Posts Tagged 'Dead Horse Bay'

The Dream of Flight



AythyaThe great rafts of scaup that gather in Dead Horse and Gravesend Bays during the winter will soon be heading to breeding areas in the north. AythyaThe males are three-toned. The females are brownish with a touch of white on the cheek. I find separating the Greater (Aythya marilla) and Lesser (Aythya affinis) difficult.

Common Reed

Phragmites australisIt’s certainly photogenic, if nothing else. You don’t find much life in a patch of Phragmites, although Downy Woodpeckers and, as here, a Black-capped Chickadee in winter extremis, peck and poke among the dry stalks for evidence of invertebrates.Poecile atricapillus


Gleditsia triacanthosWellllll… not exactly. Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) pods posed to show off their curls.pod1So I brought these pods home, and two weeks later, they gave birth! Actually, some… thing emerged, cutting out circular escape passages after devouring the no-doubt tasty seeds within.pod2Here’s a list, which we must presume is only partial, of insects that enjoy this tree.pod3The cut-out portion of seed pod, and the bug.pod4


NicrophorusA carrion beeetle, also known as a sexton beetle, of the genus Nicrophorus, from the Greek for “carrier of the dead.” Found this on a mammal corpse on a path at Dead Horse Bay. The carcass was in curious state; some exposed bones were already whitened, but the main part of the body still had leathery skin/fur and did not smell pleasant. (Nothing like the Götterdämmerung of rotted chicken used to bait for carrion beetles here, though.) Not sure what the animal was: didn’t look big enough for adult raccoon; perhaps a feral cat, of which there are plenty in the phragmites.

So these Nicrophorus beetles — there are some 15 species in the U.S. — are remarkable for providing not just a nest egg of carrion for their young, but sticking around to help feed the wee larvae when they are just starting out as squirmy little rotten-flesh eaters.

The mites — you can spot two adults and see some young ones clustering on the beetle body as well — are symbionts, not parasites. Sources of carrion are extremely variable and unpredictable: so the beetles range throughout the landscape searching for it, carrying the mites (of at least four families), who eat fly larvae and couldn’t get around so well otherwise; the fly larvae is competition for the beetle larvae.

Nicrophorus marginatus is the most wide-spread of these beetles, but it’s very similar looking to N. obscurus and N. guttula, and they evidently can’t be separated based on overall appearance according to Bugguide.

Braiding Tide



Breeding season over, shorebirds are heading back south as the migration pendulum swings the other way. Here are a few of the species I saw this week along Brooklyn’s shoreline:Pluvialis squatarolaBlack-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Arenaria interpres, Haematopus palliatusRuddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) and American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), which looks like it’s got a Blue Mussel (which shouldn’t be that hard, the area is littered with them).Arenaria interpresAnother view of a Turnstone, this time without the magic light of sundown on it.Charadrius semipalmatusBack to golden glow of sundown. Here’s a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus). It has one of the smallest bills in the shorebird universe, where specialized foraging strategies have led to all sorts of bill lengths and shapes, from this little nubbin to the outrageous Oystercatcher schnoz.Actitis maculariusOK, so the edge of Sylvan Water in Green-Wood Cemetery isn’t exactly a shoreline, but Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius) are as apt to be found on the edges of freshwater as on brine.Actitis maculariusThis is a juvenile, which entirely lacks the spots of a breeding adult (hey, I don’t name them). And that’s a dragonfly about to be brunch.


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