Posted tagged ‘birds of mecox bay’

What a Day: Wildlife on Long Island

September 18, 2012

What a day.

It started with a monarch butterfly on the deck.

An hour later, as Esau the dog and I were on our way to the ocean, the sight of an airborne river of butterflies made me stop in wonder. A wavering parade of monarchs fluttered across the parking lot, the road and the dunes, heading west-southwest. They crossed Mecox Bay and Channel Pond, crossed fields and yards, some flying high, some low, in small groups or singly, too small for my camera to catch.

The sun was already hot, but the air stayed cool with the tease of a promise of fall.  After about ten minutes, the insect stream slowed and we continued on to the ocean. A huge flock of swallows dipped and hunted over the dunes before heading off in the same general direction as the monarchs. They were also too small, fast and high up for my camera to catch, so you will have to look at swallowless dunes and take my sighting on faith.

Down the beach, a man and a little boy were surfcasting.

On the way home, we stopped, as ever, at the bridge, where a snowy egret and a great blue heron stalked and hunted.

Snowy egret on the left; great blue heron on the right.

Within a minute of our arrival, the heron took flight, squawking three mighty squawks as it went.

The heron takes off toward the serene little egret.

The heron circles and flies off to the right.

The snowy, now in sole possession of this prime fishing spot, seemed unmoved. In fact, it didn’t move.

“Squawk all you like, big fella. I shall not be moved.”

Snowy egrets seem to me to be bolder than great blue herons , and great blue herons to be bolder than great egrets. At least, this seems to be true around Mecox Bay this fall. The big guys startle and fly off, as this great egret did several days ago at sunset.

The little guys just go about their business.

egret fishes

Snowy egret stabs a fish.

Out on the bay, a single Mute swan floated strangely on the water,

mute swan, strange posture

A mute swan rests on the water.

its neck twisted round, its beak tucked into its feathers, and one wing raised like a protective screen.

In the afternoon I biked into town for food, as I am without a car for a few days.

I passed reeds that resounded with birdsong, but no birds could, at first, be seen.  Stopping for a closer look, I understood that the reeds were a temporary city dense with red-winged blackbirds.

Then the blackbirds – the males in fall-faded epaulets and females in drab brown – began to fly out of the reed city and across the road.  Fifty or sixty or more winged away and yet the reeds remained full of song.

I passed a single deer feeding by the side of the road.

When I stopped the bike, it watched me intently.

Then, surprisingly, it moved a few steps closer.

And began again to feed.

I too moved quietly closer, trying to get out of the bright sunlight.  And …

“What’s that?”

the deer and I reached the end of our tale.

Near the end of the day, Esau and I again walked to the ocean.  On the way, I noticed a swan swimming in its customarily regal posture, but unusually close to a man fishing from the roadside. I wondered about this.

Esau basked at the beach.

On our way back, we saw the kingfisher perched on one of its favorite pilings near the egret’s fishing spot.

The swan had again tucked its head under its wing

and was letting itself drift on the open water.

I wondered if it were ill or injured, and Esau sat down to ponder that question or another.

What will we see tomorrow?

Duck and Egret Meet to Dine

September 16, 2012

Of late, on walks to the ocean, I often see a duck and an egret foraging together.

Duck and egret

A female duck and an egret fish and forage together.

They wade, waddle, stalk or paddle in the little strait that joins Mecox Bay

Mecox Bay at sunset

Sunset reflected in Mecox Bay

to saltwater Channel Pond.

Great blue heron flies over Channel Pond

A great blue heron flies over Channel Pond.

The unprepossessing little white bridge that passes over the channel is one of the best spots around for spotting herons and egrets.

Bridge on Flying Point Road

The little bridge on Flying Point Road.

A great blue heron or a snowy egret is almost always fishing in the shallows at one side of the bridge or the other.

Snowy egret

A snowy egret wades across the water.

Sometimes there are more than one.

Two snowy egrets

Two snowy egrets share a fishing spot.

Lately, a solitary female duck has been dabbling here. Sometimes she is on her own.

Female duck

Lady duck on her own.

But more often she shares the spot with a snowy egret.

Duck and egret

Now and then another bird joins the fine fishing spot, as did this belted kingfisher, perched on a piling to the left.

kingfisher and duck

Belted kingfisher sits on piling while duck rests below.

You can’t see it in the photos, but the snowy egret was also present, although hidden behind low-hanging branches on the right.

kingfisher flies off

The kingfisher flies to another perch.

There are plenty of egrets around, so it’s possible that the duck is with a different egret each time I see it.

Snowy egret and duck

But I prefer to imagine that she and a particular egret, despite their differences in shape, eating habits and behavior, have forged a friendship of sorts.

If I were Beatrix Potter, I’d write and draw a story about unlikely companions.

The Pie and the Patty Pan

Ribby, Duchess and the doctor from The Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter

But lest I seem to have wandered too far into cozy animal fantasyland, I’m well aware that the larger herons and egrets eat ducklings whenever they can get them.

Still the ability to kill doesn’t negate the possibility of companionship. Just look at us humans. And watching animals, domestic and wild, teaches me that within the general behavior of each species is plenty of room for individual variation, including behaviors that lie outside the norm.

So I think I’ll reserve the right to imagine that this particular duck and this particular egret are so often spotted together because, quite simply, they take pleasure in each other’s company.

Mr. Snowy Egret and the Solitary Duck

Ah me, if only I could draw. Well, here is a drawing of a waterbird by someone who can – Sophie Webb, biologist and illustrator.

Western Grebe by Sophie Webb

Western Grebe by Sophie Webb. Click to see more of Sophie’s work.

Herons, Swans and Coots on Long Island

March 29, 2012

Mecox Bay on the East End of Long Island is home to herons, osprey, kingfishers, mute swans, and an array of ducks and shore birds that change with the seasons. Here are a few photos from a quick trip earlier this week.

A Great blue heron hunted in a regular spot, protected from the wind.

Sunset poured pink light all around the bird, the dog and me.

The next morning, swans revealed a less elegant side of their lifestyle.

A 16-bird strong armada of American coots bobbed about near the shore.

They seemed to be relaxed and disorganized, some going this way, others going that way..

But as the dog and I drew closer, they moved into formation,

and formed an orderly platoon with a scout at the lead.

I always enjoy watching coots, whether in Oregon, Texas, British Columbia or Long Island. But I usually see them alone or in very small groups. Perhaps this is a migrating flock that has stopped for a rest and to refuel.

As I resumed my walk, the swans were back at it.


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