Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Weekend

     This weekend I visited two different parts of Jamaica Bay in two different Boroughs. On Saturday I helped my friend and coworker out by leading her teacher Professional Development group through Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. Today I visited Floyd Bennett Field, visiting Archery Road to get down to the shore.
     Yesterday, I helped lead some teachers through the marsh to access the East Pond and Big John's Pond. We also took a bird walk and nature journaling excursion for 45 minutes on the West Pond, where the mosquitoes were less concentrated. I remained with the teachers after our walks to come see the terrapins and walk the beach- I'm not sure if the teachers knew how special of a treat it was to do what we did, as one needs a permit to do what we did (we very much had a permit!) so when I get the chance to do something that I normally can't, I volunteer to lead a bird walk and gain access to the shoreline on Terrapin Point, happily! Also-- turtles.
One of the birds I had fun sharing with the teachers was this house wren. We all had the chance to see and hear it. I am always impressed by how a tiny little bird, smaller than a sparrow, can produce such full, loud song. From the teachers' reaction, I think they were impressed too!
We also got to see the osprey nest, empty of its chicks-- now just the lingering adults are hanging around. Overhead we saw some glossy ibis, swallows, gulls, and we all met the fearless catbird.

We met with the Terrapin Research volunteers to learn about what they have done this season at the refuge. I also ran into one of the folks I used to volunteer at NY Aquarium with (back in the day, over 10 years ago...). He volunteers with the Diamondback Terrapin team, which is super cool!
I was very interested in that they are looking at the affects of microplastics on these turtles, analyzing fecal samples to learn more about how this material affects the turtles. It's gross that plastic is EV-ERY-WHERE and so sad how many animals end up eating it.

It is the end of terrapin season at the refuge, babies from nests will begin to emerge in August. So we only met this one female who was in the research pod for analyzing her fecal matter.
I did learn that at JBWR they learned that the newly hatched babies spend much of their first 1-2 years on land, building up their salt tolerance to the bay. Hopefully the restoration of the West Pond, as its salinity decreases, will become valuable for these little guys as they are growing.
     Today's random decision to visit Floyd Bennett Field came when Tim said he is probably just going to hang around at home, and after a late start to the day- I didn't want to stay inside all day, so I took a ride down and had no hopes to see anything in particular-- just to enjoy some time out...
Common terns were flying along the shore, successfully catching fish.

A killdeer, matching its surroundings quite well. Despite their large size, and unless scanning with your binoculars, you really dont see these guys until they move or fly off, vocalizing loudly.

A lot of spotted sandpipers around too-- both adult and juvenile.

While most would brush off some double-crested cormorants- I really like these guys and they were all perched in such beautiful ways- with adult and juvenile birds on the pilings.

Also, they look like dinosaurs and they have gorgeous eyes!

Just when I thought I had some interesting opportunities to view the cormorants at fairly close range, I changed my position on the beach as I noticed shorebirds in the surf-- so I moved up to the top, where the sand meets the NYPD Helicopter base. With most of my body below the level of the asphalt, I wasn't so intimidating to the (many) killdeer just hanging out up there. So I was eye level with some birds, and in fairly close range, so what a great opportunity for some not so normal views!

It was nice to view this bird, at rest! Instead of being on its feet, ready on the dime to take flight and scream it "dee-dee-dee-dee," in panic, it was really nice to see a bird comfortable, as most of me was hidden.

Preeeety sure this is a semipalmated sandpiper... it seemed so different to me in the field- bill seemed longer, straighter, and bird seemed a little bit bigger than a semipalm... I secretly was hoping this to be a Western when I noticed it and it felt so different.
I like this photo because you can see the partial webbing that BOTH semipalmted and Western sandpipers have between their toes.

But in referencing my guide (The Shorebird Guide) and comparing photos, it is just a semipalmated. 

A (different) semipalmated sandpiper, walking with a least sandpiper behind it.

Lots of killdeer today-- did I mention that? (I truly don't mind!)
I think my favorite field mark on this bird is that white eyebrow-- it makes them always look so worried. IT fits them well, because they are always so nervous and take flight and call at the smallest twitch one makes, even when 50 yards away.

I ventured around the pathways before heading home. I really liked this mom and juvenile pair of house finch taking a bath in a puddle from the rains we had overnight. Both seem to be happy to have a puddle and a break in the heatwave we have had.

I love a funny wet bird!