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Tag : Great Swamp

10 Mar 2013

A duck of a different color is still just a duck

I went to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge today to see what might be flying through. I have several favorite places, some require a little hiking and I was feeling lazy so I drove to the spots that have easy access. I pulled up to the largest pond that you can park beside and there were a couple of people out taking photos.

On the far side of the pond was a bunch of ducks. This time of year usually the only thing I see floating is Canada geese. When I see them, I don’t even stop, but the ducks looked interesting. The ducks were pretty far away, too far to get a very close photo. The other two people with cameras were moving around quite a bit, which kept the ducks away. When everyone stood still for a while, the ducks would slowly move closer and then one of them move around and the ducks would move away.

The two camera toters finally gave up and left, I guess the ducks were too far away. That was fine with me, so I froze in place and the ducks slowly got closer. The ducks were diving and popping back up, they were fun to watch. I remember reading that diving ducks use their feet to help them take off. I don’t know why, but they run across the water as they take to the air. They were almost in camera range when something gave them a little spook and several took off to the other side of the pond. I didn’t spook them but I was ready.  They weren’t in the light I wanted but it is a fun photo anyway.

And once again, waiting for the shot pays off. The other two with cameras left without anything, if they would have been quiet and hung out another 10 minutes they may have made a shot.

I’ve shot a lot of ducks, but I don’t know what kind this one is. I looked it up in my bird books, but I still am not sure. If you have any thoughts, let me know.

22 Apr 2011

Reflecting on Earth Day

Bare trees are reflected in a pond as new spring green leaves sprout.

Every year on Good Friday, I think about my senior year of high school when friend Tim Kochert and I hopped in his car and drove around the lake region of northern Indiana. I remember it as the perfect spring day, warm and sunny with that great feeling in the air. We drove around a state park where I’d later work for two summers and then headed around several of the lakes. I had known Tim since before we started grade school and even though we shared a locker, we didn’t hang out together much. It was a fun day of not doing anything special with an old friend and the memory has lingered all these years. Tim created another special memory for me last summer when he took me on a flight in his plane over glaciers in Alaska.

Today wasn’t a beautiful day but I wanted to celebrate Earth Day by being sure to get out and spend some time in the great outdoors. I went to Lord Stirling Park, which is a large county park adjacent to the Great Swamp National Wildlife refuge. The swamp isn’t too pretty this time of year, it is a swamp, after all. With all the rain, the grass is brilliant green contrasted against the dark, swampy water. I was fascinated with the way the trees were reflecting in the water as a few blades of grass stuck out of the pond.

07 Nov 2010

Leaves are gone at Lord Stirling

A boardwalk is covered with frost in Lord Stirling park.

Since I couldn’t get into Lord Stirling park in Bernards, NJ, yesterday as the deer herd was being thinned, I headed back at sunrise to see what was around. I hoped there would be some leaves left on the trees, but they are mostly bare. The leaves on the ground didn’t look too great, the color is gone and the frost this morning was very light. There are lots of boardwalks in the park and some frost on one of them made a nice contrast with the warm sunlight.

The sunrise is reflected in the swamp at Lord Stirling park.

I always enjoy seeing the sunrise hitting trees in the swampy part of the park. The water is dark and nicely reflects whatever is being hit by the sunlight. It can look really nice when colorful leaves are floating but  today I saw only brown oak leaves.

06 Nov 2010

Parks closed: gotta cull the deer herd

Frost covers a leaf at Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

This morning I thought it would be good to go to Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, NJ, which is adjacent to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  They are essentially the same place, they are only separated by the Passaic River and a different name. I got there while it was still fairly dark, taking advantage of the last day of daylight savings time. Now I have to get up an hour earlier to see the sun rise. I got out of the Jeep and saw a sign that said Trails Closed and then a rope across the main trail. Hanging off the rope was a little sign saying something about deer management. In other words hunters were in there culling the herd. So I thought I’d just go over to the NWR, I still had plenty of time before the sun came up. Of course, only hunters were allowed. I’m sure I could have found a trail in but a bored hunter might take a shot for fun.

Mist rises from a waterfalls at Lendells Pond in Mendham, NJ.

I understand the need to hold down the deer population. There are too many and when there is a tough winter, there won’t be enough food for them to sustain themselves. They are changing the landscape, you can see a browse line at their head height in any woods in the area. Many people complain about the deer eating their scrubs, I don’t care about that, but no new growth is happening because the deer eat tree saplings before they have a chance to grow. But I hate having the image in my head of a deer being shot by an arrow and then running in pain for however long it takes for the deer to bleed to death. I guess that is better than starving to death.

So I went over to the Audubon Society’s place, which is only a few miles away. They didn’t have any hunters but I was there before they opened the gate. So I drove around the property and came upon a water falls at the end of Ledells Pond in Mendham. It seems like I have been shooting lots of waterfalls lately but it looked good as the mist rose.

I went back over to the Audubon sanctuary and while I was driving around I saw three large bucks. I couldn’t tell if they were in the rut or scared by the hunters, but they looked nervous. Hopefully they didn’t stroll under a hunter’s tree stand.

17 Oct 2010

Fox and heron at the Great Swamp

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge pounces on prey.

