The changeling jay

Here is the strangest Blue Jay ever observed: solo, silent, still, peaceful – almost contemplative, fluffy on a warm summer day, and sipping from the bird bath.

Photos taken yesterday through the kitchen window.

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Chipper

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Chip chip. A cardinal woke me up this morning at 5:24 a.m. with a repeated chipping note. So I went and put the feeders back outside. (We keep them in at night because of raccoons.)

Photos above of a female Northern Cardinal were taken yesterday morning. Platform feeder continues to attract the greatest variety of birds. I sprinkle a seed mix on it, plus some homemade suet dough. In the morning: a handful of peanuts for the blue jays too.

Current frequent visitors are cardinals, chickadees, titmice, jays, nuthatches, grackles, hummingbirds, mourning doves, and downy and hairy woodpeckers.

Hummingbird poses

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Good morning, little bird in my backyard.

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Blinking in the sunshine?

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You know it’s going to be a good day when a hummingbird lets you take its picture.

Snowy August

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Snowy Egret in the Stainton Wildlife Refuge, Ocean City, August 5.

This freshwater marsh in a suburban setting is a very young wildlife refuge and bears watching in the coming years. It is well situated and has the potential to grow into a wonderful roost area for many wading birds and shorebirds. Visitors are currently rewarded with close-up views of many wading birds from an easily accessible viewing platform.

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Morning view from the viewing platform.

There were tiny shorebirds, ducks, herons and egrets, plus red-winged blackbirds and sparrows – though this photo doesn’t do the birds justice.

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I think this is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

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This would be a very cool photo is my camera were all the way in focus. The problem with the super-zoom point-and-shoot sometimes, it’s grainy. A tripod would help, no doubt.

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Snowy egrets are the ones with the yellow feet.

Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages. Breeding Snowy Egrets grow filmy, curving plumes that once fetched astronomical prices in the fashion industry, endangering the species. Early conservationists rallied to protect egrets by the early twentieth century, and this species is once again a common sight in shallow coastal wetlands.

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Snowy Egrets wade in shallow water to spear fish and other small aquatic animals. While they may employ a sit-and-wait technique to capture their food, sometimes they are much more animated, running back and forth through the water with their wings spread, chasing their prey.

Corsons Inlet early August afternoon

Gulls at Corson's Inlet

Gulls at Corsons Inlet, Ocean City, August 7.

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Common terns? and a couple of kids.

Corson’s Inlet State Park is located at the southern end of the island and city of Ocean City.

More photos on Flickr: Birds at Corsons Inlet.

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A graceful, black-and-white waterbird, the Common Tern is the most widespread tern in North America. It can be seen plunging from the air into water to catch small fish along rivers, lakes, and oceans.

laughing gull

Swirling over beaches with strident calls and a distinctive, crisp black head, Laughing Gulls provide sights and sounds evocative of summer on the East Coast.

Tree swallows at the shore

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Tree swallows perched on bayberry bushes in the dunes, Ocean City, N.J.

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Big flocks… presumably migrating. It was a pleasure to watch them swoop and soar and catch bugs on the wing (from the porch of our vacation rental), then sometimes all flutter down to rest in the bushes. And maybe eat bayberries?

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I wonder if the pair of tree swallows that nests each summer in our backyard migrates along this route too.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Long-distance migrant. Tree Swallows begin migrating south in July and August, flying during the day and roosting in large flocks at night. Eastern populations probably migrate along the Atlantic coast to winter in Florida and Central America.

treeswallowprojects.com

So, since they prefer both flying insects and seasonally abundant plant foods it’s no wonder that after nesting Tree Swallows flock up to search for food. Tree Swallows are especially fond fruits of waxmyrtle and bayberry bushes that grow in sandy soils near seacoasts. They are one of the very few birds able to digest the energy-rich waxy outer coatings of these berries.

Swan persists

8:30 a.m.

The whooper swan is still in and around our backyard pond. It has been here since July 26.

I think it is probably molting and will stay as long as it takes to grow new flight feathers.

Some birds, such as ducks, swans, grebes, pelicans, and auks, are “synchronous molters — they change their feathers all at once in a period as short as two weeks, but sometimes stretching over a month. During this period, they cannot fly, and males, in particular, often complete the process on secluded lakes in order to minimize their vulnerability to predators.

Why should synchronous molters have evolved this seemingly risky process instead of undergoing a gradual molt like most birds? These birds tend to be heavy relative to their wing surfaces — they have high “wing loadings.” The loss of only a few flight feathers would seriously compromise their flying ability, and so evolution has favored being grounded for a “quick overhaul” rather than a longer period of difficult flying.

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