Photography by Larry A Lyons

Posts from the ‘Birds’ category

Bald Eagle Photography at Conowingo Dam

Conowingo Dam is a hydroelectric dam situated on the Susquehanna River in Maryland just five miles south of the Pennsylvania border. It is an area where bald eagles tend to congregate particularly in November to about mid-December. It just so happens…… where bald eagles congregate so do photographers with their long lenses. On any given day during this period you will probably find a hundred or more photographers and they come from all over. When I was there last week coming from New Jersey, we parked next to a van with three gentlemen from Toronto, Canada and I set-up my tripod between a lady that just flew in from Dallas, Texas and a gentleman from Maryland of all places.

The dam has 11 turbine units – four high capacity units and seven low capacity units. The more units that are operating in a given day, the more fish that pass through the turbines. The more fish often equates to a greater activity of bald eagles swooping down to collect a meal. There is a Conowingo Generation hotline (888-457-4076) that will inform you how many turbines will be operating the next day on the evening before.

Photographing bald eagles particularly when they are zooming down to capture a fish is challenging. First of all, you need to have all of your camera setting set for the best exposure and you will need to be able track the rapid action through your viewfinder. This is not easy to do. You will also need to be aware of constantly changing lighting conditions.  Let me show you what I mean.  The next 10 images were captured sequentially over a period of THREE seconds. All images were captured using a Canon IDX and a 600 mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter (total of 840 mm). The camera was set at a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, f-stop of 5.6 and ISO of 1600. The camera was set on spot metering and rapid fire.

Start time was 8:03:34 AM for Image #1:

Image #1:

#1 The Grab

‘Image #1: The Grab’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #2:

#2 Walleye Secured

‘Image #2: Crappie Secured’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #3:

#3 Liftoff

‘Image #3: Liftoff’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #4:

#4 Revving Up

‘Image #4: Revving Up’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #5:

#5 The Glide

‘Image #5: The Glide’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #6:

#6 More Power

‘Image # 6: More Power’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #7:

#7 More Lift

‘Image #7: More Lift’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #8:

#8 Increase Lift

‘Image #8: Increase Lift’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #9:

#9 Banking Left

‘Image #9: Banking Left’ © Larry A Lyons

Image #10:

#10 Heading Home

‘Image #10: Heading Home’ © Larry A Lyons

End Time was 8:03:37 AM for Image 10. If this photo sequence was captured in video, you would miss out on all those maneuvers over a period of only THREE seconds.

It is just remarkable to process what happened in just three seconds. This bald eagle swooned down from high above at lightning speed and dipped its talons just below the water surface to snag its target. Razor-sharp talons penetrated the crappie preventing any chance of escape. In the next fraction of a second, the eagle begins lift off with this three-pound walleye. Average weight of bald eagles is 9 to 12 pounds and so it is lifting perhaps thirty percent of its own weight. Then, you witness the sheer power and determination with that wingspan to maneuver itself away from the surface of the water and head home. Talk about skills! We should be in awe!

The image that I like the most is image #9 (Banking Left). What I like about this image is the way the eagle is maneuvering; the length of the wingspan; the visibility of its very lethal talons; how one of the talons is firmly holding onto the crappie; the eye of the crappie is visible; and the backlighting of the tail. Is it a perfect image? No, but what do you want from three seconds. I am just a photographer not a bald eagle.

Image #10, as well as Image #5, provide good examples how changing light conditions can so quickly change and reduce the quality of an image. The detail of the crappie is washed out in Image #5 probably because of the way the fish was turned and some of the details of the white head are lost in Image #10 once it starts flying downstream directly into the sun.

This particular bald eagle with the head and tail not entirely white is just completing its development to maturity. The immature stage of the bald eagle lasts for a period of four to five years. The plumage of the immature bald eagle, as shown below, is dark brown including its head and tail. It sometimes is mistaken as a golden eagle.

Image: Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

‘Immature Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The immature eagle is not nearly as dramatic or regal as the mature eagle with its white head and tail except perhaps when it is looking right at you claiming its catch.

Please visit my website at www.EnviroQuestPhotography.com to see more galleries.

A Melange of Feathered Friends

This is the final post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. The second post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey’, traveled to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring. This post provides a melange of birds captured when visiting the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge consists of 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and hardwood hammocks located on Sanibel Island. This refuge provides an important habitat to over 220 species of birds.

