Don't think these guys could complain about the slow ride and disco soundtrack on the bus down to Rockaway Beach as the Ramones might -- having arrived from winter grounds, these soft white sand beaches fit the bill for mating, nesting, and related fun!
While I was hoping to stop at the NYC Parks & Recreation Arverne Piping Plover Nesting Area earlier in the spring to welcome the first arrivals, my visit was delayed until this Memorial Day weekend. The early summer weather was a bit warm for me and Mitch as we walked the boardwalk around Beach 45th Street, yet we were hardly disappointed. Straightaway, we spotted the protective cage enclosures for three Piping Plover nests. How incredible that in our highly-populated city we can still play hosts to these adorable and quite endangered species.
American Oystercatchers, another summertime favorite, were nesting in the same area and looking just as hot as the plovers, with bills open to release body heat. Not far away, their pals flew by and frolicked in the surf. I'm sure parenthood must be worth it, but if I were an oystercatcher, I'd be jumping around in the waves!
Not properly prepared with sunscreen, lunch, or enough time, our visit had to be short. Returning to the boardwalk after visiting the peeps, we met Scott, one of the plover stewards from the NYC Parks Department. A fellow nature enthusiast, it was great fun chatting with him about the plover nests in the area (at least 10!), along with oystercatcher and tern sightings. A fish guy by education (he studied zoology in college), Scott also pointed out two large dead fish that were becoming a tasty (?) lunch for nearby Great Black-backed Gulls. (Dear readers, I decided to spare us all close up shots of these decomposing fish -- hope you don't mind!)
New pal Scott was kind enough to confirm that the plover, oystercatcher and tern eggs should be hatching soon -- Piping Plovers might be cute but their chicks are the sweetest things around! As long as the weather is decent, I'll be out there later this week and far more prepared with warm weather gear so that I can tuck in for a few hours. Stay tuned for an update and more photos!
A little bonus: as we walked towards the car, spotted this male Ring-necked Pheasant!