledged sometime this past week. Meanwhile, the other Chickadee brood and the Bluebirds continue to mature.

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Here are the Chickadees. For this photo, I didn’t crop out Annie’s hand, so that you have some perspective for the size of these little birds. It looks like three of them have survived, unless there’s another one snuggled in the back of the nest.

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Here’s a cropped photo. They look distinctly like Chickadees now. I wonder if they’ll fledge before next week?

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Here are the Bluebirds. It looks like a Chickadee nest with all the moss, but if you remember, the Chickadee abandoned her nest early in the season, and the Mama Bluebird put her grass nest inside the moss that was already in the nesting box. The wing feathers are still quite thin and underdeveloped, so I rather imagine these babies will still be here nest week.

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The Tree Swallow eggs have hatched, probably only a couple of days ago, as you can just see the first feathers ‘sprouting’ on the baby’s back. Mama Swallow was on the nest when we arrived, and flew off as we approached the nest.

Hungry Baby Bluebirds

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The Bluebird babies are getting bigger, or at least their mouths are getting bigger! At just a week or so old, they’re still pretty helpless, though they are starting to hold their heads up as they beg for food.

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Meanwhile, the Chickadees that hatched around two weeks ago now look like miniature versions of their parents. They must be close to fledging!

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The Chickadees from the other box, who only hatched a week or so ago are now growing wing feathers, and their eyes are looking more proportional to the size of their heads.

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The Tree Swallow eggs have yet to hatch. I was concerned, but as I sat in the car after checking the box, Mama Tree Swallow flew back to the nest.

Bluebird Boxes Update

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Baby bluebirds are here!! We have two boxes with baby Bluebirds, though you wouldn’t recognize them as Bluebirds quite yet! In fact, it’s rather difficult to recognize them as birds just yet!

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The first Chickadees to hatch, sometime between May 11th and May 15th, are beginning to develop the characteristics of Chickadees. You can clearly see their black caps and white bibs. The Chickadees have a nestling period of 16-19 days. By next week, these babies will only be a few days from fledging.

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Here’s a second box of Chickadee babies, hatched a week or so after the first brood. Particularly on the bird at the top of the picture, you can see the bird’s mouth, beak and eyes, even if the photo is a bit fuzzy. These birds hatched from their eggs between May 15th and May 22nd.

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Finally, here’s a photo of the Tree Swallow nest. Mama was sitting on her nest when we arrived, and flew off before we opened the door of the nest. Tree Swallows incubates their eggs for up to 20 days. Mama Tree Swallow laid these eggs sometimes between May 9th and May 15th. I’m curious to see how much longer before they hatch.

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Meanwhile, I met a young woman from Pennsylvania who is serving as a research intern with the environmental research center. She will be conducting research on the data we are submitting, and will be developing the web page site on the Bluebird trail. I look forward to seeing what she will be doing during her internship.

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