Here is just a sampling of birds photographed at Ding Darling starting with the ‘Reddish Egret’. The ‘Reddish Egret’ is considered the least common heron in Florida. The population of this heron was almost eradicated due to plume hunting during the 19th century. The species has never fully recovered with the current population in the United States of only about 2,000 pairs primarily residing in southern Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, and Texas.

Reddish Egret- Breakfast Time

‘Reddish Egret- Breakfast Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The feeding behavior of the ‘Reddish Egret’ is captivating to watch. It leaps sideways and quickly changes directions in shallow waters searching for small schools of fish to feed upon.

Reddish Egret- Down The Gullet

‘Reddish Egret- Down the Hatch’ © Larry A Lyons

White Pelicans only spend part of their year in Florida. They migrate to their wintering grounds to coastal areas of Florida, Gulf of Mexico and southern California. In March and April they migrate to inland lakes in flocks to their breeding grounds as far north as Utah, Idaho, Minnesota and Canada.

Pelican Gathering

‘Pelican Gathering’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘White Pelican’ is considered one of the largest birds in the United States with a 9-foot (2.7 meter) wingspan.

Landing Gear Down

‘Landing Gear Down’ © Larry A Lyons

This pelican was rigorously fluffing its wings and having a bath.

Bath Time

‘Bath Time’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Blue-winged Teal’ are long distance migrants with their territory throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and northern South America. The can be found wintering in Florida and will migrate northward in the spring to breeding grounds.

Blue-Winged Teal

‘Blue-Winged Teal’ © Larry A Lyons

This ‘Tricolored Heron’ is standing absolutely still, not necessarily to get photographed, but waiting for prey to approach it. Its’ prey consist of small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. It is a remarkably slender bird with long beak, neck and legs.

Tricolored Heron

‘Tricolored Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Tricolored Heron’ is common along the coastal habitats of the Southeastern United States.

The ‘White Ibis’ is a wading bird residing in the deep South. It is one of the most numerous wading birds in Florida although the population has been declining in recent decades due to the loss of feeding and nesting habitats.

White Ibis

‘White Ibis’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Little Blue Heron’ is another bird that resides mostly in the deep southern United States and Mexico. It looks much like a Snowy Egret when it is young, but molts to the dark slate-blue plumage as an adult.

Little Blue Heron

‘Little Blue Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

This ‘Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron’ was stalking prey along the bank. These birds are often active at night. It is interesting that this species shows up several times in fossil records with the earliest fossil record being 2 to 2.5 million years old from Sarasota, Florida.

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

‘Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘Wood Stork’ is considered one of Florida’s ‘signature’ wading birds. It is classified as ‘threatened’ by the State of Florida and federal government due to the destruction and degradation of the wetlands.

Wood Stork

‘Wood Stork’ © Larry A Lyons

This alligator is a resident of the Ding Darling Refuge. Here this gator was basking in the sun to control its body heat. Adult gators enjoy a diet of fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.

Alligator- I Eat Wings

‘Alligator With It’s U-Shaped Snout’ © Larry A Lyons

Perhaps we should let this gator know which birds are protected. And perhaps this gator provides some protection benefits for the birds from predatory mammals.


The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a very tranquil sanctuary with an extensive boardwalk to transverse though this wetland. It is not to be missed. This sanctuary is part of the Western Everglades in Southwest Florida. It consists of approximately 13,000 acres and is primarily composed of wetlands and includes the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in the world. The National Audubon Society has been ultimately responsible for acquiring, protecting and maintaining this sanctuary.

Not only is the sanctuary important for a variety of endangered or federal or state listed birds including the Wood Storks, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Tricolored Heron, but also for protecting a variety of other species including the Florida panther, American Alligator, and Florida Black Bear. Several rare plants are also found at this sanctuary including the Ghost Orchid.

Crocodiles also inhabit this sanctuary. The primary physical difference between crocodiles and alligators is the shape of their snout. Crocodiles have long and pointed, V-shaped snouts and alligators have rounded, U-shaped snouts.


‘Crocodile With It’s V-Shaped Snout’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Anhinguas’ primary habitats are cypress swamps, rivers and wooded ponds. This pair of ‘Anhingua’ was attending to their nest.

Anhinguas Attending To Nest

‘Anhinguas’ © Larry A Lyons

There were a number of songbirds to view including some very common ones. The lighting on these birds is a photographer’s dream.


