Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunset Cruising

     On Sunday, 8/16, a few of my coworkers and I got on the last NYC Audubon sunset cruise of the season, on board the water taxi.  Earlier that day I got a little worried as thunder clouds rolled in and we experienced a lot of heavy rain. The rain must have caught many species by surprise, because while cleaning reptile enclosures in our spare bedroom, I saw a flash of yellow in the tree outside the window. For the next 15 minutes I was on it and hanging out the window, running back and forth between that room and the kitchen, to access our sad excuse for a terrace.
He was fast, but this is the first yellow warbler we have ever had in our Brooklyn backyard!
The tree in our yard is full of wisteria and it's a tangle of a mess to try and grab a picture of a fast moving bird. But he was a gorgeous little thing and a pleasure to watch at (mostly) eye level from our window.
     Once skies cleared, we were in perfect shape for a boat ride up the East River towards North and South Brother Island. The NYC Audubon cruises are always great, they provide a wonderful way to see NYC from a very different perspective, the naturalist on board is incredibly knowledgeable about the history of New York, and it always provides really great scenery. So we were very much pleased and really enjoyed the sights on this adventure.
The thunder heads southeast of us, really gave the skies a dramatic look over Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The sun sinks low over lower Manhattan.
Clouds over the Willamsburgh Bridge and Brooklyn. 
Double crested cormorants nesting on U Thant (legally known as, Belmont) Island. This is a small man-made island lying between Long Island City and the UN Headquarters.
Cormorant condominiums. The area behind them was once industrial warehouses, now you can't afford to live there. Luckily, cormorants have a rent stabilized nesting area.
Cormorant silhouettes.
I really love their nests, they have a very mysterious, spooky look to them. The trees on these little islands they nest on also tend to be tiny, bent over, and weathered- really adding to the look.
Juvenile cormorants can be easily told apart from adults with their lighter bellies and necks.
All that is U Thant Island, on the East River.
A great egret graced us all with a fly by.
Fish crows on the move, probably finding a place to roost for the evening.
I was able to spot a great blue heron on Mill Rock, an odd place for a normally freshwater bird to be. The East River is an estuary, connecting LI Sound to the New York Harbor, so the water is not fresh.
Looking past North Brother Island to refineries and other industrial buildings in Hunt's Point, Bronx. North Brother Island was once a quarantine of sorts for sending the ill, famous for housing Typhoid Mary, and it was a potters field- a place where the dead were buried who had no family ties or any other place to be laid to rest.  Now, it is a bird sanctuary.
Add in a little nature and Hunt's point can look rather beautiful when draped in late evening colors.
The waxing crescent moon, just after a new moon on August 14th.
As the light grew dim, I played with scenery, sorry for some really touristy-type photos, but really, I'm not sorry. Every New Yorker should go on a boat around NYC at some point, it really makes you feel incredibly small, gives you a new perspective on the reliance of the habitats surrounding the city, especially back in its beginnings, and it's just gorgeous!
An industrial complex never looked so beautiful! Nature works wonders in that way!
The river we sailed upon is home to so many species of fish, birds, mammals and beyond its regular route, it connects to more water that houses even more species that are tied to those in the river. These waters are all vital resources to not only the animals and plants growing from them, but us too! We often forget that life on land is tied to life in the water and it is important for us to think about our choices and how they can affect things that in turn connect back to us.
Empire state building.
Chrysler Building
Midtown Manhattan alive with light. I only think about how many stars are hidden away by the lights from the city below.
Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance, where the Harbor of New York lies and eventually meets the Atlantic, just a ways down. Soon birds will be flying all through this area, as we are sailing below the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration route for flighted creatures. Lights and building glass can make this migration tough, especially as many bird species fly by night and become disoriented by the bright city lights.

         Audubon does some pretty nifty tours in the city and beyond and I love living here and being able to discover on my own or with others species thriving, despite a giant city looming over them. I am always amazed by the diversity of life found within the city's nooks and crannies!
Check out their tours here, maybe I'll see you on one!