Archive Page 2


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.

Sumer is icumen in

Sphecius speciosusI’ve heard a few Dog Day Cicadas (Tibicen) recently, at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and here in Cobble Hill, but it’s still early. In anticipation, the Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus) have begun to emerge. Males are generally seen first; they’re out to claim nesting territory.

I saw my first CKW of the summer on Tuesday. I assumed it was male since it looked so small. Wednesday before the monsoon I saw one in the same place. It really favors this wheel. If you look closely at the rear leg below, there seem to be spurs there at the joint, evidently a characteristic of females. Also, this view nicely shows the two pairs of wings, a defining characteristic of the Hymenoptera.

While scary to some people because of their size, these digger wasps are quite harmless to people.

NYC Is Wild?

IMG_3480I’ll say! Here’s typical American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) habitat in the city. That rectangular gap in the bracket is the entrance to a nest from which at least two youngsters fledged this year. North America’s smallest falcon species has really taken to such rotting cornices here in NYC: I know of three nests within a two mile radius of where I live in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the habit of cutting down dead trees (snags), with their cavity-nest possibilities, out in the “country” means that urban Kestrels actually seem to be doing better than than their country cousins. Here’s a Two-spotted Ladybug (Adalia bipunctata) laying her eggs on a leaf in Brooklyn Bridge Park as dozens of people walk by. This is a species that has seen a marked decline, probably because of the introduction of invasive ladybug species. When I reported my discovery of these beetles in BBP to the Lost Ladybug Project a few years ago, it was one of only a bare handful of New York state locations for this insect in their database.Troglodytes aedonHouse Wren (Troglodytes aedon) at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refugee, in Queens (and a bit of Brooklyn), an absolutely amazing thing to have within the city’s bounds.Troglodytes aedonI could go on. I have gone on for five years on this blog. NYC is wild! meadowThe brand new meadow at Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I was privileged to have a preview of this past weekend.

Meanwhile, there’s a contest marking the 120th year of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the city’s four zoos and single aquarium. It’s sort of a treasure hunt: find and photograph 120 wild things in the city. (120? That’s an undercount that would lead to legal action if this was a census.) Actually, it’s all about the animals in these institutions, most of them far from home. Their use of the hashtag #NYisWild is what started me on these thoughts. They’re perpetuating the fallacy that the place to find wild things in the city is on display behind a cage or glass panel. Considering these places tout their educational function, this is a great pity.

Of course, there’s very good work being done by the WCS; but I just don’t think zoos are a particularly fruitful aspect of that work. And, not to drag up the mud of the past here, just because it’s the earth from which we came, but “the zoo” has much to atone for: consider Ota Benga, kidnapped from Congo and displayed in the Bronx. In 1906.

Recently at Bush Terminal Park, I heard a parent tell her child that the Osprey nesting platform there was for albatrosses. She’s probably seen them on TV.

British Birds II

Erithacus rubeculaRobin (Erithacus rubecula). Yup, looks nothing like ours.Turdus merulaThe Blackbird (Turdus merula), on the otherhand, is much like our American Robin (Turdus migratorius), an omnipresent thrush.Aythya fuligulaTufted Duck (Aythya fuligula).Larus fuscusLesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus): we’re seeing more and more of these birds on this side of the Atlantic.Fringilla coelebsChaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the source of the frog-call.Motacilla albaPied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), a bird we encountered in every habitat; here it’s in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Anthus pratensisI was puzzled by this bird and asked three different couples sporting binoculars to help me identify it. The first insisted it was a House Sparrow. Ahem. The third couple and I agreed on Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis).

Everywhere You Look

HisteridaeFound in the salad spinner after washing some organic lettuce. A Histeridae family beetle, also known as hisser or clown beetles, even though they don’t wear much makeup. They eat the larvae of flies.OpuntiaA late-blooming Prickly Pear (Opuntia), one of my favorite local flowers. Speyeria cybeleA very beat-up Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), a new species for me. They’re rare in the city; this was at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and seemed to be flying pretty well, considering.Malaclemys terrapinDiamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) also at JBWR.Malaclemys terrapinOur only brackish water turtle. Only the females come to land, to lay their eggs. This one was heading back to the bay, so presumably she had spent the night digging a nest. Considering most of the JBWR nests are plundered by Raccoons (introduced by the highway), best wishes to her. MutillidaeI thought at first this was a large, fast-moving ant, but it’s actually a Red Velvet Ant of the Mutillidae family. Pardon the common name, these are actually wasps and are supposed to have a fierce sting, leading to their alternate name of, head’s up, people, “Cow Killer.” (This is why we have a telephoto lens.) Females are wingless; the winged males look a little more waspy. The larvae are ectoparasites on other wasps, including Cicada Killer Wasps.

British Birds I

Buteo buteoOn our very first day in Edinburgh, we wandered about the Royal Botanic Garden in a jet-lagged daze. An accipiter profile high overhead was one of the day’s first birds. Sparrowhawk presumably. A Kestrel made an appearance, but more on these anon. And a Buzzard (Buteo buteo) was seen twice, the second time being mobbed by corvids. Prunella modularisMeanwhile a Dunnock (Prunella modularis) crumbed about around our snacks. An old name for this species was Hedge Sparrow.Ardea cinereaGrey Herons (Ardea cinerea) were a daily sight, starting with two on our first day.Corvus coroneCarrion Crow (Corvus corone) youngster being fed.Pica picaAnother Corvidae clan member, a Common Magpie (Pica pica). Columba palumbusWood Pigeon (Columba palumbus), like a giant cousin of the more familiar:Columba liviaThe Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), a.k.a. Feral Pigeon, on more or less native ground.


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