Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kayaking the Salt Marsh

     Today I was able to take the kayak out for its first paddle of 2015, in the most epic way. I was able to store my kayak in our spare second bedroom that serves as the reptile room, bike room, laundry drying room, storage room, and now, kayak room. I got my kayak out of our second floor Brooklyn apartment and loaded it onto the car on alternate side day, managed to double park and get it strapped on just in time as the street sweeper whizzed by.
    I met one of my friends from back in high school, she is awesome, also has a kayak, and it was like there was't close to 10 years in between the last time we saw each other! The weather was on our side, very little wind, calm water, and a cool sunny day. After the last 3 days of grey, cold, and rain, today was welcomed with open arms and paddles in hand!
     We paddled around one section of the marsh, and learned that one can navigate around it and get back to where we started without having to turn around, we spent almost 2 hours on the water. After grabbing a bite to eat, we walked at the Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside. It was a great day and I have a lot of sun burn to remember it by for the next few days!
Taking pictures in a kayak is really hard, as demonstrated by this awful photo of semipalmated sandpipers. You are moving, bobbing, and when you stop, drifting. You cannot move your body around because tipping over would be a poor option.
Many osprey were nesting in the area, this one had caught an early lunch.

A different osprey flew over head with nesting material.
Yellow-crowned night herons were abundant and when you're in a kayak they seem to know they are more agile and better adapted for life in the salt marsh than you. 
We explored some of the little paths that wind into the marsh, it was high tide so it allowed us better access through these little corridors. A willet surprised us as much as much as we surprised it and flies ahead... of course in the direction we are paddling.
You cannot really see over the mudflats, so often times the wildlife seems to pop up out of thin air, or grass.
These herring gulls look quite sharp in their summer breeding plumage.
A ruddy turnstone on an old wreck provided some nice photo ops. It seemed like an osprey once nested on the wreck, the nest now looks abandoned.
A handsome little bird!
At the Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area, we found the marsh to be at low tide, mud flats were exposed and some birds were taking advantage of that, like this willet.
Tree swallows, like this one, and barn swallows swooped and soared all through the air. The tree swallows had nest boxes to use, and were very much taking advantage of.
My favorite part about low tide are fiddler crabs. I love watching these guys scuttle about and interact with their neighbors. A female has two same sized claws (the animal lower down) and the male has one claw larger than the other (above).
This male seems rather vivid in color for a small mud-dwelling crab-- check out the blue near his eyes!
A willet bathes in a small tide pool.
The path at the Study Area are raised above the marsh, for easy walking, but they are not solid, they are similar to egg crate material, but sturdier. There is an area where a small wooden bridge is built, and you can see the gulls take advantage of hard, solid ground, as there was evidence of cracked shells all on and around it. A gull demonstrated just how they use it for getting to the juicy insides of a mollusk.
Always, always happy to see a glossy ibis, even just for a little bit!
I highly recommend visiting both places we did today.
Empire Kayak is located in Island Park, NY and offers ecotours of the surrounding marsh, or you can rent a sturdy ocean kayak and explore on your own. The people who run the place are friendly and wonderful, check them out at: http://www.empirekayaks.com
After your paddle, close by is the Marine Nature Study Area, check out their hours and programs at: http://www.mnsa.info

Also, on a fun note, I had the chance to contribute to the Brooklyn Bird Club's newsletter, "The Clapper Rail." I am featured in the Sparks section, that introduces club members to everyone, it's a fun way to get to know a bit more about our budding community. View it online here: http://www.brooklynbirdclub.org/Clapper_Rail_Spring_2015.pdf