Monday, May 30, 2016

Sights from the Salt Marsh

     Yesterday I was hoping the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks spent the night in Marine Park, they didn't. But I still saw in my hour out some pretty cute moments, sightings of the elusive, and brunching birds (because they are in Brooklyn, and on the weekend, it's brunch).
     Still pretty happy with what I got to see, enjoy!
A yellow-crowned night heron on the hunt in low tide.
Went to get something, but came up empty handed, err, beaked.
The hunt must go on. Lots of crabs and small, yummy inverts are out for this guy to nab and nosh on.
A tree filled with song sparrows. This one would make himself present, but I think he has a nest nearby or in the tree as I heard more than just him calling from this little tree.
The elusive... clapper rails are easier to spot with the grasses still low, but prove to still be a challenge as they blend in so well. You can hear them calling from within the grass, but if you are lucky, you might catch a quick glimpse as they walk low through the grasses.
Bird brunch with the osprey family. Dad brings home a fluke, it is definitely a flat fish of some sort.
It is easy to tell dad from mom, he is dwarfed by her. Female raptors are noticeably larger than the males.
Just when you thought that watching this platform couldn't get any better, up pops a little head! Someone is hungry and dad better hurry up with the grub!
The whole family, and with literal hawk eyes, that baby is watching that fish and waiting patiently for a taste!

A redwing black birds foraging on the path neat the osprey nest. I find I always see great stuff when observing the osprey, maybe it is because little birds fly in an feel safe-- knowing they osprey will probably not go after them and that the osprey will chase off other raptors, or maybe because I end up standing there for so long, I get to see all the birds utilizing the area and then some. Like today, I also witness a family of voles dart from one patch of grasses to another, practically under my feet, just a foot or so off the path I was on.
Able to get a shot of a clapper rail who paused, out in the open for a few shots before remembering he was about to dart under some grasses! I really like these guys a lot. I tend to be a fan of bigger birds in general, not that this guy is huge at all-- he isn't much larger than a fat chicken.
This moment made up for not seeing the whistling ducks- a super great look at this little swamp denizen!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Spring into Summer!

     It's the unofficial start to summer as Memorial Day weekend begins. I woke up early, like before 7am, to get in some outdoor time before it heats up. Plus, I have a Mets game this evening and a date with the 1986 team pre-game!
     I headed out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel and the birds were highly visible, singing, gathering nesting materials, and looking for food. The light was also great, so I am excited with what I am able to share with you-- enjoy!
A juvenile night heron lives up to its name on Big John's Pond.... it's too early!
Sitting behind the bird blind allowed me super great photos of this male goldfinch. He had a few ladies in tow, but he stole the spotlight with that golden glow.
A robin with a small grub, and probably has some mouths to feed it to.
I was about to photograph a male Eastern Towhee, when he suddenly flew off and went after the towhee on top. Clearly he was trying to claim some space....
Unfortunately for the original male I was watching, the intruder remained as he flew off.
There were a lot of Eastern Towhees and normally they are so hard to see as they skulk in the shrubs- but all the males were highly visible and singing their faces off, so I took advantage.
Their melody sounds like they are singing, "drink your teaaaaa!" 
One of my favorite parts of visiting JBWR are the tree swallows, they nest in the boxes all along the trail surrounding the West Pond. And they have such a gorgeous blue to them, it's lovely to be able to admire them as they sit still.
A common yellowthroat catches the breeze in the feathers on his head.
A handsome male redwing blackbird keeping an eye out over his domain.
An absolutely lucky shot, a brown thrasher with nesting material in its mouth. Was super happy that he paused long enough, in the sun,  to get a nice clear picture before he dove into  the brush below, as thrashers usually do.
Oh, he also paused for this over the shoulder shot. Absolute luck, it really is about just being in the right place for something unexpected to happen. Being able to get a decent, close look at him, as he flew in close to me, and paused a bit, this is a moment I very much enjoyed in my time outside today.
The osprey nest and family.
And now, tree swallows in nest boxes!

JBWR also has lots of yellow warblers, they nest there. The males were singing and not shy about it at all, and so now here are a bunch of the same yellow warbler who sang in front of the camera...

