Great South Bay - Summer 2008

Two years ago I tried to maintain a photoblog of photos that I took on my weekly trips across Great South Bay to Fire Island. I was forced to end it because shundreds of SPAM bots deluged it with ads for pornography, gambling, and drugs. It became too much work to filter them out. I skipped last year because of this negative experience. This year, I will post the same kinds of photographs and commentary on this traditional html page. Come back from time to time to see if I've added new shots.

Click on the image to see it larger.

19 July Got up a little earlier than necessary. Light wasn't good for about an hour after I got in position. The tern shots were of a nest some 80 feet away. The order of images is in reverse chronology. It's counter-intuitive, but the most recent ones are at the top.
Couple of Does. On my way to the shorebird nesting area. It looks like these two couldn't figure out if I was a threat or not.
Mating pair? This is one of the does from the previous shot. At first, all I saw were the antlers of this ten-point buck. He complied to my fervent hope that he show more of himself.
Sunrise over the nesting area. You can see a piping plover enclosure and a distant lifeguard stand at the public beach beyond it.
Tern chicks in hiding. As I approached the protected nesting area, I spotted two chicks dashing on the sand. The parents started buzzing me, which is standard procedure for a threat. (They always stop once I stop moving and sit on the sand.) Just before I got this shot, I witnessed a behavior that makes you think, "Did I really just see what I thought I saw?" One of the parents finished a buzzing run and veered directly toward this chick, who was walking about in full view. I can only imagine what went through the mind of the parent. Without breaking it's flight, it swooped down on the little one and with its feet stomped it down into this hollow. Amazing. There are two chicks in this image. Can you find the other one?
Siblings. I think these were the same two chicks that were hiding. They showed no regard for my presence some 80 feet away outside the protected area. This was taken with a 200mm telephoto with a 1.4 extender, which is not quite up to the task, as you can see from the grainy nature of this shot. But the next size lens is quite expensive.
Here's the whole family. One parent stayed with the chicks while the other hunted for small fish. You can't tell from the image, but the bird on the right just fed the chick.
Breakfast! As you can no doubt tell from the blur of the parent, they are fast. You have not chance of catching them in flight. I kept my eye on the baby. When it popped up and opened its beak, I knew the parent was about the enter the image.
A second later. Aren't parents great?
Piping Plover chick. Even though I set up outside of the protected area, I do worry about the possibility of my presence disturbing these endangered and protected species. Apart from my overall concern for their welfare, it is a federal offense to harass them, with a potential fine of $20,000. So, I was comforted to note that, while I was watching the tern family, this piping plover chick came within 20 feet of me, apparently regarding me as having the same potential lethality as debris washed up on the last high tide. Come to think of it, I've known some women who seemed to have that same perception.
12 July Weather and commitments kept me away for a while. See what's up with the nesting terns.
Fire Island Sunrise. On my way to the protected nesting area. The way I phrased that is probably misleading. That's not me in the image.
Is this washed up buoy on fire? I first saw this from the distance. It looked like it had a light in it. As I approached, I realized that it was the rising sun reflecting off the inner wall of the shaft.
Mother and child. Not a great technical shot, but I considered myself fortunate to get the two of them in one image.
Another shot. Of the same pair.
Older tern chick. There seemed to be tern chicks of all ages.
Same juvenile. Here's the parent checking on him/her.
What's this thing? The same juvenile as in the previous two images. It was wandering about looking at objects that drew its attention. This abandoned horseshoe crab molt got a lot of scrutiny.
Piping Plover chick. These are a tough subject. They're fast and small and won't come closer than some50 feet. I'm still trying to get a good shot. This image is a major crop.
Bayman. On the way back home, I passed this fellow plying his trade.
Another bayman.
Sailboat. Not a great shot, but I liked the juxtaposition of the sailboat and the buoy. it would have been better if the sailboat had been closer.
28 June I decided to make the thumbnails bigger and easier to see.
Airplane Pair. This was taken at Smith Point Count Park. They reminded my of a 14 June shot, but double.
Sea life murder weapon. Great fun, huh, kids? You wouldn't think so if you knew that many helium balloons end up in the ocean. Sea turtles think that it's food. Dolphins play with them and may eat them too. Then they are condemned to a slow and painful death by starvation with a belly full of plastic gargage that their digestive systems can't pass.
Truck stop. One of the plants growing along the main walkway at Davis Park, apparently full of nectar.
Deer in Early Morning Mist. I could have punched up the image, but decided to leave it as it actually appeared.
Mallard family. Mom and kids in the Browns River.
Piping Plover adult. The babies have hatched. They are extremely difficult to see. More likely, you will know that they are nearby when the adults pipe. They are trying to attract your attention so that you will leave alone their flightless hatchlings.
Piping Plover chick. This image is a telephoto shot, cropped heavily, which is why it's not a great image. It's impossible to get close to these fellows. This one was 15 meters away from me.
All legs. They have been described as balls of cotton on tooth picks. The main shot is out of the camera, taken with a long lens. The inset is the cropped image. It's amazing to see these little ones scoot across the sand. They're so small, but they move their legs in a blur.
