Posts Tagged 'birds'

Common Yellowthroat

Geothlypis trichasA male Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), one of this year’s young. He was picking and pecking into that metal grill, which had collected leaves behind it, and hence some invertebrates.

Heron Trio

IMG_7772From back to front, a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret, and a Snowy Egret. Salt-marshing in Brooklyn.

Heron. Egret. What’s the difference? “Egret” comes from the Fr. aigrette, which seems to have come out the Old High German heigir, which means… heron. But then you know a hawk from a handsaw, right? Hamlet should have said herounceau, a young heron, but then that’s an Old French word and he was Danish, although he spoke in English. Shakespearean English, no less. What a confused puppy. So if you can’t tell a hawk from a heron, you’re in big trouble. And clearly not a subscriber to this blog. What are you waiting for? The half-price sale? It’s on now!

Bobolink

Dolichonyx oryzivorusBobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) perching at Marine Park Nature Center. This is the adult, non-breeding plumage. The species migrates to southern South America. Like many grassland species, its numbers are dropping because of habitat loss.

Elegy for Martha

One hundred years ago today, Martha died of old age in Cincinnati. She was 29 years old and had been raised since birth in captivity. She never reproduced.the_passenger_pigeonMartha was the last of her species, the Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). Of course, by the time of her demise, the species was already functionally extinct in the wild. She was the coda, the famous last one perching. From billions to one to none in a century. Just thirty years previously, hunters were killing 50,000 Passenger Pigeons a day at one of the last big breeding sites, in Michigan. And further back, in 1813 Kentucky, J.J. Audubon and company famously saw them darken the sky for three days running. There were more Passenger Pigeons, it has been estimated, then there are now birds of all migratory species in North America. passenger_pigeon_slaughter 1884But isn’t there something wrong with those numbers? They don’t seem right: how could that kind of population be sustained? It probably couldn’t have, and may very well have been a result of the radical transformation of the colonial American landscape in the first place. European settlers quickly reduced the pigeon’s competitors — mice, squirrel, turkey, deer, etc., and of course the local humans — for mast — acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, etc. — setting the stage for an astonishing boom. The inevitable bust, however, was driven to extremity by a combination of forest clearance and unparalleled slaughter. The photo above is from late in the game, the late 1880s, after a slaughter for this cheap source of protein.

So when you remember this lonely caged pigeon today, think of the whole continent, the whole world, behind her. That’s what is gone.

Common Nighthawks

Chordeiles minorIt’s been a difficult week. But one of the highlights was on Thursday, when a friend and I went into Prospect Park in the late afternoon. Just before sunset, we were in the Nethermead. Overhead, the chittering of many Chimney Swifts was heard as the little birds darted all over the sky taking their last meals of the day. And then suddenly, nighthawks! Chordeiles minor are much larger than swifts, with long pointy wings and long tails, making them look somewhat falcon-like. But their fast, loopy, erratic flight is all their own. I counted seven at once, whirling through the air as they gobbled after insects in the aether. Another group of birders counted twice that many over time. These photos are mediocre, but hopefully hint at the setting sun’s under-lighting of the russety undersides of the birds, and their distinctive wing patch-stripes.Chordeiles minorThey are on the move now, to their wintering grounds in South America.

A quintessential summer evening bird, this is a species in decline. It’s one of the species mentioned in this excellent op-ed by the head of the Cornell Lab. A must-read.

Great Crested Flycatcher

Myiarchus crinitusAlways a nice surprise to get a good look at a Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), since they are usually at tree-top level. I thought this might be a migrant, and it may well be, but it should be noted that there are breeding records for the species in Prospect. They are the only cavity-nesting flycatcher in the U.S. The bright sun is making its neck look too white; the birds are more gray in the feather.

Spotted (or Not) and Streaky

Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius) — no spots once they’ve moved out of their breeding plumage — are patrolling the edges of fresh water bodies now during migration. Parkesia noveboracensisAlso along the watery edges these days are Northern Waterthrushes (Parkesia noveboracensis).


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