Posts Tagged 'Prospect Park'

Painted Bunting

Passerina cirisA rare, resplendent adult male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) has been in Prospect Park for two weeks now, attracting an enormous amount of media attention and hordes of viewers. Passerina cirisNote this big seed-cracking bunting bill. The bird has stuck to the area around and atop the new ice-skating complex, which has a green roof. The native plants there seem to be instrumental in providing him food. This mild weather, too, has made it feel like home. The attention paid to the bird means a feral cat in the area was even removed.Passerina cirisIt turns out there are two distinct populations of Passerina ciris, one found in the coastal southeast and the other in the south-central U.S. (I’ve seen them before, in Texas.) Perhaps this specimen is from the southeast (?). Word is that these populations will probably be split into two species soon by the taxonomic high lords.Passerina cirisMeanwhile, you couldn’t ask for a finer dissertation on feather color. We see feather color because of two reasons: pigments and the physical structure of the feather itself. Blues, for instance, are created by the way light reflects off of the feathers. The reds are pigments. Passerina cirisTalk about a twofer! Also, such a bold bird raises the question of why it’s so vibrant. Birds have better vision than we do, better here being defined as a greater range of light reception: they have four cones to our three and see into the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. What we see is quite different from what birds see. So this peacock makes quite a display of himself, the vibrancy of his colors suggesting to potential mates that he’s got what it takes to sire a hardy next generation. At the same time, he stands out so much that he’s a vivid target for predators, including the bastards in the illegal pet bird business. The only place he’d be camouflaged is Wonkaland. It’s an interesting series of compromises and trade-offs, evolution. Passerina cirisOf course, he’s a small songbird. Even with twenty birders and photographers lined up on the path (every notice about the bird has gone out with a reminder to stay on the paths) pointing their devices at him, it still takes a second or two to pinpoint him at ten feet.

Black-headed Gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundusThe other exotic bird in Prospect Park lately is a Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), which is common in Europe but scanter on this side of the Atlantic. I first saw them in Scotland in 2006. Over here, the coast of Canada is where you might normally expect to see one during the winter. The black head of its name — its really more a deep chocolate — is an aspect of breeding plumage. This is first time I’ve seen this smudgy-headed winter plumage.Chroicocephalus ridibundusSimilar to our Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia), but slightly larger, with red bill and feet. The bird stands, or floats, out in a crowd of larger Ring-billed Gulls. Chroicocephalus ridibundus

The Temp is Too Damn High

Trachemys scriptaIt’s getting so that “unseasonable” is no longer an appropriate word for never-ending autumn. This is the new seasonableness. On Friday, which set records around the region for high temperatures in a year shaping up to be the hottest on record, two Red-eared Sliders were sunning themselves in Prospect Park.Tamias striatusA couple of Chipmunks were out and about. This one stuffed a hickory nut into it’s right cheek and lopsidedly zipped down into a hole to store it for later.ChrysopidaeAnd the next day, a Green Lacewing (Chrysopidae) flitted through the air before resting on this cherry in the Flatbush Gardener’s patch.

Rusty Blackbird

Euphagus carolinusA male Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) was working its way through a goopy edge of the Lower Pool in Prospect Park.Euphagus carolinusIt was tossing wet leaves around like a stevedore and plucking the goodness out of half-drowned Sweetgum balls.Euphagus carolinusGorgeous patterning here in the non-breeding plumage. Bright shadow seems to favor him more than direct sunlight: Euphagus carolinusRusty Blackbirds are a species in trouble, with “chronic long-term and acute short-term population declines” according to the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, formed to try to get a handle on the issues involved. This page talks about the reasons numbers have dropped so precipitously, including habitat destruction in the southeast and climate change in the boreal north.

This shallow edge of the Pool, leaf-littered as all get-out, is akin to the wet bottomlands the species favors. Keep the “mess”! Also, the fence, since it keeps out the illicitly unleashed dogs running as usual through the Ravine.

Autumnal Colors

ParthenocissusJust a quick reminder that you don’t actually need to leave New York City to see some spectacular colors. Not that there’s anything in the least wrong with heading north or wherever to leaf peep, but sometimes it doesn’t fit your schedule or budget. These are all from Prospect or Green-Wood.

VLB Adult

Pyrrhalta viburni In less than a decade, the invasive Viburnum Leaf Beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) has spread throughout most of New York State. They devour the leaves of viburnum species, key understory plants of our woodlands; a couple years infestation can kill the plant. I’ve seen the damage they do in Prospect Park, skeletonizing every leaf on a bush. In Brooklyn Bridge Park they’re trying to control things by hand.

But this was the first time I’ve run across one of the adult beetles. Yesterday in Prospect Park.

Green Heron

Butorides virescensHow many Green Heron (Butorides virescens) nests are there in Prospect Park? I saw one, heard about another, and suspect a third.Butorides virescens


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