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Friday, July 14, 2006

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Staghorn Sumac berries

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Wednesday Sean invited me to join him on a drive out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. One Monday Shane discovered a Ruff feeding among the expected shorebirds around the East Pond. I remember hearing talk of wayward Ruffs showing up at Jamaica Bay over the years but have never be fortunate enough to seen one. We were hoping that the bird didn’t decide to return to Eurasia and was waiting just for our benefit.

There’s a narrow trail through the phragmites from the north gravel road to the pond. The trail was overgrown with sumacs, wild raspberry vines and lots of poison ivy. I had to pick my steps carefully. Due to recent, abundant rainfall the water level on the East Pond was extremely high. To traverse the edge of the pond tall rubber boots were necessary or, in my case, shorts and a pair of Tevas. I don’t really mind slogging through muck, I just rinse my feet off in the bay. Circling continuously above the pond were Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Terns, Least Terns and Forster’s Terns, squawking, squealing and laughing. North Island, the only island on the pond, was dominated by cormorants and young terns harassing their parents for free handouts. Sanderling Point is a small peninsula opposite the island and the only section of pond above water. We set-up our scopes at this spot and Sean found the Ruff almost immediately. The bird was south of our locations and was furiously snapping up bits of food from the surface of the water. Occasionally he was using his long bill to dig deeper into the mud. Most of the time he remained close to the dense phragmites that edge the pond, periodically disappearing into the reeds. The bird was to far for me to photograph, even through my scope. On Monday Shane was able to get closer shots so I’m posting his photos here.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

(Photo credit - Shane Blodgett)

-Click here for more info on Ruffs-

-Click here to see why they are called Ruffs-

As we were watching the Ruff two other birders arrived and joined us to observe the rare visitor. Devon and Justin drove all the way from Lancaster to try and get a glimpse of the Ruff. They were very pleased with the cooperative shorebird. As the four of us were making small talk I noticed something brown in the water several yards away. It was a Muskrat with his back turned to us, munching on, what looked like, vegetation. I took a few photos but he remained with his back to us. On a whim I whistled like a Red-tailed Hawk thinking that he would turn around out of curiosity. Instead, this normally torpid animal dashed for cover like a greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit. So much for my brilliant idea.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On our walk back to the car I had to stop and photograph a curiously out of place object. The walk from the north end of the pond to the parking lot is along a neglected and rarely used section of sidewalk. It parallels a section of Crossbay Boulevard that is frequently used like a drag racing strip. It was on this sidewalk that a Lined Seahorse met his death. All the nearby bodies of water are pretty far from the sidewalk. How did he get there? We guessed that perhaps one of the breeding Ospreys snatched something from the water that this odd little fish was using as an anchor. I’m not sure which would be worse, getting eaten by a young Osprey or skydiving without a parachute. Hopefully I’ll never need to find out. When I was very young I remember swimming at Riis Park, picking up a clump of seaweed and finding a live seahorse clinging to it. I examined him in my hand for a few moments then returned him to his raft.

Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Young Osprey

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At the West Pond it looks like the two juvenile Osprey are just about ready to fledge. I also noticed a new cycle of flowering plants. Trumpet Vines, Common Mullein, Milkweed Plants, Butterfly Milkweed, Blanket Flowers and
Spotted Knapweed created a vastly different color palette compared to my last visit in May. I was disappointed to learn that the beautiful splotches of purple created by the flowering knapweed was not something biologists were enthusiastic to find. It’s yet one more invasive species. I sometimes wonder if it will ever be possible to eliminate foreign, invasive species. In many cases the changes we’ve made to the planet are probably permanent.

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 7/12/2006
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Whooper Swan (Most likely an escaped bird.)
Wood Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
American Oystercatcher
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
White-eyed Vireo
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Snowy Egret

(Photo credit - Rob J)


Pamela said...

Wonderful wonderful pictures.
Thank you!

Your blanket flower is what I would call a Gaillardia or Goblin

Rob J. said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I usually post the genus and species of the flowers because there are so many common names. I came across the names Gaillardia, Goblin, Indian Blanket and Blanket Flower so I just flipped a coin ;-)

Pamela said...

And I learned something new !!!!
Indian blanket.... I like it.

l. verse said...

Great photos! I'm quite interested in nature photography, too, since living in the city, I rarely have natural elements to take photos of. Your pictures are quite inspiring! Great way to take breathtaking views with ya. :)

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope