April Summer

After a few weeks of mostly rainy, windy, cold weather, nature tried to balance the scales this weekend by sending us a full-blast of summer. It was sunny, with a light but hot southern wind that pushed the temperature up to 90 degrees both Saturday and today. A nice change, but a bit of a shock! Yesterday afternoon Ellen and I went for a walk on the beach in Avalon to get a break from the heat.

dunewalkentrance

Here’s the entrance to the walkway through the dunes and out to the beach. This part of Avalon has a wide section of preserved dunes and dune forest, a rare remnant of what used to cover most of the barrier islands here.

loislane

By the way, I suspect whoever named this path was a comics fan…

ellenonbeach

Out on the beach it was much cooler, with a cool breeze off the water, which is still about 50 degrees. The sun was raising a light fog off the cold sand behind Ellen, if you can see it.

emptybeach

Only a few dedicated and hardy souls were in full beach mode. This will be crowded with them in a few months.

kiteflyers

These folks were having a good time with a kite.

oystercatchers

There were a few birds around, including this pair of American Oystercatchers, in bright breeding color.

dunewalkback

Ellen was cold (me, too!) so we headed back on a different path, one we haven’t taken before, that cuts between two of the large mansions on this section of the beach.

yarrow

Along the way this fern-like emerging plant caught my eye, which Ellen thinks is Yarrow.

dunemansion

Doesn’t this look like a great place to sit and watch the waves? Part of one of those mansions. If you have to ask how much they cost, you can’t afford one.

shadbush

On the way back to our car I noticed this Shadbush in bloom. When the Shadbush blooms, it means the Shad (a fish) are running up the streams and rivers in the area.

This morning I spent a few hours birdwatching in Belleplain State Forest, a short drive from home. I’d been there last weekend, and saw a few new songbird arrivals, migrating in from points south. I figured there’d be more today, especially with the southern winds, and I was right.

belleplaintrail

The sun was just coming up over the trees as I walked this trail, listening to the calls of Ovenbirds, Eastern Towhees and Worm-Eating Warblers.

eastcreekpond

Out at East Creek Pond there were swallows and a few ducks, nothing unusual, but a fine view.

eastcreek

Further along, at the bridge on Sunset, looking down East Creek, where a Prothonotary Warbler was singing. Didn’t see it, unfortunately. Maybe next time. There were other birds there, including Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-throated Warbler and White-Eyed Vireo.

smallvireo

Here’s an example of the limitations of my camera. I have a 10 power optical zoom, but these songbirds are small, and usually far away, so this is the best picture I could get of the Vireo. That’s why I have to resort to professional photos found on the web, like these:

whiteeyedvireo

This is more what it looked like through binoculars.

yellow-throatedwarblermetz3

And here’s the beautiful Yellow-Throated Warbler, had good looks at one.

hooded-warbler

A little further up the road I spotted a Hooded Warbler like this one. Others like Lousiana Waterthrush and Ovenbird remained elusive, but I’ve seen them other times.

bggnatcatcher

My photos again. One of the smallest birds there other than Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is this Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Fortunately they do come pretty close. This female looks like it’s building a nest.

treebloombelleplain

One good thing about birding at this time of year is the leaves aren’t really out yet, making it easier to find birds. In a week or two it will be a lot harder.

sassafrasblooms

Some trees, like this Sassafras, are just blooming (giving us all that fun pollen), with the leaves to follow.

jakeslanding

On the way home from Belleplain I drove out to Jake’s Landing for a view of the salt marsh, and some bird species that like that habitat. There were Eastern Meadowlarks, an Osprey on a nest platform, and some Willets:

willet

Others like Seaside Sparrow and Clapper Rail were seen briefly or only heard.

Back home, new arrivals were in our yard, too, like Great Crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird and Wood Thrush, all back for the warm weather. A female Pine Warbler, the first to arrive a few weeks ago, was gathering nesting material, too.

Don’t know how long the April Summer will last, and the weather predictors don’t seem to either, but I’m sure it will cool off again soon. Meanwhile, I finally had to put the air conditioning on this afternoon, I couldn’t take it! I’ll turn it off soon, and we’ll open the windows again and enjoy the unusual weather.

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