This past weekend Washed Ashore Photography had their first show of the 2016 season. It's was the Smithville ArtWalk and this was our third year in attendance. Tia and I love this show; it's always the first one of the year and it's such a nice show to do. While in Smithville we had several people stop by our tent to ask the same question: "Do you have any fox photos?" Much to my dismay I answered "No". So I set out to change that for this week's photography challenge.
I've seen a ton of fox at Island Beach State Park over the years. The foxes at IBSP are not shy at all. They're so used to people with the park being open year round they often stroll up to a fisherman's truck to steal whatever bait scraps they can find. But as many times as I've seen a fox I've never been able to get a photo. One of two things happen: either I bring my camera and never see a fox or I leave the camera at home and spot several fox frolicking along the side of the road. This past Monday I was going to capture a good photo of a red fox at Island Beach State Park. And I wasn't leaving until I had one.
Bright and early Monday morning I'm up, heading into the park on a mission to find the foxes. Typically, you'll see a fox walking down the road in the early morning/late afternoon. I've seen several foxes sprinting in and out of the shrubs chasing red-wing blackbirds or field mice. One time I saw a fox laying down on the side of the road watching the cars drive by without a care in the world! There he was: sunning himself, his eyes half closed with a few subtle flips on his tail. I was certain I could find at least one fox jogging across one of the paths this past Monday.
Two hours into my trek I was still lacking my fox photo. Didn't see a single tiny red dog in six passes up and down Island Beach. So I parked my truck and started out on foot. I hit the first walking path in the park and walked for about an hour. Still I was foxless by noon. Where could they be? It figures when you're looking for something it never shows, but the one time you aren't searching for it you find it. I was running out of time on my fox adventure when I tried one last path.
The Spizzle Creek Bird Observatory Blind is located near the end of the park. It's near the Nature Center if you ever want to stop by. It's a nice walking path complete with a view of the back end of the Barnegat Bay. A short walk leads you to a sign where you turn left to the actual bird blind area. As I'm walking along the path I notice the many osprey nest poles along the waterline. It's always a great day when you can spot these awesome birds of prey. They aren't called the fish hawk without good reason - these birds are expert anglers in their own right. A majority of the ospreys spend the winter in South America and migrate north to the United States during the spring and summer. As soon as April hits the ospreys are back ready to start another year of fishing for white perch and striped bass.
While on the lookout for an elusive fox I see a single osprey perched in an Atlantic White cedar tree, probably a hundred feet or so away from me. This is pretty close for osprey photos. Most of the time the nest poles are a couple hundred yards away from the paths to keep people away. As I start to take photos of the one osprey another one flies into my frame with a bunch of dead tree limbs in its claws. These two birds were a male and female making a nest for the spring. Well, actually the male was making the nest, tidying it up for the female who was watching closely. Male ospreys build a nest for the females to lay eggs at the end of April or beginning of May.
After a couple hours of hopeless fox watching I settled in to photograph the ospreys who spent the better part of the next hour building/supervising a new nest. It was exciting to watch these two love birds starting the next generation of ospreys along the Jersey Shore. The female seemed like she was missing her right eye. From the photos it looked like her right eye had either been scarred over or perhaps lost in a fight with another bird. So I named her Left Eye, lovingly. The male was a fine looking young osprey; a truly strong looking raptor. He was diligently making the nest, patting it down with his talons while watching out for his young bride. He would fly by her caressing her back with his claws every twenty minutes or so. I named him Brutus because he looked like a solid, strong bird.
Soon enough I had to leave the lovers to go home. Never did get my fox photo although I did see one walking by the side of the road as I was leaving. Can't make it up, folks. I had already packed my camera and lens in my back seat. It's ok. I now have a pair of ospreys to look for next time I'm at IBSP. Hopefully they will start to raise young chicks for the coming summer months. Since the nest is so close to the walking path I might have to stop in and see them again soon.
Washed Ashore Photography.