Monday, June 30, 2014

Greenburgh Nature Center

     I spent the day upstate, and after driving my husband into work, I decided I'd pick up an egg and cheese and eat breakfast in the wilderness and go for a hike. I decided on Greenburgh Nature Center, in Scarsdale, NY - I knew of this place because I participated in a fundraiser for them and recall looking them up and liking what I saw. It also is the only place I knew of in Westchester to go for a spur of the moment hike.
     My breakfast in the wilderness took place in my car, but the walk after was wonderful. Early in the day the birds were singing, there is nothing more fairytale-esque than wood thrushes singing in the morning during a walk in the woods. I liked the center, the trails were nice and I felt surrounded by wildlife, and if you had kids, it is definitely kid friendly with a museum, playground, farm animals, and non-releaseable wildlife.
The catbirds were active, not only "mewing," but singing their lovely little songs. 
An ebony jewel-wing damselfly- he was metallic and so beautiful. Unlike dragonflies, damselflies are not fast fliers, this one in particular fluttered like a butterfly.
The bluejays were loud as they encouraged their freshly fledged chick to move about. I love those baby bird feathers! Still so downy and absolutely adorable!
An Eastern cottontail was stirred by the bluejay commotion.
Downy woodpeckers squabble for tree space... 
... this guy had to claim a new tree.
I almost stepped on this chipmunk! He was so into whatever he was eating that he didm't mind my close range.
Silver-spotted skipper
As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a family of red tail hawks. Mama/papa in the foreground, two juveniles in the background. It felt like they were captive birds, just perfectly positioned in this tree, all together, but they were definitely wild...
This juvenile was a whiner, calling constantly.
The other sibling had its game face on, clearly this one does not mess around. 
Crying that baby hawk cry...
The face that lets you know it has talons and knows fully how to use them...

The whiny sibling flew off and cried out more. The other played it cool and along with the parent bird, clearly understand their role in the food chain...
     For more info on Greenburgh Nature Center, check out their website and have a visit!

Doodletown, Dragons, and Deer

     Since joining many birding groups and seeing where people go for walks, one name came up often during spring migration. Doodletown. It sounds like something out of a kids book, but I assure you it's a real place! It is the closest you'll get to a ghost town around these parts of New York...
     I was first interested in it, because it is in Bear Mountain State Park, which I have visited before with my husband. Upon reading more about it, it used to be a place where people lived, there were homes, and Doodletown road is paved (it is falling apart now, but you wonder why you hit an old asphalt path in the middle of the woods). Doodletown was lived in from 1762 till about the 1960's, the town not only had homes, but also a school, farms, and churches. It is a lovely place not just to view nature, but also look at some history, as properties are marked and have short written descriptions about old ruins or what used to stand in the cleared lots. I highly suggest a visit, and this website about Doodletown has much more information on its history and demise.
     It was hot yesterday, but I still made the walk, after my walk through Doodletown, I also walked to Iona Island which happens to be on the opposite side of route 9W, I had some lovely encounters - most of what I saw were insects. In the heat of the day the insects are powered up and zooming around, or sucking my blood - the mosquitoes were aggressive. Enjoy the sights!
Great blue skimmer, me thinks. Dragonflies were VERY active, they are solar powered, so on a warm sunny day they are buzzing about.

A dainty harvestman-- these were all over the forest floor. Many people think these are super venomous, but they actually have no venom at all! They eat small insects and are not true spiders, but close relatives.
I'll have to get back to you on this one... stumped.
Doodletown ruins, an old foundation.
...same species as above, again, will need to get back to you. (I am told it's a tawny emperor!)
Eastern Kingbird on my walk toward Iona Island.

A fledged redwing black bird calling for its parents. comes crashing in.
The marsh at Iona Island.

A (silver-spotted) skipper
I think I was more surprised than the deer...
heck, it walked toward me!

Why did the deer cross the rail road tracks? 
To get to the good stuff on the other side.
Even the deer gave me a sympathy laugh... or she just has awful manners and didn't learn to chew with her mouth closed.

another redwing blackbird.
A mourning cloak.

