Sunday, August 16, 2020

Socially Distant Birding

     It's my last weekend of Maternity Leave. I return to working from home tomorrow, and oddly, I'm excited about it. Our little girl is so good, she enjoys playing on her little activity mat, napping, and just sitting where ever I am so I think it will make actually getting work done very possible. I'm really banking on a smooth transition back.
     I will miss our birding mornings, but there is always time for a birding afternoon at a nearby park, plus there is the weekend. Yesterday I visited the Marine Nature Study Area and it did not disappoint. The weather was not what it has been, making our walk enjoyable. We even did some socially distant birding with one of my coworkers who I have not seen from, maybe March? I can't remember.
     We had some great sights and it was nice to get out and "introduce" the kiddo to some new people. Upon our arrival, our walk was already off to a great start!

Being that this place is super strict about its visitors in how they interact with the landscape AND that this animal was SO FAR away that it is impossible to disturb, I don't feel bad sharing that we saw a GREAT HORNED OWL!
I didn't see my first wild owl till I was an adult, I hope that this kiddo will have many other owls in her future, especially when she is old enough to use binoculars and see them for herself.
This is uncropped at 500mm zoom from a boardwalk pathway.

This one is also at 500mm zoom, but also heavily cropped.
You can see just how good this bird camouflage is. With the naked eye, and even binoculars, it was a challenge to spy.

Always plentiful with the barn swallows here.

An impostor among the egrets...

I love a good boisterous (herring) gull.

Semipalmated plover were plentiful, more plentiful were the semipalmated sandpipers.

Is this akin to walking out of the bathroom with TP stuck t your heel?
This mussel was going for a ride with this yellow crowned night heron.

These greater yellowlegs were on the hunt...

They synchronized their tactic...

Heads down, bills open, and RUN!

There was some pay-off.

Not actually any lesser, a lesser yellowlegs.

A potpourri of juvenile birds.

A very cute lesser yellowlegs.

Green heron, on the hunt.

Birds controlled walkway traffic. Previous to this barn swallow, a great egret was perched here and no humans would pass. The bird almost knew it was a glamour shot session.
Then this barn swallow took its turn, again, traffic paused and everyone took photos until the bird called it.

An Eastern Kingbird family.
The middle bird had a lot to say.

It was nice to "socially distant" bird with another adult again. 


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Jersey Birding

      Last weekend was my birthday, 8/8 to be exact. The last few years for my birthday, my husband and I would usually take a weekend trip somewhere and go look at nature (ahem, birds) there, find a yummy place to eat, and enjoy exploring somewhere new. Well, we went away the weekend before and it's a pandemic and we have a 3 month old, so I kept it somewhat local. Things were different this year, maybe next year that can change.

     My husband offered to me, on my birthday to hang back with the baby, allowing me to go birding on my own. It's been 3 months since I have birded on my own, always with our kid and here I am granted a quiet, to myself birding adventure. I of course took it, with also, a small sprinkle of that "mom guilt" that everyone speaks of. The concoctions of hormones flowing through my vessels made me feel very weird about this concept, going somewhere for a span of time without the kiddo, that we have been doing so much together. In the end, let's be real, it was indeed a lovely gift.

     I headed to the Meadowlands, because I love marshes and it came recommended. On my birthday, I headed to Mill Creek Marsh and yesterday, 8/11, I headed to DeKorte Park. On Monday, I went to Plumb Beach, here in Brooklyn, with the kiddo strapped to my torso and we did get a seaside sparrow, which was pretty dope, but I can't carry the good camera with me, I'm restricted to baby, binoculars, and my 300mm lens - which don't get me wrong is still a good lens, I just am spoiled by the larger lens and enjoy it more.

     Most of my birding enjoyment these last few days was found in New Jersey and it for sure will not be my last visit!

Mill Creek Marsh is oddly located behind a shopping center. There is good parking and the trails get a 5/5 for strollers. They might even be traverse-able with a wheel chair. For anyone with accessibility needs, this could be a great place, the trails are either small, packed in gravel/soil or boradwalk. There may be a slight bump in getting onto the boardwalks, a small incline ramp would be helpful, one also has to be aware of holes dug out by muskrats, which were easily viewed in the waterways here.

Also, easily viewed, song sparrows. Upon entry, this little buddy followed me for a good while, likely having it's own brood nearby and giving me a piece of its mind. It did the same upon my exit.

