Monday, August 11, 2014

Summertime at Rocky Point

While I was only able to visit the marsh once during the month of June, on the 7th, there was much to see. Notably, the flora seen in various locations was in full bloom. Almost one month later, on July 5th, I was able to make an appearance after too long an absence; my final appearance was on the 26th of July. Notable in early July was a fair amount of dragonflies as well as bees and other insects.

Note that for this entry I am including a bibliography listing some of the published works that were consulted during my fact checking. Any errors of interpretation are mine alone.
These handsome violet-colored flowers were seen in the western edge of the marsh within the tree-line, which borders that area. Genie identifies these as Bluejacket (Tradescantia Ohiensis)

In the meadows to the east of the marsh, small patches of Lanceleaf Tickweed (Coreopsis Lanceolata) could be seen. This section was the largest of them all, providing a colorful counterpoint to the new greenery seen throughout the area.

Seen throughout the Rockaway division of Gateway NRA, Hedge Bindweed flourishes. This group was found at the western edge of the marsh in front of the tree-line.

Some pretty little buds of the Bristly Locust (Robinia Hispide) were beginning to sprout.
The vibrant yellow and white Multiflora, or Japanese Rose (Rosa Multiflora) was spotted here and there on the western edge of the woods surrounding the marsh.

What is probably a Jersey Pine flourished at the east end of the woods behind the marsh.

Seen on the beach in front of the marsh’s inlet on June 7th, previous tidal and weather action revealed peat deposits. These deposits are essentially compressed vegetation from a previous time, covered by sand and new vegetation. Peat deposits tens of millions of years old have been found on the Atlantic coast.

Although an apparently relatively uncommon Dragonfly, the Painted Skimmer, seen here, prefers marshy areas and coastal plains, making Rocky Point an ideal habitat.

 This tiny Sand Fiddler Crab caught my eye, but only when it moved. At first, because of its size (about 1.5-inches wide), I thought it was an insect.

 This young Common Loon was observed on the beach, just outside the marsh. These creatures are designed to dive underwater for their prey, which is why their legs are positioned so far back on their bodies. This makes for very efficient diving but also makes them extremely ungainly when on land. When these birds molt their flight feathers, their mobility is further inhibited. Regardless, they often come up on the shore, which makes them vulnerable to predators.

The Least Sandpiper, shown here foraging along the marsh pond’s edge, is, as its name implies, the smallest Sandpiper. Its characteristic slightly downward curved bill and greenish yellow legs set it apart from other “peeps”.

The Great Egret is a common visitor at Rocky Point. This graceful bird is seen on the beach just outside the marsh entrance.

Black Skimmers are also seen this time of the year, hunting along the surf. Their long, thin wings allow them to glide some distance as they deploy their larger, lower mandible in order to catch prey in shallow water.

Over the past few years, the marsh has hosted as many as four Willets at one time. Often a pair and an individual are seen, sometimes two pairs. With all of this activity, and the vociferous territorialism displayed by these birds, curiously, no young have as yet been observed.

Several Black Scoters were encountered about 100 yards east of the marsh inlet on July 5th. I counted at least six on that day, including this pair, which includes an adult male and female (foreground).

A trip to West Beach to check on the progress of the Piping Plover chicks, found this adult. Although no chicks were observed, this adult continued to do a “broken wing” dance, in order to distract from the young. A careful look in all directions, starting where the adult was first observed, did not reveal any chicks.

Later on June 7th, a visit to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn resulted in a hike along a small section of the nature trail within the “North Forty”. This Eastern Cottontail was so intent upon feeding that my close proximity to him (less than 30 feet) did not disturb him in the least. He only moved as I proceeded along the trail and then he returned to his favorite spot immediately after I passed.

Books consulted for this entry included:

“Atlantic Coast Beaches, A Guide to Ripples, Dunes and Other Natural Features of the Seashore”, by W.J. Neal, O.H. Pilkey & J.T. Kelley. 2007, Mountain Press, ISBN 9780878425341.

“Salt Marshes, A Natural and Unnatural History”, by J.S. Weiss & C.A. Butler. 2009, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 9780813545707.

“Dragonflies Through Binoculars, A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America”, by S.W. Dunkle. 2000, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195112689.

“The Sibley Guide to Birds”, by D.A. Sibley. 2000, Knopf, ISBN 9780679451228.

“The Sibley Guide to Trees”, by D.A. Sibley. 2009, Knopf, ISBN 9780375415197.

“Mammals of North America”, by F.A. Reid. Peterson Field Guides, 2006 Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 9780395935965.

Extra Special Thanks to Genie Gregor for her help in identifying some of the wildflowers and trees, as well as the crab depicted in this posting.

Text and photos by Frank V. De Sisto

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