Saturday, March 14, 2015

Winter Interlude at Rocky Point, January and February, 2015

The winter of 2014-2015 brought lots of days featuring relatively cold temperatures, often accompanied by high winds. A series of snow storms also left their accumulated marks on the landscape. My ability to visit the marsh was severely restricted, not by the cold weather, but by my lack of any desire to continually dig my vehicle out of its parking spot in the morning, and then dig a new one to put it back into upon my return in the afternoon. As a result, I was only able to visit only once in January and once in February.

Naturally, the marsh was fairly quiet, with a paucity of wildlife and drab colors. Once the snow started accumulating, it appeared yet more desolate, as well as more pristine. Regardless, the careful observer will always be rewarded, as I hope these images will show. In addition, a few hardy bird species were also observed.
This image was made at the far eastern edge of the cove that fronts the marsh. Note the snow and how the grass stubble is almost all covered in a sheath of ice. Date: 01-17-2015.
The rock jetty on the east end of the cove also exhibited the effects of the freezing temperatures, as seen here. Date: 01-17-2015
A view back towards the west, with the marsh entrance at the upper left in the image. What appears to be snow, running in from the lower right, is actually frozen sea foam. Note the horizon, which shows the Manhattan skyline. The discolored band just above it, a temperature inversion, is caused by colder temperatures above pushing down on the warmer air, with its pollutants, which is rising from the city. Date: 01-17-2015
With the tide way out, I was able to move relatively far from the normal shore line in order to get a more unusual view of the marsh. Note the gulls on the mud flats in the foreground and the dune in the center of the image; the marsh entrance is to the left. Date: 01-17-2015
This close-up shows how well-encased in ice the grass stubble was. Date: 01-17-2015

Five weeks later and not too much has changed. The ice and snow build-up on the shore has increased in this eastward-facing image. Date: 02-28-2015

Probably brought in from Jamaica Bay on the tides, the remnants of a pair of small icebergs quietly deteriorates in the sun. Date: 02-28-2015

Looking west, one can see the snow that has accumulated in the mudflats. Date: 02-28-2015
The main pond in the marsh was completely frozen over and covered with a layer of snow. Note that the ice and snow covers a bit more than half of the drainage culverts that feed the marsh from inland. Date: 02-28-2015
The dune line on the western end of the marsh provides a platform from which to look east along the beach front. These dunes have self-repaired well enough since Superstorm sandy flattened them in October of 2012. Date: 02-28-2015
The new inlet created by Superstorm Sandy is cluttered with shattered chunks of snowbound icebergs.
The first image is looking to the east while the second looks directly into the pond; note the Osprey nest box, center left. Date: 02-28-2015

American Wigeon, male and female, (Anas americana). This pair was spotted initially about 50 yards off-shore in front of the marsh, calmly cruising in Jamaica Bay. For no apparent reason, they suddenly took-off and headed east. Date: 02-28-2015

Downy Woodpecker, (Piciodes pubescens). Recently, this species has been observed with great frequency in and around the marsh. Tolerant of the winters in the north-east, his individual was foraging in the woods directly behind the dune line, east of the marsh entrance. Date: 02-28-2015


Northern Harrier, male, (Circus cyaneus). A chance glance over my shoulder brought this agile raptor into view. A quick image was captured, and just as quickly, the subject wound its way into the trees and disappeared. This Northern Harrier, along with the previously pictured American Wigeon pair, are, as of the publication of this blog installment, the 74th and 75th species I have photographed at Rocky Point. Date: 02-28-2015.
All text and photos by Frank V. De Sisto.

Published works consulted for this posting included the following:

“The Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America”, by R.T. Peterson. 2008, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN9780618966141. This is THE classic work by the legendary Roger Tory Peterson. I have two versions; the cited volume includes both east and west field guides between the covers of an enlarged-format book. Simply stated, no serious birder should be without a copy.

“Clouds and Weather”, Peterson First Guides, by J.A. Day & V.J. Schaefer. ISBN 9780395906637. It’s nice to know how to “read” the sky when in the field. This compact booklet is packed with 128 pages of text, diagrams, excellent color photography and a handy index.

Rocky Point Marsh needs your help. To volunteer for service contact National Park Services Ranger Tony Luscombe at:

For more photos of Rocky Point as well as other locations within the Gateway NRA complex, visit:

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