A very fun wren, the marsh wren! eBird said I saw way too many, I got flagged for seeing over 10, hearing even more. Sorry-not-sorry for the million marsh wren pics coming up....

Marsh wrens are very charismatic. The smaller the bird the bigger the ego and this is true for wrens, 100%.

You usually hear them before you see them, they scold you. Some are quite brazen, the birds here almost always showed themselves, with seemingly little to no cares about doing so and their proximity to you.

This was a cool sight, a large common snapping turtle moving about the mud flats.

The tide was low, and the semipalmated sandpipers were quite happy in probing the exposed mud and their faces were evidence of that.

Another marsh wren, takes up the appropriate marsh wren position of splay-legged on a reed.

Well done.

Another acceptable perch to take for a marsh wren, the vertical stem stance.

Oh look, another marsh wren!

A bird I cannot tire of!

Giving the tail.

This marsh wren is helping by being a pollinator.

A lovely young snowy egret whose legs were just turning the signature black with yellow feet.

All in all, I liked this place, which on this overcast morning had a backdrop of Manhattan draped in clouds and haze. I will be back and with our daughter, for sure! It's easy walking and rolling along with a stroller. I bet this can be a very exciting place through the different seasons (ehem, ducks?). Bonus was for the muskrats, the big snapping turtle, and lots of dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies! And I was not bothered by a single mosquito!

For my birding yesterday at DeKorte Park, just a stones throw from the sports stadiums, we were greeted by barn swallows which must nest under the elevated walkway and education center over the marsh.
Today, my daughter accompanied me, and again this place gets a 5/5 for stroller accessability. I even think someone with mobility needs could navigate much/part of this place in a wheelchair, maybe with some assistance. The Discovery trail is a network of boardwalks and floating walkways, many with even accessibility ramps to make the transition from one to the other. It is hot though when it's hot outside and overall very open, I could have even strolled with a shade umbrella attachment but we did fine with the stroller visor thing and some blankets for additional shade.

We saw many a Great Egret (pictured) and snowy throughout the park, bust especially on the flats behind the buildings on the other trails.

Lesser yellowlegs -- I am going with this ID because their bill is approximately 1.5x's the length of their noggin and did not have that up-turned look of the greater yellowlegs.
As we walked along, another observation I have made as of late are those of our baby. She is more alert on walks instead of instantly falling asleep, she has begun to look around, make noises, and react to things. So today on our walk along the boardwalks we were practicing some new noises she now makes, high pitched and squeaky, I call them her bird noises. While practicing her bird noises, a bittern took notice of them too, she helped us find her first least bittern and mine for the year. No photos were grabbed, but was so happy to be lucky enough to see one!

Where there is water, there are yellow warblers. Plenty at DeKorte and also at Mill Creek.

One ruddy duck. This place has great duck potential, I look forward to coming back when it is winter!

A snowy egret darts around catching small fish.

They are very fun to watch as they actively chase their food versus the bigger herons that are more of a sit and wait type.

A semipalmated sandpiper ruffles its feathers.

Around the grounds are lots of pollinator gardens which also attracted a lot of American Goldfinch, especially on the thistles, sunflowers, and cone flowers. Those seeds are life for them!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Adventure Up North

     We needed a get away. 6 months in this house every day, on end was starting to get to us. Maternity leave is almost over for me, and Tim could use a break from his work at our dining room table. We are lucky enough to have family who were kind enough to loan us their camp in the Adirondacks for the weekend and allowing us to socially distant see family who also are there visiting for the summer.
     It was a lovely respite from the hot, muggy days we have been having in the city. Going there makes you not want to leave and sometimes makes me wonder why do we live in the city?? Then I remember those college years up north and the never ending, very snowy winters. But the summers there are absolute perfection and even I could be happy just sitting on a deck, with a margarita watching the hummingbirds buzz by -- oh yeah, that happened and it was great.
     Of course we brought the baby, and I am so damn proud of her. The girl loved being outside! We mis-judged some trails for being stroller accessible and either she loved the bumps, or we abandoned the stroller and came back for it later on. She rode on a boat, slept away from home, slept in a much bigger "bed" than usual, she came with us on hikes, she loved the trees, the moon, the birds, all of it. And the kid slept like a champ, we were surprised one day to wake up at 8 am, after going to bed at 10 pm. I can't wait to get her out into more nature and explore it with her.
     In the end the best part of everything was sharing everything with our little girl, seeing our family, and just falling more and more in love with this kid each day. Oh, and yeah -- we saw some wildife, while I didn't see much of the big boreal birds like grouse, Canada Jays, and the like - because our schedules are determined by our own little bird, we still enjoyed what we did see and hear...
Around camp we had birds, butterflies, and according to our aunt, bears. Thankfully we did not encounter a bear. But we heard red-eyed vireos all morning, chickadees moved in each evening along with a brown creeper who I swear was the same bird, every late afternoon on schedule would arrive in nearby trees, we also learned how loud a winter wren is, screaming its little song every morning.

