Friday, June 5, 2015

Birds of Rocky Point Salt Marsh, Part Four, August 2014 to May, 2015

This is the last installment in this four-part series, which starts at the end of August, 2014, and ends in May, 2015.

As I worked through this project, I was able to observe and photograph three more species: Turkey Vulture, European Starling and Red-throated Loon. This brings the count to 78 species which I have personally observed and photographed in the marsh’s environs.

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.

08-23-2014, Black-bellied Plover, (Pluvialis squatarola). These two individuals were photographed on the shore directly in front of the marsh. A frequent visitor on both the bay and ocean shores of the Rockaways, this species eats insects, mollusks, various marine creatures and crustaceans.

08-30-2014, Snowy Egret, (Egretta thula). The smaller cousin of the Great Egret, this species often frequents the marsh pond, especially when a high tide is in effect. This particular individual was extremely successful during the time I observed him, striking prey numerous times.

09-16-2014, Osprey, (Pandion haliaetus). It has long been the hope of the people working to restore the marsh that this species would choose to make a nest here. In particular, the late summer of 2014 saw frequent sightings of both perching and hunting Osprey, sometimes two at a time. However, comparing photographs made on five separate observations during the months of April and May, 2015, revealed no nest-building activity on the platform.

09-20-2014, Northern Mockingbird, (Mimus polyglottos). This handsome and common species can be seen in the Rockaways year-round, the marsh being no exception. This individual appears to be in the final stages of replacing its molting feathers.

10-17-2014, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), (Dendroica coronate). On some days, many dozens of these warblers can be seen in and around the marsh; this is the so-called “Myrtle” form, which is seen in the east year-round. When such prey is available, insects are the preferred diet; in other seasons, waxy berries, including those seen on Poison Ivy are readily consumed.

10-17-2014, Cooper's Hawk, (Accipiter cooperii). This image capture came as I happened to look up while this very agile raptor appeared low overhead from behind; in this case my very flexible camera rig worked as it should. This individual, true to form, disappeared low into the woodlands at the marsh’s western edge, threading its way between the trees in search of a meal.

10-25-2014, Hermit Thrush (Cartharus guttatus). A late south-bound migrant, this species will often raise and lower its tail in a distinct fashion, helping to distinguish it from the less common Wood Thrush. Feeding on insects and berries, this hardy species can sometimes be seen during the winter in the north.

10-25-2014, White-throated Sparrow, (Zonotrichia albicollis). Another common local sparrow, this species will winter in the NYC area. This particular individual has a tan stipe behind his eye, which is one of two morphs that can be seen on this species; the other has a white stripe.

10-25-2014, Song Sparrow, (Melospiza melodia). Another common species in the NYC area, this New World sparrow is very often observed at the marsh. An insectivore in season and a seed-eater at other times, this species will also feed on small mollusks and crustaceans, making the marsh an ideal habitat.

11-08-2014, Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis). A bird that really needs no introduction, the adult male of the species is a striking red color as seen here. Its large, strong bill is ideally suited to cracking open seeds, but it wall also feed on insects of various kinds. It is a permanent resident in the NYC area.

11-08-2014, Great Blue Heron, (Ardea heridias). Like a sentinel on guard, this stately individual stands tall in the surf just outside the marsh. Its long, sword-like bill is perfectly suited to hunting aquatic prey in shallow water, be it in the marsh pond, or as here, in the shallows of the bay.

11-08-2014, Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored, (Junco hyemalis). A relative of the sparrow, this species if very often seen feeding at ground level. Normally, the breast and sides of this bird are white, but this individual appears to be of the “pink-sided” or “mearnsi” type.

11-08-2014, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, (Regulus calendula). An extremely active forager, this species rarely stays in any one place for long. Although barely seen here, this little guy has a red crest hidden on the top of his head, which will be deployed if he becomes overly excited.

11-08-2014, Winter Wren, (Troglodytes troglodytes). Comprised of several “races” this individual is most probably of the “hiemalis” type, common in the east. As its name suggests, it will often be observed in woodlands during the winter months.

11-29-2014, American Goldfinch, (Carduelis tristis). Seen in the more cryptic winter plumage, this individual still shows some yellow on the throat. This time of the year, seeds make up a large part of its diet, so this individual is searching for a meal on a stand of Seaside Goldenrod.

11-29-2014, Downy Woodpecker, (Piciodes pubescens). This small, rather common woodpecker is a very frequent visitor, where it will hunt for prey on the thinner trees situated around the marsh. On this particular day in November, this was the dominant species at the marsh, with at least a dozen spotted throughout the area.

02-28-2015, American Wigeon, (Anas americana). A pair of these dabbling ducks were spotted cruising in Jamaica Bay, in front of the mouth of the marsh. They later alighted, but came back around and landed again, this time slightly closer in.

02-28-2015, Northern Harrier, (Circus cyaneus). This adult male was briefly sighted flying low over the marsh, prior to winding its way low through the woods. This relatively small, agile hawk will eat other birds, small mammals and small amphibians, making the marsh an ideal hunting ground.

05-07-2015, European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Introduced to the New York/metropolitan area in the 19th-century, this handsome bird is very hearty, thriving in close proximity to humanity. In this image, the bird is apparently gathering nest-building materials.

05-07-2015, Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). Not often seen over the Rockaways, I first thought this was an Osprey. This individual made a couple of lazy low-level circles as it worked westwards over the marsh, finally swinging back towards the south-east.

05-07-2015, Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellate). This photograph was taken in early May and shows an adult in non-breeding plumage; this is likely to change shortly. Note the characteristically, slightly upturned mandibles. This individual was hunting in the shallows in front of the marsh, very close to shore.

All text and photographs by Frank V. De Sisto.
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