Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count: Day 3 of 4 - ICE ICE BABY!

     I took a trip with some wonderful work friends, both of past and present, and like true lovers of wildlife and wild places, we put on multiple layers and got on a boat to see what is also braving the cold on the Hudson, within New York Harbor.
     We took a trip on NYC Audubon's winter bird and seal eco cruise. The seals must have went to Florida or seemed warmer climes, because we didn't see any, and we were the only silly mammals out near Hoffman and Swineburne Islands, just past the Verrazano Bridge. The water is currently warmer than the air, so seals must have kept warm by staying below the surface. It was so cold, in fact that salt water was freezing! We braved temperatures that did not go above 20F and wind chills much lower, as we experienced, easily 20mph, if not higher gusts of wind- an Arctic adventure in NYC!
We embarked on our trip from South Street Seaport and headed South out to the harbor.
Forming ice stretched from Governor's Island to the ferry terminals in Southern Manhattan!
A double crested cormorant seeks refuge on a pier with ring-billed gulls off Governor's Island. 
From Red Hook Brooklyn's Erie Basin- sailing through the ice was pretty cool, the boat actually bumped as it clanked against the double hulls of the catamaran.
We found waterfowl like Brant (here), red breasted mergansers, mallard, black duck, bufflehead, and gadwall seeking shelter from the wind and cold within Erie Basin.
Lady liberty reminds us that we are in NYC, not the Arctic.
Just looking over the side of the boat!
One of many Falcon nest sites in NYC. It's early for falcons to be nesting, but they may be making their way back to their usual territories to reunite with their mate.
You don't truly understand how large the Verrazano Bridge is until you go below it!
A terrible photo, but important, the bird flying above the horizon is a common goldeneye- my first in NYC, so that was exciting! The flock below are greater scaup.
An icy Hoffman Island- too icy apparently for seals to haul out on.
Just in case you didn't know, salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water. Also water in general has a specific heat of 1, which is high, which means it holds its warmth or cold fairly well despite the changes in air temperature (it's why your cup of tea seems to take forever to cool off)- so that means, it has been so gash darn cold lately that the water temp is dropping enough to freeze into ice near the surface and it is so gosh darn cold that salt water is freezing when it crashes up onto the rocks and pilings. So all this ice on the salt water you have seen from previous photos to here means bundle up, it's cold out there!!
With all the wind and movement, a young herring gull gets the best photo of the day, especially because it made a close pass to the boat.
A little eared grebe is dwarfed by waves and icy rocks- but really shows you how tough as nails these birds are. They are amazing at surviving, this little dude is probably still out on the water while I sit in my warm, heated home- makes me look like a wimp! Keep on being awesome, little dude!
The winter eco cruises will fun a few more trips for the winter- maybe you will get to see a seal on your trip, and maybe it will be a few degrees warmer for you too! Check their website out for more info and happy birding as the Great Backyard Bird Count continues for one more day, tomorrow!