Monday, July 21, 2014

Beach Birding

From Point Breeze on Plumb Beach, looking over Mill Basin. The Gil Hodges Bridge is what takes you from Brooklyn to the Rockaways in Queens.
     I planned to get up early today and get out the door to get out and explore. At 7:10AM I hopped on my bike and made the 8 mile ride to Plumb Beach. The morning was pleasant, very comfortable out, so much so that sweating was minimal for 8 miles to my destination - Plumb Beach.
     Plumb Beach is just past Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, across the way you can see Breezy Point, of the Rockaways. The beach can be accessed by car, there is a tiny parking lot, just off the Belt or by Bike, if you continue to the end of Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, there is a path across the street from the Comfort Inn. 
     It was low tide when I arrived, the waters here are in general, very shallow, making it a lovely place for waders and shore birds. It was empty, except for the 6 people I saw when I first began my walk. With proper footwear (or I guess none at all) you can walk through the wet flats that are exposed. Some people would even walk out to the sand bars, where they were digging up clams. The birds were active, many fishing and digging up their own clams. Many also rested right on the beach making viewing comfortable and easy.
     After I finished, I pulled out my packed towel and laid out and watched birds continue their activity. More people arrived as noon came around, but the birds stuck around. The beach isn't too much of a swimming beach, I sat in the water for a little bit, but its shallow, so sitting is about all you can do. 
     Today's sightings included 23 species... I am going to try to be diligent about submitting my sightings to eBird, Cornell's Lab of Ornithology's database where birders can log their sightings and help contribute data. My sightings are listed here... and many are included in the photos below, enjoy!
A lot of least sandpipers today.
A ring-billed gull shows us his beach strut.
Two black skimmers skimmed the water with their unique beaks. The lower mandible is longer than the upper, and the lower part is dragged through the water, if it touches a fish, the bird snatches it up, and somehow does not get whiplash, as their head bends forward, almost against their bellies in the quickest motion.
Common terns, three in a row, I win!
Least tern, smaller, more yellow bill and legs, and a white forehead, unlike the common terns above. Their voice is so much daintier too than that of the common terns.
Birding along the Belt Parkway, essentially. Thankfully I didn't have to take it to get here, I'm sure it would have taken a painfully long time... 
Least sandpiper flyby.
A juvenile common tern sat with one other and begged for food on the beach. I don't know if terns or any birds breed here, but when leaving I did see a feral cat. I'm sure if there is one, there are more, only making life tougher for these guys.
American Oystercatcher, presumably catching oysters, or some other shellfish.
A greater yellowlegs flew out of the grasses where there were small pools of water.
Least tern.
A common tern vocalizing.
... and flying quite close!
Here's the black skimmer skimming...
Winner, winner, fishy dinner!
Fun fact, when born, their beaks upper and lower mandibles are the same length, but when they leave home and fly off, their lower has already outgrown the upper mandible.
The least tern on the left was on the beach vocalizing, then the one on the right flew down and fed it a fish. It was cute. Not sure if that is a juvenile, mate?
Greater yellowlegs and reflection. 
This guy looks like he had a strong cup of coffee for breakfast and is ready to take on the world, or this crab. So many gulls were plucking crabs from the water, it made me want to go get some for lunch... I settled for a clam bar on the ride home.
These two oystercatchers were having a kerfuffle, flying up and down the beach multiple times. They even went after each other in the air at one point, just over the water.
My first encounter with a robber fly. Its like a dragonfly met up with a mosquito and they made babies... It was almost as long as my thumb and I was thankful to learn they only use their piercing mouthparts to stab and eat other insects, not people.
"Hey, you guys want to hear a joke?...... Tough crowd." Clearly these laughing gulls don't.
Found this female horseshoe crab trying to get back to the water. Thankfully I was in the helping mood.
And last, but not least... but technically, least. Tern.