Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge

     This week I have been spending some time at my parent's on Long Island, so I took advantage of that and headed out East to Morton wildlife refuge. I have always wanted to visit and it certainly was not a letdown! It is very much out there, but if it is of any incentive, there are wineries, and farm stands out that way which are always worth visiting. The trails are very accessible, the main loop is not long, the beach trail leads out to Jessup's Neck, a sandy peninsula that during the summer is a breeding location for piping plovers and subsequently closed off, for that reason. This time of year, all was open and beautiful!
Consider yourself fairly warned-- there are a lot of pictures, if you are a real photographer, this place is a wildlife photographer's paradise!
A tufted titmouse, these guys were very abundant and active within the forested areas. The preserve highlights a few different habitats: woodland, open/meadow, freshwater pond, and sandy dunes, shoreline, and even a small lagoon on Jessup's Neck.
Black-capped chickadee's stalk you as you walk around the preserve, they only leave you when you visit Jessup's neck, but they are not shy!
They come very very close. Stay still for a moment and the birds will come to check you out.
Little things, with big personalities!
Blue jays were also fairly abundant throughout, this one wanted to make sure I saw him.
Also fearless here- white-breasted nuthatch. This preserve is known for its birds, which come down to feed. I'm not going to lie, I brought some sunflower seeds and tried it. But it does result in birds acting different here, normally nuthatches don't approach people. Feeding the birds is mostly frowned upon because people leave seeds behind which feeds rats, which in turn causes problems for the birds. 

The open habitat was FILLED with grasshoppers. The grasshoppers attracted my attention, I love these guys!
Grasshoppers also attracted the attention of this Eastern phoebe- At least 5 birds were present and they dove from perches catching all sorts of insects. 
Jessup's Neck was where many gulls, like this ring-billed were just hanging out. 
The tip of Jessup's Neck has sandy bluffs, there are also nesting platforms present where osprey nest during the summer and in the dunes, endangered piping plover's raise their young.
A super nice surprise was this peregrine falcon. I thought I saw a falcon when I first came onto the beach, I saw it flying low and swooping, so I walked down towards it.
It appears that between the first time I saw the falcon and now, that it had a nice meal! That bump in its throat is the birds crop, full of whatever it just ate. When birds eat, the food goes to the crop before the stomach. The crop and gizzard aid in digestion, the crop is important for parent birds, this is where the coughed up food comes from.
A handsome juvenile herring gull flyby.
I heard some tapping on a nearby tree, and this little downy woodpecker was hard at work!
Looking proud of his foraging skills...
Just before leaving was surprised to see this doe looking back at me, totally not ready to bolt.
Like I said, she seemed fairly comfortable.
She has a gorgeous home...
Morton was awesome and I highly recommend a visit if you are out in the Sag Harbor area out on Long Island!