This morning, despite the prediction of heavy rain with winds I went on a bird walk at Fort Tilden and I am glad that I did because the rain held up until the walk was completed and I ended up learning a lot about the area. At the walk I met our guide Ranger Pat Newman and another birder by the name of Mike. This was my first visit to Fort Tilden and both Pat and Mike were very kind in sharing their knowledge of the area.
Fort Tilden, which is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, is the last in a long line of fortifications that stood on the Rockaway peninsula ready to defend the United States from attack from the sea and air. Established in 1917, the site housed some of the most technologically advanced weaponry of the period including smooth-bore cannons, sixteen inch naval rifles, and Nike Ajax and Hercules air defense missiles. Its weaponry became obsolete in 1967 and ultimately the fort was transferred to the National Park Service.
Fort Tilden's main armament, which was setup in 1924, were two 16-inch cannon known collectively as Battery Harris named after Henry Leavenworth Harris. Originally, these guns were placed out in the open and were able to turn a full 360 degrees to a range of 28 miles. This allowed them to reach as far as Long Island Sound, but their primary objective was to prevent attack from the east and south. In the image to the left is the concrete structure that was built to host the massive guns. This was built after world war II broke out in 1939 and vegetation was later added to the top of the structure to provide camouflage. Today, the top of the structure is used as an observatory for bird migration.
While our walk did not yield too many species...probably because of the weather, we were treated to a very neat display of juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawks being teased by Blue Jays and I was lucky enough to get a photo, albeit not a very good one of one of the accipiter. We ended with a list that had Northern Flickers, Catbirds, Eastern Towhees, Black Backed Gulls, Sharp Shinned Hakws, Northern Cardinals, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Downy Woodpeckers and a Great Blue Heron.