‘Cardinal’ © Larry A Lyons

Gray Catbird

‘Gray Catbird’ © Larry A Lyons

Then there was the exquisite ‘Painted Bunting’ in full display. The ‘Painted Bunting’ breeds in the coastal Southeast and south-central United States.

Painted Bunting

‘Painted Bunting’ © Larry A Lyons

Florida is a very seductive place to visit for a number of reasons and that would include another seductive sunset at a beach in Naples. So, here we are being seduced again, as the brown pelicans roost for the evening.

Another Seductive Sunset

‘Another Seductive Sunset’ © Larry A Lyons





Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey

This is the second post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. This post travels to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring.

Bald Eagle Portrait

‘Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The Bald Eagle is another success story on the importance of banning harmful chemicals, such as the pesticide known as DDT; enacting laws such as the federal ‘Endangered Species Act’; and providing appropriate measures of wildlife management. In Florida there were only 88 active nests in 1973. Now there are more than 1,300 nests documented as a result of all of these initiatives.

One of these nests is situated high up in a tree in the northern section of Fort Meyers, Florida. Adult ‘Bald Eagles’, known as Ozzie and Harriet, have been coming to this nest since 2006 residing in the nest between the months of October and May. This eaglet was stretching its wings waiting its turn to be fed.

Can I Fly Yet?

‘Can I Fly Yet?’ © Larry A Lyons

Feeding The Eaglets

‘Feeding The Eaglets’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Burrowing Owls’, no bigger than 10 inches (25 cm) in height, live underground in burrows. They dig out tunnels in sandy soils often within residential communities, particularly vacant lots preferring areas with low ground cover. Burrows extend for 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) underground. This pair of owls was guarding its burrow.

No Trespassing

‘No Trespassing’ © Larry A Lyons

The Florida burrowing owl is classified as a “species of special concern”. This means burrows, owls, and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law.

Burrowing Owl Portrait

‘Burrowing Owl On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

The installation of T-perches near the owl burrows is often provided. These perches provide the owls with an elevated view that aids in looking out for predators. The T-perches also make the burrows visible for operators of lawn mowers.

Watching Over Nest

‘Watching Over Burrow’ © Larry A Lyons

Unlike other owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day. They have a diversified diet feeding on small mammals (moles and mice), insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Burrowing Owl On The Prowl

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

This wise old ‘Great Horned Owl’ was watching over an owlet living in this tree. Two nests of these owls were observed within a suburban community of Cape Coral that was no more than two blocks apart. It is one of the most common owls in North America. They live in a broad range of habitats from deserts, forests, tropical rainforests, cities, parks and suburbs. Like the burrowing owl, it has found a way of adapting to suburban sprawl.

The Wise One

‘The Wise One’ © Larry A Lyons

Great Horned Owls take life-long mates and will raise the young together. It does have a varied diet that can include small to medium sized mammals (foxes, rabbits, raccoons, rodents, etc.), amphibians, birds, fish and reptiles. This owlet is only a few weeks old and still covered with downy feathers.


‘Owlet’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s because of the widespread use of an insecticide, known as DDT. Once DDT was finally banned in 1972, recovery of the osprey population began. A previous post entitled, ‘The Osprey Comeback’, provides more information about the how DDT caused the extermination of the osprey populations. The biology and reproduction cycle of the osprey is also provided in this previous post.

Osprey Portrait

‘Osprey Portrait’ © Larry A Lyons

The ospreys were quite active in building their nest. This nest was situated on an osprey platform in the Ding Darling Refuge in Sanibel Island and nesting begins as early as March. The male ‘Osprey’ brought the remainder of a fish to the female who was attending to constructing the nest. Ospreys mate for life and often return to the same nest year after year.

Room Service

‘Room Service’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for the final post of this series that will visit birds and other wildlife at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.


Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds

This is the first of a three part series of a Florida field trip organized by the South Jersey Camera Club for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March.

This first post will present images captured at the Venice Audubon Rookery in Venice, Florida. This rookery is a 14-acre park with a man-made lake. The lake has a small island that is made of mangrove trees and shrubs. A first glance of the island does not particularly provide a significant impression, but a closer examination reveals an incredibly busy habitat. This small island that is probably no longer than 50 yards (46 meters) and 20 yards (18 meters) wide displayed an astonishing level of activity including courting, building nests, mating, and feeding the newborns by an assortment of bird species. Nesting at this rookery can begin as early as December and last through May.

