Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

The Way of All Flesh

IMG_4143The other day I wondered what our Common Ravens are eating. They are greatly attracted to carrion; but how much carrion is found in New York City? This young Raccoon was gone the next day: presumably staff cleaned it away. The natural process of decomposition had already begun. Scavenger wasps and flies that lay their eggs on carrion were at work. IMG_4145Granted, this may gross some people out; but without these insects, without all the other carrion-phages, the bacteria, insects, birds, mammals, we would be neck-high in corpses.




Tramea lacerataThe remains of a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), narrowly missed on the sidewalk.

Straight to the Fish

fishThe design on the sidewalk drains, reminding us that our garbage goes straight to the sea.

Ravens Again

Corvus coraxA pair of Ravens (Corvus corax) sailed on the stiff breeze along the shore of Bush Terminal the other day. This is where I and others have seen and heard them off and on since New Year’s Day. They have an almost floppy wing action, exacerbated by their long finger-like primary feathers. Several hours later on a return visit, a single Raven was seen and heard in the distance.Corvus coraxIt’s thrilling to see these big boisterous birds. They are about the size of Red-tailed Hawks, so substantially bigger than their corvid cousins, the American and Fish Crows. Unlike Crows, they were not regulars in the city until quite recently. But they now breed within the city limits; the first known nest was in Queens; as far as I know, a Brooklyn nest has not been located, even though there was ample evidence of nest material gathering. Ravens with young were seen by others here at Bush Terminal, and in Chelsea in Manhattan this spring and summer. The same birds? I haven’t seen more than two. Occasionally one will fly overhead here at the top of the moraine. A fellow birder photographed three on the Green-Wood entrance gate on Saturday.

The old warehouses along Brooklyn’s coast may act somewhat like cliffs, pushing up the winds to let the birds coast along them. (A pair of Peregrines did the same thing soon after the first sighting of Ravens that morning.)

I have a lot of questions about these birds. How many pairs are in the city? Where do they nest and roost for the night? Two youngsters were seen in Bush Terminal this year; what happened to them? What are they eating? Ravens are generalists when it comes to food, but tend to eat a lot of carrion in the country, via roadkill and hunter by-product; the youngsters especially need lots of protein. I am now reading Bernd Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven to raven-up.IMG_3976Thinking about Ravens got me to writing this about the captives in London.

O You’ve Got Green Eyes

Colias philodiceClouded Sulphur (Colias philodice).

Buggy Days

Oncopeltus fasciatusThe Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on, unsurprisingly, milkweed.Popillia japonicaJapanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) making more Japanese Beetles in a bed of roses.IMG_3955Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) drinking dew. Dolichovespula maculataThose mighty-wood-chewing jaws!


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