Bay Journal

Michael Burke

Golden crowned kinglets: glints that catch our soul by surprise

The sky was that blue unique to winter: endlessly deep and crystalline clear, like staring into a sapphire. We were standing on a small boardwalk that juts into open water along the Marsh Edge Trail. Overhead, a bald eagle cast an indifferent gaze in our direction.

Winter is the ideal time to visit the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, MD. Thousands of...

Gadwalls, ducks show that birds of many feathers can flock together

Opalescent skies brightened under the rising sun. A soft wind ruffled the waves lapping the cove, which was alive with countless waterfowl. The birds were waking, filling the morning sky with a cacophony of honks and quacks, along with softer whistles and burbles.

There were almost too many to count. The winter waterfowl had arrived in huge flocks at Eastern Neck Wildlife...

Only clever observers realize just how intelligent fish crows are

“Hey, Mike, look at this.” My friend was peering out her window overlooking the river. “It looks like something out of Hitchcock,” she added.

Coming upriver were hundreds of large black birds. It was dusk and the birds were headed to some common roosting area to spend the night. They formed a long, loose, noisy pack that seemed to stretch back for a mile.

Crows often gather...

Lightning-fast little blue heron could disappear in a flash without help

An impressionist’s palette of endless shades of gold, brown, red, yellow and green lay before me. The late afternoon light had set the marsh grasses aflame with color. A wisp of wind turned the marsh into a shimmering image.

A slender shorebird stood motionless in the shallow reflecting water. Its dark blues and purples seemed to emerge from the grasses themselves. Slowly, the...

Eastern wood pewee’s beauty is in the ear of the beholder

Pink and white lotuses and yellow water lilies filled the ponds that dot the verdant landscape. The serene landscape had drawn us back to this peaceful spot countless times. The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC, always soothe away my troubles and leave me with a profound sense of calm. This year was no different.

I found myself gazing at the blossoms when a clear,...

When an Eastern phoebe is hungry for insects, it just wings it

I stood off to the side, leaning against the car, while Pat chatted at the wash station after picking up our weekly share of vegetables. She was focused on friends and fresh produce, but my eyes were on the bird that sallied off a fence post and back again, its tail constantly flicking.

The hot sun had brought out summer’s insects in force. The rather plain brown and white bird...

Scarlet tanager’s startling red flash like fireworks in the forest

The oak canopy had nearly closed in with new foliage, leaving dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Birdsong surrounded us and tiny clouds of insects were appearing. Above, we heard a distinctive “chick-brr,” then a raspy song.

We were frustrated for several minutes as we searched in vain for the songster. Then, a brilliant flash of red, and there he was — one of the brightest...

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About Michael Burke

Michael Burke's avatar

Mike Burke is an amateur naturalist who lives in Cheverly, MD.


Sneads Farm Asparagus Festival May 27-29 in Fredericksburg, VA
Ernst Conservation Seeds: Restoring the Native Balance.
Tour dem Parks, hon.

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