There is something absolutely irresistable and adorable, having those black beady eyes, prominent on that yellow body, probably because it reminds me of baby chickens or other cute baby birds...
I also ventured down a little ways to Big Egg Marsh, where I was greeted by a fat house finch on a fat wire. 
He was scratching his head, but I managed to get a lucky shot of his little birdie foot in the air as he accomplished his task.
A common tern flyby.
I took all these shots, and through my binoculars I dismissed this as debris showing up in low tide, and darn it, my original gut feeling was right-- it was a diamondback terrapin. Always trust your gut.
A willet feeding at low tide, not shy, with semi-palmated sandpipers running at his feet.

A great egret.
Nothing ruins an intimate moment like getting stuck in old pilings in low tide. A male is clamped to the female, and awaiting high tide so they can get back to their task of reproduction.
This couple is just showing off to those who get left in pilings....
Semipalmated sandpipers working the upper part of the beach.
Super cute, and they just casually walked in front of me, not too far- which I found to be a nice treat, as these guys don't usually approach you and as close as they were.
A funny shot of two birds in line, making it appear as one bird with 4 legs.

Wishing everyone a safe, happy, and warm Memorial Day Weekend! Serious thanks to those who served, are serving, or who have passed in the line of duty - thank you for your commitment to our country and the people within it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Plumb Beach 5.25.16

     And just like that, Mother Nature turned up the heat. With temperatures into the 80's today, it felt like a beach day and after work I did just that. I went to Plumb beach to see what was going on in the natural world.
     The horseshoe crabs are busy this time of year, laying their eggs so the beach can be a busy place if you catch it at just the right time. I got there for low tide, where many horseshoe crabs were locked in their egg-laying embrace, under a layer of sand to stay wet and out of the sun's heat. If I found over turned, or unburied crabs, I helped them to place where they could wet their book gills and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief.
     The sun was also bright which meant I was able to shoot my photos manually and get some decent pictures. I hope those of you looking at this (whoever you may be) are getting the chance to also take advantage of this beautiful weather we are having here in Brooklyn!

American Oystercatcher.
I love orange things- so therefore I really like these birds for those carrot-beaks!
A lucky herring gull and his catch. He held this crab and ate it with pride, as other nearby gulls looked on, and didn't dare approach him.
I was excited that this came out semi-crisp.
This first winter herring gull came out even better!
A male horseshe crab is clamped onto the female, in the lead. With their back ends in the wet sand, they are safe until the tide rises again.
Some cute little dunlin walked along the eastern part of the beach.
Migrating shorebirds are in hot pursuit of good horseshoe crab beaches as those little eggs are vital capsules of fuel to help them continue their migration.
In terms of shorebirds, they can be tricky to identify. Dunlin are some of the easiest- in breeding they have that black belly and that downward curing bill. They are relatively small, but unmistakable in appearance.
...with other peeps (small shorebirds), it gets a bit trickier. This guy, I am 98% sure he is a semi-palmated sandpiper. Shorebirds are not my forte.
This semi-palmated is so tiny, but this capture makes him seem like he is kind of a big deal.

I liked this gull, he seems like he is so wise-- despite being a juvenile... err, first winter (greater black backed gull).

See those little blue grains? Those are horseshoe crab eggs!! What many birds are stopping over for. Some double their weight in eggs to help them finish their migration to their breeding grounds. But don't worry, female crabs can lay up to 60,000 eggs each, so there are plenty to go around.
Oh yeah, and horseshoe crabs have blue blood! Unlike us, where our hemoglobin is iron based (and red), their blood is copper based, and therefore blue! Someone must have pecked this guy or who knows what. My hope is that he heals up and lives on.
Their blood also has a huge value in the medical world. Many horseshoe crabs are harvested, bled, and released for our benefit in the medical world.
A willet in the marsh behind the beach.
Always lovely to see a leggy boat-tailed grackle strutting his stuff on the beach.
A wink with his translucent eyelid, the nictitating membrane.
An osprey embraces his inner waterfowl.
Same osprey taking off with Breezy Point in the background.