Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

Always Check That Bird

IMG_3659Because the assumption “pigeon” may usually be correct, but it isn’t always. Something about that silhouette…Falco peregrinusPeregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).Falco peregrinusAt the top of 1st Avenue. You may remember that on January 1st, I found a pair of Ravens (Corvus corax) courting near here. Lately, four Ravens have been seen in the area, so presumably the nest-building seen in March led to good things, the first Ravens born in Brooklyn in… forever? Traditionally a species of highlands, Ravens are now adapting to urbanity. (I’m still hunting for a picture of the family.) But on that first day of the year, I also saw a Peregrine, streaking down 39th St. Good continuity. The Peregrine is traditionally also a bird of highlands, nesting on cliff faces, but following their reintroduction have taken surprisingly well to the canyons of cities.

A Great Wall

wallSunset Park is buttressed by a rough stone retaining wall that has become the home of numerous lifeforms. Above is the southwest-facing flank. wallNEHere’s the northeast wall, along 41st St. That’s where all the following were found:LichenThe presence of lichen, which doesn’t tolerate pollution, means the air here is relatively good. Indeed, elevated near the top of the Harbor Hill Moraine, the park catches the harbor breezes very nicely.Sagina subulataThere are numerous clumps of Scotch Moss (Sagina subulata), which isn’t a moss but rather a flowering plant.fernHaven’t yet figured out which fern this is. A spleenwort perhaps? Parthenocissus quinquefoliaVirginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).Halysidota larrisiiThe caterpillar of the Sycamore Tussock Moth (Halysidota larrisii). Wikipedia says these can cause hives; this Auburn entomology page says nix to that, while listing other “stinging” caterpillars.’

“Stone wall, Sunset Park ……… $50,000″ from the May 10, 1906, edition of The City Record. Would love to know where these stones came from.

Windhover

Falco tinnunculusA Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the “dapple-dawn-drawn-falcon,” as Hopkins alliterated to the nth degree, hovering over the Northumberland beach. IMG_2779Hopkins’s poem The Windhover, although another of his mash notes to his Invisible Boyfriend, captures something of the impression made by these birds hovering with head to the wind and eyes to the ground, searching for prey. But then so does the non-canonical nickname, cited in Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, of “windfucker.”Falco tinnunculusThe first bird pictured is a male. This is a female, looking like she’d made a splash, paralleling the edge of a golf course near Bamburgh Castle.BamburghHover-hover-hover-hover, swoop down on prey or swoop down to take up another hovering position further along. Lovely to watch them in action. (I was not quick enough to get a picture of one perched on a sign warning of the dangers of unexploded ordnance.)Calton HillA third sighting was along the flank of Edinburgh’s monument-studded Calton Hill. We had just descended and were looking up to from David Hume’s tomb.
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The American Kestrel (F. sparverius), which is a more colorful bird, does the same thing. The grasslands at Floyd Bennett Field are one of the best places to see them do this in the city.

Sandstone and Basalt

IMG_3353Kind of hot for blogging, wot? Let’s take a dip in the North Sea: this is Greymare Rock, also known as Saddle Rock and the Whale’s Belly, just south of Dunstanburgh Castle. It’s made up of buckled layers of sandstone, the same sandstone used to build the nearby castle. IMG_3345 The castle itself, a ruin now, was built on an exposed ridge of basaltic Whinn Sill, a natural wall to the sea. Brilliant budgeting, that. IMG_3351The pale discoloration in the far distance on the cliff is guano from birds. The cliff hosts a nesting colony of Kittiwakes.

An Errant Whooper and A Quiz

IMG_2822As we neared the near-end of our first day’s walk along the Northumberland Coast, we spotted two swans in the distance. One was a familiar Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), invasive in the U.S., but native in the UK (and very present on the Tweed, where we started our walk) and the other, pictured below, a Whooper (C. cygnus).Cygnus cygnusNote the projection of yellow below the nostrils, a good field mark when comparing with the similar looking but smaller Tundra or Bewick’s Swan (C. columbianus). Whoopers are general seen in the UK during migration, so this one was late or dawdling, with only a few breeding in the north. (The North American Trumpeter Swan (C. buccinator) is closely related but has a black bill.)

IMG_2433Less of a quiz than a mystery, to me anyway. Spotted this one in the Royal Botanical Garden. What is it?

Stinkhorns

MutinusStinkhorns in Sunset Park. Genus Mutinus, but I’m not sure of the species, caninus, ravenelii? These are not all that unfamiliar in the urban context: mulched areas of parks are a good place to find them. These mushrooms, of the Phallaceae family, are atypical fungi: they produce a stinky slime to attract flies, who then help distribute the fungal spores. MutinusThe flies buzzed off when I took the pictures.

Even More British Birds

 Emberiza schoeniclusA very vocal male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) popped out of the dunes. Sternula albifronsAt Long Nanny along the Northumberland shore, we ran into a fence across the beach. As we were trying to figure out the best way to proceed, a volunteer National Trust ranger emerged from the dunes, where she’d had her eye on us. She was guarding the beach nesters, Little Terns (Sternula albifrons) and Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). The Little Tern is another species in decline, with some 1900 breeding pairs in the UK. Unleashed dogs, egg collectors (illegal, but these characters are often sociopaths if not psychopaths), habitat destruction, etc. are all a problem. She said we could pass by as close to the water as possible, then “paddle” across the low tide rush of the Nanny pouring into the sea. But first she invited us to see the nesting birds. At the time, there was one nesting Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) there. The pictured bird was actually another example of the species, resting not nesting nearby. On July 1, 18 chicks and 30 more eggs were reported. SylviaWhen I saw this new-to-me bird, I said to myself that I would name it a Whitethroat. Bingo! Sylvia communis. But then I turned the page and there was a Lesser Whitethroat (S. curruca). Uh-oh. I still think it’s the communis. Correct me if I’m wrong.Certhia familiarisTreecreeper (Certhia familiaris), another new bird for me. A couple of young, with tail feathers not yet fully developed, were also leapfrogging between trees with this adult.Vanellus vanellusNorthern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) at the island end of the Holy Island causeway. A species that has suffered significant declines and is now listed as Red by the RSPB, meaning it has the highest conservation priority. We saw two.Somateria mollissimaSeveral female Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) shepherding a whole flotilla of their (?) young.


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  • "Verbositas praesentis saeculi, calamitas artis." ~ Linnaeus 10 hours ago
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