Monday, April 15, 2013

An Old Favorite!

     Quite some time ago, I was a nature camp instructor and educator with Audubon. It was such an awesome job, and when we had summer camps we were able to take the kids offsite for an entire day and one of my most favorite places to go for that was Shu Swamp in Mill Neck, NY. I have only been there in the height of summer and know in the summer the place is full of wildlife. So going there in the spring was something new and also, it has been years! It also was a nice little trek because I got to take my best friend, Pam along with me. We have always gone exploring different places together and she is one of my favorite people to go on adventures with. Pam is my best friend, I've known her since the 6th grade and she is just the absolute best!
     I always remember the swamp being very lush and that lushness just started to emerge. The skunk cabbage had already sprouted, those wide, vivid green leaves, really gave the place some much needed color. The birds were very shy, we heard plenty singing, but they were really good at concealing themselves. We spotted mute swans, Canada geese, red-wing backbirds, grackles, ruby crowned kinglets, grackles, hairy and downy woodpeckers, palm warners, belted kingfishers, osprey, and great blue heron. I heard a frog, as in, I walked down to a pool of water it chirped and jumped and I screamed and jumped. We both kind of scared each other. We also saw some HUGE carp. The carp are not native but when you walk out to one portion of the swamp where the water and trees open up, the carp spot you and swarm over under the boardwalk. They must get fed often and they are large maybe, 2-3 ft in length.
     Another thing we saw a lot of were uprooted trees. Probably from hurricane/superstorm Sandy. Some of the tree root systems were absolutely huge in their width! Even with wide roots, the soft soil and shallow root system just couldn't hold a bunch of the trees in place.
Mute Swan close-up!
This swan was acting very unnaturally, it approached us right away and even followed us as we moved about the boardwalk. It is probably acting in such a way because it is fed by visitors. Hand feeding wildlife is unadvised, it can lead to a variety of problems for the animals, the environment, and you - that thing they use to eat, that mouth, they can bite with it.
One of the many rather large carp. Carp are native to Europe/Asia and are usually kept as ornamental fish. Koi are really just pretty carp. Goldfish are also a part of the carp family. Carp do well in water with low levels of oxygen, they are able to gulp air from the surface and use oxygen from that! I love their little barbels (whiskers). Those barbels are a good indication of how they behave, like catfish they are bottom feeding, using those whiskers to find tasty morsels.
A Canada goose on the other end of a tunnel. As soon as he saw us, he also came swimming over.
Grackles and red-wing blackbirds were in all the tree tops. We were waiting for something out of Alfred Hitchcock to occur.
So I looked it up, and if this guy did his math right, this appears to be the tallest tree. The DEC keeps a registry of tallest trees, but does't have any official measurements to show. Tulip trees are my favorite. My picture of the tree came out like garbage, but if you don't know what they look like, please refer to my earlier post from Inwood Hill Park.
A hairy woodpecker tries to decide where he will drill next.
Beautiful green skunk cabbage!
The skunk cabbage here refuses to let that fallen tree stop it from growing!
Those pretty yellow ones are marsh marigold.
A water strider, a type of insect, uses the surface tension of the water to skit across it. Surface tension is what allows a water droplet to ball up  or if you are very skilled, float a paper clip! 
Normally I don't take pictures of people, but I had to take a picture of Pam and I to use for scale in how wide the roots of this tree were.... We are also standing the the crater it left. Pam laughed at me as I tried to set the camera up, and then we both laughed when we walked to the other side and realized we could have propped the camera up on its trunk... This was more fun, and dangerous, as I had to run over and not fall into the pool of water also in this crater and make it and not look ridiculous before the timer went off...
See? Without us, it's just any other up rooted tree.
Skunk cabbage gets its name from the smell it gives off, especially when a leaf is torn or ripped. Their stinky smell attracts flies and things that can help pollinate. Their flower isn't what you think of when it comes to flowers, they are those purple pitcher-shaped thing.
Turkey tail fungi grows on a decomposing log. The fan shaped fungi is actually mostly inside the log itself. The fruiting body is what we see on the outside. They get their name for the banded appearance that looks similar to the tail of a wild turkey. Fungi while appearing plant-like in appearance are actually closer in relation to animals than plants. Turkey-tail fungi are one of my favorite types of fungus, they are so pretty!
     Hopefully I will be able to get out here again as the weather warms up. It really is such a nice little place and I was so glad I got to visit. To learn more about Shu Swamp, please visit here. They don't really have a real site, so just go visit instead!