And while I was hoping to get a hummingbird pic, I saw a few and that made me very happy. Instead, here is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

On a drive back from hiking the Roosevelt Truck Trail (or what we presumed to be....) we saw a row of figures crossing the road. We slowed, it was a turkey family. I nearly wept.

We went to Ferd's Bog up near Raquette Lake, saw some cool Bog plants, but not so much birds. Down the road a bit was another set of trails leading to shallow lake and two other locations that got us some Cedar Waxwing (this bird), Common Yellowthroat, Belted Kingfisher, Osprey, and a Broad-winged hawk.

My in-laws treated my husband and I to a canoe ride by way of babysitting. Not too many birds but we saw a painted turtle!

We hiked at Fawn Lake on a wet morning. What we thought would be a fine trail for a stroller, it wasn't. We went as far as we could, carried over some rocky/root-y areas. We did not make it to the lake at all. We got to see a few red efts (the larval stage of the Eastern Newt) as some consolation?

In addition to the efts, at Fawn Lake, we heard a loon, were enchanted by the song of a hermit thrush, and found this red squirrel eating pine cones like corn on the cob.

My husband gave me a treat, he stayed home with the kiddo and I went for a walk at the Sacandaga Nature Trail... which of course of all the places we went would have been 100% accessible by stroller. I saw some black-capped chickadees here, Northern Water Thrush, Chestnut-sided Warbler, an Empid I could not ID, and a lot of Pileated activity, but no Pileated.
I did see this wood frog catch a caterpillar (photo by way of my phone through my bins).
Here is what I got at Ferd's Bog... some carnivorous plants... pitcher plants.

Also at Ferd's: A red-backed salamander.

And last at Ferd's Bog, a Ghost Pipe. A plant that looks and acts like a fungus, but it's truly a plant. Ferd's bog is off the beaten path, a short out and back trail. It is an eBird hotspot for the county but alas, I heard a few chickadees, waxwings, and white-throated sparrows.

The real treat came on our last day. We all got on a boat for an afternoon swim but first took a tour around Lake Pleasant. These common mergansers were perfect!
All look to be female, but they were in a group together which also makes me think could they possibly be a female with her now grown chicks? I can't say I know what an immature COME looks like.

So sweet!

Seeing them this way made me think it was a hen with her now grown offspring.

Speaking of chicks...

A young common loon!!!! How fortunate are we to see such a sweet (not-so-little) thing?!
It's belly feathers are no longer the soft fuzzy baby down but looking more like adult loon feathers.

Here is mama Loon.

The chick followed everything its parent did. Learning it's loony ways.

If mom dove, baby dove. If mom popped her head underwater to scope things out, so did baby.

At one point, the chick was underwater for a long while mom came up and peered around. And seemingly got impatient or worried and even vocalized. After doing so, her baby popped up behind her and they continued their foraging.

Loons are an icon of summer in the Adirondack region. They frequent many of the lakes, you can hear their haunting call, and if you are lucky to see one in their summer plumage, you just can;t take your eyes off of them.

Not only are they swimmers, they can fly! You can see how much wing they have! These birds will fly south in the winter to bodies of water where we live, in NYC, Long Island, and along our coasts here.

The chick is nearly as big as its parent!

Just like human babies, they need to move and get muscles ready in their bodies. I put my baby on her belly to help her strengthen her neck. This little loon stretched and flapped its wings quite often. Come fall it has a trip to make!
So happy to have seen these two!

Mom stretching her wing.

We also saw two additional adult loons near shore where the bat was kept.

These birds are perfect divers and adept at capturing fish with the pointy, dagger-like bill.

A great way to end our long weekend away from home!