Found actively exploring a lawn, with a parent in attendance (who didn't seem particularly perturbed by my presence on the sidewalk a few feet from the baby, but did retreat & wait for me to leave). While it's no longer in the nest, it may not really be able to fly (opinions?), so I'm not sure you could call it a fledgling. Perhaps fell from its branch prematurely & will be tended on the ground until it can fly (assuming some predator doesn't pick it off)?
The backyard catbird that was hanging around while I was gardening out back. Not quite as good detail as the other shot, but at least it's against a clear (if not terribly aesthetic) background.
The one rarity we were able to root out from among the thousands of gulls perched here at Edgeboro Landfill. This was on the East Brunswick Winter Bird Count. The count is sponsored by the town Environmental Commission, and we obtained permission to bird Edgeboro landfill (closed to the public). However, large flocks of gulls are often near the road and could be scoped anytime from outside the fence. Also Fish Crow Central.
'Forced extra-pair copulations' are common in Mallards. We witnessed this scene in our local park. What first drew our attention was the female waddling along, quacking up a storm. The males came running after her, grabbing at her tail, wings, neck, anything they could get a hold of. She made no attempt to fly away, but maybe she was already exhausted (which apparently is typical of so-called 'rape flights'). There were up to 5 of them after her at one point, typically with a couple of them actively trying to grab her by the nape at any give point & the others looking on & quacking.
And yet, as violent as this scene is, she may have the last laugh. One-third of mallard copulations are forced, but they are responsible for only 3% of the ducklings hatched. So why are cooperative matings 10x more likely to result in fertilization? In a bizarre evolutionary battle of the sexes, the female has evolved an oviduct that corkscrews in the opposite direction from the male's penis. So without her wholehearted cooperation, he's not able to inject his semen deep enough to do much good.
This is a naturally-occurring hybrid between a (presumably) wild-type Mallard and an American Black Duck. They are supposedly fairly common (as hybrids go), although this is the 1st one I've seen. (The 2nd one was on a Christmas Bird Count a couple of days later. They were ~5 mi apart; I have no idea if it was the same individual. Both were flocking with Mallards.) Anas rubripes x platyrhynchos.
OK, I have a dirty little secret to confess: I'm interested in domestic waterfowl. No, get your mind out of the gutter; I'm interested in them as a birder -- but that's something no Real Birder would generally confess to. It's kinda the birder's version of eating quiche. And this is one strange bird -- perhaps tracing to some sort of domestic origin, though who knows.
So, what is it? Barnacle x Canada x ???? It was as big as the large Canadas (ssp canadensis). The face looks like Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis), the brown parts like Canada (B. canadensis), I don't know where the unpigmented belly & legs are coming from, & I'm convinced the speckled neck was created by grafting, not hybridizing.
EDIT: Thank you to Nikolas Haass for the following expert opinion:
"There is definitely NO Barnacle Goose involved. The
white cheek is a feature of many hybrids, whose
parents do NOT show white cheeks! Hybrids often are
intermediates between their parents. Hawever, they
often show field marks of a third species not
I think it is either Greylag x Canada, Greater
White-fronted x Canada or Swan Goose x Canada."
With Nikolas's answer, I've come to realize that the white patches are generic. That is, they are not indicative of any one species (ie white cheeks don't imply Barnacle). Rather, they are an emergent property that comes from defects in pigment cell migration during embryonic development. (In fact, I've been meaning to write this description up & submit this photo to the Emergence group for quite a while.)
Pigment cells (melanocytes) are actually derived from the top (the "neural crest") of the embryonic spinal cord (the "neural tube"). They migrate from there out and down along both sides of the body, meeting at the bottom. If they don't quite meet, then you get white patches, like the cheeks & belly of this bird. If they do meet, but are too sparse to fill in the entire skin surface, then you get white speckles, like the neck of this bird.
These markings are often part of normal development -- eg, depending on far they make it, you get a star, blaze, or bald marking on a horse's face, a tuxedo cat or duck, etc. (In fact, it occurrs to me that for social species in which recognizing individuals is important, such a variable repertoire for producing distinctive facial appearances may well be useful. It's also a good mechanism for creating camouflage patches to break up an outline, or the countershading -- dark back, light belly -- so common thruout the animal kindgom.) This is also responsible for the white "front" just behind the bill in certain wild-type geese or ducks, eg scaups or Greater White-fronted Goose. And in Greylag geese, domestic varieties can also show it -- in fact, failing to recognize the generic nature of that marking led to my confusion in ID'ing these domestic Greylags, seen in the same shot with the much smaller GWFG.
