Battle of the Buntings

22 05 2016


20160521IndigoBunting-Males-Greenbelt-8As I opened the car door I heard an Indigo Bunting singing in a nearby tree and then I heard ANOTHER! Two Indigo Buntings locked in a ancient battle to determine who will be the dominant male winning the best nesting spot and the girl. Each brilliant blue bird perched atop a tree sang with gusto. As tensions escalated one male advanced on the other and a high speed chase ensued. Then they flew back to their separate perches and began singing once again. The same scenario repeated until both birds fell silent. (Click here to listen to Indigo Bunting vocalizations.)

Unable to locate them I decided to photograph the Wild Lupines that are re-colonizing the sand plain. That’s when I first noticed both Buntings perched in the same tree. They were not singing, or fighting, they were taking turns hopping down to eat seeds off the ground. I followed their movements more closely now to observe more of their interactions. As I did a pattern emerged. While they had periods of time when they sang and battled, they also had peaceful interactions. When they foraged together and continuously called to each other to maintain contact. When they rested and napped they did so in the same tree in close proximity. Both birds seemed content to have the companionship of the other. The dichotomy of behaviors has adaptive benefits. There is more to male-to-male interactions than we might imagine. It isn’t all battling over the babe. 😉


Native Forest

20 05 2016

The song of the Red-eyed Vireo filled the air as the sun danced on new leaves rustling in the breeze. Periodically the rhythmic notes of a Black-throated Green Warbler punctuated the Vireo’s relentless “Here I am, Over Here, In a Tree, Look at me… ” Other warblers like the Black-throated Blue and American Redstart also piped up from time to time and off in the distance a Scarlet Tanager sang his raspy robin-like melody.

With my camera and/or binoculars trained on the tree tops I struggled to catch a glimpse of some of the more elusive warblers as their more curious cousins came in to see who the new gal was in their neighborhood. It was thrilling to be in the forest, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of wild, untamed life. After a time I switched my lens and my attention to the plants as the bird songs faded into the background with the rustling of the leaves. I blinked in amazement when I looked down for the first time and discovered that I was surrounded by many of the crown jewels of the deciduous forest.

Days like yesterday are essential for my being. In those stolen moments I found peace, connection, nourishment, and love. I reunited with the forest, sending out roots through my toes that dug deep into the soil and stretching my arms high to embrace the sun and wind. Every particle of my being danced with my brothers and sisters to a rhythm created by our ancestors and we were in harmony.

(Note: Click on the images of the birds and plants for common name identification.)

Jewels Along the Canal

26 07 2015

I often visit a feeder canal that is within 5 minutes of my house. The trail is nicely maintained by the Town of Trenton. I never know what a walk along the canal will have in store as the diversity of habitat and species found along the 3+ miles always makes for an interesting outing even when I don’t leave the parking area.

There is a wooded area a short ways down the path that is filled with a beautiful variety of spring woodland wildflowers. When they emerge they look like precious jewels on the forest floor. At this time of year that same area is home to jewels of a different kind. The Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies like shallow, shaded streams and the feeder canal is prefect for them.



Normally Ebony Jewelwings are flighty damselflies and when I approach them they fly up into the trees to bask in the sun. The other morning they were pretty calm and even allowed me to slide my finger in to be their perch.


20150719EbonyJewelwing-4Now that is what I call bling! The rainbow of metallic colors that reflect off the body and wing edges is miraculous. It always amazes me how molecules can align themselves to create such intricate and beautiful structural colors patterns.


The next time you are walking near a wooded stream look for the fluttering black wings and glistening blue and green bodies.

Sweet Somethings

20 07 2015

I have noticed in several bird species that mated pairs communicate with each other in different tones than what they use for singing or calling to the rest of the world. It reminds me of “sweet nothings” that lovers are said to whispers in each others ears except these sounds aren’t nothing and should be called “sweet somethings.” They are used to keep couples in contact with each other and to strengthen pair bonds which in turn increases the likelihood of success when raising young.

A week ago my husband and I went out early one morning to watch Bald Eaglets in their nest which is on an island in Piseco Lake within the Adirondack Park. The eaglets are large and working hard to strengthen their muscles for their first flight.

Bald Eagle Nest

As we sat observing eagle antics I heard a soft chortling sound. When I looked around I was delighted to see a Common Loon really close our boat and then surprised when a second loon surfaced near the first.

Common Loon

Common Loon Pair

Each time one dove the other would softly hoot and then stop when they were both floating on the surface. At one point one loon swam a considerable distance away and the other sang out loudly to re-establish communication. You can listen to Common Loon sounds on Cornell’s All About Birds Website.

Common Loon Common Loon Common Loon Common Loon

Morning Jewels

20 08 2014

Yesterday morning was cool and felt more like the end of September than mid-August. I set out on my morning walk with no expectation of what I might find. As I approached the abandoned house I had a feeling that I should visit the pond out back. I trudged through the wet grass wishing I had put on my rubber boots as my feet began to feel the cool wet dew that had soaked through my shoes.

When I reached the pond I began carefully inspecting the tall grass, cattails, and phragmites as green frogs squealed and leaped to the safety of the water. The early birds and I were looking for insects and spiders not frogs but they didn’t know they were not on the menu.

A spider’s web caught my eye and it turned out to be the door to the fairy world where dew drops mirrored the world and insects were adorned with jewels. Isn’t funny how we can walk along blind until one small thing opens our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us.

Here is a collection of photographs from my walk that prove “all that glitters is gold.”













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