On a blooming goldenrod, the only visible flower around, a single bumblebee. It was warm enough yesterday for invertebrates, but they have damn few places to feed. This bee did seem a little sluggish, but it was roused by the proximity of my phone camera, and buzzed a short distance away, and then returned as soon as I retreated. (But what are those running down the wire fence, eggs?) This wasp, too, was moving slowly, practically crawling along the sidewalk.
But here was something moving swiftly: a small bird being chased by a Common Raven. At first, I thought it must be a Kestrel, a species I’ve seen go after much bigger birds over its territory; sometimes the tables are turned and the larger bird chases away the little falcon. But binoculars revealed the bird here to be a pigeon. And a second raven joined in the chase. (This must be the pair I’ve seen here since the beginning of the year.) I’ve never seen ravens go after prey before; generally, they are scavengers and carrion-eaters. The chase was dramatic enough to stop a soccer game as the players watched the aerial acrobatics. The pigeon shot into an open-air staircase in the old warehouse, and the ravens followed it in, as if they were all flying into tunnel. After a few minutes, no more than five, the ravens emerged. Had they caught and eaten the bird in that time? Was it squab for Thanksgiving? That didn’t seem like enough time, but then I don’t know how ravens would eat a fresh bird. Raptors pluck away feathers with their down-curved bills and then rip up pieces of flesh with same, but ravens don’t have such bills. Well, whatever happened in there, it was thrilling as always to see these huge corvids, toughing it out in a non-traditional landscape.
Published November 18, 2015
Tags: birding, birds, Green-Wood
As I finished photographing the leaves I posted yesterday, I heard a leaf being crunched behind me. I turned and saw this Woodcock (Scolopax minor) wobbling along. Before the bird settled down, I had a fine view of its beautiful cinnamon-tinged belly.
This has been the third weekend in a row I’ve seen Woodcock in Green-Wood. A week ago, there were half a dozen. This past Sunday, this was the only one I saw, or heard. Green-Wood is a good place to avoid the Woodcock hunting season in NYS.
The broad-winged hawks of the genus Buteo are named after the Latin name of the Common Buzzard. If that sentence doesn’t open up a can of Annelida, I don’t know what will. Buteo simply means “hawk.” There is a North American species called the Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus). Here in the U.S. “buzzard” is another name for either of our two vulture species — the English colonialists were not familiar with such soaring carrion-eaters in the old country, so they slapped a name they knew on them. That was Buzzard, from the Eurasian hawk known to the systematists as Buteo buteo. “Buzzard” itself comes from the French busard.
The pictured bird is our most common hawk, the Red-tailed (Buteo jamaicensis). Having seen B. buteo in its native range, I can say these big soaring hawks act rather similarly. Those broad wings are perfect for soaring overhead on the thermals in great loops over the landscape, eye-balling the prey below.