Breeding season over, shorebirds are heading back south as the migration pendulum swings the other way. Here are a few of the species I saw this week along Brooklyn’s shoreline:Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) and American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), which looks like it’s got a Blue Mussel (which shouldn’t be that hard, the area is littered with them).Another view of a Turnstone, this time without the magic light of sundown on it.Back to golden glow of sundown. Here’s a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus). It has one of the smallest bills in the shorebird universe, where specialized foraging strategies have led to all sorts of bill lengths and shapes, from this little nubbin to the outrageous Oystercatcher schnoz.OK, so the edge of Sylvan Water in Green-Wood Cemetery isn’t exactly a shoreline, but Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius) are as apt to be found on the edges of freshwater as on brine.This is a juvenile, which entirely lacks the spots of a breeding adult (hey, I don’t name them). And that’s a dragonfly about to be brunch.
Posts Tagged 'Dead Horse Bay'
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, Green-Wood
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, Floyd Bennett Field, reptiles
Saturday was an epic day of nature exploration here in the wide world of the Borough of Brooklyn. In the morning, I took a friend and her mother birding in Prospect Park. We saw some 44 species of birds, a good-turn out for our visiting Virginia birder. In the late afternoon, I joined two other friends to explore Dead Horse Bay and the North Forty at Floyd Bennett Field. 50 species noted, with some overlap. All told, I spent about 9 hours walking, wandering, watching, and listening. This is Return-A-Gift Pond at Floyd Bennett Field. Near sunset, there were 23 Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) hanging out here (another friend had counted twice as many earlier in the day; check out his picture of this same tree absolutely fruited with the birds).This single Great Egret (Ardea alba) was completely outnumbered. Now, Night-herons, as their name suggests, do their best work after sunset. And after sunset, the spring peepers emerge. Vocally, that is. There are a few off-trail wetland spots in the North Forty, but the majority of these little frogs are right there at Return-a-Gift, throbbing the night with their calls. Even with the nearby sounds of Flatbush Avenue and frequent JFK jets blasting overhead, the sound of the massed frogs was profoundly impressive. I made a recording.
But this was not the only sound of twilight. The choral frogs were seconded by soloist American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) a-courting. We heard their “peent” calls on the ground and then the dry whispery twittering they do in the air. It’s the males, showing off — I suppose “sounding off” is a better description. It was all about the sound for us hominids, anyway, although we did see one in the sky, with the curve of the moon behind him, and then we saw one plummet back down to earth just above the lighter path in front of us a couple of times.A male Downy Woodpecker scooted out of this nest hole complex, attempting to draw us away, we thought, so it was a command we complied with.
Something unexpected: I heard the briefest bit of what I thought was the crowing of a Ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). I haven’t heard this sound in something like 35 years (they were common around the house when I was in high school), but it is distinctive. The species was introduced to North America as a game bird; there was an effort once at Green-Wood Cemetery to release them there for ornamental purposes. They are generally wiped out by predators, including cats. Anyway, I wasn’t 100% confident that that’s what I heard, but later I had found out another birder had heard the bird there earlier, and that was enough for me.
Waiting for the fairly reliable Q35, our binoculars all packed away, we watched something with huge wings fly heavily across Flatbush above us in the nine oclock dark towards us the Bay. Egret, heron, the Owl of Minerva? Whatever it was, it was a great nightcap.
Tags: Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, mammals
The tooth on the left was found at Dead Horse Bay. I think it’s actually two fused together because of the four roots. This is what I photographed for my Mystery post early this month.
The one on the right was part of a horse’s skull found on the beach in Italy in the early 1970s.
Tags: birds, Brooklyn, crabs, Dead Horse Bay, Jamaica Bay
Yellow-rumped warblers and Green Darner dragonflies before we got to the landfill edge.One of two Royal Terns, Thalasseus maximus, both with bands on their left legs. Not a commonly sighted bird in the city; I didn’t know what they were at first. The smaller Common and Little Terns we see here during summer have already gone south. These Royals sound quite different from our regular terns, and one of them was excreting a lot. I later read that they defecate around the sides of their scrapes (nests) to build up a a hard rim of guano, possibly as a defense against minor flooding on the low-lying islands they breed on.The Asian or Japanese Shore Crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus. Found about a dozen washed up on the beach perpendicular to the Gil Hodges Bridge. Three spines on each side of the carapace, red spotted claws, dark bands on the legs are your field marks for this invasive. Not good news for already fraught Jamacia Bay (Dead Horse being a nook on the north side of Jamaica Bay, if you haven’t wandered its singing glass beach.)
Tags: Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, invertebrates, Jamaica Bay, St. John
A piece of barnacle conglomeration I found at Dead Horse Bay recently. Most species of barnacles need a surface to attach to, and sometimes that surface is other barnacles. These are a type of acorn barnacle, one of the two main groups. I understand differentiating the local species is difficult for the lay person. Give a shout if you know them on sight. Commonly seen species in the region are the Ivory barnacle, Balanus eburneus, which prefers less saline water (like Jamaica Bay, so this may be that) and the Northern rock barnacle, B. balanoides, which likes it saltier. A barnacle, as Cirripedia-mad Charles Darwin discovered, is actually a crustacean, akin to crabs and lobsters. A free-swimming animal in its youth, it has two distinctive larval stages, wonderfully called nauplius and cyprid. Then after swimming through several instars, most barnacle species settle down, literally, gluing themselves head/forehead first to a rock, pier, ship’s hull, or some such surface, and enveloping themselves within a carapace-like shell made up of (usually) six plates for an immobile maturity. The references to ship’s hull is a matter of some economic seriousness; humans have been scraping barnacles off boats since we took to the sea. The beak-like barn doors that protect the soft animal within its calcium fortress are visible in the above image; when feeding, these open to allow feathery modified legs that pull in plankton from the water. Barnacles at the mercy of the tide hunker down during the hours of low tide.There are many species of barnacles; I came across numbers ranging from 900-1100+. Pictured above are the ruins of Ribbed barnacles, Tetraclita stalactifera, which I found amid the rocks of Klein Bay, St John, USVI in January.