Monday, June 23, 2014

First Trip to Governors Island

     Since moving to New York City in 2008 (wow, has it really been THAT long?!), one place I have always wanted to visit was Governors Island and for some reason that just never happened. Yesterday NYC Audubon hosted the "It's Your Tern Festival" on Governors Island, celebrating the nesting colony of Common Terns, that call the Yankee Pier their nursery. While we didn't spend much time at the festival, the novelty of being on the island allowed us to walk around, explore, and even picnic on one of the 50 hammocks sitting waiting for someone to occupy them in hammock grove. The island was not too crowded at all, it was enjoyable and had something for everyone. For me, it had many seabirds utilizing it as a nesting site, for my husband they had a historic fort, Castle Williams, a National historic site, watched over by the National Park Service, and for both of us it had those hammocks, grassy fields, and amazing views of Lower Manhattan, Liberty Island, and the shipping yards in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
     It costs a mere $2 for a round trip ticket on the 5 minute ferry ride from either Brooklyn's Pier 6 or the ferry terminals near Battery Park. The island had mini golf for kids, a beach bar for adults, and food trucks of all kinds. I will say we will mostly likely visit again, with a better planned picnic (although I'm NOT complaining about my bagel and lox) and SUNSCREEN. The park has newly planted trees which make me happy, but they provide no shade and I am paying the price now. Along with the wildlife, for good measure I also include some of the sights, because honestly it is always amazing to see wildlife thriving, adapting, and reproducing in the midst of one of the largest cities in the world - and honesty, they are views I too never get sick of-- enjoy!
Leaving from Pier 6 Brooklyn, just at the West end of Atlantic Avenue. Views of the Empire State Building, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge.
Lower Manhattan from the Ferry.
A storage house that totally contained all these classic cars! Wonder what that's about!
Once on land and enjoying our lunch, we walked. This field of rubble and sandy soil, adjacent to the ball fields contained all these nesting herring gulls. Can you find the chick? In New York you can reliably find 3 gull species, the herring gulls above, the greater black backed gull, and the ring-billed gull.
The view the gulls have from their nests... absolutely beautiful. 
Crowds of people surround Liberty Island, dwarfed by the Statue of Liberty.
I never get tired of viewing One World Trade.
How to tell your gulls apart: Herring gulls, grey backs, black wing tips, and red spot on lower bill. That red spot is used for communication between parent and chick, they chick taps that red spot to be fed, its a target essentially so no one misses any food. Greater black back gulls- larger than herring gulls, also have a red spot on their bill, but wings/back are a dark grey/almost black color. Ring billed gulls are smaller than herring gulls, no red spot on the bill, just a black tip, that looks like a ring around the bill (clever naming, eh?). 
This one is not feeding a chick... 
Pellet regurgitation is not just for owls, all birds of prey do it, heck I've even seen a kookaburra do it! This gull is just about to have one fall out of its mouth- see it at its lower mandible? It is made up of all the things the gull cannot digest, like bones, scales, and shell pieces.
This lucky gull has a nest in the shade, and much more hidden than the other nests.
Most likely the other parent of the gull nesting in the greenery. This one stood guard on some posts surrounding their shade tree. 
A mother mallard escorted her three babies across the gull nesting field. A bold move indeed as gulls would totally take a duckling. Especially since one of the ducklings kept being bold and walking much further ahead and off course from mom. This mom could have easily started out with 10 or more babies, many duckling die from predation, 

This is a black back gull that totally snagged this fish on his own, brought it onto the main path and began to chow down, before being interrupted by people who wanted a closer look. He hovered around and after about 5 minutes gave up... then a park maintainer tossed the fish back in the water. 
Hovering, waiting, as island visitors poked and looked at his catch.
...Still waiting.
Many oyster shells from the Billion Oyster Project- a very cool partnership with the help of the New York Harbor School- a high school located on the island, what a great opportunity for students to be involved in conservation and habitat restoration - learn more about this very interesting project here!
A common tern nesting on Yankee Pier - these animals are considered threatened in New York and are protected.
... like I said. 
Readjusting to sit on her egg.
Tern after tern, sitting on eggs and the one smack in the middle, behind the large cement/metal piece, and in front of the cement with poles on it - there is a tern sitting, tail sticking out and has 1 chick!
A blurry photo- but the only one, the chick even got up and ran around!
Took the ferry back to Manhattan and left with a view of some gantries. A lovely visit, we will surely be back!
     If you want to visit Governors Island, check out their National Parks website and their Governors Island Trust website for things to do, events, ferry times/prices, etc. I highly recommend a visit, wildlife lover or not!