Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

Winter Sounds

Sciurus carolinensisOver all, the wind in the trees, like an overtone. Cardinals chipping. Blue Jays screeching. Two trees, or perhaps trunks of the same, rubbing together. The tapping of a woodpecker. White-thoated Sparrows scratching in the leaves. The gnawing of a squirrel on a nut.

Little, Big

Passerculus sandwichensisA Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) looks somewhat like the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), but with a shorter tail. There is also usually a yellow cast to the lores. Passerculus sandwichensisA couple were atop the old landfill at Croton Point recently.

I went looking for Bald Eagles. There was a dearth of them for over an hour. Although three adult Red-Tailed Hawks at the train station kept me busy. Later I saw, in this order, a juvenile Red-tailed perching on one of the thing metal posts on the hill; a Norther Harrier floating low over the hill, and then:Haliaeetus leucocephalusThis adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has a late-afternoon fish snack in its claws. A little later, from the top of the hill, I counted seven soaring eagles.

Insistent Kinglet(s)

I have had two run-ins with Ruby-crowned Kinglets recently in Brooklyn Bridge Park. These birds are called kinglets because they are little kings, fearless creatures. They are the birds I’ve always gotten closest too; or, put another way, they are birds that have always gotten closest to me. Easily within hand’s reach. They have other concerns.

One was circling the little pond on Pier One on a chilly late afternoon.The crown, or crest, is also why they’re called kinglets. You often don’t see this since they can control its flaring. This bird had a thin line of scarlet running back along his head. It looked like a wound in the greenish gray of the plumage, cut into the brain. The bird was moving quickly, circling the pond, reed-to-reed, searching for food. December: invertebrate prey is rare. But there are egg masses and larvae in cocoons. It looked like this bird got three somethings in the several minutes I watched him. One sure sign was the wipe of the bill on both sides of a branch, cleaning the goo off. It took a lot of moving, though, to get that food.

The other sighting was more surpassing. This bird’s crest was vast, filling most of the top of his head. He was flying up against the very reflective metal of the Jane’s Carousel sign. Repeatedly. He was, in short, being territorial, trying to chase off another particularly persistent male Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Um, which was of course himself. I’ve heard of similar cases, but this was the first time I’ve seen this.

Now, testosterone in birds is usually a seasonal roller-coaster. Breeding season brings a surge of the stuff, which is associated with song ability and territory-staking. There shouldn’t be as much in winter (gonads, which are unneeded weight outside of the breeding season, physically shrink substantially in many migratory species). But this boy was hopped-up, flaring with ruby/scarlet/red. I generally take the Prime Directive in my interaction with nature, i.e. leaving it alone, but this seemed like a case where some interruption would be appropriate. This bird was spending a lot of energy bouncing off a slab of an unnatural mirror-like surface (I’ll bet the maker never thought of this possibility), energy better spent on food-searching on a very brisk day just a few minutes before sunset. The bird actually flew off before I waved it away, though.

Winter Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca

Lord of All He Surveys

gw2Richard Upjohn’s Gothic-y gate to Green-Wood Cemetery. The Monk Parakeets have colonized it with their massive stick nest. Maybe it reminds them of the Andes?  Myiopsitta monachusOn a recent weekend, the birds were unusually quiet. I spotted half a dozen nearby.Falco sparveriusAnd up there with the lightning rod? Our old friend the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). That made for sightings three weekends in a row.

Dark

Acer saccharinumOur wet days and autumnal leaves are ideal for making for a lot of sidewalk prints. The Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) leaf above the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) leaf below are both particularly good examples.Quercus palustris

A Good Walk

Quercus rubraA good walk in Prospect Park with Ken Chaya, who always adds immeasurably to my knowledge. This young Red Oak (Quercus rubra) was holding on to its youthfully large leaves.Taxodium distichumA particularly nice spread of “knees” of a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). It was once thought that these projections from the roots were pneumatophores, helping the tree breath in the swampy habitat they are native to, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of this. Now the thought is that they are for stability and support.AccipiterThis looks like it came off one of the Accipiters. We did see a Cooper’s high over the Ravine. A single Swamp Sparrow and half a dozen Fox Sparrows were noted, as well as Goldfinches, Purple Finches, White-throated Sparrows, and the usual suspects. Hypsizygus tessulatusKen thought this was an Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus tessulatus). It was certainly high up on the tree, which is a characteristic of the fungi.Falco peregrinusOk, this Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) was some 2000 feet away, but still, it made for a falcon species trifecta over an 8-day week.


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