Tags: Brook, Dead Horse Bay, Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay
Yesterday, we took a walk along Dead Horse Bay and the North 40 Trail at nearby Floyd Bennett Field. Before we knew it, we’d been outside for more than six glorious hours.This is a transitional time, with both winter and spring bird species finding themselves rubbing shoulders, so to speak. The large raft of Greater Scaup that winters here is still around, although they will be heading north to breeding grounds soon. The raft wasn’t so big when we first arrived in the mid-morning, but as we stood there wave after wave of birds flew in, their massed wingbeats making a most extraordinary liquid sound.Dead Horse Bay, the site of an old landfill, is a wonderfully bizarre place of glass bottles and rusting metal and shoe soles and marbles and bricks and pretty much everything else from the garbage pile of the 20th century. It used to be that very few people ever went there, but now it’s quite popular for beach-combers, collectors, artists, etc. Indeed, two pre-teen girls were having the time of their lives, although I’m afraid I had to narc on them to their mother, further along the beach, since they were barefoot, which is practically suicidal with all the sharp glass and metal to be found there. We saw our first American Oystercatchers, a species that breed in our region (and yet another reason to make sure your dogs are leashed on the beach), of the year, as well as a single Ruddy Turnstone, still in its non-breeding plummage. The old pier here supports plenty of blue mussels and other goodies.The very low tide may have caught these two.The rock-like black objects blurred by sand in both the above images are actually mud snails, Ilyanassa obsolete, which will eat these fish corpses if something else doesn’t.
This is a Lady Crab, Ovalipes ocellatus; you usually only find their beautifully patterned carapaces on the beach, not the whole animal. The more usual crab whose remains are found is the Spider Crab, Libinia emarginata, evidently tasty eating for gulls.We went to Return-a-Gift Pond at Floyd Bennett Field to listen for frogs. This is one of the few fresh water ponds in Brooklyn where you can hear peepers. As it was only the middle of the afternoon and only just spring breaking, there were only a few sporadic amphibian calls, but the pond, seen here through one of the two bird blinds, had several Painted turtles, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, and a Northern Shoveler on it. On the North 40 trail, we saw our first butterfly of the year, a Cabbage White, and our first Eastern Phoebe, that early arriving harbinger of spring migration.
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay
In Dead Horse Bay, thousands of Great Scaup, Aythya marila, are rafting together.
Tags: Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay
Dead Horse Bay, looking north.
Tags: Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, snails
Some time ago, I found a couple of queen conch shells, Strombus gigas, at Dead Horse Bay. Needless to say, this is not this tropical species typical habitat. But the landfill at Dead Horse Bay turns up the strangest things sometimes. Perhaps these were somebody’s souvenirs once. Anyway, a ruthless recycler, I put the shells in the Back 40 for ornamental purposes. The other day, I turned over the one that sits on the concrete. Two — perhaps three — species of snails were attached.Cepaea nemoralis.Discus rotundatus.Tiny: no more than two millimeters across. Wondering if these — there was at least one more — are young versions of the above Discus? UPDATE: wonders never cease; this is actually probably V. costata, as discussed in the next post.
Sculptural conch sounding the arrival of Neptune at the Bailey Fountain at Grand Army Plaza.
Tags: Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, shells
During last month’s spring tide, we went down to the end of Flatbush Avenue to wander along Brooklyn’s shoreline at Dead Horse Bay. Spring tides, which occur just after full moons, result in unusually high high tides and unusually low low tides. The water level was the lowest I’ve ever seen it out there. (Note that the spring here is not the season, for spring tides occur throughout the year, but rather the verb; the tide springs ashore.)
Moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita. They have a mild sting in the water, but are supposedly safe when dead on the beach — although I’ve never tried to confirm that. This is a common species in our area, and are found on both bay and ocean beaches. (Recently, on another beach, in much colder weather, we found a bunch of them frozen — this is probably a delicacy somewhere, calling Iron Chefs!).
Some kind of acorn barnacle. These crustaceans begin their lives as free swimming creatures, then glue themselves headfirst to a surface, often in the intertidal zone, for the adult stage of their life. Modified feet reach out to draw in plankton to eat. Darwin was mad for them. When the tide pulls out, they close up the six plates of their shell and wait for the return of the water. Dead Horse Bay, with its litter of old exposed along the shoreline, has some interesting surfaces for them to anchor on.
This is a false angel wing clam, Petricolaria pholadiformis. This species is found up and down the East Coast, but the shells are rather fragile and rarely survive the tumble of the wash-ashore. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever seen one whole. It was far from the water, and probably dead, but we put it back into the water, anyway, just in case. Later we found some of the empty shells; they might be thought of as fallen angel wings, at least by the Miltonians amongst us.
Yes, it’s cold. Yes, the wind can be fierce. But there are few things more invigorating than walking along a beach this time of year.