Sunday, July 19, 2020

This Week in Wildlife

 I did a few walks this week with the baby, doing some birding and wildlife watching. We visited Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Prospect Park, and Marine Park Salt Marsh. We had some nice outings and lucked out on the weather this week.
     We saw some pretty cool things, nothing super out of the ordinary, but every outing is just wonderful to enjoy and keep up with the things I love, and hopefully our little one will also come to love too!
At Jamaica Bay, our big highlight was baby ducks...

These are gadwall ducklings!

Mama gadwall and her half grown babes.

Our visit to the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center was mostly from the back of the nature center as they were applying pesticide. So we watched a Monarch Lay its eggs on milkweed.

We also watched a solo black skimmer do some skimming. The fish were jumping, hope it caught a few!

We also went to Prospect Park this week. The Eastern Kingbirds at the Upper Pool were hunting voraciously.
I love Eastern Kingbirds, bold and beautiful!

This once was a baby wood duck, now it's just an awkward teenage wood duck drake.

Summer is dragonfly season!

A special treat, some green herons!

The kiddos being fed.

This is 100% dinosaur.

Wonder what was brought back for them. There were at least two chicks.

A lovely female cardinal along the borders of the neathermead.

At butterfly meadow we were surprised there we not as many flowers as we expected.
But we aw this chipmunk.

We also saw this Great blue heron fly over our heads.
We also tried a few times to see the comet Noewise and failed. But we got some pretty dramatic sunsets over Manhattan.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge with Baby

     The first time I tried to walk at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge last week, the trail was closed because it looked like a goose round-up was occurring, I got attacked by mosquitoes, and we found some poop that was for sure not from any of the refuge inhabitants. It was not much of a trek, so we tried again today. A much better trip for sure!
     Armed with a mosquito net for baby, and some strong smelling herbal mosquito spray that did not contain any harmful chemicals for us both (but only sprayed on me), I only encountered one mosquito on me. Now, could that have been due to the help of the constant breeze today? Possibly. Only means we will have to go back and try again to ensure my new mosquito repellent works.
     Anyway, we were out for a little over an hour and observed 35 species. We also saw terrapins, many predated terrapin nests (insert sad face), and found a barn owl feather! We also noticed the cicada killers are out, these are awesome huge wasps that specialize on catching cicadas to feed their young. It was an enjoyable walk and again, the stroller does really well on the gravel paths there, and I think she enjoys the constant sound of slushing through the rocks and the vibrations of traversing through the trail. If I stop for too long, a whimper reminds me to "get movin' ma!"
Anothe rmama "welcomed" us to the refuge. We opted to walk the west pond trail, and hang left because it is the least buggy. Turning right and heading into the forest will only greet you with a wall of mosquito. A gamble I am not willing to take. With or without a baby! I skip it in the dead of summer.
And oh, this mama is a common yellowthroat. These birds nest here and she likely has a nest as she came out to scold us. And we got to moving to let her have her space to feel safe for her nest.
Speaking of babies, the osprey nest has three chicks who are all eager to stretch those wings!
Soon after I wandered away, the other adult swooped in to check in on the nest.
One of the birds of Jamaica Bay in the summer is the glossy ibis. If you don;t get to see one on your visit to the refuge, you just didn't look hard enough. They fly in constantly, wade on the ponds of both the west and east side. You really can't miss them!
Another breeding bird of the refuge are cedar waxwings. They are also one of my favorite birds to look at, they are really beautiful.
One of  my (many) favorite birds of summer, Common Terns! This one was fishing for some eats.

When they hunt they are far easier to observe as they hover and spy unlucky fish below.

Another nesting bird of the refuge, a yellow warbler, who is actively foraging in the shrubs.

You can see down the middle of her belly some feathers are missing/exposed from below, I wonder if that is a brood patch? A brood patch develops to allow for egg incubation. As a new mom, I've learned a lot about skin to skin contact with my new baby, it helps us bond and keep baby's body temperature regulated. Well, think of the brood patch like that, it helps warm the eggs and regulate their temperature.

Cat birds are everywhere singing throughout the refuge.
I was hoping very much we'd see some terrapins and we did!!
This sweet female is likely looking for a place to nest. You can find perfectly dug holes all along the pathway. This is the females searching for the perfect place to deposit her eggs. Raccoons also unfortunately predate on their eggs and we observed many dug up and devoured eggs.

I love how different each turtle looks, their patterns are so unique and beautiful.

And talk about luck, we saw not one, but three brown thrashers and this one even paused to observe us. Usually once eye contact is made they dive into a bush.

This relative of the catbird and mockingbird is so very different with their larger size and piercing yellow eyes.

These birds ALSO nest here - sensing the importance of this refuge? It's important for birds who nest here, stop over here on their migrations north and south of here, and in the winter it is a place for many birds of the north to overwinter.

In contrast to the female common yellowthroat (first two photos), this male has a dark mask over his face.
As we left, we caught this Eastern Towhee preening.
While he advises all to "drink your tea," I opted for some iced coffee on our way home.

Friday, July 3, 2020

They Grow Up So Fast...

     Birders know that migration is long over, but now is the time to see the next generation. Birds migrate northward to breed, raise their young, and take advantage of the surge of food available to feed and nourish their brood before all those who survived another trip north head back to wintering grounds. This southward, fall migration begins as early as August with Shorebirds making their way south from the high north.
     So I did not expect to see anything more than the regulars on an hour walk in Prospect with baby girl. Thankfully, the mosquito bites were zero for us (yay!) and we were hoping to see some young birds. And so we did! A lovely little morning walk that I greatly enjoyed, Kestrel girl even stayed more awake for parts of our walk, she only gets more interactive with the world around her by the day! Quietly glaring at the world above her as she lays out in a bassinet, so she gets the best view of the treetops, if 8 week old babies can even see that far, she certainly sees the light breaking between the leaves, contrast in the tree and shrub layers that shaded us along much of our Lullwater walk. All I know, is for warbler season, next year, please roll me around, laid out in a bassinet to avoid all instances of warbler neck! It is the sure fire way to go!

Anyway, here are some of the feathered (and non-feathered) friends we saw today:
Shortly after coming in to the park, along Well House Drive, a street light arch had three barn swallows perched upon it. The were young birds, seemingly being coaxed out into the world by their parents. As other swallows flew and swooped nearby,
This was a delight.

And then it got better, before going over the bridge, 6 more young swallows perched along a line. The adults swooping and the young birds practicing flight off the line and back again. As adults came by the young birds vocalized and begged for food. Some even got a feeding.

A little beggar yelling for... something. Notice how bright the edges of the beak and inside of the mouth are...

One of the easy ways to tell these are young birds, aside from behavior is also the appearance of the gape (their open mouth), the yellow border around their mouths. Young birds, cared for by their parents, often have brightly colored mouths and bills, almost like a bulls eye for parents to put the food in the right place!

This little buddy disrupted the swallow party.

This is another fledgling, an American Robin. That spotted belly is starting to molt away into that iconic red chest and belly.

This was some interesting behavior to observe. A black-crowned night heron wiggling its upper and lower mandible in the water for around a minute or so... was it clearing away duckweed to get a better view, was it feeling for potential prey, was it trying to attract prey to it with little vibrations in the water? I don't know, but it was something I have never seen before!

I always love a great egret in flight.

And one last thing to enjoy before growling stomachs and dirty diapers summoned us, a native painted turtle, under an old leaf.