Saturday, March 25, 2017

Killing 2 Birds With One Run

*No birds were actually killed in the making of this post!*

     I am training for a half marathon (May 7th) and my husband for a full marathon (NYC!). In my efforts to be efficient- I took my long run down to Bay Ridge, Tim joined me and then quickly took off (he is much faster than I).
     In being efficient, I was hoping to bird after my run to see some purple sandpipers for my 2017 year list before they head northward. I ran 4 miles from Owls Head/Veteran's Memorial Pier to just before Caesar's Bay along the Belt Parkway Pedestrian/Bike path, I turned around and run back for an 8 mile day. The whole 4 miles out I spied for sandpipers, staking out where I'd head after my run.
     I saw a good amount of them, plus scaups, gulls, mergansers and more by the rest stop East of the Verrazano, just before the 14th Av Exit. So, after running back to my car and picking up the pace I drove around and all the birds were still there and I enjoyed a half hour of watching purple sandpipers march and feed among the exposed rocks, a group of greater scaups swimming offshore, and lovely ring-billed gulls dressed in their freshest whites for breeding.
Purple Sandpipers over winter the furthest north of any migratory sandpiper- their winter range extends all the way up into Canada.

Low tide shows off the abundance of mussels.

Foraging for mollusk treats.

I saw 4 greater scaup while running and was really hoping they'd still be there when I got back- at first I only saw the one, a male.

Not going to lie, I was pretty darn sure this was a Greater (not a lesser) and I am going by head shape. I am sticking to my guns- and after asking for confirmation- this is a greater. When first learning my scaups, I read about the sheen on their heads-- how greater are usually green and lesser are usually purple-- this bird is a good example of why sheen is not a reliable ID factor, as that head was purplish more so than greenish.

The area these birds were in, at low tide, really exposes a lot of the rocks and even the sediment. The body of water they are on is referred to as Gravesend Bay-- as I learned today Caesar's Bay is not the body of water-- but reference to the shopping center which used to host a flea market department store called Caesar's Bay Bazaar, a little Brooklyn history for ya.

A first winter herring gull gets in on the all you can eat low-tide mussel fest.

I also enjoyed watching this one purple sandpiper in this tiny little cove (relative to a sandpiper in size, that is) take a little bath and preen. My heart melts over birds- I love watching them delicately preen, closing their eyes looking so content in their little chance to pamper themselves--even on my run while I spied sandpipers among the rocks, I know I made faces and squee sounds- because that's how I roll, they overflow my cold human heart with absolute joy.

Sometimes you gotta just get in there to get the yummiest ones!

Sandpiper or duck... hm.

A very handsome ring-billed gull in it's fresh new breeding plumage. 

I really enjoyed taking the sandpiper's photos among the rock-scape- the exposed mussels, rock weed, and algae covered boulders- the scenery in their little world was really beautiful.

Later the rest of the scaup group came back- 2 more males and one female.

Aside from the yellow eyes and that slate grey bill- the female scaup looks like a different duck species.

Before getting back into my car to head home, another gorgeous ring-billed gull caught my eye. I noticed his mobility was not right...

A reminder of the perils of living wild. Who knows what caused this. Sadly my go-to thought is people. Gulls thrive in areas where humans live. Being opportunistic they rummage through our trash, grab handouts from the duck feeders, and in Brooklyn benefit from our urban green-spaces (also often littered with trash). A simple fishing line wrapped around the foot could cause this to happen. 

A beautiful bird to remind us to recycle our monofilament fishing line, be mindful of what you accidentally leave behind, and to know that a small act of carelessness can have larger impacts on wildlife.

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