I headed off to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this morning. I thought with the cool morning air and water still being warm there mist be some nice mist shots as the sun came up. If they were there, I didn’t find them.

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

I was driving down a small gravel road and saw a red fox in the road about 1/4 mile ahead of me. As I got closer, it went into the trees but I couldn’t see it anymore. I creeped away and saw it in my mirror, so I turned around and slowly drove back toward it. It didn’t mind me being there as long as I kept my distance, so I followed it for a while. It stopped a few times and I took pictures through my windshield. It stopped and looked at something in the grass. The fox hunched down and got ready to pounce and then it jumped through the air and landed on a vole. It brought the tasty breakfast back to the road, gobbled it down and then walked toward me as I shot more pictures through the windshield. The fox walked right past me on the road that is barely wide enough for two cars. It didn’t even look up to see what I was doing, it just went back to where I first saw it and headed back into the trees.

A great blue heron stalks prey in the grass of a pond at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

My favorite bird is the Great Blue Heron. They are pretty and they make me smile when they walk. They are pretty skittish, I haven’t found a way to sneak up on one, but if I see one working the shore of a pond, I know if I stay still, it may walk right in front of me. This morning I saw one sitting on a small log in a pond. I pulled my Jeep off the edge of the road and the bird stayed put. I sat there for over an hour taking pictures of the heron on the log and then walking through the grass. When it was in the reeds it would peek through while looking for some breakfast.

31 Jul 2010

What’s good: Hanging out in the Great Swamp

Two trees reach for the sky at the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of NJ Audubon Society.

Two trees reach for the sky at the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of NJ Audubon Society.

Today had to be one of the top five weather days of the year. Clear skies, low humidity and nice temperatures made for a perfect day.  So I headed off to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and NJ Audubon’s Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Refuge. They are about five miles apart and only 15 minutes from my house.  At the Audubon center, I walked one of their trails and saw two trees that had grown together and were tall and straight. They had grown together at the base but became more separated the higher they grew.

As I was leaving, the Audubon people showed me some bear bones. The bear was killed on a highway and they put the bear in the woods to get “cleaned” naturally. It only took two weeks for the coyotes, buzzards and bugs to get rid of the flesh. I wouldn’t have thought of using nature to clean the the meat and fun off of roadkill, but it was effective. It is good to know what to do with any dead bears I may have in the future. Now the bones are in a cardboard box.

Close up shot of a flower pedal.

Close up shot of a flower pedal.

I went over to the Great Swamp, which is pretty dry since we haven’t had much rain this summer. I did some macro work on wild flowers. I have to do more research to see what kind of flower it was, all I know it was pretty.

Two great white egrets in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Two great white egrets in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

I spotted an egret, so I stopped the car and went back. There were three of them in the shallow water. One didn’t move and the other two walked around stalking food. They did a couple of spears, but I didn’t see them catch anything. After a burst of pictures, I noticed a black blob in my pictures. The shutter on my camera blew out. It is a pro camera that hasn’t had near enough actuations for the shutter to go out. Bummer.

15 May 2010

What’s good: Warbler flies into ground, mate comes back

A male yellow warbler watches over his mate that flew into the ground.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon at the Great Swamp, a 3,000 acre national wildlife refuge about 15 miles north of my house. I’ve spent a good deal of time there, it is a cool place, there is lots of wildlife, which is good since it is a refuge and not a lot of people, which is good since it is a wildlife refuge.

I haven’t done a lot of bird photography, especially small birds. I saw three people with cameras watching some trees at the edge of a parking area. I parked and slowly walked over to see what they were looking at. They were friendly, as birders tend to be, and told me there were several yellow warblers buzzing around. After they said they wouldn’t mind if I joined them, I brought my camera over and setup near them. They were good, they’d point out birds I didn’t even see, usually in the shadows where a good picture couldn’t be made.

The warblers were pretty rowdy, they were mating, the others said. A male and female flew out of the trees and were wrestling in the air. The male kinda hit the female as they were flying and the female flew straight into the gravel road. The bird was out cold. The male flew down to check on his mate but the female didn’t move. He flew away and two of the people walked over to see if the bird was dead. As they approached, it slowly flew into the trees, but it was still stunned. They tried to catch the bird to take it to a nearby bird rescue. The bird regained strength and flew higher in the trees. I guess it was just stunned but OK. None of us had even seen a bird fly into the ground before, it was quite a sight.

10 Apr 2010

What’s good: Reflections in The Great Swamp

A Canada goose preens in the Great Swamp

I made a quick trip to The Great Swamp late this afternoon. The Great Swamp is about 15 north of my house. It is a 3,000 acres National Wildlife Refuge that was created in the early ’60s when they wanted to build a huge airport and the locals got creative and created a wildlife refuge so they couldn’t pave it. Instead the put in a few boardwalks and some trails.

It isn’t the prettiest place, it is a swamp and it looks it. I’ve spent a lot of time there and know it pretty well.

I went to a boardwalk that goes out to a blind where you can observe wildlife without disturbing the critters. I’ve never seen anything good from the blind but the boardwalk usually provides something interesting.

As the sun was getting low today,  a Canada goose was sitting on a clump of grass. There was a nice reflection in the water as the goose pruned itself.