Sunday, April 26, 2015

Birds of Rocky Point Salt Marsh, Part Two: October, 2012 to December, 2013.

We are continuing with a survey of birds that I have photographed at the marsh since late 2011. In this installment we begin in October of 2012 and wind up at the end of December, 2013. It must be appreciated that these sightings are by no means a complete record of bird species that have visited the marsh. Certainly others have made observations that include species not seen here; I am also certain that I have had fleeting glimpses of species that I have not been able to identify. Finally, a common species, such as the European Starling has been seen in the area in question with some regularity, but as yet, I simply have not photographed one!

For the purpose of these blog segments, I have very loosely defined Rocky Point Marsh as everything lying within borders defined by Rockaway Park Boulevard and Beach 201st Street, to the south and west, respectively (note that all compass points are “approximate”). The far-east border is delineated by the jetty at that end of the cove; the jetty then runs back into Rockaway Park Blvd. at Beach 193rd Street. The marsh’s northern side is fronted by Jamaica Bay.

For references consulted, please see part one of this series.

10-06-2012, Common Yellow-throat, (Geothlypis trichas). The male of this species, with its black face-mask, is one of the most distinct of the warblers; this example is most probably a female. In addition, this species is the only warbler that prefers to nest in marshlands.

10-06-2012, Swamp Sparrow, (Melospiza georgiana). As its name might imply, this species favors swamps and marshes, where it will nest. Because its preferred habitat is often developed for human use, this species has become vulnerable to a decline in numbers.

10-06-2012, Mallard, (Anas platyrhynchos). Mallards are an extremely common dabbling duck and can be seen anywhere there is water in the New York/metropolitan area. This individual, a male, was photographed in the marsh pond.

10-06-2012, Double-crested Cormorant, (Phalacrocorax auritus). Photographed a few yards off-shore from the marsh, this individual is beginning its take-off run from the water’s surface. Dozens of these birds can be seen off-shore during certain times of the year, hunting for prey or perched out of the water with their wings spread out to dry.

10-06-2012, Eastern Phoebe, (Sayornis phoebe). A flycatcher, this species feeds mostly on insects, but will adapt its diet to the climate by eating fruits and berries in cooler months. It will nest on human-made structures and is rather common in the New York/metropolitan area.

10-13-2012, Brown Creeper, (Certhia americana). This secretive little guy was spotted in the woods on the western edge of the marsh, which were fairly easily accessible prior to the advent of Super-storm Sandy (which came a couple of weeks after this image was made). This species has been observed several times since then, again in the same general area.

10-13-2012, Chipping Sparrow, (Spizella passerina). Originally not averse to nesting near human population centers, this species has in many cases been displaced by the introduced House Sparrow. An insect eater in warm weather, it will eat seeds when its favorite prey is suppressed in cold weather. In this image, the wind has caused the head of this individual to appear as if it has a crest.

10-13-2012, Golden-crowned Kinglet, (Regulus satrapa). On the day these two individuals were photographed, they were part of an amorphous group of about eight or ten. Their distinct black, white and yellow heads are unmistakable and the reason for their name.

10-13-2012, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). Probably one of the oddest named birds, this species will eat insects, fruit and berries. It will also feed on tree-sap.

11-11-2012, Brant Goose, (Branta bernicla). A stout, relatively small goose, the Brant is very common in the New York /Metropolitan area. This species is sometimes seen in great numbers near the marsh, throughout Jamaica Bay, and in the NY harbor area.

03-23-2013, Piping Plover, (Charadrius melodus). Census data tells us that there are somewhere around 6,000 Piping Plovers on the entire planet, a woefully low number. Although they have not nested at the marsh, they are occasional visitors as they forage.

05-04-2013, House Sparrow, (Passer domesticus). An example of the remarkable vision birds are said to possess was presented by this common House Sparrow. From out of nowhere, this male caught my eye as he landed on the beach in front of the marsh, immediately plucked a feather from the sand, and almost as quickly departed with his prize, probably for his nest.

06-01-2013, American Black Duck, (Anas rubripes). Numerous and familiar, this species can easily be mistaken for the very similar female Mallard.

06-09-2013, Common Loon, (Gavial immer). On several occasions, I have encountered molting Common Loons on the shore outside the marsh’s entrance; in this state they are essentially flightless. However, this individual was photographed in full adult plumage, and could presumably have easily taken flight; yet he did not, despite my relatively close proximity.

07-06-2013, Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw), (Clangula hyemalis). Often seen hundreds of yards off-shore in Jamaica Bay, this individual was first seen lounging on the beach in front of the marsh. As I approached, it took to the water but still remained close to shore.

07-13-2013, Red-winged Blackbird, male, (Agelaius phoeniceus). Often associated with wetlands, this male is seen perched on a branch at the western edge of the marsh. A relatively aggressive bird, I have witnessed this species do mass aerial battle with American Crows in defense of its nesting territory.

08-31-2013, Northern Waterthrush, (Seiurus noveboracensis). This species favors wetlands and has a diet that includes crustaceans and small fish. It is known to hunt on the ground and even in shallow water.

09-14-2013, Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted), (Colaptes auratus). Although part of the woodpecker family, this species often hunts on the ground for its favored prey, ants. It also prefers open, wooded areas; the particular topography of Rocky Point suits it quite well.

12-22-2013, Sanderling, (Calidris alba). A common shore bird, the Sanderling is very often seen foraging on the shore outside the marsh. It normally breeds in the far north, where it eats a varied diet that includes insects, algae and seeds.

All text and photographs by Frank V. De Sisto.

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:

No comments:

Post a Comment