Posts Tagged 'Prospect Park'

Flying Now

Vanessa carduiPainted Lady (Vanessa cardui). I’ve posted previously about separating these from the similar American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis); from this view, the four big wing spots mark the Painted; two big spots the American.Enallagma signatumOrange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male. Small and slender, but striking when you see it: at Green-Wood’s Sylvan Water. Enallagma signatumAt the nearby Valley Water, the Orange Bluets were mating. Anax juniusCommon Green Darners (Anax junius) were also reproducing there. Here the male continues to hold the female as she deposits eggs. I have seen females of the species depositing eggs on her own, sans the grip.ThorybesNorthern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades). Enallagama civileI wish there was a special place in hell for the people who just toss their butts any- and everywhere (take a look down street gratings some day). This Familiar Bluet (Enallagama civile) male seems to be less censorious. CercerisA couple of Cerceris genus wasps were hanging out on some rogue squash plants on the edge of the Long Meadow.Pholisora catullusCommon Sootywing (Pholisora catullus) hitting the light just right on pollinator-magnet Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

More Nesting News

Butorides virescensI know of two Green Heron (Butorides virescens) nests in the park, one at eye-level and one way up in the canopy.Butorides virescensThe sloppy-looking pile of sticks precariously thrown about up there seems to work for them. Someone said there were at least four of pair of breeding Green Herons in the park.nest3Didn’t see any activity here, but the mud looks fresh enough: Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica).Hylocichla mustelinaA Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) was working on this, adding a largish piece of white paper something to the mix.Turdus migratoriusAnd, out of the nest, a barely fledged American Robin (Turdus migratorius): speckled breast, no tail feathers to speak of yet, still some down on the head. “Looks like it just got out of bed,” said Molly, and in a sense it had.

Wood Ducks

Aix sponsaA birder named Ben mentioned he’d seen a Wood Duck with ducklings on the Upper Pool the day before, so we were on the lookout. A pair coasted on the water, but it was a single mom in the lily pads who emerged with seven ducklings (and, in fact, she gave the male of the pair a good razzing when he nipped at one of these young; duck sex, btw, is something those raised on Disney would be surprised by). Aix sponsaThere’s been a nest box set up for a few years now, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen or heard of any activity in it. The ubiquitous duck, the Mallard, nests on the ground; this species, though, is a cavity nester, usually in old trees (that first flight-drop for the young can be a doozy), so they’re either using the box rather covertly, or have found a nice old snag. This seems to be is the first time in a long time the species has bred in Prospect. They were not noted in the 2000-2005 breeding bird atlas for Brooklyn (Kings Co.). There is a record in the 1980-1985 atlas, but that doesn’t look like it was in Prospect itself.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that there were Wood Ducklings on Prospect Lake last June and there may be breeders there this year as well. Aix sponsaNow, here at B&B, I make a point of being militantly anti-cute (thus, perhaps, sacrificing a level of popularity, given the adoration of cute animals on the internets), since cuteness implies a hierarchy of worthiness in the animal world, which I think is dead wrong. But, holy duckling-fuzzballs, this is freaking cute! (But don’t count your hatchlings before they get eaten…).

After writing the above, I dipped again into selections of Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary. His work was studded with “inkhorn” terms, Latinate mumbo-jumbo that dictionareers used to pad their volumes with (he actually used less than predecessors). But I did come across an apropos one: anatiferous, an adjective meaning “producing ducks.” The example is from Thomas Brown’s Vulgar Errours, a catalog of the bunkum of his 17th century day — an era, like all human ones, reeking with bunkum: “If there be anatifeous trees, whose corruption breaks forth into barnacles…” Duck comes out of a hole in the tree, ergo, tree produces duck. Eureka! The Wood Duck is a New World bird; but I guess some Eurasian duck species must nest in trees, too.

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International Bird Migration Day

Dendroica magnoliaMagnolia Warbler male (Dendroica magnolia). An upstate NY and further north nester. Just passing through Brooklyn now …

It’s International Bird Migration Day, which was developed to educate people about the transnational lives of birds. Right now, billions of individual birds are moving from Central and South America to North America, flowing from southern hemisphere summer to northern hemisphere summer. Nations should be irrelevant to these migrants, yet we have made ourselves very relevant to birds. We are destroying habitats at both ends and in between; climate change is radically changing the boreal and arctic north, where many of these birds breed; at least, in the Americas, birds no longer have to run a gauntlet of killers as they still do in the Mediterranean. Setophaga ruticillaAmerican Redstart male (Setophaga ruticilla). These birds fan their tails frequently, supposedly startling their prey.Setophaga ruticillaAnother Redstart, showing some variation in color. This species does nest locally, although not in Kings Co.Dendroica virensBlack-throated Green female (Dendroica virens) after a bath; she doesn’t have the titular black throat. The species breeds in coniferous forests, upstate and beyond.

Audubon NYC estimates 90,000 birds die from hitting buildings in Manhattan; support their program of working with building managers to shut off the lights after midnight this month.

Look Up, Look Down, Look Out!

