Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category


Sciurus carolinensisSquirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).Sciurus carolinensis

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisSt. Agnes towers over the northern end the Gowanus. There must be a grand view from up there. This is a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ~ but you knew that.


striationsThe buck stopped here in what is now Brooklyn; indeed, the buck of glacial ice made Brooklyn and the rest of Long Island, depositing the rubble of rock and soil it had scraped forward until it stopped and retreated and left the jumble behind. Two pulses of glacial activity formed Long Island, leaving ridges that extend out through the North and South Forks; these are called terminal moraines. In Brooklyn the later moraine sort of smeared out the earlier one, so we’ve only one: it has a name — Harbor Hill, capped by Green-Wood and part of Prospect — known to few but geologists, and is best marked by neighborhoods with ridge, heights, hill, and slope as part of their name. Runoff of smaller particles from the moraines made the flatlands to the south, the outwash plain. Rising seawaters then sculpted the Island’s outline.

All this to say that you have to go to Central Park and the Bronx to find glacial striations, the grooves ground into exposed rock by the gritty underside of the glaciers. Here’s a patch of schist in the New York Botanical Garden’s forest. The groves run NW-SE, the direction of the ice. 10,000 or so years of erosion have softened them a bit.

White-headed Sea Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalusYesterday in Green-Wood I was enjoying the sun in a section of the cemetery I’d never been in before when a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew overhead. Whoa! The bird was a mature adult; it takes about four years for those white feathers to come in completely on the head and tail. The look is as distinctive as a flag. The bird was flying low and I wondered if it would land nearby. It did.Haliaeetus leucocephalusIt was perched above the Crescent Water in this pine. From here it flew somewhere thattaway. When I eventually got up over the hill, there it was again. These birds are big (31″ length, 80″ wingspan), so they really stick out when up in a bare tree. I was just about to get a focus on the bird for some more pictures when it stretched out its wings. There was a crack, the branch the bird was sitting on broke and plummeted down with a crash as the bird flew away. They can weigh up to a dozen pounds, which is an awful lot for a bird.Haliaeetus leucocephalusI ran into two birders at Green-Wood’s Gothic pile entrance at 5th Ave. who saw the bird leaving the cemetery grounds in a northwesterly direction. This was the first time I’ve seen an adult specimen of the species, whose binomial translates as this post’s title (“bald” is pretty dumb see comment below), actually standing in Brooklyn.

I just read the other day that there about 150 pairs in NJ and close to 200 in NY. There is a breeding pair on Staten Island. Thoreau, who used the old “white-headed” name for these birds, said about an 1854 encounter with one: “We who live this plodding life here below never know how many eagles fly over us. They are concealed in the empyrean.” But by the 1970s, there was almost nothing to conceal: NY was down to a single pair, and they were unsuccessful at breeding. Bringing them back from the brink (often from upper Midwestern stock, btw) been a great success story, one we must build on.

Feral Brooklyn

c6I spend a fair amount of time exploring Brooklyn’s edges. These border zones are absolutely agog with feral cats. Here a few recent sightings.c1The standard wild city feline is a black and white job. Tiger-striped numbers probably come second. But there are all types, including the long-hair below, who looked like a slumming debutant.c7A street-side feeding station on 39th St; there’s always some well-meaning, but highly selective “animal lover” who encourages this plague. One or more of these people at Floyd Bennett Field’s Ecology Village has/have left the trash of dozens of empty cat food cans stretched along the edges of woods.c2Some of these cats are pretty cute and adorable looking. But the issue is that Brooklyn’s only part of one of the worst examples of invasive species running amuck.c4c5The damage feral cats do to wildlife is mind-boggling.c3What a mess! An irresponsible pet industry; idiots who don’t spay/neuter their pets; fools who release their animals when they never should have gotten one in the first place; the rat-feeders (because they are also obviously feeding rats); and, of course, those vocal defenders of such feral cats, unaware and/or unconcerned about their avian and mammalian toll. This is human-made problem. How shall we solve it?


Sphyrapicus variusThe Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is one of the rarer woodpeckers in our city woods. It was harder to see by eye than it looks here in the camera, the feather pattern blending nicely into the bark and the shadow.Sphyrapicus variusSo let’s get closer… and the first thing that I see is that face! Is this an owl? Sphyrapicus variusEven closer and the “face” pattern starts to dissolve. A cursory look over the internet didn’t find similar notice of this pattern. Sphyrapicus variusThese are “sapsuckers” because they make a rows of holes in bark to bleed sap, then lap up the sap and and any insects that are drawn to the sweetness. This particular bird is a male, with red on throat as well as the forehead. Females have red only on the forehead.

Raccoon Remains

Procyon lotorMagic-hour light on road-kill, scavenged, and partially petrified Raccoon (Procyon lotor).Procyon lotorOh, and good morning!


Bookmark and Share

Join 335 other followers

Nature Blog Network



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers