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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coney Island & Brooklyn Coast

On Sunday I took a long ride down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island. The return trip was via the Shore Promenade, along Gravesend Bay. I made some interesting migration observations and took some photos of a Coney Island landmark.

Along the Coney Island boardwalk, a couple of blocks west of the fishing pier, is the old Child's Restaurant. Whenever I bike to Coney Island, I stop to admire the ornate glazed tile-work on the building's exterior. This was the first time that I've photographed any of it and, looking at the images on my computer, recognized an incredible range of marine life depicted. It's hard to believe that the city would have left this historic piece of architecture to crumble, but, thankfully, it was given landmark status in 2003. You can read more about the building and its designers here. Among the veritable Noah's Ark of creatures on the building's facade are sharks, snails, spider crabs, lobsters, octopus and the bizarre Mola Mola.

I took a walk out to the end of the fishing pier to scan for birds. The water was glass calm and a slight haze hung over the horizon. Looking towards Breezy Point and the Rockaway Inlet I could see large flocks of waterfowl on the move. At the time, I wasn't 100% sure of their identity, but they seemed to be Brant. It looked like huge waves of many thousands were moving north on the Spring migration. Later in the day, as I pedaled along Gravesend Bay, I observed the large flocks much closer, and they were Brant. The days are getting longer and these waterfowl have begun their mass exodus out of New York City to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic of Alaska and Canada.

One of the best places for pizza in Brooklyn is at Totonno's Pizzaria in Coney Island. I heard about it from Mike Colameco's food talk radio show. (Yes, I am not just a birder, but a foodie birder.) So, after stuffing myself on pepperoni & mushroom pizza and rootbeer, I hopped back on the bike and headed towards Dreier-Offerman Park and the Shore Promenade. A Monk Parakeet squawked from a tree along Nepture Avenue. I've heard them near the Home Depot a few blocks away and wondered if these Argentinian transplants are now colonizing Coney Island.

Before heading towards the promenade, I rode to the Coney Island Creek side of the peninsula. The gated community of Sea Gate is at the western edge. It was low tide, so I rode along the hard-packed sand to Norton Point. The view from the point looks up at the Verrazano Bridge and into New York Harbor. I imagine that on a clear day it's a pretty amazing sight, unfortunately, when I was there, it was mostly haze.

The rafts of scaup north and south of the Verrazano Bridge seem to have shrunk since my last ride along the coast. The warm weather brought a lot of people to the promenade. I had to play dodge-the-pedastrians along the route while occasionally peering over the retaining wall for Purple Sandpipers. There were at least 6 sandpipers present, but probably more if I had taken the time to scan all the rocks. One odd sighting in that area was a trio of Black Scoter nearer to the Home Depot. In my limited experience, it seems unusual to see these sea ducks so close to shore. Maybe they got disoriented in the haze. Anyway, with all that brick oven pizza fueling me for the rest of the afternoon, I pedaled back up the slope near Owl's Head Park, along the ridge in Sunset Park, passed the bakery near Green-Wood Cemetery and back up into Park Slope. There was no wind most of the day and the temperature was perfect for cycling. Finally, my frostbite bike rides seem to have ended ... at least, until next December.


Michael said...

Great story but it sounds like you missed the red tail hawk at Owl's Head Park.

Rob Jett said...

Hey, that's great news. I'll have to check it out next time. Any sign of a mate or nesting?

Silversalty said...

Regarding monk parakeets in Coney Island, it was about four years ago that I noticed about half a dozen nests along a street in Manhattan Beach that had been built by monk parakeets - mainly around electrical transformers. Some of these were huge - "condos" as I've seen them described - with extended family occupants. The transformers have since been replaced (overheating from extensive twig insulation?) and only one nest seems to have been rebuilt, though its been empty for months now. I did see a flock of parakeets fly along the Manhattan Beach side of Sheepshead Bay last fall. I tried to see where they went but lost them.

This image was from the time when they were abundant in Manhattan Beach, with one of the monk parakeets seemingly flashing the "peace sign."

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