Monday, April 1, 2013

One Man's Trash...

Chickens at the Normal J. Levy Preserve
     My husband and I headed out east to my parents for Easter Sunday. The weather has finally been spring-like, so we went for a walk at Norman J. Levy Preserve. This preserve was once a landfill and I distinctly remember high school cross country practices here and in the summer heat how it kind of smelt like trash. It isn't perfect, but I guess it's better than what it was.
     I've been to the preserve a couple of times since high school, I once launched my kayak from here and paddled along the preserve and Meadowbrook Parkway until I hit the salt marsh beyond. I learned that day how important it was to check the tides because I had to walk my kayak back through some deep and sticky muck at low tide. I also have taken my husband here once before, so this was his second visit. And since that time the preserve has acquired a herd of goats that they use to maintain weeds and invasive species, which I thought was interesting. I love goats and I was super excited by the fact that they had a bunch there. Usually you think of goats as pests, but I guess when they are controlled and penned up after they do their "work," it's not a bad deal.
     The preserve doesn't have tons of trees, so we mostly saw song sparrows, some red-wing blackbirds, and robins, as far as song birds went. There is a pond at the top of the preserve and around the pond it's mostly grassy. From the top, when visibility is good, you can see Manhattan and a bunch of places around Long Island, including my home town. We had a nice little visit, even with the sun not out, it was much better than the snow we only had three weeks before.
A tree with uniform holes all around? That is the sure sign of a yellow-bellied sapsucker! It's like the most insulting name ever, but it's actually just a cute little woodpecker that will drill out holes all the way around the trunk, then move up a level, and continue that pattern.
Guinea Fowl are kept at the preserve by the rangers to roam around the area and eat ticks. They are very vocal and you can tell when they are near. These birds originally hail from Africa, but are kept by people to control ticks, as pets, and sometimes to eat. I've cared for Guinea Fowl before, there is nothing appetizing about them (they poop a lot). I just like that they look like mini cassowaries. 
I also really love the natural color and pattern of Guinea Fowl feathers. Like many domestic fowl, you can get all kinds of looks as far as color variations go, but I like the natural black and white polka-dots.
A pygmy Nubian goat. There was a whole herd of these guys. Goats can be an invasive nuisance species, but the preserve pens them up so they don't eat the whole place bare. This guy just finished having himself a drink. Goats are really cool animals, super smart. I have a huge soft spot for them.
Sing your heart out, lil' song sparrow! These guys were singing up a storm all around. 
The view from the top - you can see the empire state building and midtown Manhattan. This wasn't even a clear day.
My hometown, East Meadow - that giant building is Nassau County Medical Center. I know it has a different name - but it will always be the Medical Center. 
The pond at the top of the ex-landfill had some red-eared sliders in it. RES turtles are not native to New York. They are native to S. Texas and Mexico but are popular as pets. They are released into local waterways by people who no longer wish to care for them. These turtles out compete local species for food and territory. As pets these turtles can live up to 50 years, so know what you are getting into. It wasn't super warm out at all, but these guys were out and about, and when you think of how well they survive, its no wonder they take over and conquer.
The water in the pond almost seemed rusty. It was a man made pond - obviously - and the water flowed from a pipe. The sliders seemed a little extra red/orange. Then I noticed that even the geese have a rusty water line along their bellies.
These little flowers were about 2inches tall, but the little flowers were so pretty. I have no idea what they are. Any guesses?
They reminded me of teenie tiny orchids. They were growing all over the trail sides. People must have thought I was a little nutty kneeling down and taking pictures of these tiny little flowers.
A great egret flew over us. They are always so beautiful to see in flight.

Not going to lie, I have a really hard time telling lesser and greater scaups apart. So for now, I will just call them scaups.
Male scaup on the right, followed by a female.
I had just explained to my husband how I wished that an Osprey would be on the platform nest, and then we looked and there was an osprey on the platform nest. He/she was very vocal and just hung out on the nest vocalizing and preening in between.
The osprey isn't only being watched by my husband and I...
A little osprey fly-by action, when they fly low, you can get a sense of how big they are. This one was quite large.
    The preserve is a pretty nice place for a walk and to do some wildlife viewing, and if you do go, don't let the drive in intimidate you, you do have to drive through the sanitation work area, but just past that is the preserve. For more information, check it out here.