A Nighthawk at Frank Melville Park

Monday, May 13, 2019,

Four Harbors Audubon Society has monthly bird walks at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. I attended the most recent walk on this past Saturday. I had arrived a couple hours early in part to see what I could see, but mostly because, well, I really like that park. It’s a great place. As I was wandering around, I met up with a fellow photographer. We were comparing notes and she mentioned that she had seen a Common Nighthawk snoozing away in a nearby tree. These are photographs of that bird.

At the appointed time, I joined the Four Harbors group at the starting point of the walk, which is next to the Setauket Post Office that borders the park. When I saw my friend Luci, who is one of the leaders of our bird walk, I showed her one of the photographs I had taken of the Nighthawk. Here is a bit of our exchange:

Luci asked, “Where did you take this? Was it here? Can you show me where it is?”

I answered, “Yes but then I’ll have to kill you”.  Yeah, I am a wiseguy most of the time.

Luci replied, “You can kill me, but show me the bird first”. Luci can be a wiseguy too.

And that, my friends, is a typical birder for you.

Perhaps, a little explanation is due here. Nighthawks are not just another bird to us at Four Harbors, especially at Frank Melville Park. In 2016, some observers, including celebrated author Carl Safina and two of our board members, Patrice Domeischel and John Turner, noticed a multitude of Nighthawks flying in the skies above the park. They decided to start what became known as the Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch. You can click on the link for more information. The gist of it is that Four Harbors counts migrating Nighthawks. This is a citizen scientist project and all are welcome and encouraged to join us.

A word of caution concerning this and any other Nighthawks you may see during the day. Nighthawks are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. They tend to sleep during the day. These birds need their rest so that they can continue their nightly migration. The Nighthawks don’t live here; they’re just passing through and really do need to conserve their energy during the day. So, please, try not to disturb these birds while they sleep. Despite their moniker, Common Nighthawks are in steep decline and are deserving of as much TLC as we can give them.

We’re smack in the middle of migration season for many birds so there is a lot to see during this time of year. During the course of the walk, we saw several species of warblers, a pair of Redstarts, and a bunch of Baltimore Orioles. So many colors and so animated. All of them flitting from tree to tree and branch to branch, flashing their bright yellows, reds, oranges, and blues.

On a day where we saw all of that beauty and action, it was this nondescript lump of a bird that garnered the most attention. Go figure. JK

Snapping Turtles in Love

Wednesday, May 8, 2019,

These are two photos of a pair of Common Snapping Turtles mating, The female is only apparent in the top pic but, trust me, she’s present in both photographs. I’ve seen this at least four times before but every other time that I’ve witnessed this, I was in a kayak. This is my first “by land” sighting.

This occurred at Frank Melville Park in Setauket while I was waiting and hoping to find Green Herons nesting at the park. To answer your immediate question, yes, it does appear that the Green Herons are nesting here for at least the fourth year in a row. These Snapping Turtles are merely a bonus but, oh!, what a bonus. It’s not every day that you come across something like this. As this was going on – and it went on for at least thirty minutes – I was calling people over, not just fellow photographers, but folks with dogs and Moms and Dads with kids in tow. Everyone seemed to enjoy the show.

Despite appearances, this is a happy turtle. Now, as a matter of size and strength, his head is about the same size a grown man’s fist. Check out the size of his foreleg. That is mostly muscle. Imagine just how strong this guy is. And now, think about this: Snapping Turtles are the largest turtles in this and every other freshwater pond on Long Island, but this guy and his girlfriend are not the biggest Snapping Turtles at Frank Melville Park. Not by a long-shot. There are at least two much larger Snappers at the park and if you’re ever lucky enough to see them, they will take your breath away.  JK

Wood Frogs

Wednesday, May 1, 2019,

These are two photographs of Wood Frogs. The male is in the pic above and the female is below. As you can see, the two genders look fairly different than each other. The male is darker and largely brown in color. The females tend to be lighter and often wear a rust coloration. Also, while you cannot tell in these photographs, the female is the larger of the two.

In early Spring, the males and females head for freshwater ponds and lakes. The males sing out their calls, which, believe it or not, sound rather like ducks quacking. The female finds her prince and lays her eggs. Once she has done so, the male fertilizes the egg mass and then everybody parts ways till next year. The photo below is of one of the egg masses. After the eggs hatch into tadpoles and the tadpoles morph into juvenile frogs, this new generation will also leave the pond, only to return the following year. JK

JK

More Loonage

Saturday, April 27, 2019,

Two posts back, I shared a pair of photos of a Loon I had encountered in Stony Brook Harbor. Those photos were well received both here and on Facebook. So, here are two more for you to peruse. They are all of the same bird, but what a beauty this bird is. Loons in breeding plumage are truly a sight to behold. JK.

JK