Great Egrets are often the first birds to begin nesting in an area, which often precipitates the nesting activity by other bird species. Great Egrets are the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

Pair of Great Egrets

‘Pair of Great Egrets’ © Larry A Lyons

This elegant bird stands between 37 and 41 inches (94 to104 cm) and has a wingspan of 52 to 57 in. (131 to 145 cm).

Nest Building

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

The male will begin to construct the nest from sticks and twigs before it pairs up with a female. Both sexes will work together to complete building the nest.

Egret Courting

‘Egret Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

During breeding season, long plumes grow from their backs that are displayed for courting.

Great Egrets were hunted for their plumes almost to extinction in the late nineteenth century. This resulted in some of the first laws to protect birds in the United States. It was the reason the Audubon Society was originally formed to bring attention to that slaughter.

Great Egrets Mating

‘Egrets Mating’ © Larry A Lyons

Broods of one or two are produced. Here the two siblings are licking the beak of an adult for nourishment from regurgitated fish by the adult. The nesting period lasts for 21 to 25 days.

Great Egret Siblings

‘Great Egret Siblings’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga is predominately a southeastern bird in the United States preferring Cypress swamps, wooded forests, and freshwater marshes. The female Anhinga has a pale brown neck and breast while the male is green-black overall. The long thin pointed bill is used for spearing fish.

Anhingas have a variety of courting behaviors. Here they are pointing their beaks up in the air and were maneuvering their snake-like necks between each other.

Anhingas Courting

‘Anhingas Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga nest is mostly built by the female with the male supplying the materials.

Anhinga Nest Building

‘Anhinga Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga does not have oil glands for waterproofing its feathers like most water birds. So it is often seen sunning itself to dry off its wings.

Anhinga Sunning

‘Anhinga Sunning’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘cousin’ to the Anhinga is the cormorant that also was attending to a nest at the Venice rookery. Cormorants have shorter tails, shorter and blunter bills and do not have the silvery wing patches like an Anhinga.

Double-Crested Cormorant

‘Double-crested Cormorant’ © Larry A Lyons

Flying over the Venice rookery was a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. The geographical range for these ducks extends from South and Central America with their most northern range in the United States being Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

‘Black-bellied Whistling Ducks © Larry A Lyons

The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in Florida measuring between 42 and 52 inches (107 to 132 cm). It spite of their majestic size they only weigh 5 to 6 lbs. (2.3 to 2.7 kg). They build large platform nests made of twigs and lined with leaves and grasses. The male brings the nesting material to the female who builds the nest.

Different aged- generations of these herons were being reared at nests on the island. Here the adult identified by the black plume extending beyond the back of the head, the blue-gray back and wings and the back plumes in alternate plumage was busy feeding an immature heron. The immature heron has brownish to gray upper wings, lacks back plumes and lacks the black plume extending from behind the eye.

Adult and Juvenile Great Blue Herons

‘Adult and Juvenile Great Blue Herons’ © Larry A Lyons

The young herons will take to flight by the time they are 45 to 55 days old. However, the immature herons are not as proficient at foraging and will return back to the nest to get additional nourishment from an adult. This will go on for about 2 months after fledging.

Immature Heron Being Fed

‘Immature Heron Being Fed’ © Larry A Lyons

Both sexes share in the care and raising the young. One of the parents is always present during the first 3 to 4 weeks. Feeding the young is primarily regurgitated fish.

Great Blue Heron Chicks

‘Great Blue Heron Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

Check out the long toes of the Common Gallinule that allow this bird to walk atop soft mud or floating vegetation while foraging. This newly hatched chick is being cared for by an adult. Newly hatched chicks have spurs on their wings that aids them to climb into their nest.

Common Gallinule With Chick

‘Common Gallinule With Chick’ © Larry A Lyons

One, two, three, four – photography is all about being at the right place at the right time. Number One: This Brown Pelican took flight from the island directly towards the outer bank of the lake where this photographer was standing.

Brown Pelican Inflight

‘Brown Pelican Inflight’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Two: It then immediately plunges its beak into the water with its throat pouch wide open to trap the fish.

Brown Pelican Capturing Prey

‘Brown Pelican Capturing Prey’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Three: It then proceeds to drain the water from its pouch.

