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Monday, May 05, 2008

Riding along the coast

For the last several months, I’ve been preparing for a big day of spring birding, on bicycle. If it’s raining, I have a trainer so I can ride indoors, but primarily, it’s been boring laps around Prospect Park. On Friday, I had enough time at the end of the day to do a partial dry run. I wanted to make sure that the roads I traced on the map weren’t pockmarked with potholes or traffic gauntlets. My route would cover; Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Gravesend Bay, Calvert Vaux Park, Marine Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Riis Park and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. I plan to come back from JBWR with my bike on the subway, because it will be dark and I’ll be exhausted. For Friday’s ride, I only planned to go as far as the Marine Park Saltmarsh Nature Center, then turn around and pedal back.

Luckily, the neighborhood that I live in is on the top of the terminal moraine. Prospect Park to Gravesend Bay is mostly just downhill. The rest of the route is pretty flat and along the coast. Getting to the promenade beneath the Verazanno Bridge was relatively fast. It was high-tide but there was still a lot of shore exposed. I scanned the shore as I pedaled south and located one Purple Sandpiper. Nearly all the scaup that had been in that area have departed, but I did find two that stayed behind. In the small cove at Calvert Vaux Park, where a Western Reef Heron was found last year, a Little Blue Heron was foraging along the shore. The similar looking bird made me do a double-take. Nearby, on Coney Island Creek, a flock of Red-throated Loons were gathering in anticipation of the next leg of their northward voyage. I’d never seen more than a couple of these loons together, so it was a rare moment.

At the corner of Avenue X and Allen Avenue I stopped to looked at an egret. It was standing on a sunken boat near the muddy, trash strewn corner of Gerritsen Creek. On the shore, just below me, I spotted a pair of Semipalmated Plovers.

It was late in the day by the time I arrived at the Marine Park Saltmarsh Nature Center and there wasn’t a lot of bird activity. I walked my bike around the building to the stone wall that looks out into the saltmarsh. There were about a dozen Great Egret scattered along the shoreline. A sumac to my left looked like a candelabra decorated with catbirds. Six of the small, gray birds were perched on top of their own dried cluster of sumac fruit and, in the dying light, looked like an extension of the plants arms.

The ride home was difficult. I’ve made that trip on bike many times, and it’s a gentle incline, but on Friday the wind had shifted to the northeast and was gusting to 17 mph. I was tired by the time I got home, but still planned to get up at dawn for a day of birding in Prospect Park.

Gravesend Bay; Calvert Vaux Park; Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, 5/2/2008
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Purple Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Monk Parakeet
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo
Tree Swallow
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Eastern Towhee
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

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

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Marie said...

I loved reading your second paragraph: putting our spring in context within ages past, reminding us that we are also part of an Age, and adding more layers, literally, to our appreciation of it.

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