You can see them in Sandy Hook Bay, Jamaica Bay, Great Kills, Fresh Kills, and even in the Navesink River. As long as ice-free, open water remains for this bird to find their favorite food, of course fish, it can be seen all winter long.
Great Blue Herons are tall birds with a length of around 4 feet and a wingspan of 6 feet. So large in fact, it’s our tallest native bird in New York Harbor and our largest heron in eastern North America.
Yet, notwithstanding their impressive size, a Great Blue Heron can be difficult to find during the winter. Its overall gray and dark feathers blend in perfectly with the frequently colorless winter landscape. The bird can also be a solitary hunter, standing motionless for long periods of time, and moving slowly. Our eyes often miss this beautiful bird.
The January 22-24 blizzard, which dumped heavy snow from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England has been rated as a Category 4 or “Crippling” winter storm on NOAA’s Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, also known as NESIS. It is also among the most powerful winter storms, ranked 4th, to impact the Northeast U.S. since 1950.
Image from commons.wikimedia.org
The below article states:
"The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste. Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging."
So why are we doing this to ourselves? We need to get the message out to everyone that plastic bags, plastic bottles and other mass market disposable plastic items are destroying our environment not just in New York Harbor, but globally. We need a better way quickly.
Image from en.wikipedia.org
Buzzard’s Bay is less than 200 miles away from New York Harbor, as the crow or osprey flies. I would suspect a similar 4-degree rise in water temperature during the summer has also occurred in our local tidal waters over the last several decades. This has brought about an increase in alga blooms and the regular appearance of warm-water fish & jellyfish; and a decrease in cold-water fish, such as Atlantic tom-cod. It won’t be long now for the waters of New York Harbor to have the same biodiversity of present-day Chesapeake Bay followed decades later of present-day South Carolina. Now would be a good time to invest in a boat and plenty of sunscreen.
As cold and snow strive to dominate the scene around New York Harbor, many early Native American groups of the northeast called January the “Full Wolf Moon.” During this cold, dark period, hungry wolves were more likely to forage for food in local villages and compete with humans for deer and other prey. Native American people would have also heard the wolves howling loudly in the dead silence of winter.
American Indians gave names to each of the full moons to keep track of the seasons and each passing month. The names were associated with the time until the next full moon occurred.
A few days after the great Northeaster Blizzard of 2016 hit New York Harbor hard with several feet of snow, fierce winds, and rough surf, the sights of waterfowl have returned. A large flock or raft of Greater Scaup (Aythya marina) could be seen today in Lower New York Bay, south of the Verrazano Bridge.
I'm not kidding either when I say a large raft of birds. There were absolutely more than 1,000 scaup to be seen floating in the harbor, along with a few goldeneyes and buffleheads mixed into the flock. It was a huge bunch of black and white feathers floating on the bay.
From the New York Times: Source: NASA via University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center
It’s hard to believe that just on Friday, there was hardly any snow on the ground. Now there is anywhere from 1 to 3 feet of fresh snow on the ground around New York Harbor.
Actual measured amounts are scattered. In Atlantic Highlands where I live around Sandy Hook bay, I measured a little over 13 inches, but in Leonardo, one community over, someone measured around 17 inches. Across the bay in Staten Island, nearly 24 inches was measured at places. Kennedy Airport, measured over 30 inches.
You really didn’t think we would go though an entire winter season without at least one major snowstorm? Hopefully, this is it.
At 9:00am, there was around a foot of snow near Sandy Hook Bay, NJ, downstream from New York City, and around a half-foot at Central Park. More snow will continue to fall throughout the day until the nor’easter finally moves away sometime late tonight or early tomorrow. Predications from NOAA are for anywhere between 18 to 30 inches of snow.
It was like seeing the ghost of summer’s past. I was driving home from work today when I spotted something unusual. A large white bird flying out of the tops of the trees, across the road and towards a small wooded creek. The bird was too big and too white to be a gull. What could it be?
In fact it was a Great American Egret! But what could this tall stately bird of summer being doing here in the middle of winter?
From the Humane Society
Winter: Migrate, Hibernate, or Tough It Out
How your wild neighbors survive the cold season
Just how do your wild neighbors cope with winter’s woes? In some regions, cold temperatures, deep snows, whipping winds, and dwindling food supplies make life tough.
Leaving town: Birds often migrate to warmer climates. But not every migration requires wings and a long-distance journey. Elk, for instance, may trek 4,000 feet down a mountain to benefit from weather similar to that found 1,200 miles southward.
