Friday, March 20, 2015

Walk with Me on the Red Trail (at Cape May Point State Park)

We didn't have much time yesterday, so we chose the half-mile Red Trail. We wanted to head home before the predicted snowstorm made travel tricky. It was the last full day of winter, so don't expect any Rose Mallow blooms or summer shorebirds, but there's plenty of cool stuff to look at. Keep in mind I'm no nature expert, so I can't always identify things. I just shoot at objects that look interesting and hope that someone will tell me what it is. First, the vegetation...
What IS that?
Is this what a cattail looks like when it is aged?
Male cardinals are easy to spot and easy to identify. We saw two; the second of whom was less shy about having his portrait taken...

Did you know Cape May Point is a mecca for birders? These trails are designed for birders of all levels, from me all the way up to the experts who write the books. There are structures throughout the park for people armed with cameras and binoculars...

Watch out for this bird: he might fly into you.
Okay, this is what a bird blind really is.
Expert birders don't get excited about mute swans because they are not native to these parts. Okay. But you can probably agree that they are beautiful in their snowy white feathers as they float on the water. I've witnessed swans flying overhead a few times, and it is breathtaking! Those birds move a lot of air and in so doing, they make some interesting sounds: whoooop, whoooop, whoooop! It's difficult to get a clear photo of a bird in flight, but here are some attempts:

Ducks are ducks, right? Well according to Roger Tory Peterson and his Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, there are many varieties of duck-like birds. I tried to match my photos up to the illustrations in this book where they are classified by family, and to the photographs in Stan Tekiela's Birds of New Jersey where they are classified by color. You may be tempted to call this duck a Mallard because of its green head, but there's another candidate called the Northern Shoveler. When the duck in the front stopped fishing long enough for me to see his back and tail, they matched the picture of the Northern Shoveler more than the Mallard. So I could be wrong, and I could just refer to it as a duck, but here it is:
Northern Shoveler?
Likewise, I could call these guys "ducks" or "pointing ducks," or I could attempt a better ID with the help of my reference books. My best guess is American Wigeon. These are in the area in the winter, and the feather and beak colors look like a match,

In this same little lake, we spotted a small brown swimming animal. It was definitely not a bird because it was diving, staying under for up to a minute, and swimming in a straight line. We saw the tail, and it was too small to be a beaver. Could it be an otter? Do they live in New Jersey? What else could it be??

I've blogged before about how I can't resist shooting the Cape May Lighthouse with all sorts of natural frames and backgrounds. (Here, here, and here, among others.) I did that yesterday, and my favorite is this one with the pretty grasses in front. I had to sit on the trail to get the grasses just right.