Friday, January 26, 2018

Franks archived post May to August,2015

This text and photos by Frank V. De Sisto.
Spring, Summer and New Life at Rocky Point Marsh, May thru August, 2015.

As the months become warmer and the earth awakens to spring and then summer, new life struggles to establish itself. Here at Rocky Point, this new life comes in a variety of forms to include creatures of the land, the water and the air. Insects reproduce and in turn they help plants to pollinate themselves; many insects then become food for birds. New plants sprout from the earth, bringing the color green to the fore; later on wildflowers bloom creating a riot of color for those who observe the small details. Eventually, the seeds and berries these plants create will find their way into the food chain as the insect population tapers off and many birds switch their diets prior to their southern migration.
Birds carve out nesting territories and then defend them against other birds, as well as the various predators their eggs and young attract. Horseshoe Crabs come ashore and lay eggs in their tens of thousands, further attracting birds who devour them.
As we will see, there are never any guarantees that any creature will long-survive the ways of nature.
While all these things are going on, the sun, the earth and the moon still conduct their eternal, mathematically-precise dance. The resulting tidal actions are vital for the health of a salt marsh as the photos Tony submitted amply demonstrate. Incoming tides bring in nutrients from the sea; receding tides help clean out the marsh and if the “system” is properly-balanced, the sea water is also filtered clean prior to its return into Jamaica Bay.
Aside from natural forces, Rocky Point Marsh also depends on the work of volunteers to help it recover from human depredations. Lumber, which clogs the entrance must be removed so that the marsh can “breathe”. Probably the most insidious presence in the marsh are plastic products ranging in size from bags, bottles and hygienic supplies, to construction barriers. These must all be collected and staged for pick-up, all primarily by hand. In this case, NPS Ranger Brooke has tapped into a local summer youth employment program for volunteer labor. Again, Tony has sent along photos to document their endeavors.
To tell this particular story, we will jump back and forth between late spring and mid-summer.

The first three images come from Tony. They depict young Brooklynites helping to clean out the marsh pond. In the first image, these workers have stacked various bits of lumber on the inner face of the dune line, ready for collection. The other two images show them working to remove vegetable matter, again to help the water flow freely in and out of the marsh pond. These people are part of a taxpayer-funded NYC Summer Youth Employment Program. Date: 7/22/2015.
This pair of images, also courtesy of Tony, show a high tide event, which occurred at approximately 9:23AM, August 1. Note that the main pond is completely inundated; this action will usually bring in small “bait fish”, which, when the tide recedes, will often become trapped in the marsh. This will then attract wading birds, such as Great Egret (see below) who will hunt for a meal with their long, stabbing mandibles.
As spring takes hold, the vegetation that surrounds the marsh begins to show green. It should also be noted that on the fringes of the woodlands, four swaths of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) have begun to show themselves. This is evident when one examines the area at the edge of the woodlands, from the tree at left, to the group of trees at far right. Date: 5/7/2015.This detail of our insidious “friend”, Poison Ivy, shows new growth. This sprout was observed in the area at far right in the above photo. Date: 5/7/2015.

 A pair of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliates) take a stroll along the shore-line just outside of the marsh. This species is a frequent visitor to the marsh and the surrounding beaches; it would appear that this pair found a welcoming environment for their nest as we shall see. Date: 5/7/2015.

 A typical clutch of eggs for this species usually numbers three. This nest scrape was observed on the outside of the dune line in front of the marsh, three weeks after the Oystercatcher pair was observed. Date: 5/30/2015. 

Two weeks later, one egg remained in the scrape, either because it was not fertilized or the parents abandoned it for some reason. What I found to be puzzling was that the egg was not devoured by any members of the local mammal population, which includes Raccoons, Opossums, rodents and feral domestic cats. Date: 6/13/2015.

Also on that day, a single Oystercatcher chick was observed near the nest site. Date: 6/13/2015.
Returning to the nest site over one month later, the “dead” egg was again inspected. This time evidence that a predator made a meal of it was quite obvious; local insects, in this case a pair of Green Bottle Flies (Phaenicia sericata) are still on the job. It should be noted that the rich golden-yellow color of the egg yolk is natural, not a result of manipulating the finished image. 7/18/2015

This beautifully-plumaged Great-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) perches in foliage that fringes the marsh. Date: 5/24/2015.

This American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) characteristically flips and fans its tail while perched in a tree. These warblers are relatively easy to spot because of this behavior; the motion and the color of the tail being rather distinctive. Date: 5/24/2015.

Probably one of the noisiest of Rocky Point’s denizens is the Willet (Tringa semipalmata). Frantically and repeatedly circling the marsh, this individual was quite vociferous in his objections to my presence. Date: 6/13/2015.
Later, in July, this Willet pair forage in the surf just outside the marsh entrance. Date: 7/18/2015.

Frequently observed feeding in the marsh pond or the shallows of Jamaica Bay, the Great Egret (Ardea alba) is also often seen roosting in this particular tree on the western edge of the marsh. Date: 7/18/2015.

Adult Horseshoe Crabs are a frequent sight at the marsh, especially during mating season, where they are often seen copulating on the sands of the beach. Eggs are deposited in their thousands and eventually, the young who have survived the feeding frenzy carried on by birds, hatch out and mature. This individual simply didn’t make it much further than the juvenile stage. Date: 7/3/2015.

A pair of what appear to be Beautiful Tiger Beetles (Cicindela formosa) have a tryst on the sand outside the marsh. Date: 6/13/2015.

These two unidentified bees pollinate a flower, in this case a Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), adding their own unique brand of help to the propagation of the species. Date: 6/13/2015.

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