Nice contrast between the altricial young of the American Robin, with their eyes closed, featherless, and quite helpless, and the precocial Mallard ducklings, who are ready to rock (and swim, forage) almost instantly. Note how much bigger-looking the background bird is in the Robin nest: could this be a Cowbird or just an earlier hatch?
I have amped up the technology. These are from a PowerShot SX50 HS, which has a MUCH better lens than my workhorse PowerShot G9. I’ve been testing on these easy birds. The rather more difficult Marsh Wren of earlier this week was a capture with this new rig.
A early evening walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park interrupted by a small, incessantly burbling bird at the northernmost of the Freshwater Garden ponds on Pier One. I spent quite a while listening and trying to get a picture of this elusive Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris), a bird fairly common in marshy areas, but not so much on the East River (any more). Generally elusive to the eye, the birds are easier to hear. They may sing all night.This was the second best shot — actually the only other shot — the helpful eyebrow is at least visible. But, all told, this was largely an aural discovery.
Is this the first sighting of this species here in BBP? See comments for the answer.
Underneath a bridge in Prospect Park, little mud pellets mark the beginning of a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) nest. Interestingly, the swallows seem to be using an old Organpipe Mud Dauber wasp nest as a brace or support.Five days later, the cup-like nest is coming along. A few bits of twig or the like seem to have been added to the mix as well. Seven days later. The darker portion is fresher mud, still damp. This shot from almost directly underneath, to show how far it sticks out from the wall.
It’s surprisingly dark under here — these pictures were taken with flash — so a better place to see these swallows nesting is at the Boathouse, where they build their nests in plain sight underneath the building’s eaves. The proximity to water is no accident. That’s where you will usually see these birds acrobatically coursing after airborne insects.
The most-widespread species of swallow in the world, the Barn Swallow almost exclusively nests on human structures. What did they do before humans? And, considering they breed across Eurasia, did they have a feather in inspiring pottery, or at least the earliest unfired agglomeration of pieces of clay air-dried in the sun?
Down underneath Pier One at Brooklyn Bridge Park is another place Barn Swallows nest. This is right next to Barge Music, where you may see the birds perching on their tiny feet on the rusting hull.
Sassafras, as you may know, is one of those unusual native trees that has variable leaf shapes. Three leaf types show up on the same tree: unlobed, single lobed, or double-lobed. These Sassafras albidum at Brooklyn Bridge Park all seem to leaf-out initially with the longish oval unlobed leaves, the lobed mitteny ones coming with the second wave. The roots of this species used to flavor root beer, until compounds in the root were found carcinogenic; artificial flavorings are now used mixed with corn syrup, which is no improvement in my book. Sassafras roots and bark are wonderfully aromatic, as medicine and cosmetic producers have long known.
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), also known as Cowslip, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where this perennial was planted along the freshwater gardens and continues to thrive, having survived the salty inundation of Sandy.
Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), growing all over the place, in this case in Prospect Park, where it wasn’t planted but spreads like wildfire under its own invasive engine.
Both of these plants are in the Buttercup family, Ranunnculaceae, so it isn’t surprising that they should be similar, with long stems, heart-shaped leaves with some toothiness, and, most obviously, the shiny yellow buttercuppy flowers. The LC has 8-12 petals and smaller leaves. Technically, MM doesn’t have petals, but it does have 5-9 petal-like sepals, usually the star-like five as above; its leaves look twice as large as the LC’s.
Also known as May apple, hog apple, mayflower, Indian apple, umbrella plant, American mandrake, among other names. It is Podophyllum peltatum to the botanists. Each of these plants will produce a single flower, which blossoms underneath the umbrella of leaves. The plant also reproduces asexually, via rhizomes underground, which is why it is often found in carpet-like patches in the woods. It’s a woodlands ephemeral, emerging before most of the deciduous trees around it leaf out and hog the sun. It’s more or less poisonous, although the fruit can be tolerated in small amounts (not that you should be eating the park; there isn’t enough of it!); it’s this range of toxicity that has been exploited in Native American and folk medicine, since it can be used as an emetic, cathartic, and de-worming agent. Now, back to breakfast.
This Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) was bathing in Brooklyn Bridge Park the other day.Then it preened, in those hard-to-get-to corners.Most of the passerines, of the order Passeriformes — who make up more than half of all bird species — have twelve tail feathers.This bird looks black from a distance, but blues, browns, purples, and greens all can be seen close up as the iridescent feathers bounce back a rainbow. Remember that birds can see a wider range of spectrum than we can, so this probably looks pretty spectacular to another grackle.Hey, good lookin’! Bathed and preened, our bird surveys his kingdom. Grackles like the company of grackles, and often congregate and nest in pine trees; at least one pair nested in the park last year (although not in a pine). They are often seen on the ground, noisily tossing leaves out of the way as they search for food — they’ll eat almost anything. Their long keel-like tails mark them out in flight.
Still visible on some bare trees out there, these hanging gardens are the cocoons of a bagworm moth in the family Psychidae.
There’s a caterpillar in here who made this hanging tent of leaves last year so it could overwinter. There are some 1300-plus known members of the Psychidae world-wide. The better known in our region use conifers, but some will use deciduous trees, gathering material from the tree to make the shaggy cocoon.
I had at first thought these some new to me form of gall, but bugguide.net set me right.