As the warm temps have finally arrived, this morning my wife and I decided to take advantage of the and kayak the lower portion of the Carmans River. This is a trip we had done before and that we enjoy since it's close to home, a relatively easy paddle and has the potential for seeing a variety of wildlife. We were really hoping to see Bald Eagles, which are reportedly nesting near the mouth of the Carmans, however we struck out and saw no signs of them. There were plenty of Osprey nesting along the river though with many active birds hunting the river for fish. As I came around a bend an Osprey flew out no more than 10 feet in front of me giving us both a rush of excitement I'm sure - here's a shot of the Osprey after it had passed:
Along the banks of the River is thick vegetation which until recently was almost entirely Phragmites (an invasive species). Wertheim wildlife refuge (which is located on either side of the river) has done extensive work trying to restore this brackish habitat and ridding the area of Phrag while replacing it with cattails and other freshwater marsh species. The project has been quite successful and the Carmans boasts probably the densest stands of cattails that you'll find on Long Island. What's great about this habitat is that it provides a home for the very noise Marsh Wren - a bird that is a difficult find on the island. These birds were incessantly calling (as they do) and hopping from perch to perch. While my lighting was far from optimal, and I had a tough time getting the a decent composition as I was restricted to my kayak, I'm quite pleased with the photos I got of this species (the first time I'd ever seen it or photographed it for that matter).
An interesting surprise found floating along the river was a pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers. These birds are expected during the winter months, but should be in Canada (their breeding grounds) by now. I noticed that the plumage was quite different then what I normally see and when looking at the photos I could see that the birds are currently molting - making it impossible for them to fly north. It's tough to tell why this happend to them (as virtually all of their "friends" left on time) but perhaps the cool spring confused them. Either way, they're stuck here for the time being and almost certainly will be unable to breed this year (perhaps not such a bad thing!).
Another welcome sighting were several Glossy Ibis seen flying above and landing in the marsh. The first two I saw (which I was unable to photograph) landed in the predominately freshwater area between Montauk Highway and the LIRR tracks. The third Ibis I saw was about midway down the river and it disappeared into the thick cattails. I have now seen this species twice in the last 3 weeks (the other time being at Pine Hills golf course in Manorville). Prior to this year, I believe I'd only seen them once per season, either flying along Dune Road in Hampton Bays or hanging out (of all places) at a compost pile in Wading River).
If you're interested in learning more about Long Island or its wildlife - check out this excellent book written by my friend John Turner (the book features over a dozen of my images!):