Piranga olivaceaCome down a little closer, Scarlet Tanager! The bright morning sun is making your tail shine. Piranga olivaceaUh, yeah, like that, Piranga olivacea, male of.Dolichonyx oryzivorusMeanwhile, in the grass, a male Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). These are far more common in farm and prairie country than here in Brooklyn. I only saw my first a few years ago, on farm field in Massachusetts. This picture does not capture the golden straw color of the nape well.Troglodytes aedonWe were slowly walking behind a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) darting into the invertebrate-nooks under the fence and thick pile of leaves. We must have followed for about 40 feet, when the bird suddenly flew off. There was a Rotweiller between us. pebblesThe dog was wet and friendly. We expected the scofflaw human companion to be behind her, but there was nobody. Was the dog lost? Hard to tell in Prospect Park, when 90% of dogs are off-leash in the Ravine in the morning.IMG_3192One of the existing signs. New ones are promised: they will be ineffectual unless the law is enforced. Anyway, Pebbles, as her collar identified her, followed us for a bit, then wandered off. My co-birder Peter said he was going to walk her up to the Long Meadow to see if some of the dog people knew her, but she was done with us and ran ahead. dummyEarlier, this poodle nipped between the boulders and fence at the Ambergill Falls to get into the Ravine itself. But then the animal couldn’t figure out how to get back on the path. The owner was blithely at the top of the Payne Hill before the dog’s panicky barks got his attention. “Dummy” he called the animal, better describing himself. His two friends both had their dogs leashed, an unusually high proportion. The dog meanwhile tore up and down the steep hillside in its anxiety, scattering dirt and leaves everywhere, one of the very slopes the Prospect Park Alliance spent millions shoring up. The squirrels, chipmunks, and all the birds, nobody’s fools, were, well out of the way. And as we birders have a reputation for being “mean” to assholes, we said nothing.

Note the title of this article from Monday’s Times“…Dog Owners and Bird Watchers Fight for Space.” That’s taking the notion of balance to an absurd place: the woodlands are off-limits to unleashed dogs, period; but the majority of dog walkers don’t police themselves, and the Alliance, the Parks Department PEP, and the NYPD have to be flogged to enforce the rules.

Heron v. Fish

Butorides virescensA Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was wrestling with a big fish it had caught today at the Upper Pool.
Butorides virescensI’ve seen other herons/egrets and cormorants working on big fish before. You hardly imagine they will be able to swallow their prey, but they almost always do. This must be enough food for the day.Butorides virescensI saw plenty of Green Herons during my recent trip to Texas. It’s also a species that nests in Brooklyn; last year in Prospect Park. Continuity, and difference. I’ll be continuing to post about both Texas and Brooklyn in the coming weeks.

Snow Goose

snow1A Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) was on Prospect Lake today. They are not uncommon in Jamaica Bay during the winter months, but don’t visit interior Brooklyn very often. Chen caerulescensAmong the most abundant waterfowl on the continent, Snow Geese are often seen in huge numbers on fallow fields and wetlands.

Rusty BB

The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a species in deep trouble. According to the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, the species has shown “chronic long-term and acute short-term population declines,” more so than any other species we see. The numbers are startling, with a population plummet from 85-95% over the last century. The reason for this isn’t definite; although I would hazard that the 80% reduction of wooded wetlands in their southeastern wintering grounds goes a good way to explaining the crisis. Climate change in the north is also telling: the wet boreal summers are drying out. Another aspect is cultural: none of the blackbird species are seen as cute celebrity-charismatics; and, in fact, some, like the Red-winged Blackbird, are considered pests, and efforts to eradicate them must inevitably kill some of this species as well. Few have paid any attention to the decline until recently.

This year marks the centennial of the last Passenger Pigeon; who the hell wants to live through another species’ disappearance? The IRBWG’s Spring Migration Blitz is an effort to survey the birds as they make their way to their boreal breeding grounds. The survey begins this month; New York state’s portion lasts from March 1-April 31. Keep an eye out for these birds (there’s good ID help on their site) and report on ebird.Euphagus carolinusI photographed this female last month in Prospect Park, where the lack of leash law enforcement continues to stress all species. She was still sporting her basic (non-breeding) plumage.

Belted Kingfisher

Megaceryle alcyonA Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was patrolling some of the un-iced water in Stranahan-Olmsted-Vaux’s park over the long weekend.Megaceryle alcyonThis is a male. Male birds are typically more colorful than females, but this isn’t the case with this species. M. alcyon females have a rusty band below the blue collar-like markings, the “belt” of their common name.Megaceryle alcyonThey are fishers of… well, fish, small ones, and also crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, even berries on occasion. They have a distinctive rattling cry. This one was silent as he flew back and forth over the rather narrow patch of open water. When perched, he did this bobbing movement where, tail cocked, head lifted, he rose up and down. What was this about? Megaceryle alcyonThey nest in burrows up to six feet long in earthen banks, next to water if possible. Prospect Park lacks the required terrain for nesting, but these birds can be seen during migration. This one in January is unusual: hanging around over the winter is only possible as long as there is open water to fish in: the birds plunge into the water to capture prey. Megaceryle alcyonSomething I noticed most strongly after the fact, as I reviewed my photos: the white spots before the eyes, giving the bird a “bright-eyed” look indeed, when in fact their actual eyes are quite dark. Why should this be so?

Bills IV

Anas clypeataGet a load of the schnoze on this Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). This is one of the dabbling duck species, straining tiny crustaceans, plankton, and seeds from the surface of the water. These long bills have comb-like filters on them. This is a male, but not yet in full breeding plumage, which, like the large bill, is quite distinctive. They will be on Prospect Lake all winter if the water isn’t frozen.Anas clypeataShovelers will often cluster together in scrums and spin about with their bills in the water, stirring up the pot, as it were.


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