Brown Pelican Draining Pouch

‘Brown Pelican Draining Water From Pouch’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Four: And then it swallows its catch.

Brown Pelican Swallowing Prey

‘Brown Pelican Swallowing Prey’ © Larry A Lyons

All four images were taken during a period of 22 seconds.

Black-crowned Night Herons spend their days mostly perched on tree limbs or concealed among foliage. They forage in the evening and at night.

Black-crowned Night Heron

‘Black-crowned Night Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

Sunset over the Venice Rookery provides another surprising event. Hundreds of birds fly into the rookery to roost during the night.

Sunset Over Venice Rookery

‘Sunset Over Venice Rookery’ © Larry A Lyons

This is one very, very busy rookery. Spring has sprung in Florida. Stay tuned for the next post ‘Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey”.








Hidden Habitats! Who Knew?

Never underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Take for example a nature park situated in New Jersey just across from the City of Philadelphia.

'View of Philadelphia' © Larry A lyons

‘View of Philadelphia’ © Larry A Lyons

The Palmyra Cove Nature Park (www.palmyracove.org) is a 350 acre site located within a highly developed urban and commercial area in southern New Jersey. The park is bordered along the Delaware River just south of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

'Tacony-Palmyra Bridge' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tacony-Palmyra Bridge’ © Larry A Lyons

Five field trips to the Palmyra Cove Nature Center during the spring of 2013 provided an opportunity to observe and photograph an amazing diversity of organisms and their behavior.

'Great Horned Owl and Fledging' © Larry A Lyons

‘Great Horned Owl and Fledging’ © Larry A Lyons

Let’s begin with the Great Horned Owl. This owl is one of the largest owls in North America and one of the most ferocious birds of prey. Both sexes tend to look similar, but the female is 10 to 20 percent larger than the male.

'Female Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

Distinguishing features of the great horned owl are long ear tufts, intimidating stares with their yellow eyes, and densely feathered toes with dark horned claws. General coloration does vary between the owls.

'Male Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Male Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

A pair of Great Horned Owls selected a nesting site high up in the crotch of a cottonwood tree. Nesting begins as early as January or February and the female will typically lay two eggs. After hatching the nestlings are unable to fly for ten to twelve weeks, but the owlets will venture to nearby trees.

'Owlet One' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet One’ © Larry A Lyons

One of the owlets remained in the original nesting site while the other owlet had moved to a lower a branch.

'Owlet Two' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet Two’ © Larry A Lyons

Both owlets are being cared for by both parents and remain dependent for food until the fall.

'Ferocious Predator' © Larry A Lyons

‘Ferocious Predator’ © Larry A Lyons

Great horned owls are ferocious predators and will hunt and eat all sorts of small and medium sized mammals (mice, squirrels, opossums, bats, and skunk). It will also eat small and large birds, including Canada geese, herons, ducks, and turkey. Owl prey can also be raccoon.

'Young Raccoon' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Raccoon’ © Larry A Lyons

It was amazing but only 20 feet away from the tree where the owlets were being raised were raccoons residing within a tree hollow.

'Raccoon Sleeping' © Larry A Lyons

‘Raccoon Sleeping’ © Larry A Lyons

Raccoons, like great horned owls, are nocturnal and tend to sleep during the daytime. This one was resting in a vertical position in the hollow of the tree.

'Tree Hollow Home' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tree Hollow Home’ © Larry A Lyons

Trekking around the ponds at Palmyra Cove Nature Park can provide some great opportunities to observe birdlife and some interesting and bizarre behaviors. One such encounter involved a courting encounter amongst blue-winged teals.

Blue-winged teals are known to be the last duck to migrate north in the spring throughout most of the United States. Once they arrive in their northern breeding areas, pairs of teals will settle in vegetated wetlands and ponds to begin the next generation.

'Pair of Blue-Winged Teals' © Larry A Lyons

‘Pair of Blue-Winged Teals’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teals are monogamous during the mating season and are known to have some exaggerated behavior when courting. One such encounter was when another male attempted to intrude upon this pair of teals.

'One Male Too Many' © Larry A Lyons

‘One Male Too Many’ © Larry A Lyons

The paired male quickly made it quite clear by grasping the beak of the intruder.

'The Attack' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Attack’ © Larry A Lyons

The intruder was able to pull its beak away from the grasp and then was aggressively chased away.

