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Green Heron Junior

Butorides virescensMy eyes were intent on the edges of the pond, alive with damsel- and dragonflies, so I didn’t see this young Green Heron (Butorides virescens) until it darted away on foot. It didn’t go very far, though. I watched it for a long time as it stalked back and forth along the pond. Butorides virescensThe heavy streaking on the white breast is characteristic of a young bird’s plumage, but the real giveaway here is all the downy fluff still blowing about on the head. Butorides virescens Where was the nest? The parents? Was it already on its own? It hadn’t developed much fear of humans yet; I was about fifteen feet from it, another civilian walked by as I stood there. It was working on its hunting skills:Butorides virescensGrabbing an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) from the air.

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The Prospect heron nest we were watching last month failed. I heard there were several young one day and the next nothing. Raccoons or rats may have gotten to them. It was a very low nest, not as high as they usually build them. As always, the city is a tough neighborhood to raise your young.

Damsels & Dragons

Argia apicalisThe Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis). One and half inches long, found along the Bronx River and further away on woodland paths. I’m getting better at distinguished these wee things, which means getting closer with lens of varying sorts. This is a male. Species IDs include the black hair-line markings on the thorax and the blue of the last three segments of the abdomen (compare with the slightly smaller Azure Bluet below). I saw two other damsels on the same paths and figured I had at least two species between the three different types, but it turned out that there are two variations for the female: Argia apicalisa brown form;Argia apicalisand a blue form. Note the absence of a colorful final trio of segments on the abdomen; there are instead tan lines on top and side of segments 8 and 9. Ed Lam’s Damselflies of the Northeast remains the single best source for nailing the identity of these slender flying jewels.

Single click on these images to get larger versions for more detail.

The Odonata, the order of insects that is made up by damselflies and dragonflies, have ten segments to their abdomens, counting from the thorax. Here’s a male Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum):Enallagma aspersumIn this species, segment 7 is extensively blue, a tell-tale mark. Note also the much wider mid dorsal stripe on the thorax and the large eye spots.
Perithemis teneraOur smallest dragonfly is the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), which is actually smaller, length-wise, than many species of damselflies. But note this thick, thick abdomen: very dragonfly, that, and especially so in the females, as here. This seems like a boom year for the species. Notice, though, that almost all the ones flying low over the edges of local waterbodies are male, staking out their territory and defending it. Their territory: good egg-laying sites. The females, who have splotchy instead of amber wings, are usually found elsewhere, for instance, up in the meadows as in this case, until they venture down for a bout of the ol’ oingo-boingo.

Three More Osprey

Pandion haliaetusThree young Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) bracketed by their parents at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refugee last week. They are on the verge of flying, and what flights! Soon, if they survive the hurdles of fledging and learning to hunt on their own (catching your first big fish must be something!), they will be venturing south into the unknown for the first time. One JBWR Osprey has been satellite-tracked to Venezuela, a journey of about two weeks. Wish these young ones luck. The first year is the hardest.

Freshwater

Perithemis teneraI was enjoying the life above the Duckweed (Lemnaceae) recently, marveling that I’ve never seen so many Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).Pachydiplax longipennisThere were also a few Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), making more Blue Dashers.A damselfly of unknown provenance was depositing eggs.

And then, along the edge of the lake, some disturbance from below. There was an agitated simmering, not quite bubbling. I wondered what it might be. Then, rising, a mass of little black fish, tightly clumped together at the surface, swarming over each other, some half out of the water momentarily. They were feasting on something. fish The individual fish visible on the edges of this mass had serious whiskers, barbels, making me think of some kind of catfish. What the hell, I took the plunge.fishI’m taking a semi-wild guess that these are Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas); what do you think?fishThe barbels are flush to the sides here.LemnaceaeAs an added benefit of my open-handed catch and release, the underside of the Duckweed, some of the smallest flowering plants anywhere, is revealed as purple.

Thoreau’s Birthday

Turdus migratorius

“I saw Brooks Clark, who is now about eighty and bent like a bow, hastening along the road, barefooted, as usual, with an axe in his hand; was in haste perhaps on account of the cold wind on his bare feet. When he got up to me, I saw that besides the axe in one hand, he had his shoes in the other, filled with knurly apples and a dead robin. He stopped and talked with me a few moments; said that we had had a noble autumn and might now expect some cold weather. I asked if he had found the robin dead. No, he said, he found it with its wing broken and killed it. He also added that he had found some apples in the woods, and as he hadn’t anything to carry them in, he put ’em in his shoes. They were queer-looking trays to carry fruit in. How many he got in along toward the toes, I don’t know. I noticed, too, that his pockets were stuffed with them. His old tattered frock coat was hanging in strips about the skirts, as were his pantaloons about his naked feet. He appeared to have been out on a scout this gusty afternoon, to see what he could find, as the youngest boy might. It pleased me to see this cheery old man, with such a feeble hold on life, bent almost double, thus enjoying the evening of his days. Far be it from me to call it avarice or penury, this childlike delight in finding something in the woods or fields and carrying it home in the October evening, as a trophy to be added to his winter’s store. Oh, no; he was happy to be Nature’s pensioner still, and birdlike to pick up his living. Better his robin than your turkey, his shoes full of apples than your barrels full; they will be sweeter and suggest a better tale.” ~ HDT journal entry, 10-20-1857

(Robins, like many other birds no longer considered game, were eaten then.)

Morning Stretch

IMG_5694Upward-facing turtle, with a keen eye on the photographer.

Alarms will sound

I was struck by the extraordinary amount of bird noise I heard all around me. It’s late in the breeding season, so the territorial and mating songs are mostly done with for the year, but the air was still full of bird calls. Cardinals, Starlings, Mockingbirds, at the least, coming from several trees around me. And then I noticed the cause of all the ruckus:Buteo jamaicensisA Red-tailed Hawk perched overhead. One Mockingbird made repeated forays nearby, flashing the white stripes on its wings, buzzing loudly, and landing just about two feet from the bird on the edge of the bare branch the hawk perched on. The hawk seemed to pay no attention to all the fuss. Here it does some belly grooming amid the hullabaloo.


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