Four Sparrow Marsh

Four Sparrow Marsh this early summer day, at low tide. While most everybody else in town was celebrating Gay Pride and the state’s passage of marriage equality (late Friday night, and about time, too), a few of us were being tormented by “mischievous and annoying insects.” I shouldn’t have loaned my head-covering mesh to friends visiting Alaska this weekend. An absolute gauntlet of the little bloodsuckers had to be run through to get to the marsh this morning. Through sedges, grasses, creepers, chest-high mugworts and higher phragmites, and much else ~ this was, after all, a New York City Wildflower Week [extended] walk, and I’m happy to report that there was a thriving mix of species of plants, shrubs, and trees. (See comments for Elizabeth’s list of things seen. See Marielle’s photos here.)

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.One of a quartet of eastern willets (Tringa semipalmata), this one loudly picketing our presence, perhaps because we were close to a nest (they are salt-marsh breeders), or maybe just on principal. After all, they don’t see too many humans there. On the adjacent upland area, which some people want to turn into yet another parking lot (may they be staked down for the mosquitos), we saw, in addition to the usual suspects, an unexpected male indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea). That was worth pausing for amidst the daredevil skeeters.
There are seven mosquito bites on my forehead. Which makes me seven-spotted, like this ladybug, Coccinella septempunctata.

All my Four Sparrow Marsh posts can be read here.

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6 Responses to “Four Sparrow Marsh”


  1. 1 Elizabeth White June 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Some of the things we saw:

    Plants:
    mugwort
    Japanese knotweed
    white clover
    medick
    yellow sweet clover
    St. John’s wort
    daisy fleabane
    chicory
    mullein
    red clover
    Deptford pink
    everlasting pea
    bird’s-foot trefoil
    loosestrife
    soft rush
    (another) rush – path rush?
    several grasses
    a carex
    toadflax
    cinquefoil – Potentilla norvegia
    staghorn sumac
    Smooth cordgrass – Spartina alterniflora
    Saltmeadow cordgrass – Spartina patens
    phragmites
    poison ivy
    narrow-leaf plantain
    bindweed
    common dandelion
    sphagnum moss
    oak sp.?
    black cherry
    tuliptree
    cottonwood
    sassafras
    white mulberry
    ailanthus

    Invertebrates:
    anglewing butterfly
    sulphur butterfly
    cabbage white butterfly
    tiger swallowtail
    many unidentified dragonflies (didn’t notice any damselflies)
    seven-spot ladybug
    multi-spot Asian ladybug

  2. 3 mthew June 27, 2011 at 11:37 am

    And the list of birds Elizabeth and I put together for e-birds:
    Wood Duck X
    Mallard X
    Great Egret X
    Snowy Egret X
    Willet X
    Laughing Gull X
    Ring-billed Gull X
    Herring Gull X
    Great Black-backed Gull X
    Common Tern X
    Rock Pigeon X
    American Crow X
    Tree Swallow X
    Barn Swallow X
    Northern Mockingbird X
    European Starling X
    Common Yellowthroat X
    Song Sparrow X
    Northern Cardinal X
    Indigo Bunting X
    Red-winged Blackbird X
    House Sparrow X

  3. 4 Marielle June 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Just uploaded all my photos with plant ids: http://www.flickr.com/photos/drosera-x/5885860801/ (photos scroll to left). Thanks for such a great walk, Matthew!

  4. 6 Elizabeth White July 1, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Thanks, Marielle. I was able to ID a few more of my plant photos with the help of yours. My willet-in-the-air shot was just a blur – yours are great! Thanks for sharing!


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