(This slogan, bifurcated by a human eye instead of a Ring-billed Gull’s, was the motto of The Subterranean, 1843-1845. The rowdy — it was closed down for libel — NYC newspaper was founded by Mike Walsh, whose burly populism was deeply dyed with the virulent racism of the day — which just goes to show you, as we say in Brooklyn, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.)
Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) at entrance to the scrape. There are many finely-tuned words in falconry: “scrape” is purely descriptive; the birds may scrape a shallow depression for their nest. That’s about all the nest is. These hybrid urban falcons, though… it seems unlikely there was any soft earth or gravel in this utilitarian space, just dust, and, cough, particulate from Atlantic Avenue.It looks like a tight squeeze, not at all like the open-air platform of 55 Water Street, or the door-like holes of the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Gil Hodges’ gunnery slot. Note the history of droppings from previous years’ use.
My worries about the foot of one of these Brooklyn falcons seem to have been misplaced. Standing on one foot with the other foot drawn up is SOP for Peregrines. A follower of my Twitter told me her parrot does the same thing. As it happens, genetic evidence now suggests falcons (Order Falconiformes) are more closely related to parrots (Psittaciformes) and songbirds (Passeriformes) than to other hawks. Taxonomy, long-based on “looks-like” anatomical similarities, is being revolutionized at the genetic level.
Four years ago, I started Backyard and Beyond. Here’s my very first post, with picture of a recently hatched Painted Turtle, no bigger than a silver dollar.
For my anniversary, a bouquet: Feathers of one of Green-Wood’s Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus). The blue primaries (long wing feathers) are somewhat surprising for a bird otherwise tropical-green. These were scattered under an evergreen, evidence of a fateful end.
There are a lot of posts in the archives. Most are timeless, at least on a human scale, so if you’re a newcomer, please feel free to dredge through the past. There are some doozies.
And if you’ve haven’t subscribed to this goodness in your email in-box, well, then… duh!
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Prospect Park
The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a species in deep trouble. According to the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, the species has shown “chronic long-term and acute short-term population declines,” more so than any other species we see. The numbers are startling, with a population plummet from 85-95% over the last century. The reason for this isn’t definite; although I would hazard that the 80% reduction of wooded wetlands in their southeastern wintering grounds goes a good way to explaining the crisis. Climate change in the north is also telling: the wet boreal summers are drying out. Another aspect is cultural: none of the blackbird species are seen as cute celebrity-charismatics; and, in fact, some, like the Red-winged Blackbird, are considered pests, and efforts to eradicate them must inevitably kill some of this species as well. Few have paid any attention to the decline until recently.
This year marks the centennial of the last Passenger Pigeon; who the hell wants to live through another species’ disappearance? The IRBWG’s Spring Migration Blitz is an effort to survey the birds as they make their way to their boreal breeding grounds. The survey begins this month; New York state’s portion lasts from March 1-April 31. Keep an eye out for these birds (there’s good ID help on their site) and report on ebird.I photographed this female last month in Prospect Park, where the lack of leash law enforcement continues to stress all species. She was still sporting her basic (non-breeding) plumage.
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Red Hook
So much depends on light and distance. The Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) above was sun-ward and far.This Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) was sun-struck and near. Both of these species have very different breeding plumages, which they are named after (that’s not so helpful to those of us so far south of their breeding grounds). I saw the Horned Grebe (a.k.a the Slovenian Grebe) in breeding finery in Iceland and was astonished at the transformation.
The Red-necked is a rather larger bird — 4″ longer in length, 6″ longer in wingspan — but in these images, absent scale, the most striking difference is the bill length, with the Red-necked being substantially larger.I was surprised by the weights of these birds, which Sibley gives as 2.2lb (1000g) for the Red-necked, and 1lb (450g) for the Horned, but then, they are divers, and need to fight their own buoyancy. Horned are more common in local waters, with four of them to the one Red-necked, that day in the Erie Basin.
I wonder who it was who painted the first portrait with that little bit of white in the eyes signifying reflection? You can wander a museum for hours fixated on these daubs of paint, geometries suggestive of where the subject posed — rectangular for natural light through a window, for instance — which suddenly give so much depth and life to the image. A portrait is dead without them.