Friday, June 23, 2017

February Flashback

It has been ages since I published anything here--more than six months. And I've seen lots of birdies and taken some pretty good pictures.

So let's flashback to February when we went down to Hilton Head Island for a week. Of course we had to drive through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge while we were down there. There were some pretty cool birds there.

Surprisingly, some of the best birds I saw were right from the balcony of my sister's condo in Port Royal Plantation.

Anyway, here's what we saw:

This little guy is my favorite, cuz he's so cute! Pied-Billed Grebe at Savannah NWR.

From the balcony of the condo, a lifer, Yellow-Throated Warbler. Didn't even know what I had until I loaded the pics on my computer and enlarged it!

Also from the balcony, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. There were flocks of these in the trees and on the driveways of the condo area. I've only even seen one once before, also down in Hilton Head. I guess it's their wintering spot.

From the balcony, down in the lagoon below, a Double-Crested Cormorant. Common here in NJ in the summertime. From a distance they look like not much, just dark. But if you can zoom in, they have the most beautiful blue eyes!

At Savannah NWR, a Common Gallinule, aka moorhen. Again, not much from a distance, but zooming in shows the gorgeous orange and yellow beak.

Another lifer at Savannah NWR, a Boat-Tailed Grackle. We have plenty of Common Grackles in our yard, but the Boat-Tailed hangs around the inland waterways. Beautiful iridescent feathers, which you can't see too well in my pic.

Coopers Hawk on the tree right outside the condo. Another balcony pic.

Another Coopers Hawk, this one along the swampy area in Mitchellville Beach State Park. It was just a few miles from the condo, and had a boardwalk through the swamp where there were lots of birds.

At the NWR, American Coots! Again, boring from a distance, but from close up you can see that shiny patch of dark red on their forehead and the ring around their bill. My reading says they're not related to ducks at all, but to rails. New goal: see a rail!

Common but always beautiful, a Snowy Egret in breeding plumage.

Finally, in the lagoon outside the condo, this guy swam right across and climbed up on the bank just down from the condo. The day before, I had walked around the condo on the water side. My sister was shocked! I was lucky the gator wasn't sitting there waiting for me! He was only about 6' long, so I don't think he coulda got me, but I didn't go down there again!

So that's the flashback for this week. Next time I'll show you the eagle pictures we took right here in West Deptford.


Monday, December 5, 2016

The True Meaning of Christmas

"I hate the holidays!"

Every year I muttered this under my breath a hundred times. That period from Thanksgiving week through New Year's Day used to be filled with stress. Cooking, baking, card sending, present buying, wrapping, decorating, parties, family visits... It felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to do all the things that just HAD to be done in order for everyone in the family to have a perfect Christmas.

Oh, I went to church, too. In fact, choir practice, pageant practice for the kids, and the special holiday events at the church just added to my busy schedule. I couldn't even enjoy Christmas Eve worship because I was too busy helping, running the multimedia for both services. Instead of a candle, I had the light of a computer monitor for singing "Silent Night" -- and don't forget to change the verses!

And then one late November day a few years ago, I had a meltdown. "I'm through!" I shrieked. "I'm not doing this anymore."

That year I didn't get out my three boxes of Santa figures and two boxes of angels and one box of snowmen and a partridge in a pear tree. I didn't fight the crowds at the mall. I sat in my pajamas and ordered a few gifts from the Internet, and then donated the rest of my gift money to charities in honor of my family.

When I finished my work each day, I sat and read the real Christmas story. Out of an actual Bible. The story of a young girl visited by an angel, and a man who took her for his wife in spite of the child she carried. The story of the birth of a baby. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ... What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. ... And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory....

During December of that meltdown year I eventually got my Christmas tree up, and my cards sent. But ever since then my Christmas tree is covered with angels, the choirs of angels that sang and proclaimed to the shepherds, "Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people."

Now I know the joy of Christmas through my family and my church family, Sunday morning praise and prayer, and Christmas Eve candlelight. I didn't find the true meaning of Christmas. It found me. All I had to do was open my heart and let it in.

Are you looking for more than the bastion of commercialism this year? Why not join me at St. Paul's on Sunday morning at 9:30? Or on Christmas Eve at 5 or 7 p.m.? Or on Christmas morning at 11?

Open your heart and let the true meaning of Christmas find you.

Denise H.


Bible verses quoted above in italics are from the Common English Bible (CEB), John 1:1, 1:3-5, 1:14-15; and Luke 2:10.


