Winter mornings at Jordan Lake

Mist on the lake I77A5266© Maria de BruynSpending two cold early mornings at Jordan Lake the past couple weeks reinforced my conviction that getting out into nature is a restorative and calming activity. And it doesn’t need to be warm. Although a doctor pronounced me healed after my recent hospitalization and home treatment, it turns out that I’m not completely healthy after all. Starting a new treatment was a bit stressful, but seeing the birds at the lake was a joy.

snag I77A6203© Maria de Bruyn res

Mind you, I’d love to see other wildlife there, but the mammals, reptiles and amphibians have been hiding out or keeping away from areas frequented by people. The fact that it is still hunting season probably makes some of them somewhat shy, too. I did manage to see a fly on one morning though.

fly I77A2979© Maria de Bruyn

The animals do leave behind signs of their presence, however. Tracks in the sand is one give-away that they passed by.

animal tracks I77A2998© Maria de Bruyn res

The beavers (Castor canadensis) leave behind distinctively gnawed tree stumps – and here you can also see one tree that they haven’t quite finished felling yet.

beaver tree I77A2933© Maria de Bruyn res beaver tree I77A2950© Maria de Bruyn res

The shoreline vegetation was decorated with gull feathers in various areas of the lake.

bird feather I77A2711© Maria de Bruyn res bird feather I77A2697© Maria de Bruyn res

heron track I77A2924© Maria de Bruyn res


A sandy track of what I assumed was a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) didn’t produce a bird at that site, but I saw these beauties in flight at two other sites.


great blue heron I77A3926© Maria de Bruyn res

great blue heron I77A2558© Maria de Bruyn res

At one area, I spotted a bird that seemed unfamiliar just as it was turning to take off. Friendly birders online identified it as an American pipit (Anthus rubescens), the first time I had seen this species (known as a “lifer” among the birding crowd). The next week I saw a killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) in the same spot but got a better shot.

American pipit I77A2526© Maria de Bruynkilldeer I77A5908© Maria de Bruyn

The killdeer didn’t hang around too long either, but I was able to get a couple of nice flight photos this time.

killdeer I77A5933© Maria de Bruyn res killdeer I77A5931© Maria de Bruyn res

American crow I77A2810© Maria de Bruyn res


The American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) were foraging in the shoreline woods, while the song sparrow was looking for food among the woody detritus left at lakeside.


song sparrow I77A5877© Maria de Bruyn res song sparrow I77A5866© Maria de Bruyn res

In another place, the crows were very loudly making their presence known – it turned out that a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was perched nearby and they were making sure everyone knew the hawk was there.

red-tailed hawk I77A3850© Maria de Bruyn resAmerican crow I77A3878© Maria de Bruyn res

In the trees near the lake, various birds could be seen: the ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula) was very busy as usual, flying from a sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) to other trees in rapid succession.

ruby-crowned kinglet I77A5662© Maria de Bruyn ruby-crowned kinglet I77A6049© Maria de Bruyn

At one site, there were many dark-eyed juncos foraging on the ground and taking pauses in the trees and shrubs around. Juncos are actually a type of sparrow and a group of sparrows is known by several names: a crew, a flutter, a meinie, a quarrel and an ubiquity.

dark-eyed junco I77A2838© Maria de Bruyn dark-eyed junco I77A2379© Maria de Bruyn

The downy woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) and red-bellied woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) were in evidence at various lake sites.

downy woodpecker I77A2504© Maria de Bruyn resRed-bellied woodpecker I77A5384© Maria de Bruyn res

Overhead, the double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) flew by; they would land and share space with the ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis).


double-crested cormorant I77A2731© Maria de Bruyn resring-billed gull I77A3558© Maria de Bruyn res

ring-billed gull I77A2389© Maria de Bruyn res


The ring-billed gulls were numerous and occasionally one swooped down to fish not too far from shore.

ring-billed gull I77A5489© Maria de Bruyn resring-billed gull I77A5497© Maria de Bruyn res

While I was watching, the horned grebes (Odiceps auritus) were more successful in getting meals as they dove into the cold water.

Horned grebe I77A3662© Maria de Bruynhorned grebe I77A3094© Maria de Bruyn

belted kingfisher I77A4014© Maria de BruynA couple times I was very surprised by a bird that suddenly seemed to emerge out of nowhere to fly over my head or just in front of me. That was the case with a beautiful male wood duck (Aix sponsa) and a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).


wood duck I77A3719© Maria de Bruyn res wood duck I77A3718© Maria de Bruyn res

bald eagle I77A3030© Maria de BruynAn adult bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soared by just as I was approaching an observation platform in one area; the distance and height were considerable but I managed a shot. A Bonaparte’s gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) flew by a little lower, while a Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) sat still for a portrait.


Bonaparte's gull I77A3962© Maria de Bruyn


Carolina chickadee I77A5806© Maria de Bruyn res

My last avian companions during my latest lake walk were a white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and a lovely hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus).

white-throated sparrow I77A6115© Maria de Bruynhermit thrush I77A6165© Maria de Bruyn

I returned home on both occasions a satisfied birder!


My friends, the ruby-crowned kinglets!

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_8776© Maria de Bruyn resAs I mentioned in November, ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) are one of my favorite bird species. These tiny, yellowish bundles of energy are fascinating to watch as they perch on twigs, hover in mid-air by feeders and branches, and generally look delightful when they stop to catch a breath for a minute.

Adjusting your camera to be able to photograph them with the best speed and lighting can be quite challenging as their constant motion leads them in and out of the sun and above and below branches.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_9428© Maria de Bruyn ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_9419© Maria de Bruyn  ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_9377© Maria de Bruyn resruby-crowned kinglet IMG_9406© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4734© Maria de Bruyn resOn a rainy day, they may sit still for a tiny bit longer but their flight is not impeded though they may look waterlogged.

This has been a good autumn and winter for my being able to photograph these adorable avians, not only in my yard at the feeders but also in venues such as the Jordan Lake woods, Mason Farm Biological Reserve and Sandy Creek Park. This blog will focus on some of the portraits I’ve been able to capture.



ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0378© Maria de Bruyn resWhen they are flying around rapidly, you could mistake them for first-year, less brightly hued blue-winged warblers (Vermivora cyanoptera). That happened to me in South Carolina where I thought I had gotten a shot of a blue-winged warbler and instead saw a kinglet in the photo.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0271© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0272© Maria de Bruyn

The kinglets’ yellow-olive color, white wing bars, broken white ring around their eyes and fluttering flight help identify them. Very occasionally, you catch sight of the red crown or get a peek at a couple of the normally hidden red feathers.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_8791© Maria de Bruyn 2ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4174 ©Maria de Bruyn res signed

The Latin species name, which means little king, has led to a number of “royal” terms for a group of kinglets: a castle, a court, and a princedom. My favorite, however, is a dynasty – a grand description for a collection of these tiny fliers.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_8747© Maria de BruynI think I might have a particular fondness for birds with black or dark legs and yellow feet. I love snowy egrets (Egretta thula) with their large feet resembling yellow rubber gloves and melt at the sight of those dainty kinglet feet.



It’s amazing to think of these small birds migrating to North Carolina from as far North as Canada and Alaska. Just think about how many wing-beats and how much energy this demands of these birds! I’m glad they make the trip though!

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0409© Maria de Bruyn res2 ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_3539©Maria de Bruyna”?

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_5641©Maria de Bruyn resI hope you have found these photos as cute as I did – have a great day!