This week marks the Days of Joy on the Jewish calendar~! We note this special time period between the Days of Awe, which include Rosh HaShana through Yom Kippur, and the beginning of the week-long holiday of Sukkot, when we commemorate the travels of our ancestors in the wilderness, and the building of the sanctuary, as described in the Torah (Shemot 25:8; 60 Days, A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Simon Jacobson).
This joyous time prompted me to reflect on some of the wonders of nature that I have encountered in recent days, such as the lovely Black & White Warbler (my first of the season!) featured on this post, and this precious little Burrowing Owl above. This little fellow is a member of one of the owl families I saw huddling together beside their burrows on the wide expanse of a softball field adjacent to the Middle School near my home. Because the Burrowing Owls are endangered, the school district agreed to move all softball games this season to other locations, in order to protect these very special and vulnerable nesting birds!
On a recent walk, a fellow birder stopped me and asked if I’d spotted any exciting finds that morning. He was hoping to see something special, he said, like a hawk. I told him I hadn’t seen any hawks lately, but….you never know. As we parted ways, he went to the right and I turned to the left. Within moments, I looked up, and – what a treat. A two-for-one event! This pair of Red-shouldered Hawks was nestled in the branches of an old snag, just waiting to pose for me! (Luckily, the man I spoke with turned around and had a chance to see them, too.)
Here is another wonder that brings joy to visitors every day lately – a Purple Swamphen. Their bright colors are easy to spot as they forage through the plants in the shallow water at the base of the boardwalks. This fairly young Swamphen above looks like he is wearing a costume designed to disguise him as a globe! These non-natives are often mistaken for our stunning Purple Gallinule, but there are some distinct differences. The Swamphen’s beak doesn’t have the light blue forehead shield that is a distinguishing feature of the Purple Gallinule, and the Swamphen’s feet and legs are pinkish, whereas the Purple Gallinule’s are bright school-bus yellow. The adult Purple Swamphens are also much bulkier and not nearly as pretty as Purple Gallinules.
As I was walking to the parking lot yesterday, I searched the trees above for a bird whose call I didn’t recognize. Looking more closely, I came to realize that it was this delightful little Eastern Gray Squirrel who was chattering at me. He was clearly trying to tell me something, though he was barely moving his lips!
I caught sight of this lovely Butterfly as he kept flitting about and returning to this bright red and yellow flower in the gardens along the nature preserve entrance path the other day. Even though it isn’t a sharp photo, and I don’t know the name of the Butterfly or the flower, the sight of him was so sweet that it seemed fitting to include him as a final example for this post on JOY!~