Posts Tagged 'birds'

Audubon Part II

audubonThe second of three John James Audubon exhibits is up at the New-York Historical Society. These are the original watercolors JJA did for his printer in England. Go! (I snapped a few details before being busted by museum security; since I wasn’t using a flash, I thought it would be ok.)audubonIt was a curious experience to see several species I’d just seen in Texas for the first time, for example Long-billed Curlew, Reddish Egret, and Lincoln’s Sparrow. And…somewhat unsatisfying. Nothing beats the actual individual animal. This, of course, is hardly fair to any representation, but JJA is often much too dramatic — all those twisted neck poses — for me. Not to take too much away from JJA’s towering achievement, however, which remains impressive indeed.audubonThe only dead bird JJA portrayed that wasn’t the prey of another species was this Eskimo Curlew, which has what I think is a haunting binomial, Numenius borealis. (Numenius: new moon, for the shape of the bill, but so close to numinous!) Haunting because the species is now considered extinct, with the last confirmed sighting half a century ago (as someone who was born half a century ago and destined to go extinct myself…). They ate blueberries, people, blueberries! It is of course coincidental that JJA portrayed one member of this species as dead; the birds were plentiful in his day, as were the Passenger Pigeons; this is just one of those damnable ironies of history. All the birds he used as models were dead, the standard operating procedure before photography and binoculars. He was a re-animator.

Snow Goose

snow1A Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) was on Prospect Lake today. They are not uncommon in Jamaica Bay during the winter months, but don’t visit interior Brooklyn very often. Chen caerulescensAmong the most abundant waterfowl on the continent, Snow Geese are often seen in huge numbers on fallow fields and wetlands.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Tyrannus forficatusYowza! Kinda gobsmacking, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Tyrannus forficatusTyrannus forficatus is a backyard bird in Texas.Tyrannus forficatusWe say them every day. They’re the state bird of Oklahoma, too, where my mother was born. See it on the OK quarter. Tyrannus forficatusThe males have longer tails, and more intense coloring. Look for the orange underwings. And those salmon flanks!Tyrannus forficatusThe tail looks absurd, shameless showboating, and in the males the length is probably a marker for females, but these forked tails also make for sharp mid-air acrobatics, stalling and turning, just the thing for taking insects on the wing.Tyrannus forficatusIt’s Earth Day. Of course, here at Backyard and Beyond, every day is Earth Day. I hope you’re subscribing to these posts to celebrate with me.

Bill Strategies

Rynchops nigerBlack Skimmer (Rynchops niger) with Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla).Recurvirostra americanaAmerican Avocet (Recurvirostra americana).Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa).Ajaja ajajaRoseate Spoonbill (Ajaja ajaja).Egretta rufescens, Himantopus mexicanusReddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) and Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus).Numenius americanusWait for it…Numenius americanusNumenius americanusLong-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus).Numenius americanusSome of the birds at an afternoon’s stop at the Hans & Pat Suter Wildllife Refugue in Corpus Christi.Numenius americanusYou know you can subscribe to these posts, don’t you, for free? I hear they are something of a welcome addition to people’s morning emails.

Brooklyn Update

PrunusWhen my plane descended into LaGuardia last Monday, there were a lot of gray/brown still-wintering trees in evidence. I’d just come from southern-most Texas, where spring was fully in motion, but things are stirring here, too.Polygonia interrogationisQuestion Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) amid the weeping cherries, which were throbbing with honeybees, and an occasional bumble.Bellamya chinensisThe nacreous heart of a Chinese Mystery/Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis). Who doesn’t like saying “nacreous heart”?Mergus serratorI don’t think I’ve ever seen a Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) out of the water. Note those large feet, set rather far back, and good for diving. Quiscalus quisculaTotally fell for the Great-tailed Grackles down south, but the Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) still has a place in my heart. Falco peregrinusYou may know that I live between two Peregrine falcon scrapes. (Geography is relative.) There is something going on in the 55 Water Street location, either a youngster already or an adult moving. And there this one — note the band/ring — is perched on the construction site across the street from the House of D. Keeping an eye on the home front amid the grooming.Gownus CanalThe Superfund Gowanus Canal. Habitat.Megaceryle alcyonA male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was fishing in that industrial toilet, diving for the little fish that come in with the tide. Prunus

Owl in the Hole

Bentsen State ParkTwilight. We were in Bentsen State Park, looking for Elf Owls (Micrathene whitneyi). These are our smallest owls, 1.4oz (compare with House Sparrow, .98oz, and Great Horned Owl, 3.1lb). There was a nest in a snag, perhaps originally carved out by a woodpecker. An owl was periodically poking out as the sun set. Micrathene whitneyi“Owl in the hole!” The distinctive “eyebrows” are visible even in this long-shot in low light. The other half of the pair showed up just as our human vision began to fail in the dark. We heard the birds calling as they prepared to hunt through the night.

Lesser Nighthawks were also in the air, zooming after insects. These southwestern nighthawks have more rounded wings and a white wing bar nearer the wingtip than the slightly larger Common Nighthawk. We heard the yip of coyotes in the distance and the onomatopoeic call of a Chuck-will’s-widow, very near. We were also on the look-out for Common Pauraques, another night-flying insectivore, found only in the southeastern tip of Texas (in the U.S., anyway). One did fly over our heads, heading downwards to the road, but we would have better views another day. Bentsen doesn’t allow cars (there’s a large golf cart type of tram during the day), giving us the freedom of the night road. There were a few fireflies. We heard the distinctive tremolo of an Eastern Screech Owl, which came to investigate us.

A magical night, with only a few mosquitoes and Ninja-garbed La Migra agents (as omnipresent in the Rio Grande Valley as Great-tailed Grackles). We had been accidentally locked out of our van; as we waited for the lock-popper, we looked at all four Galilean moons of Jupiter through a spotting scope.

Rio Grande Valley

Egretta tricolorA Tricolor Heron (Egretta tricolor) prowling the Laguna Madre off Padre Island.

I’ve returned from more than a week in south Texas and I have many pictures to sort though. Stay tuned for news of the 68 new-to-me bird species I saw and other excitements.Quiscalus mexicanusGreat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus, omnipresent throughout the trip.

Turkey

Meleagris gallopavoDo you know how many times I’ve kept my eye out for this semi-wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in Battery Park over the years? She has bee there for some time now — their mini-farm is even roughly turkey-shaped — but this is the first I’ve ever run across her. You’d think, considering the size the of the beast…Meleagris gallopavoAnyway, voilà! Turkey.

They, whoever they are, have presumed to have given her a name, but you won’t hear it repeated by me.

Portrait

Agelaius phoeniceusA female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). An example of one of the most extreme sexual differences found among species in our area.

Zygodactylism

Picoides pubescensThat tap-tap-tapping coming from the Phragmites is usually a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). Note those long toenail claws. Woodpeckers have zygodactyl toes, two pointing forward, two back. Most birds, the Passerines, or song birds, have three forward, one back. Picoides pubescens


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