Saturday, November 28, 2015

Massapequa Preserve

     After having worked extra days and hours this month, it felt awesome to have yesterday off. I took the day to drive out to Massapequa, in Nassau County to do some birding. My friend Jeffrey joined me for his first trip out that way. Having extra eyes was key to finding 40 species within the preserve, we each were able to spot things that we otherwise would have missed and the lakes are just duck heaven! We got what we went for, and so that made the entire day very much worthwhile.
Within 20 feet of my parked car we had spotted hooded mergansers, American coots, mallards, black ducks, and ruddy ducks. From another view we found some female Northern Pintails mixed in among the lilies and black ducks.
A downy woodpecker taken in the world from a different perspective. It was very comfortable outside, he was probably finding lots of yummy things to eat.

Just North of Sunrise Highway, we strolled along a small creek connecting the lakes. There was a very not shy male wood duck. I wondered if he was a food beggar, because in my experience, wood ducks like to keep their distance.
This bird answered my question, this Canada Goose has angel wing, a deformity that comes from poor nutrition, usually associated with being fed by humans. This does not allow the bird to fly, to find food when it is scarce, to avoid predation, or migrate. Learn more about it here. Of course moments later, we saw people feeding the waterfowl, thankfully not bread, but simply feeding waterfowl makes them very not shy of people-- which is great for the photos that follow, and those of us who know to keep our distance-- but unfortunate for those who don't understand to give these animals respectable distance and that they are wild animals.
Another goose within the feeding area, with a deformed wing, surely this bird cannot fly.
Mute swan face.
A domestic mallard was among the fowl on the length of creek that is fed by folks.
We got looks yesterday at Carolina and Winter Wren, pictured. The winter wren was super tiny and fast! 
Same male wood duck from earlier.
In the group of ducks who were fed, was also a male and female pintail pair! I have never ever seen a pintail so close, within 20 feet of myself.

I love the detail in all their feathers, super beautiful. One thing I enjoy about winter is that the male ducks are looking spiffy for the ladies.
The females are quite beautiful in their own right. Their camouflage makes them hard to find, but they look perfect for the places in which they live. The female pintail is so drastically different from the male in looks.
Robins were quite abundant among these berry bushes. I also really like this photo.
We saw 3 woodpecker species today, the downy (scroll towards the top), the red-bellied (not pictured), and the hairy, seen here. Larger than the downy, with a longer bill. Jeffrey mentioned how it would be nice to see one and then moments later, it was right in front of our faces. I like when things work out like that! We decided to turn back and bird our way back to the car, it was a good decision in timing as you will see...
Everyone was in awe, this swan was so beautiful, but really, he was on the defense. He swam down the creek with purpose, when he approached another family of swans he attacked one of the juveniles and adults. Apparently the creek is not big enough for 2 swan families.
Just one more! I loved this freaking pintail! 
Jeffrey's sharp eyes caught this one- a rusty blackbird. I would have totally missed this bird!
I don't remember what we were looking at, but once I saw the crowd, I knew what they must be looking at. Aside from knowing bird behavior, knowing and observing human behavior is helpful in birding. A crowd gathered to look at this red-morph Eastern Screech Owl. A lifer for both of us! Pretty much the reason why I wanted to come here, this made the day complete!
He didn't do much, except turn his head with half-closed eyes, seemingly squinting from the low sun in the sky.
One thing I love about birding is when I get to talk to people and share with them. I got to share my binoculars with a family, and helped them to find and see an owl too. I got to chat with a little girl about what the owl is called, how big (err, little) he is, and how much he weighs. I hope that they went home and maybe looked up owls in a book or online and found a little excitement in nature. 
Some screech owl fun- the little "ears" are not ears, just tufts of feathers. Those tufts are camouflage, also can communicate a lot about the owl and its current mood. Their ears are located on the side of their head, and that little circle, that is formed around the face, helps channel sound into those ears, much like a satellite dish. These owls do screech, when you tick them off, but their actual call is very haunting and eerie. Armed with talons and silent flight, these birds hunt smaller birds, small mammals, insects, and have even been known to catch small fish and frogs! But there is one fact that is best known, these guys are super cute and charismatic. When this little owl was done with us, he simply back down into the hole and disappeared. On a normal day, people must walk by his little roost, unknowing of his presence in the tree over their heads!
The scan of a far off tree before we leave reveals a peregrine falcon, who is in prime territory to knock a flying duck out from the sky. So many ducks were coming/going as we were preparing to migrate back to the city.
I adore hooded mergansers, a departing shot to remember a great birding day!