Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One of the really enjoyable things about paddling in Jamaica Bay is watching the various kinds of birds come & go through the seasons. There were more birds than you might think along the Manhattan waterfront, but there it was mostly gulls, cormorants, and Canada geese, all year-round residents. I remember seeing a few brants in the winter, and the terns would turn up in the summer, but the migratory masses are mostly attracted to places with a wilder nature. Being out in Jamaica Bay, I wouldn't say that I've become a birder or anything - but I do notice a lot more avian activity than I ever did on the Hudson.

My fish post the other day seemed to go over nicely, and since my last 2 unplanned half-days on the Bay had actually included a bit of birdwatching, thought I'd do a post.

Sad to say, my last half-day paddle prior to yesterday was actually a whole month ago. It was back in that dreary spell we were having but I didn't care, I decided I wanted to go see how the ospreys of Canarsie were doing. There are 2 nest sites within a very short paddle from the Paerdegat. Earlier still in the spring, when TQ & Ilene & I did the unplanned circumnavigation of Jamaica Bay, we'd found that a pair of ospreys had started a nest on the daymark shown above.

By mid-June, they'd clearly decided this wasn't where they wanted to raise their kids. I would never have gotten this close if the place hadn't been deserted - and if there'd been anyone in residence, if I HAD gotten this close, I would have had a couple of very angry birds screaming imprecations at me.

The pair at the Canarsie Pol pier had also begun and abandoned a nest - but they just decided that the piling was more to their liking than the custom-built osprey platform.

After that, I had a string of weekends out of town. They were all fun - a family gathering in Michigan, the Hudson River Greenland Festival, and then a great 4th (well, great except the bus ride out, which was unbelievably rotten) with TQ (the photo of doe I posted the other day was on the shore of Mahoning Creek Lake, one of 2 places we paddled) but it was awfully nice to finally just have a whole weekend in Brooklyn this weekend!

July 12th - I was quite surprised to still see a brant hanging out in the Dead Horse Bay area (the bay's grim name is due to the fact that at one time there was a slaughterhouse in the area). These are usually winter birds. Also strange to see a brant alone, and quiet - usually they travel in huge flocks, and they are constantly telling each other what's going on in a voice that goes hrrnk, hrrnk. They are much quieter than their cousins, the Canada geese, but en masse, you can hear them all over the bay in the wintertime. I wonder if this one was unwell when the rest of the brant bunch headed north, or if maybe there are a few brants who, like an awful lot of Canada geese, have taken to blowing off that whole migration thing.

Looked pretty lonely without a bunch of other brants around, though.
Here's a much more usual summer bird - a black skimmer. This section of beach has a small sandbar that's slightly higher than the rest of the beach & so holds extensive shallow pools of water. As the tide goes out, a lot of little fish are trapped in there & the skimmers just love it! btw, any video wizards out there? I have a question for you, see note at the end please!

I made a really exciting first spotting on my way out to the beach, too - paddling along, and then I spotted it - a compact, cheerfully rounded shape that I've been looking for ever since I discovered that it's frequently spotted in Jamaica Bay...

I veered off toward it - it mirrored my turn & came towards me - and sure enough,





And wouldn't you know the camera lens would have water blobs all over it from the spray & nothing handy to clean it off when I FINALLY actually ran into Karen & Brian! The Puffin nests in Mill Basin, the next basin over from the Paerdegat, and we must cross paths a dozen times or more over a summer (well, less this summer since I'm hardly getting out) but this was the first time They were on their way back to Mill Basin after a week-long trip up the Hudson (and back down again of course). Sounds like they had a very nice trip. I'm actually quite bummed about the water blobs, because it was a gorgeous day, there were some really nice pictures of them behind the water blobs & it's always sort of fun to get a picture of your own boat from a perspective other that on deck or at the dock. Ah well, I will just have to get out a little more often.

Anyhow, that's it for the birds for today. Hope you liked 'em!

And here's my question for any passing video-savvy person who might stumble upon this & be willing to help! I thought it would be really cool to see that black skimmer slowed down a bit. I'd gotten QuickTime Pro after inadvertently filming a video clip with the camera held the wrong way (oops) so I figured I could probably do this. I'm not very good with it yet but I follow instructions well, so I Googled "QuickTime slow motion" (is that an oxymoron?). Found just the thing I was looking for and without too much trouble, I got the skimmer to skim at half-speed. And it IS really cool! You can actually see him snapping up the fish as he goes -- not the fish themselves, they're tiny, but you can clearly see the snapping of the beak. You can see it at full speed too but it's so fast it looks like his head is just flickering. I really would have loved to share it here, but for some reason, when I upload it to YouTube or Flickr, the edits get lost & the clip reverts to the original 12 second one! :(

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