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.
I was driving home from the office in East Brunswick and as I crossed the Raritan River from New Brunswick to Piscataway on Rt. 18, I saw a big splash in the river. It wasn’t very close to the bridge, so I knew it didn’t come from the bridge. A little farther down river I saw small waves circling out from another spot.
There is a park along the river so I drove into it to check out what was making the big splashes.
I drove down a little road and couldn’t see anything, as I was driving back I noticed a couple of large birds on dead branches of a tree. I looked closer and could tell that they were cormorants, Double Crested Cormorants to be exact. So I parked and got out the camera, big lens and tripod. There were five cormorants in the tree and a couple more flew in. Cormorants migrate through New Jersey, I understand they fly in V-shaped flocks, but I haven’t seen that. In fact, I haven’t seen this many cormorants in one place before. So I took a bunch of shots of them in the tree and went over to the river to see if I could see any diving, and making the big splash. Cormorants have webbed feet like a duck and fly under water. They spend a good deal of time in trees preening the water out of their feathers.
After I didn’t see any hitting the river, I walked under the tree where they were sitting and made some more shots. They were a fun way to end the work day.
I was out on a 39-mile bicycle ride today getting for the two-day 170 MS fundraiser in two weeks. I still need help with the money, please donate something. We were zipping along Burnt Mills Road in Bedminster and as we crossed a creek, I saw a deer walking through the water.
In the 90’s, I spent about a year learning the habits of white tail deer so I could make great pictures of them. When conditions were right, I could sneak up on to a deer to the point that I was too close for my telephoto lens to focus. Deer always take the path of least resistance and they don’t drink much water, they get most of their fluids from eating vegetation. So seeing a deer walking through water isn’t too common.
So when I saw this deer, I pointed it out to Kathy Johnson and yelled that I was stopping for a photo. By the time I got off the bike and ran back to the bridge, I couldn’t see the deer. Then it walked back across because the far side was running to fast to cross.
I went to a local county park this morning for sunrise to see what might be good. I walked along the Raritan River on a paved path, the sun was streaming in through the trees and hitting the river in a few places, but nothing hit me. So I walked back to a pond that was near where I parked. There were several pairs of Canada geese with goslings when I initially walked by but the area was in the shade, so I passed them by.
As I approached the pond, there was an old gomer wearing Bermuda shorts in 52 degree weather and carrying a small camera. I saw that he was trying to take pictures of a great blue heron at the edge of the pond. Gomer was trying to sneak up on the heron to get close enough to take a picture with his point-and-shoot camera. Hey Gomer, herons aren’t blind and you can’t walk up to them. I knew he was soon going to blow any chance I had to photograph the bird. Sure enough, the heron took flight but only went to the other side of the pond.
There is a bench by the pond, so I had a seat so I could be still and let the goslings come close. Gomer walked around the pond and sure enough he was trying to sneak up on the heron again. Heron’s will give you about 150 feet and then they are gone. That isn’t nearly close enough to get any kind of decent picture with the camera Gomer was using. Having taken lots of heron photos, I guessed the bird would either leave or come back where it originally was. So I sat extremely still on the bench waiting to see where Gomer would chase the bird.
Luckily the heron flew back to my side of the pond, right where it was earlier. I was there on the bench fairly close and he didn’t care. Fortunately, Gomer gave up and I got some nice shots. The heron stood in the exact same spot for 45 minutes while I photographed him. Most of the time it stood on one leg and preened. Finally I had to leave and the heron was still there as I got in my car.
There’s this old barn I pass on my regular bicycle route. Frequently there is a turkey vulture sitting on the roofless section. During this morning’s ride, there it was.
Yesterday I photographed the strange horse statue, today it is a real horse. I was on a grueling bike ride with Kathy Johnson through the Hunterdon County countryside. We are training for the upcoming MS Coast the Coast ride in three weeks. Please donate! It was over 95 degrees, which I’m not acclimated to and we were planning on doing 35-40 miles but I could barely make 25.
