Monday, June 24, 2013

More Carmans River - and some Neighborhood Fox

Once again in pursuit of Bald Eagles I kayaked a portion of the Carmans River.  This time, my wife and I put in at Squassax Landing on the south end of the river and made the short trip to Little Neck Run which is where the Eagle Nest is.  While kayaking the small, winding creek we spotted plenty of wildlife but no Eagles (despite the presence of a very large stick nest).  A raccoon was fishing from the shoreline (but camera shy), many deer were seen or heard near the water's edge, turtles were basking in the sun and birds constantly were calling in the cattail marshes (Marsh wrens - above/below and song sparrows - below - included).  This is a really beautiful place and a nice break from the somewhat monotonous lower portion of Carmans River.

After we kayaked the creek, we headed to the mouth of the River where I saw and photographed a non-breeding adult Red-throated Loon, certainly an unusual species for this time of year.  Photographing this bird was exceedingly difficult as it's a diving bird so once it goes under you don't know where it will re-surface.  Additionally, its low profile in the water and monotone colors made for a tough shot.

As we headed back to the marina I saw an Osprey above which is one of the many nesting pairs in Wertheim Wildlife Refuge.  As the photo shows, it was returning with it's most recent catch.  The menhaden (aka bunker, aka pogy) looks none-too-happy to be caught in the talons of this powerful bird.

Switching gears away from birds - I have been completely unsuccessful in finding Fox this year.  In the past few springs I have been fortunate enough to locate red fox dens supporting kits which are some of the cutest and most photogenic animals around.  This year, however, despite my efforts I came up empty time and time again.  This afternoon (in the stifling heat/humidity) I had to stop at a family friend's down the road briefly.  Looking out into their 4 acre field I of course spotted several fox.  Right in my proverbial back yard.  I returned with my camera and got a few photos - though they were a bit shy and skittish.  Hopefully I'll have a few more chances.

Switching photographic gears one last time, I took a day trip to Davis Park (Fire Island) yesterday and took the 8:20 ferry back, just in time for sunset.  I was treated with a nice showing as we walked down the boardwalk while the boat came in.

If you're interested in learning more about Long Island or its wildlife - check out this excellent book written by my friend John Turner (the book features over a dozen of my images!):

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Carmans River Kayaking

As the warm temps have finally arrived, this morning my wife and I decided to take advantage of the  and kayak the lower portion of the Carmans River.  This is a trip we had done before and that we enjoy since it's close to home, a relatively easy paddle and has the potential for seeing a variety of wildlife.  We were really hoping to see Bald Eagles, which are reportedly nesting near the mouth of the Carmans, however we struck out and saw no signs of them.  There were plenty of Osprey nesting along the river though with many active birds hunting the river for fish.  As I came around a bend an Osprey flew out no more than 10 feet in front of me giving us both a rush of excitement I'm sure - here's a shot of the Osprey after it had passed:

Along the banks of the River is thick vegetation which until recently was almost entirely Phragmites (an invasive species).  Wertheim wildlife refuge (which is located on either side of the river) has done extensive work trying to restore this brackish habitat and ridding the area of Phrag while replacing it with cattails and other freshwater marsh species.  The project has been quite successful and the Carmans boasts probably the densest stands of cattails that you'll find on Long Island.  What's great about this habitat is that it provides a home for the very noise Marsh Wren - a bird that is a difficult find on the island.  These birds were incessantly calling (as they do) and hopping from perch to perch.  While my lighting was far from optimal, and I had a tough time getting the a decent composition as I was restricted to my kayak, I'm quite pleased with the photos I got of this species (the first time I'd ever seen it or photographed it for that matter).

An interesting surprise found floating along the river was a pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers.  These birds are expected during the winter months, but should be in Canada (their breeding grounds) by now. I noticed that the plumage was quite different then what I normally see and when looking at the photos I could see that the birds are currently molting - making it impossible for them to fly north.  It's tough to tell why this happend to them (as virtually all of their "friends" left on time) but perhaps the cool spring confused them.  Either way, they're stuck here for the time being and almost certainly will be unable to breed this year (perhaps not such a bad thing!).

Another welcome sighting were several Glossy Ibis seen flying above and landing in the marsh.  The first two I saw (which I was unable to photograph) landed in the predominately freshwater area between Montauk Highway and the LIRR tracks.  The third Ibis I saw was about midway down the river and it disappeared into the thick cattails.  I have now seen this species twice in the last 3 weeks (the other time being at Pine Hills golf course in Manorville).  Prior to this year, I believe I'd only seen them once per season, either flying along Dune Road in Hampton Bays or hanging out (of all places) at a compost pile in Wading River).

If you're interested in learning more about Long Island or its wildlife - check out this excellent book written by my friend John Turner (the book features over a dozen of my images!):