Checking out: Hibernating or becoming dormant works for species such as woodchucks and bears, who live off stored fat during cold months. Body-chemistry changes in some frogs enable them to overwinter in a frozen state and then thaw out when spring returns.
Extreme measures: Many insects' life spans come to an end in winter—right after they've laid eggs that will hatch when the earth is warm again.
As plenty of people in the New York metropolitan region are stocking up on supplies at local stores before the arrival of the upcoming snowstorm on Saturday, so too are small birds around New York Harbor getting prepared.
For the last few days, there has been plenty of activity at my birdfeeder, frenzied activity at times, as the birds are keenly focused on feeding. Cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, finches, bluejays, woodpeckers, sparrows and other small birds have been coming and going from sunrise to sunset to grab some seeds or suet to eat now or to store for later.
It seems just as quickly as I fill my feeders in the morning, they are nearly empty by the afternoon. The birds are in a constant search for food before Saturday morning.
Here is bit of weather folklore. Seeing Dark-eyed Juncos during winter usually foretells a stretch of really cold or snowy weather. True or false?
Like all folklore, there is a little bit of truth to this. I’ve been seeing quite a few juncos at my birdfeeder in January, especially before really cold days and the upcoming snowstorm predicted for this weekend. I didn’t see any juncos in December when temperatures were above normal and unseasonably warm, not one. Could juncos know something we don't?
Image from drunken-peasants-podcast.wikia.com
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136-year record.
The image of winter near Sandy Hook Bay, New Jersey
Last night it snowed for the first time this winter season. The snow didn’t amount to much near the coast, less than an inch. Yet, it was still the first.
New York Harbor usually get’s the first snowfall of winter sometime in December. Usually just an inch or two of snow, which quickly melts away after a few days. In rare years an early snowfall shows up in November. In one exception on October 29, 2011, a record-setting snowstorm covered Central Park in 2.9 inches of fresh snow.
Some winters we might not get much of any snow. Every winter season is different, sometimes crazy different.
The snow machine typically ends in March, although unusually late snow has been known to appear in April.
Weather forecasters are hinting at more snow this weekend, perhaps a significant snowstorm. Who knows for sure on Monday, but it seems that Old Man Winter is not going anywhere soon.
Congratulations to the Black Swallowtail. It has successfully become the official state butterfly of New Jersey.
The Black Swallowtail joins the Brook trout as the state fish, the Goldfinch as the state bird, the Common Violet as the state flower, and other flora and fauna as designated by the State of New Jersey. Click here for a complete list.
On Monday, January 11, 2016, Governor Chris Christie took action on legislation and signed bill S-939/A-2913 to designate the Black Swallowtail butterfly as the State Butterfly. No matter the politics, it’s a beautiful bug.
Cheers to members of the Garden Club of New Jersey, who pushed hard for the designation. Gardeners from all of the state took legislative action to create a bill in the New Jersey State Legislature to have the Black Swallowtail Butterfly designated as New Jersey’s Official State Butterfly. It just goes to show you that one should never mess with a person who plants flowers.
Why would a garden club care about butterflies?
I Just finished The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey by Deborah Cramer. What a great read. I loved the book! Deborah Cramer does a wonderful job of taking you to some incredible places around the world to follow a little shorebird and an ancient crab. She makes you feel as if you are right along side her as she goes on the lookout for Red Knots in Patagonia or the Arctic. She also does a wonderful job of really explaining the important connection between HSC and shorebirds, especially the fragile Red Knot.
Unfortunately, I have to work this Tuesday evening, but if I could I would certainly attend the below event by New York City Audubon.
New York Harbor is home to many NY or NJ state endangered and threatened species. The list includes some notable animals including Bald Eagles, Piping Plovers, Fin Whales, Atlantic Leatherback Turtles, and Barred Owls, to name just a few. After decades if not centuries of pollution and poorly planned development, these species are trying to make a comeback in the harbor. They have not given up hope.
Yet, how do we really know if their population is stable, going up, or decreasing? Below is an interesting article from Chris Baraniuk of the BBC to find out the great lengths scientists go to determine the population status a species.
Liberty State Park is the priceless, free and green park behind Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. LSP is peaceful, scarce urban open space in one of our nation’s most densely populated regions. It sees millions of visitors each year and is jam-packed on warm weekends year-round.
But Governor Christie could change all that by leasing parkland to developers for large-scale projects including a hotel, an amusement park, a commercial amphitheater, and more.
There's a reason LSP is called "The People's Park" - for forty years, overwhelming public consensus has consistently rejected exactly these kinds of privatization proposals.
