We drove through the night to reach the Grand Canyon National Park.
Here I finally remembered to get my Passport to the National Parks! You should get one... I am disappointed I didn't have mine yet for my visit to Zion.

My biggest curiosity about the canyon is what it must have been like for an early explorer discovering this natural wonder.
The landscape leading up to the canyon is very flat, and kind of monotonous.
Imagine walking along, hunting or gathering, and stumbling upon (but hopefully not INTO) a giant gaping ditch that plummets almost endlessly!

The Grand Canyon is stunning but I saw much less wildlife than I see at GNRA.  The climate is hot and dry, so the greenery is much less lush than the environs of Jamaica Bay.

I do prefer sea
At Zion National Park, I rinsed off the dust of my hike to Angel's Landing in a nearby river and then laid by the banks to dry off in the darkness.  I gazed up at the sky and saw more stars than I ever have before.

GNRA offers astronomy viewing at Floyd Bennett Field on Friday nights.  but one reason we cannot see all of the beautiful stars, that are so abundant they look like a cloud which we call the Milky Way, is because of all the lights that continually shine through the night in NYC.

Another reason the stars were so clear for me at Zion is because of the high elevation and lack of humidity.

And then I saw it: first on, then another, then too many shooting stars to count!

I thought I was just lucky enough to notice them.

But then my mother told me that this beautiful night I chose to sleep outside coin

Zion National Park was hot hot hot!

I hiked up Angel's Landing which was very challenging. It was a steep uphill climb that was paved for much of the way. But then, just when I thought I reached the peak, because there was no where else to go, and if I moved in almost any direction I would fall to my death, someone told me I had only reached “Chicken out Point”.

So as I gazed into the distance trying to figure out how to back out of this adventure, I saw a tiny rock formation, maybe three feet wide, with perilously steep drop-offs on either side.
I need to cross this in order to reach thE CHAINS I'd NEED TO CLIMB UP in order to reach my destination.
My gosh it was scary. But when I reached the top, it was worth it.

Next stop: San Francisco, then Pacific Coast Highway down to San Simeon.

The first thing I noticed is that it is cool and humid in San Francisco- certainly colder than Florida and also much cooler than New York City! Look at the latitude of San Fran and compare it to NYC... is that a reason it's colder? Or is it something else? Check out a topographic map of the region.

As we drove south down the Pacific Coast Highway , we got to see something very exciting: elephant seals!! GNRA has seals too; but we have harbor seals and grey seals.

Why do you think elephant seals live on the west coast of the USA, but not on the east coast?

Lord, I was born a rambling woman....

'm taking a trip to visit other National Parks and nature/ wildlife areas! I'm so excited to see how they are similar and different from Gateway National Recreation Area.

GNRA is in the Northeastern portion of the United States. I'll be visiting parks in Southern and Western parts of the USA. How are our climates different from each other? Do you think this will result in different types of wildlife living in other places?

First stop: New Smyrna Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach includes a barrier island south of Daytona. Rockaway beach is also a barrier island. The barrier islands offer calm water; places where fish and birds are happy to call home.

Because Florida is closer to the equator, I noticed that the sunrise was a little later and the sunset was a little earlier. This is only true in the summer time. The reverse is true in the winter time. Also the weather was hot and humid. It often rained for a short while each day.

I saw many shorebirds that I am familiar with from GNRA such as snowy egrets and laughing gulls. I noticed the egrets were mush bolder (less frightened of humans) than they are up north. I wonder why?

Today I finally got a chance to meet the elusive yet famous piping plover.  Melissa Malloy was my expert today.  Her many responsibilities include monitoring plover populations, documenting their activities, and protecting their nests.

Unfortunately, the NPS has a difficult time protecting the plovers.  To manage the population of this endangered species, portions of the beach have to be closed.  Many people hate this, because they would like to enjoy the closed section of the beach instead of the nearby sections that ARE open.

In conversation with residents of the nearby communities, we learned that most people felt that there were plenty of piping plovers, and they were therefore not endangered enough to warrant beach closures.

We discovered that the residents were very certain they knew which birds were plovers; but were in fact mistaken.

If you think you see piping plovers often, you do NOT know what piping plovers are!!

The species people most commonly assume are piping plovers are sanderlings, or terns.

NOT a plover.  This is a common tern.

Terns are aggressive, exciting birds that are common around Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways.

They are a little smaller than most seagulls, but are noisy and fun to watch as they dive into the water to catch their prey. 

Piping plovers do not use the ocean as a primary food source and they are not diving birds. Plovers eat insects and other invertebrates in the sand.

NOT a plover.  These are sanderlings.

Sanderlings are tiny shorebirds that you will see in large groups darting along the water's edge.

Piping plovers do not form large groups; in fact they are mostly solitary.  And, since there are only about 17 pairs on the west end of Rockaway, if you are seeing a large flock, they certainly aren't plovers.

This IS a piping plover!!

They are very difficult to spot because they are very tiny and blend into the sand so well!

Does this give you a sense about how small they are?

They like to nest in the sand, where they scratch shallow depressions in which they lay their eggs.

The nests are not very visible, nor are the birds themselves.

This is why it is important not to allow visitors to walk, run, bike, or drive on the beach during nesting season! 

There have been some controversy about the culling of Canadian geese at GNRA. 
JFK airport (previously known as Idlewild) is located on Jamaica Bay and was built over former saltmarsh. The salt marshes were filled in to make room for this very important transportation hub.

The location of this transportation hub unfortunately coincides with preferred habitat for Canada geese. Canada geese are abundant in this area and their abundance often interrupts or causes danger to airplanes. Because of this, it was determined that it would be okay to cull the population of Canadian geese. This means that a certain number of these birds are rounded up and killed to decrease their numbers and create a more safe flight path.

The Facebook page for JBWR addressed this this issue. Many people commented and felt very strongly. 
~ Some people felt that the geese were there first and that the planes interrupt in ancient migratory flight path and therefore the geese should not be killed.
~ Other people felt that human safety is of utmost importance. 

1. What do you think about this issue?

  a) What if you found out that the population of Canadian geese was too high? Would that change your opinion? 

  b) What if you found out the population of Canada geese was too low that is they were endangered? Would that change your opinion? 

2.  How do you think government agencies balance the needs of wildlife versus the needs of humans? What are some factors they have to take into consideration ? 
Yesterday many residents of the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay had a party on the sandbar. The sand bar is a man-made island in the middle Jamaica Bay that is composed of fill that was dug up when digging a shipping channel. 
The sandbar when I was a kid 20 years ago had no trees on it at all, and maybe a little bit of grass.  Now there are trees on it, and it is important nesting ground for gulls and terns! That is ecological succession at work!
 At this party which takes place once a year, many people arrive with their boats; have refreshments and enjoy the music and dancing and playing the water. Some people think that this much commotion destroys habitat. 
For example, this disruption may cause the terns and gulls not to nest and reduce the population of the species.  
Additionally, if the partygoers are irresponsible, they may leave trash behind which would further damage the environment. 

However, an alternate point of view is that if people are allowed to enjoy their natural resources they will appreciate them and care for them more. 

Which do you think leads to greater conservation of natural resources: 
1) prohibiting people from using natural resources
2) allowing people to do whatever they wish
3) permitting people to use natural resources but educating them to do so in a responsible way?

I think the obvious answer is choice 3, but who is responsible for educating the public? Does it cost money?  Are you willing to pay the money?

Speak up!  What are your thoughts?