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Raptor Wednesday

Falco columbariusThe patience of a Merlin (Falco columbarius).Falco columbariusAnd its knowledge of our presence.Falco columbariusWe walked the wide way around this Ginkgo biloba of a perch in Green-Wood to get this front view.


Antrostomus carolinensisNaturalist Gabriel Willow, whom I explored Monhegan Island and other parts of Maine with last year, spotted a Chuck-will’s-widow in Bryant Park yesterday. This Midtown Manhattan park is a remarkable migrant trap, but this was pretty unusual, so word quickly spread. I managed to get to the park around 3:00, where, amid the dozens of Midtowners and tourists lolling and wandering in the warm sun, a few birders were triangulating on the bird.Antrostomus carolinensisThe bird’s eyes are closed in the strong sunlight. They spend the day perched on branches and hunt airborne insects at night. That tiny-looking beak is actually just the front edge of a huge mouth, all the better for gobbling through the sky like a vacuum-cleaner. (Update: turns out they’ll even take birds! Here’s a report from the Wilson Bulletin and here’s a blurry pic of a Waterthrush in the maw.)

This is the first time I’ve seen one of these, although I’ve heard one before. Their nocturnal song is distinctive: indeed, they say their name (well, more or less).

In 2010, I found a Whip-poor-will in Prospect Park. Since then, these related species have been moved from the Caprimulgus to the Antrostomus genus by the Lord High Taxonomists. Here’s some more on the goatsucker-nightjar-nighthawk complex, including two I saw in Texas last year.


Cyanocitta cristataA Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) shapes a growing nest with its body. “Its” because this could be either male or female, as both work on the nest. Cornell’s All About Birds does say that on average males do more gathering of nesting materials and females more actual nest-building. Note the ribbon: our cast-offs are finding some use.


Sanguinaria canadensisBloodroot. What a name, eh? Sanguinaria canadensis has blood-red sap. (The “root” is actually a rhizome.) The sap has historically been used as a dye and for medicinal purposes. Sanguinaria canadensisThey emerge enveloped by the leaf, then shoot above this protective cloak before opening.
Sanguinaria canadensisLook for these on sunny days when they offer their pollen to early-spring fliers. At night and on overcast days, the flowers close.


Anemone americanaA single blooming Anemone in the leaf litter. But more are on the way.

Some interesting taxonomic issues raised by this one: The genus name for this spring ephemeral used to be Hepatica and some still think it is. Hepatica, meanwhile, is used as the common name; it’s also called Liverleaf or Liverwort. I’m not sure which species, A. americana or A. acutiloba, this particular one is (or is that H. american or H. acutiloba)? [I’m taking this info from Carol Gracie’s Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast.]

Intertidal Zone


Diving into the archives…

Originally posted on Backyard and Beyond:

tidalThe tides increase as you approach the Bay of Fundy. While the average difference between high and low is five feet here in NYC, it’s 10 feet in Maine. This means the state’s rocky shore is full of tidal pools, pockets of water temporarily abandoned as the tide pulls away. Such places are ripe with life. I must give all credit here to guide Gabriel Willow, who rolled over rocks, poked around, and fished up specimens as I snapped photographs. NudibranchHere’s a Nudibranch. These marine gastropods have a shell in their larval stage, but as adults look more like slugs, albeit remarkable colorful and patterned ones. This looks like the a Red-gilled nudibranch, Flabellina pellucida, to me. Size is about 15mm. I’d never seen one in the wild before. maine6Two sea urchins, a thumbnail-sized sea star/starfish, and the eggs (?) of something or other.sea starAnother sea star. The…

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redrockLooking geological, an old tree slowly returns to the elements.


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