Click here to go to St. Paul's website.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Montezuma's Revenge?

Last month Betsy and I went up to visit my sister in the Fingerlakes city of Canandaigua, NY. Deb took us to several wineries and a brewery, fun! And we also took a drive through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a marshy area at the northern end of Cayuga Lake. I've often passed by it on the Thruway, but have never had the time to stop.

It was fabulous, and two lifers for me!

Montezuma's revenge was, I didn't take my big fancy camera on the trip. So two of the pictures below were taken by my sister with her Nikon, good camera but no giant telephoto like I have. The other two were taken by me using a pocket camera.

But still, lifer birds! Awesome!

American Coots! Only the second time I've ever seen them though I know they're seen around South Jersey sometimes. 

Lifer #1. Common Gallinule, formerly known as Common Moorhen. There were quite a large number of them at Montezuma. They looked drab from a distance, but zooming in you can see how beautiful they are.

Double-crested Cormorant, quite common around our shore area, but a nice close view in a typical pose, drying its wings after diving for dinner.

Lifer #2, Pied-billed Grebe. Really cute little guy!
So there you have it, Montezuma!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Heinz 57

Back in July the girls and I went over to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in South Philly. This is a really fascinating swampy area adjacent to the Philadelphia International Airport.

The girls took their dogs and I took my big camera. This is what I saw, ID'd as best I can:

Betsy with Porter and Molly with Mya

Bullfrog, I think

Turtles, no idea what kind

Thistles

Creepy snake

Barn swallow going to the nest

Barn swallow in the nest

Barn swallows in a tree

Great egret, just hanging around

Great egret, taking off

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron, lifer for me

Awesome yellow eye on the juvie yellow-crowned night heron

Tree swallow

Getting ready to leave and the bullfrog is still there

Female wood duck and duckings, another lifer

Another female wood duck and ducklings

It was an awesome day in the city!


Friday, July 8, 2016

More Delaware Bay Birds

Here are the other good birds I saw on our drive around the Delaware Bay in May.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird with nesting materials
Osprey--We saw lots of them!
Barn Swallow--Here's lookin' at you!
Barn Swallow couple
Eastern Kingbird, only 2nd time I've seen one.
Another view of the Eastern Kingbird
Short-billed Dowitcher on the left, two Ruddy Turnstones on the right
Good view of a Ruddy Turnstone.
Ruddy Turnstone in the center, with Dunlin in the foreground and background, and a couple of little peeps, probably Semipalmated Sandpipers.
Purple Martin, juvenile
Finally, Bald Eagles! We saw five of them in various places along the bay

We had a really incredible day on the bay!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flagged!

On our trip to the Delaware Bay, I took lots of pictures of the big bunches of birds at Fortescue. When I got home and enlarged the photos on my computer, I was surprised to see some of the migratory birds were banded, in particular, some Red Knots. And in a couple cases, you could even read the numbers!

Here's the overall picture of the group of migratory birds. If you click on each picture you will seen the enlarged view.
When you zoom in, here's what you see!
I did a little research online and found where I could report the band number, or "flag" as this type of band is called. It's the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory, part of the U.S. Geological Survey. So I reported.


I was really excited to find that the orange flag means the bird was banded in Argentina! And then I got this email:

Dear Denise,
Thanks so much for your valuable red knot sighting! this bird was banded as an adult at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina,on  8/Dec/2009  with the metal band 9822-04914 and the last sighting we have in Argentina was on 13 April 2015 at San Antonio Oeste, Rio Negro.
Happy to know is heading to the Arctic!
Patricia
--------------------
Patricia M. González
-South American Shorebird Coordinator
International Conservation Fund of Canada & Coord. Programa Humedales

Banded in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. What a thrill!

Amazing how far these birds migrate. Here's the migration map, with the Delaware Bay an important stop on the northward journey for the abundance of Horseshoe Crab eggs.


The second Red Knot I reported had a green flag:


Turns out this sweet bird is a Rufa Red Knot, listed as "threatened" by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service. It was banded in Delaware in 2015, and I received a lovely certificate of appreciation for reporting it.


I reported a third banded Red Knot, but couldn't read any numbers. I'm not sure if it was flagged and I just didn't have the right angle, or if it was a different type of band. But the orange tells me this one was also banded in Argentina.


So that's my exciting story about the banded birds we saw on the Delaware Bay.

Awesome, right?