'The Chase' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Chase’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teal are so named because both sexes have some blue feathers on their forewings, but really cannot be seen until they are taking off or in flight. The male, on the other hand, is distinguished with slate gray head and neck and white crescent in front of the eyes.

'Phew! Got Away' © Larry A Lyons

‘Phew! Got Away’ © Larry A Lyons

Palmyra Cove Nature Center has a frog pond that is inhabited or utilized by several different amphibians. One unusual amphibian that only visits the pond once a year to breed is the Fowler’s Toad.  The Fowler’s Toad is generally terrestrial and nocturnal except when this amphibian is in breeding mode. So, come spring to early summer, Fowlers’ Toads will venture out from the nearby woods to a wetland or shallow pond to breed. The male toad, measuring about two to three inches in size (5.1 to 7.5 cm.), will produce a call to attract the females.

'Fowler's Toad Calling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Fowler’s Toad Calling’ © Larry A Lyons

The toads will proceed into what is referred to as amplexus, also known as the “Latin Embrace”. This embrace is a form of pseudocopulation where the male grasps the female with his front legs. The male then releases a fluid with sperm into the water and externally fertilizes the female eggs. The female lays eggs in clutches up to 25,000 eggs.

'Latin Embrace' © Larry A Lyons

‘Latin Embrace’ © Larry A Lyons

There were hundreds of toads in the pond participating in this breeding ritual on this particular day. However, on a return trip of the following week, there was not a single toad to be seen, but there must had been thousands of tadpoles (about one half inch in size) swimming in the pond. Metamorphosis from tadpole to young toad occurs within two months.

The frog pond is also shared with other amphibians, such as, the green frog. This green frog surely would have found the eggs and the tadpoles of the Fowler’s Toad a tasty meal. It is all part of nature.

'Green Frog' © Larry A Lyons

‘Green Frog’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are so common that their increasing populations have become a nuisance at some locations.  However, even though their presence is often taken for granted, their behaviors and their life history are quite interesting.

'Canada Goose' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese do pair for life and will remain together over the entire year. In the spring, pairs of Canada geese will separate from their flocks and establish territories to start the next generation.

When a goose intrudes into a pairs’ territory, a lot of commotion will evolve in which the male will aggressively challenge the intruder by honking loudly, hissing with their beaks open wide and will even grab and collide between each other.

'No Intruder Allowed' © Larry A Lyons

‘No Intruder Allowed’ © Larry A Lyons

The female is responsible for building the nest and incubating the eggs while the male will be nearby guarding the nest. After the goslings hatch they will remain close to their parents.

'Canada Goose Goslings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose Goslings’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are herbivores and will feed on grasses, sedges, berries, etc. This gosling has learned quickly what is good to eat.

'Gosling Browsing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Gosling Browsing’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer is another common resident not only at the Palmyra Cove Nature Center, but also throughout the woodlands and suburbs particularly within northeastern United States. The deer are usually best seen in the early morning or at dusk when they are browsing along the edges of woodlands.

'Young White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

Their winter or early spring coats are brownish grey but they will turn to reddish-brown in the summer. The female deer (doe) stands at about 3 feet at shoulder height and will weigh up to 100 pounds.

'White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer are herbivores and will forage on a wide diversity of plants, including agricultural crops, at a rate of 2 to 7 lbs. per 100 lbs of body weight each day.

'Doe Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Doe Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer populations do present significant concerns that have caused negative effects to the deforestation of woodlands. Deer-related collisions with vehicles have also been an increasing problem with the overpopulation of deer.  Attempting to maintain or manage deer populations at densities that will not be detrimental has become more and more challenging.

'Drake Mallard' © Larry A Lyons

‘Drake Mallard’ © Larry A Lyons

No nature park is without mallards, the most common duck in the United States. The female mallard lays an average of nine eggs and is responsible for incubating the eggs and taking care of the ducklings.

'Female Mallard and Ducklings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Mallard and Ducklings’ © Larry A Lyons

To reiterate the take home message of this post: Don’t underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Here was a nature park situated in a highly dense urban area that provided an incredible assortment of habitats. The combination of these habitats allowed for the propagation and sustainability of a diversity of wildlife from amphibians to owls, ducks, songbirds and geese to deer and raccoons.

Let’s get our children outdoors and away from their electronic devices.  Let them find hidden habitats and enjoy the many wonders of nature. It is “our” next generation that will be responsible for continuing efforts to protect wildlife and maintain a commitment for preserving habitats.

