The 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. The 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.
Posts Tagged 'Dead Horse Bay'
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, plants
Wellllll… not exactly. Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) pods posed to show off their curls.So 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.Here’s a list, which we must presume is only partial, of insects that enjoy this tree.The cut-out portion of seed pod, and the bug.
Tags: beetles, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, insects, invertebrates
A 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.
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, Green-Wood
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:Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Ruddy 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).Another view of a Turnstone, this time without the magic light of sundown on it.Back 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.OK, 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.This 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.
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay, Floyd Bennett Field, reptiles
Saturday was an epic day of nature exploration here in the wide world of the Borough of Brooklyn. In the morning, I took a friend and her mother birding in Prospect Park. We saw some 44 species of birds, a good-turn out for our visiting Virginia birder. In the late afternoon, I joined two other friends to explore Dead Horse Bay and the North Forty at Floyd Bennett Field. 50 species noted, with some overlap. All told, I spent about 9 hours walking, wandering, watching, and listening. This is Return-A-Gift Pond at Floyd Bennett Field. Near sunset, there were 23 Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) hanging out here (another friend had counted twice as many earlier in the day; check out his picture of this same tree absolutely fruited with the birds).This single Great Egret (Ardea alba) was completely outnumbered. Now, Night-herons, as their name suggests, do their best work after sunset. And after sunset, the spring peepers emerge. Vocally, that is. There are a few off-trail wetland spots in the North Forty, but the majority of these little frogs are right there at Return-a-Gift, throbbing the night with their calls. Even with the nearby sounds of Flatbush Avenue and frequent JFK jets blasting overhead, the sound of the massed frogs was profoundly impressive. I made a recording.
But this was not the only sound of twilight. The choral frogs were seconded by soloist American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) a-courting. We heard their “peent” calls on the ground and then the dry whispery twittering they do in the air. It’s the males, showing off — I suppose “sounding off” is a better description. It was all about the sound for us hominids, anyway, although we did see one in the sky, with the curve of the moon behind him, and then we saw one plummet back down to earth just above the lighter path in front of us a couple of times.A male Downy Woodpecker scooted out of this nest hole complex, attempting to draw us away, we thought, so it was a command we complied with.
Something unexpected: I heard the briefest bit of what I thought was the crowing of a Ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). I haven’t heard this sound in something like 35 years (they were common around the house when I was in high school), but it is distinctive. The species was introduced to North America as a game bird; there was an effort once at Green-Wood Cemetery to release them there for ornamental purposes. They are generally wiped out by predators, including cats. Anyway, I wasn’t 100% confident that that’s what I heard, but later I had found out another birder had heard the bird there earlier, and that was enough for me.
Waiting for the fairly reliable Q35, our binoculars all packed away, we watched something with huge wings fly heavily across Flatbush above us in the nine oclock dark towards us the Bay. Egret, heron, the Owl of Minerva? Whatever it was, it was a great nightcap.