However, the white patches can also indicate individuals in which embryonic development didn't proceed quite according to the normal plan. And a hybrid is a pretty good candidate for that. So, for that matter, is a domestic animal -- these have been inbred, hybridized, exempted from natural selection, and otherwise genetically tortured. So you might expect a relatively high frequency in domestic animals, like the aforementioned domesticated Greylag-stock geese.
Note: Sighted this individual again on 3 April 2010, a mile or so from the original location. And Bernie Sloan has a shot from Nov 2012: www.flickr.com/photos/14463444@N07/8218852076/in/photostream.
A lucky spot.
Great Backyard Bird Count. Reported to www.reportband.gov, got a certificate back within a few days. Our bird is a female HATCHED IN 2009 OR EARLIER and banded in VARENNES, QUEBEC, CANADA (COORDINATES: LAT: 45.75; LON: -73.41667) on 07/14/2010. So this is a bona fide migratory Canada Goose, not one of the local breeders (though the presence of the resident birds might be attracting migrants to winter here when the didn't used to. Or it might just be the greater abundance of favorable habitat, namely lawns.)
Its closest companion (the only bird out of water so I could see its legs) had a metal leg band, but this was the only one with a neckband (of 25 similar birds in flock, 500 in vicinity).
A rare NJ breeder. Only shot I managed, but was glad to get it.
ebird checklist ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S12561733
Spotted this squirrel chowing down on cluster after cluster of Norway Maple flowers in a neighborhood tree. Best viewed large.
I was shocked to discover this by the water's edge in Helyar Woods, looking like a picture straight out of a book. This is in a fairly built-up part of suburban New Jersey; the woods are part of Rutger's Gardens, used in the ag school's forestry program and a great spot for spring migrants. I guess I think of beavers as surviving only in the wilds of the Canadian north. But they're clearly making a comeback! The tree is a freshly felled Sweetgum, its leaves still green.
It seems to be deer mating season. We turned a corner in suburban Highland Park, NJ in broad daylight to find a buck standing stock still on a lawn -- in fact, Rick initially took it for a statue. I stopped the car, grabbed my camera, got out, & got a shot of him on the lawn from ~10 m away. Then, across the street, a doe emerged from some bushes. As the buck approached her from the front, she crouched down in a peculiar way -- I've never seen rutting deer before, but it definitely seemed like some sort of courting behavior. However, an older buck with an impressive rack was right behind her, & he gave chase. The two males took a brief turn around each other in the middle of the street (above), & the encounter ended with all three taking off at a gallop down the street.
When I was growing up in the 70's, seeing a deer in suburban NJ was unheard-of -- it was the thrill of my young life to finally see one on vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. Now NJ has such an overpopulation that they are playing havoc with the ecosystem, eating everything in sight -- especially tender young shoots, so native plants are unable to reproduce. The problem is such that the NJ Audubon Society has recently come out in favor of deer hunting -- and it needs to be a more aggressive hunt that will actually reduce the population, as opposed to the traditional game management for the benefit of sportsmen, which has generally been aimed at maintaining a high population density .
Deer feeding in the middle of the suburbs in broad daylight. And notice how thin the poor mother looks. There must be tremendous population pressure to have forced them here -- translation: the number of deer is so high that they have stripped the forests bare, seriously threatening the health of our native ecosystems.
My mercury vapor lamp was the best thing that ever happened to this nearby spider. Big- -- beetle is a Junebug or something that size.
Found walking around several feet from a pond & brought back home for a photo shoot, then returned. These shots were taken in the sun, but I was careful not to expose the turtle to it for more than a few minutes. It was godawful hot, & I was worried about overheating. If the turtle is free, it will just move in & out of the sun as needed, but it can't do that if I'm holding onto it.
This life dragonfly landed on the sidewalk right in front of me and posed for a nice photo shoot. The spot is right next to the Raritan River (upper Raritan Estuary, actually).
Geotag within a km or so -- can't remember exactly where this was, but somewhere near the river.
I love the back rim of the eyes