Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

While walking back to the car from my daily adventure in Institute Woods, I heard the distinctive "conk-la-ree" songs male Red-winged Blackbirds produce and looked up. The males use this call to establish territories and communicate with other birds. It took a few seconds to find the bird in the tree. Maybe it’s just my perception, but during this time of the year, it seems like the Red-winged Blackbird is as common as the American Robin.

The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a passerine bird found across North America. They are migratory birds, with populations in northern regions migrating southward during winter months.

Red-winged Blackbirds inhabit marshes, wetlands, and grasslands, often near water bodies. They are omnivorous, feeding on a diet of insects, seeds, grains, and small vertebrates.

Red-winged Blackbirds are sexually dimorphic, with males having glossy black plumage and distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches. Females are brownish-black with paler streaks. Their breeding season spans from spring to summer, during which males defend territories and display their red epaulettes to attract mates. Females build cup-shaped nests in dense vegetation, where they lay eggs and raise their young.

Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Deirochelys reticularia)

Turtle identification is challenging.

Turtle identification is challenging. I had thought, based on photographs I saw online after searching "turtles New Jersey", that this individual was a Painted Turtle. I uploaded the photo to iNaturalist where amateur naturalists, John Keisers, suggested that this was a Northern Red-bellied Cooter.

The Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Deirochelys reticularia) is a freshwater turtle species native to North America. It belongs to the Emydidae family and is characterised by its medium to large size, domed carapace, and distinctive red markings on its plastron. This species typically inhabits slow-moving or still bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, marshes, and rivers with soft bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation.

Northern Red-bellied Cooters are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of plant matter, aquatic vegetation, insects, crustaceans, and occasionally small fish. They are known to bask on logs or rocks near the water's edge to regulate their body temperature. Breeding season for this species occurs in late spring and early summer, with females laying eggs in sandy or soft soil near the water. Northern Red-bellied Cooters play a role in aquatic ecosystems as both consumers and prey for other predators in their habitat.

Swinging Bridge over Stony Brook via Founders' Walk

Bhavna and I have not visited the swinging bridge over the Stony Brook since November 2017.

Bhavna and I have not visited the swinging bridge over the Stony Brook since November 2017.

The swinging bridge in Institute Woods, Princeton, spans the Stony Brook, allowing visitors walking the trails around Institute Woods to cross over to access the wooded areas that are sandwiched between Stony Brook and the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail. It is constructed using sturdy materials to ensure safety during crossings. The bridge adds convenience for visitors exploring the wooded trails and natural surroundings of Institute Woods. Its design blends with the environment, providing a seamless transition across the water.

Overall, the swinging bridge serves as a functional and practical element within Institute Woods, enhancing accessibility and facilitating movement for those enjoying the outdoor experiences the area has to offer, but it is a destination in itself. We were not the only ones seeking the Swinging Bridge.

Despite what others have stated on social media, the Swinging Bridge very easy to find. Take the Trolley Track Trail from either the western trail head near Clarke House Museum or eastern trail head near Crossroads Nursery School. When you get to Founders' Walk walk south until you arrive at the Swinging Bridge. The swinging bridge is clearly marked on Google Maps and Apple Maps, so you can just use those apps to help you walk the trails.

14 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The swinging motion of the bridge is minimal, offering stability while crossing but some walkers (like the person above) are not confident.

14 April 2024 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2
14 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR
14 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR
14 April 2024 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2