A Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) was raising vocal hell. Then it started to fly straight at me, arrow-like. I instinctively flinched as it passed over head. No fool I. The bird spun around, and returned for another strafing. I’ve been here before. This kind of dive-bombing is classic nest protection strategy for terns; that little black head and red bill coming at you means business. The business is simple enough: they want you to get away from their eggs or young. The Commons’ cousins the Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) will buzz even closer, and sometimes actually whack you in the head; they will also shit on you in a coup de grâce we probably shouldn’t take for editorializing, or should we? It is best to wear your backpack on your head when you’re near an Arctic Tern breeding colony, as in, say, Iceland, where swarms of them are like big angry bees overhead.This past weekend seemed rather late in the season for a nest — in our immediate area, I know of Common Tern nests on the unused piers on Governor’s Island — but there was a fledgling to protect on the beach. I couldn’t get a photo of that particular young one, who was loudly squawking for eight-to-ten square meals a day (fish, plucked from the water). Further up the beach, though, this bird, which I think was another individual, was fairly amenable to being photographed. The adult in the top photo is still in full breeding plumage. It’s winter look will be more like this youngster, although both feet and bill will be dark.
Posts Tagged 'Staten Island'
Tags: beetles, insects, invertebrates, Staten Island
Tags: caterpillars, insects, invertebrates, Staten Island
Yellow Bear caterpillar (Spilosoma virginica), a.k.a. Virginian Tiger Moth. The very long hairs here are key to identifying this species, since they can be quite variable in coloration, starting cream to yellow and darkening with age, some becoming black. We saw a few of the older ones as well on the paved trails at Fresh Kills Park Sunday.
Tags: insects, invertebrates, Staten Island
One of the Brochymena genus Rough Stink Bugs. I think this may be an instar of B. quadripustulata, since it has the four spots or bumps, but the shield pattern isn’t quite like an adult’s (yet). These stink bugs are cryptically colored to blend in with bark, but they really stick out on a leaf. A true bug, meaning they are suckers, living on sap of a range of tree and shrubs. But also preying on other insect larvae and pupae, so some species are considered gardener-friendly, a natural defense.
Plus, if you smoosh ‘em, you’re gonna regret it.
Tags: flowers, Staten Island, trees
At the northern end of Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island is a Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) said to be 300 years old. I would not say it is extraordinarily tall, but it certainly is large-boled. That head on the right is a child’s, three others are hidden behind the tree. Tuliptrees can be the tallest trees on the East Coast. They often grow straight up, putting their flowers well out of reach. But the flowers will fall:And sometimes a younger tree will be within reach:
Tags: cicadas, insects, invertebrates, Staten Island
Nymphal husks of the Dog Day or Annual Cicada (Tibicen sp.), and the Periodic, 17-Year Cicada (Magicicada sp.). The Dog Day husk is from last August, if not the one before that, but its toes are still quite sharp. They don’t cut the skin, but they sure do cling to the little nooks and crannies.Tibicen on the left. A bigger animal in every way. Center and right are Magicicada. Note the slight size differential between these two Magicicada husks. I can’t tell the husks apart, but there are three species expected on Staten Island: M. septendecim, M.cassini, M, septendecula. This is the guide I’m using for the adults. They all have different songs.Cicada adults have two pairs of wings. This is one pair, one of many we saw Monday; most predators rip or clip these off, and all the recipes you see are for the de-winged insects. Magicicada forewing and hindwing (or underwing).
Tags: cicadas, insects, invertebrates, Staten Island
Seventeen years later, the genus Magicicada cicadas have emerged for the brief but glorious finale to their lives. Staten Island is the local epicenter for Brood II. Yesterday, Chris the Flatbush Gardener and I went in search of them, following an article in the Times that sent us to Clove Lakes Park. We scouted the north end of the park and found no sign of them. We went down to the southern end of Clove Lakes, and parked on Royal Oak Road, across the street from the park. The car was beside a tree, the front right wheel close to the curb. I called Chris’s attention to this, so that we wouldn’t run into a piece of broken curb on the way out. Then, looking down, I said, “They’re everywhere!”All over the grassy bit between the road and sidewalk; there were easily thousands of them to be seen as we walked a few blocks. Most were the shed nymphal husks, split down the back. Many of the husks were on the ground, but some were still attached to the trees. They climb up to latch onto something before they transform into adults, which essentially break out of the body of the nymph.There were also bits and pieces of the adult cicadas all over the place.They are being devoured, by pretty much everybody: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians; (“Not by me!” says a friend emphatically). Their massive numbers are their strategy for getting through this gauntlet of predators.We neither saw, nor heard, a single live adult. Those that survived the rough passage from nymph to adult, and into the safety of the trees, were quiet. We need some more heat, and more cicadas, before the roaring begins. This week is going to get hot and I suspect the next two weeks will be cicadamaniacal. We did find one living nymph. It’s on my arm in the picture at the beginning of this post, as well as here:The tiny bark-grasping feet create an interesting sensation on the skin. But they’re harmless. Although this one did seem to excrete on me…
Tags: birding, birds, Staten Island
We went out to Prince’s Bay on the southwestern shore of Staten Island to look at the Purple Martin Colony at Lemon Creek Park. Purple Martins (Progne subis) are our largest swallow. On the East Coast, they pretty much nest exclusive in colonial human-made “houses,” which are usually patterned like little human mansions, or, this being NYC, “luxury” condos. They were one of the species hit by a double whammy of the eradication of old growth forest, with its ample supply of old woodpecker nests, which the Martins would recycle for nesting, and the introductions of House Sparrows and European Starlings, both aggressive cavity nesters that take over likely nesting holes.
But wait, before we got to the Martins, we walked along the beach and discovered a settlement of Bank Swallows. Holy skies swimming with swallows, Batman! The colony was only about a hundred yards from the Martins, so it was indeed a swallowy afternoon. A stiff wind was blowing from the west, so it was possible to watch the Banksters hanging in the air as they faced the breeze before veering off.Riparia riparia, of the wonderful binomial, are our smallest species of sparrow. They make tunnels in bank sides along rivers, coasts, etc., to nest in. (The family Hirundinidae has quite a variety of nesting strategies.) Since such landforms are inherently unstable — you can see the raw reddish earth where Sandy made new cliffs further east on the beach — these swallows’ nesting sites may shift from breeding season to breeding season.I recently purchased a 1964 edition of Bull’s Birds of the New York Area. Bull homonymly labels the location of this Purple Martin Colony as “Princess Bay,” but I trust his records more: the establishment of the colony dates to the 1950s. The Staten Island Museum and volunteers are in charge of maintaining it now. The older homes are screened off so that Starlings and Sparrows don’t try to muscle in on the territory.The male Martin is bluish/purplish black, the female rather less glittery, with a very pale underside as seen here on the top right. A couple of Martin decoys are attached to the houses to lure this acrobatic insectivores in, one of them tipped over like a drunken fowl. (These three are the real McCoy Martins, noisy, and fluttery.)
At cross-purposes, some idiot leaves large piles of cat food right next to the colony for the feral cats, and, inevitably, the rats and raccoons, all of them a serious threat to birds, eggs, and in this case, the young Martins who might happen to land on the ground on their first flights.