As we were heading back to the cars, I saw two horses in a field. They looked nice, so I stopped to photograph them. I took some shots of them grazing and they came over to the fence. One was very friendly and it posed for a photo. It was a curious horse and wanted to check out the camera.
Then it obviously had an interest in carbon fiber and it went over to my bicycle to give it a lick.
I had another day in the photo studio at The Hungry Hound. Today I photographed Domino, a black and white Cocker Spaniel. Most Spaniels are nuts, rather hyper and Domino wasn’t much different. I always give dogs time to acclimate to the studio, do their sniffing and calm down enough to After shooting for 20 he finally calmed down enough that I could get in close and tight with my macro lens.
We now have two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Sophie and new addition Zian. They are both about 85 pounds and our house only has room for 90 pounds of dog. It is tight in the house, everywhere I walk I run into dog. The biggest problem is training, Robin and I aren’t trained.
So we called in the expert. Kristian Hammermueller used to work for The Seeing Eye, that great place in Morristown that trains dogs for blind people. Kristian has been out on his own for several years and has a spa and grooming business in Lebanon, It’s A Miracle.
Our two dogs have recently decided to kinda attack each other every other day. It ain’t pleasant and that is the main reason we called in Kristian. Luckily while he was here for their first training today, they went at it and he had the pleasure of breaking it up. He made sure they weren’t going to do it again, today anyway. He gave us pointers on teaching them not to scrap. We’ll see how well we learned.
I’d love to say I was out celebrating Earth Day all afternoon, but I sat in my office looking out the window. My East Brunswick office is known as The Basement. My office has windows, they are four feet up from the floor and right at ground level. Sitting at my desk and looking out the window, all I can see is the bottom of a bush and the sky.
I like being able to see the sky so easy. All afternoon it was sunny and there are frequently birds circling high in the thermals. They are mostly buzzards or gulls in flight after vising the nearby Edgeboro landfill, one of New Jersey’s largest. At least the wind wasn’t blowing the stench over the building today.
After a sunny afternoon, a thunderstorm rolling in right at 5 p.m. and then a drizzle. I had hoped for a nice sunny drive home, but it didn’t look good. The storm cleared and by 6 p.m. when I left the sun was fighting with the clouds to shine.
I took the scenic route home and went to Colonial Park in Franklin. The clouds were winning the battle with the sun but I could tell there would be a break. I walked along a pond and waited for the sun to pop out. About the time it did, a Mallard duck paddled out into the pond and posed for pictures as sprinkling rain made little circles in the water.
I talked to kids at a local high school career day this morning about being a photographer. It was a small group of kids brought together by Middle Earth, run by Dan Puntillo, who I went with on the bicycle ride across America. The other speakers were a nurse, radiologist, police officer, attorney and dancer, who performed with Up With People for five years in the 1980’s. I only knew she was a performing artist when started talking but I was amazed by her pep and positive nature. It was easy to believe she was touring the globe with Up With People that long. She now works for the YMCA and does dance and music programs for kids. I wish I made a picture of her, she’s all smiles. It was a good group, it hit me that they all had jobs that make a difference in other people’s lives every day. Even the lawyer.
From there I went to Trenton with my boss. We were honored by the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities for the newspaper’s annual Wish Book project that tells the story of people in need and then we raise money to purchase the items. I got the Wish Book going 20 years ago and it has raised nearly $1 million. I was humbled by the other honorees and the difference they make daily. These people are in there fighting for people who can’t. We sat with a group of high school kids with developmental challenges who started a club that anyone could join, whether they were challenged or not. For most of them it was the first time they had been to a large banquet or luncheon. They were proud to get their award.
After dinner on my sister-in-law Penny’s deck, Penny, Robin and I were chatting when another robin flew into a nearby tree. It was chirping away and hoping around the branches.
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.