We’ve won these battles before, and we can win again - but only with your help! Help keep LSP preserved as open space for all to enjoy free of charge!
Sign the Petition: Tell the Governor: Don't Sell Out Liberty State Park.
Image from http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/26983265/article-Hawk-flocks-to-Benny-Tudino-s-pizza-in-Hoboken-for-lunch
An injured hawk, what many believe to be a juvenile red-tailed hawk, has occupied an area on First Street in Hoboken. It was trying to take flight on Wednesday. Authorities are hoping to capture the bird in order to rehabilitate it.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and children need to be careful about eating fish from local waters. This is due to mercury exposure and other toxins often found in fish. The information below helps to highlight the risks.
No doubt there are many sharks that call New York Harbor, the Jersey Shore, and the south shore of Long Island home during the summer. From blue sharks, brown sharks, great whites, bulls, threshers, to dogfishes, hammerheads and makos, just to name a few.
Yet not many sharks I know will use our local waters as a nursery, a place where young sharks can swim, feed, and mature safely from predators. I always thought most little sharks stayed down south in warmer waters where they were born. Now all that has changed.
Recently scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium in Coney Island announced they have discovered a nursery for sand tiger sharks in Great South Bay on Long Island. Located approximately 65 miles east from mid-town Manhattan and situated between Long Island and Fire Island, the Great South Bay is a place where juvenile sand tiger sharks collect in mass to feed and grow.
Another warm winters day in January around New York Harbor. It was not a record breaker this time in New York City. The record was 60 degrees at Central Park and the high temperature just got up to 59 degrees. Yet records were broken nearby. A record high temperature of 60 degrees was set in Islip, NY at 3:00pm today. This breaks the old record of 56 set in 2000. In Atlantic City, a high temperature at the airport was 63 degrees, which ties the record of 63 degrees set back in 1930.
Around 3:00pm today in Atlantic Highlands, my thermometer read 60 degrees. With warm rains on the horizon, it felt like springtime in January. There were plenty of people walking around in t-shirts, some even with shorts.
Yet, it wasn’t just the temperature. Earlier in the day, heavy rains drenched the region. It was the first major rainfall of 2016 and it was a record-breaker.
In their Sunday magazine, the New York Times recently published an interesting nature article entitled, “Why Do We Feed Wild Animals?” It seems that quite a few people do. Between 20 to maybe as high as 35 percent of households in Australia, Europe and the United States feed birds on their apartment balconies or on their property, according to author Helen MacDonald. She writes that “Americans spend over $3 billion each year on food for wild birds, ranging from peanuts to specialized seed mixes, suet cakes, hummingbird nectar and freeze-dried mealworms.” It’s a costly sum for sure for people to find some pleasure while helping our feathered friends find a tasty meal in our overcrowded urban and suburban neighborhoods.
Of course Helen MacDonald rightly points out that we are seeking pleasure from just certain types of “acceptable” animals that we come across as cute or endearing. Who in their right mind would put out food to attract rats or cockroaches? Though this might occur, especially when people put out too much foodstuff or keep areas untidy.
I found Helen MacDonald’s piece in the New York Times to be well timed as we start a new year that always seems to be dominated by talk of upcoming technology. It’s always technology it seems that gives people hope of a simpler life. Yet, in the end, the promise is often hollow, leading mostly to more stress, agitation, and different unseen problems to solve as we try to understand and cope with the latest power-driven devices.
But a return to nature and watching wildlife is captivating and truly simple. Watching a variety of birds soar, fly, and flutter is an ageless event, visually appealing and a soothing experience.
Wildlife can be an indicator of a poor or healthy environment. Having a diversity of animals in your town or community can reflect the health and suitability of your neighborhood. For instance, how many people would really want to move to a place where only rats, roaches, and leaches existed. Often we seek out places to live, in part, where there are plenty of parks and a diversity of ecosystems to interact with nature nearby. The decline of just one animal species may indicate the deterioration of local habitat.
In the end, having respect and regard toward others is important, whether they're humans, dogs, birds, fish, or other living creatures, even plants. We are all connected and all part of the natural environment. As Helen MacDonald points out in her New York Times Magazine article, growing up as a child with birdfeeders taught her “a lot about animal behavior — the meaning of the aggressive flicking of a squirrel’s tail, the precise posture of a courting robin….and how to empathize with creatures with their own thoughts, intentions and desires. Animals are not human, but they are enough like us to grant us a strange and strong sense of kinship.”
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell