Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category


IMG_2163There’s a debate around here about which of our rodent friends this young’un is. There were at least ten of them strung out along about thirty feet of paved path in Prospect Park recently, most of them with their eyes still closed, some not moving, others scurrying regardless of their eyelids. I don’t know what the heck happened to result in them being there, when they should have been still tucked away in some nest or nook.IMG_2175Even with eyes closed, this one found something to eat. It turns out that mice and baby rats are similar looking. They are, after all, related. I got 10/12 on a first pass at this mouse/rat test. But were these rats or mice?IMG_2143Luckily, the three dogs that came through while I was there were all leashed, as they are always supposed to be in the Ravine. I moved several of these little rodents off the path, depositing them together.

New Robins

Turdus migratoriusOut of the nest, still being fed by the parents. Turdus migratoriusFledged, but less a flier than a hopper and a climber at the moment. People often think birds need help at this stage — can’t fly, looks helpless, no sign of the parents — but they usually don’t. The parents are near, but keeping away from us. Turdus migratoriusA few days later, another in another park. Younger, fluffier. (All approaches here via telephoto lens.)

Raptor Wednesday

No pictures today, but I do have the link to the 55 Water Street Peregrines. There are four young this year, still looking like fluffy off-white chickens, but that is changing rapidly. When typing this (last night), I pulled up the page expecting to see nothing in the dark, but there was enough ambient light from the City that Never Snoozes to see a clump of youngsters and one of the adults standing guard outside the box. So you should check anytime. Catch a feeding.

The House of Detention Peregrine scrape has no camera, but I assume things are at a similar stage there. The local church has been having some renovation done, so I’ve only seen Peregrines on its steeple twice this spring, the last time yesterday, after quite a long time. In years past, this has a standard post for the birds, who can see the jailhouse nest from there.

And always remember to keep one eye on the sky. On Sunday at Marine Park, I noticed something dark and large in the air. Binoculars revealed it to be a sub-adult Bald Eagle. The locals were not pleased. Several gulls were screaming as they circled and swooped after the enormous bird, but the real surprise was an Osprey from the nearby nest platform. It helped to chase the eagle away. An Osprey is a big bird, but it was dwarfed by the eagle.

Butterflies Galore

Over the weekend, I lost count of the number of species of butterflies I saw, most of them for the first time this year. This included a Monarch (predictably scouting out Milkweeds), so that’s a good start. Vanessa virginiensisAmerican Ladies (Vanessa virginiensis), like the one above in Green-Wood, and Red Admirals were all over.Papilio glaucusThere were at least two swallowtail species as well. This is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), seen in Prospect Park. Epargyreus clarusSilver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) at Marine Park.

Monday Morning Preening

Egretta thulaThis is an extreme telephoto, but the bright yellow toes here are a give-away: Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). This bird is a little like a miniaturized version of the Great Egret (Ardea alba), but with black bill/yellow toes to the Great’s yellow bill/black toes. Both species were almost hunted to extinction for their breeding plumes, long wispy feathers that were stuck to lady’s hats into the early part of the last century.

Gone fishing, worming

Nycticorax nycticorax, Larus delawarensis

Mighty Elm

elm1An enormous American Elm (Ulmus americana) crowding a yard on 44th Street near 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park. The old giant took us by surprise: the neighborhood still suffers from the blight of highway above 3rd Avenue, a product of the 1940s and a wretched vision of a promised land of highways to segregated suburbs. Ulmus americanaThe massive bole towers up in the vase-shaped habit characteristic of the species, dwarfing the home it graces. It was hard to get a photographic grip on it because of its height. I wonder what its story is? Who planted it, and when?Ulmus americanaLooking from the opposite, farther end of the block, downhill from 4th Avenue: the taller, darker green is the canopy of our specimen.

I assume its isolation from others of its species has protected it from Dutch elm disease, a fungal infection inadvertently spread by a bark beetle. The damned fungus has killed off many of the great elms in our cities and towns. I recently walked along 3rd Street in Park Slope and remembered another giant U. americana that was there when I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago. There is no sign of it now.

We are in the midst of the latest city street tree census, Trees Count!2015 This noble life form, however, is not a street tree…


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