Find the piping plover chicks. Their feathers match the color of the beach so well that you'd probably miss them unless they started moving.
Surfer dude. The surf was up on a misty morning. My first surfer shot ever.
Surfer dude number II.
Tern. I'm still trying to catch the black on black eye.
Tern with eggs. Just as he/she had fluffed her feathers to settle on the eggs.
Tern eggshell. I saw two of these on the beach. The life of a shore bird is a hard one. The eggs and hatchlings are defenseless, depending on their parents to use distraction, aggressive swoops, and guile to protect them from gulls, foxes, pet dogs, big-footed people, and vehicles. All too often, they lose, which is why the piping plover is an endangered species. This eggshell was probably taken by a gull, since it wasn't crushed.
Distraction. Here's an example of the guile about which I wrote in the previous frame. This tern might have been reacting to my presence, even though I was outside the protected area and down slope of the high tide line. He picked up the shell, flew away, dropped it, and faked going after it, "failing" to catch it. I hypothesize that he was hoping that I would chase him and try to steal the morsel, which is what a gull might do.
14 JuneThe old size thumbnails
Enclosure. A piping plover can be seen in the middle on its nest, which is basically a hollow in the sand.. Their eggs are almost indistinguishable from sand and pebbles and are easily crushed by people, pets, and vehicles, which are not allowed in the protected area. The fencing was built around the nest after the birds created it. It's purpose is to keep dogs and foxes from attacking the nest.
Warning sign. Forbidding access to the area for vehicles and pets. Notice the tracks to the left of the sign to see how effective it is. When I was leaving, I noticed two people bring dogs on the beach from the east end. I assume the same signs were up at that end.
Another warning sign. On the cordoned off area in which terns, plovers, and oyster catchers nest. Notice footprints heading into the area, suggesting that some people do not believe that the signs apply to them. Because plover and tern eggs are so difficult to see, it is likely that the person who made these footprints crushed some eggs.
Proof. Here is a shot of plover eggs, taken with a telephoto lens from outside the cordoned off area. If you were standing right over the nest, it would still be difficult to pick out the eggs.
White Foxglove. These bloom all over Davis Park on Fire Island in the spring and early summer. Most of them are the pink variety. Here is a rarer white one. They are extremely poisonous to people and pets if eaten. Bees, however, don't seem to have a problem with them.
Pink Foxglove. This one is actually growing in my yard. However, it is three blocks in from Great South Bay. I can hear surf on windy days. So I'm exercising artistic license by including it.
Water Lily. Okay, I'm cheating again. Water lilies are fresh water plants. Great South Bay is salt water. This one is in my yard.
Airplane. Back on Fire Island, a plane flying low over the ocean one morning.
Common Tern. These remarkably swift and agile flyers nest in the Watch Hill protected area. Getting a passable shot of them in flight is a great challenge. This one is bringing breakfast to a mate or younguns.
Tern Eggs. The parents located their nest close to the boundary of the roped off area. While they were away from the nest, I took a quick shot from outside the boundary. If I hadn't seen the parent on the nest, I would never have seen the eggs. Even though I knew their general location, I could only see them through my telephoto lens.
Rhododendron. These were growing outside the Catholic Church at Davis Park in early June.
Horseshoe Crab. These critters are as ancient as the dinosaurs. Yet they are imperiled by (until recently) unrestricted harvesting for eel and conch bait. They come ashore in Spring to lay eggs, which provide a feast for shorebirds.
Tipped over. The tail, or telson, of the horseshoe crab is not a weapon, as many people believe. It's main use is demonstrated here: helping to right the critter when it is tipped over by wave action. If you find a live horseshoe crab stuck on the beach, do not pick it up by the telson, which will harm it. Carry it to the water by holding the edges. They are harmless.
Pine Flower. Or baby pine cones, or buds -- I'm not sure which.
Beach heath. A native wildflower that grows in the dunes on Fire Island.
Love is in the air. A male tern offers a fresh fish to the object of his affection.
Playing hard to get. She ignored him for minutes on end. He even dragged the fish under her beak at one point. It looked like she was holding out for the Brad Pitt of the tern world.
Back off! All he wanted was to be her friend.
At last! His solicitations finally paid off.
Flock of shore birds. They might be oyster catchers. I'm not sure.
Yellow throat. That's the name of the species, as well as the color of its throat.
Davis Park at night. Looking toward the bay.
Davis Park Fire Department. Contrary to snide remarks that you might hear, the Davis Park Fire Department takes its business seriously.
Summertime Leisure. Here's a fellow taking full advantage of a cool summer morning.
Sailing back. If the conditions are right for taking out the camera, I can often get shots of boats under way. Here is a bayman digging for clams. Long Island was once renowned for its clams. However, the industry collapsed, being the victim of overfishing.
Power boat.
Double ender sloop.
Gaff-rigged sloop. Almost a catboat. The unset jib sail in the front makes it a sloop. Before the age of power, the wide beam and shallow draft of the Long Island catboat was the prefered vessel for oystering -- another failed industry.
Leg-powered kayak. In the Browns River, which is my sailboat's home port.

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