Observe, enjoy, learn and, if you are so inclined, photograph them.

"A Birder' © Larry A Lyons

“A Birder’ © Larry A Lyons








The Osprey Comeback

Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s resulting primarily from the widespread use of a persistent insecticide, known as DDT. There were regions in the United States where 90 percent or more of the breeding pairs disappeared. Over 500 osprey nests were present in New Jersey prior to the effects of DDT. By 1974 only 50 nests remained in New Jersey.

'Osprey Comeback' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Comeback’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. DDT was banned in New Jersey in 1968 and banned almost entirely in the United States by 1972. Recovery of the osprey populations began once these bans were implemented.

'The Food Chain' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Food Chain’ © Larry A Lyons

The mechanism of toxicity resulting from DDT to predatory birds, like the osprey, is quite complex that ultimately affects their reproductive success. DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that tends to concentrate as it moves through the food chain. Fish that could be contaminated with DDT from eating shrimp or crabs would further magnify the concentration of DDT in predatory birds, like the osprey. The accumulation of DDT and its metabolites in the osprey prevents calcium metabolism causing the thinning of the eggshells. As a result of the eggshell thinning, the osprey would crush the eggs when sitting on them during incubation.

'Protect The Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Protect The Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The 1962 landmark book “Silent Spring” authored by Rachel Carson clearly expressed how important it is to maintain a vigilance on the use of chemicals and their fate in the environment. This book is often attributed to the environmental movement that was initiated in the 1960’s.

'Birds of Prey Socializing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Birds of Prey Socializing’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the osprey images were photographed at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge located on the southern coastline of New Jersey. This refuge, situated just north of Atlantic City, NJ, encompasses 47,000 acres of coastal habitat and is an important sanctuary for a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. A future post will present many other birds that utilize this refuge.

The osprey, also referred to as the fish hawk, has a diet that is almost entirely made-up of fish.

'The Fish Hawk' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Fish Hawk’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys have gripping pad on their feet that aids in plucking the slippery fish from the water with their long curved talons. The osprey will orient the fish head first to reduce wind direction when carrying the fish in flight. Here a flounder is being carried back to the nest.

'Entree of Flounder' © Larry A Lyons

‘Entree of Flounder’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey stands between 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm.) and has a wingspan of up to six feet (1.8 meters).

'Six Foot Wingspan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Six Foot Wingspan’ © Larry A Lyons

They do require suitable tall structures for building their nests. Platforms are often constructed to allow a suitable structure for nest building.

'Osprey Platform' © Larry a Lyons

‘Osprey Platform’ © Larry a Lyons

Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with grasses or seaweed. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material and the female arranges it. At the Forsythe refuge there are at least eight to ten platforms for the ospreys to build their nests.

'Nest Building' © Larry A Lyons

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

Males and females do appear similar in appearance, but there are some slight differences that can distinguish between the sexes. Males have a slimmer body and narrower wings. Also, the coloration of the breast band is either lighter or not present in the males.

'Osprey Pair' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Pair’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. They migrate back north in the Spring usually around the beginning of March.

'Feeding The Chicks' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding The Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

The female typically lays three eggs and both parents help to incubate the eggs. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, but rather hatching is staggered in time so some siblings are older and more dominant. The pair works together to raise the young.

'Peek A Boo' © Larry A Lyons

‘Peek A Boo’ © Larry A Lyons

The young fledge at about eight weeks of age and then remain in the area of the nest for about two months.

'On Watch'  © Larry A Lyons

‘On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

Juvenile ospreys have buff fringes to the plumage of the upper parts, a buff tone to the underbody, and streaked feathers on its head. Juveniles also have orange pupils that turn yellow when they reach adulthood.

'Juvenile Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Juvenile Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The adults and the juvenile ospreys will begin their southern migration by the end of August or beginning of September to their wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

'Are You Ready To Head South?'© Larry A Lyons

‘Are You Ready To Head South?’© Larry A Lyons

Ospreys are a conservation success story. Both the pesticide bans and the construction of artificial nest sites continue to allow for the comeback and growth of osprey populations.

'Enjoy, Don't Endanger' © Larry A Lyons

‘Enjoy, Don’t Endanger’ © Larry A Lyons

Leave you with a quote by Rachel Carson: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”