Published July 16, 2014
Tags: birding, birds, Green-Wood
Upward-facing turtle, with a keen eye on the photographer.
Published July 10, 2014
Tags: birding, birds, Green-Wood
I was struck by the extraordinary amount of bird noise I heard all around me. It’s late in the breeding season, so the territorial and mating songs are mostly done with for the year, but the air was still full of bird calls. Cardinals, Starlings, Mockingbirds, at the least, coming from several trees around me. And then I noticed the cause of all the ruckus:A Red-tailed Hawk perched overhead. One Mockingbird made repeated forays nearby, flashing the white stripes on its wings, buzzing loudly, and landing just about two feet from the bird on the edge of the bare branch the hawk perched on. The hawk seemed to pay no attention to all the fuss. Here it does some belly grooming amid the hullabaloo.
Male Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Very distinctive. Here’s another view of another:The tail is slightly bluish, actually. Great example of pruinosity, the waxy bloom (can be blue, gray, or white) on mature odonates, especially males.
Dragonfly season is upon us. During this weekend wanderings in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Woodlawn Cemetery, I saw Blue Dashers, Eastern Amberwings, Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, Carolina Saddlebags, and the three species pictured here.Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) male.Always exciting to see something I don’t recognize. A male Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes). Check out those cerci at the end of the tail. “Typically mud-bottomed lakes and ponds” says Paulson on this species’ habitat, which is right on: various carp were splashing in the murk of Woodlawn Lake.
When 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.Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) amid the weeping cherries, which were throbbing with honeybees, and an occasional bumble.The nacreous heart of a Chinese Mystery/Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis). Who doesn’t like saying “nacreous heart”?I 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. Totally fell for the Great-tailed Grackles down south, but the Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) still has a place in my heart. You 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.The Superfund Gowanus Canal. Habitat.A male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was fishing in that industrial toilet, diving for the little fish that come in with the tide.
The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) who came to stay? An unusual species for Brooklyn, this bird over-wintered in Green-Wood, and quite locally, too: this is the same tree — snags are perfect habitat for them — I photographed it in back in January. You can see how the red feathers of the head have really come in since January, as the bird has aged out of its first year plumage. Not completely, but getting there. The mature birds look like flags, solid bands of red, black, white. Red-headed males and females look alike, by the way, which isn’t the case with our other, more familiar woodpecker species (Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Yellow-bellied, and Northern Flicker).This species was not recorded as breeding in the city in either the first or second state breeding bird atlases. Those surveys, in fact, generally showed a substantial decrease in the species in the state over the twenty years between surveys, after what is presumed to have been a big drop off since the 19th century. Bull cites an 1881 report of “great numbers” of these woodpeckers, outnumbering the Northern Flickers, at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn; but “nothing remotely resembling these fall flights has been reported in the northeast since the early 1880s.” It is always startling to be reminded that not only were there more species, but the numbers of species we know were greater before our time. (There are records of recent breeding on other parts of Long Island.)Who doesn’t love a redhead?
A female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). Less common in our area than the smaller but otherwise very similar Downy Woodpecker. I find that the best way to differentiate these species is to look at the bill/head size ratio. Note how this bird’s bill is almost as long as her head; the Downy’s bill length is smaller than its head length.Anyway, it was with some surprise that I saw this bird fly to this hole. I didn’t know they nested in the city of five boroughs. The 2nd Atlas of Breeding Birds in NY State, surveyed in the mid-Oughts, had a confirmed Hairy nest in Brooklyn (Prospect Park), but the first (mid-1980s) had none in NYC. This bird was probably just scouting this hole and cavity, which she went all the way into. No sign of a male in the ‘hood at this time. It’s too early for young ‘uns, but the woodpeckers are definitely carving up the trees in preparation (this hole does not look all that fresh). For instance, this Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), pecking out a cavity at a nearby tree.
After yesterday’s depressing post, you may wonder how I can go on. Because I must! B’damn, that’s what makes me human, I think. Says that optipessimist Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”