Heralds

From Dead Horse Bay to Marine Park to Green-Wood.

From the top, springtime is icumen in: American Oystercatcher, Osprey, Killdeer, Pine Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler.

How To Bathe, Part 1

First of all, the water can’t be too deep. You have to be able to wade in (and out).Frankly, there are only limited places you can do that in Green-Wood.The Dell Water has lately been overflowing it’s banks on one side. So that looks just right…

Concrete

If there’s a “they” in the distant geological future, they’re sure going to wonder about the layer of concrete surrounding the world. Maybe they’ll think we worshipped it.

They’d be right, wouldn’t they?

Check out this hypothesis on the locking-in of atmospheric carbon in equatorial mountain building/limestone production, which these authors suggest led to the last three great ice ages. Limestone is used in concrete production, so we’re reversing the process, and releasing the carbon.

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When beekeeping was illegal in NYC, I was a big advocate of overturning the rule. What could be bad about honeybees, right? Well, considering that the average hive may have 60,000 bees and that the flora and fauna of North America did not evolve with them, maybe something…? It takes a lot of nectar- and pollen- harvesting for these domesticated animals to survive. What’s their effect on solitary bee species? Could it somehow be beneficial? Come on, really? What’s the effect of 60,000 cows on a grasslands?

As I’ve been exploring the bumblebee and other species of native bees, I’ve been having qualms for a while now on the agricultural, even industrial, use of honeybees. And now the science is starting to come in. Here’s a new paper: “Our results show that beekeeping reduces the diversity of wild pollinators and interaction links in the pollination networks. It disrupts their hierarchical structural organization causing the loss of interactions by generalist species, and also impairs pollination services by wild pollinators through reducing the reproductive success of those plant species highly visited by honeybees. High-density beekeeping in natural areas appears to have lasting, more serious negative impacts on biodiversity than was previously assumed.”

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An excellent article on birding — or photographing wildflowers — while black.

Kestrel Action

This silhouette: large-headed, full-bodied, longish tail. This is the local American Kestrel female. She’s larger and rounder than the male. The pair are mating now. They’ll do this multiple times a day. They can do it hundreds of time a breeding season.More falcon silhouette: long tail, arch of wings, nearly boomerang-like. She was moving from perch to perch in the northwest corner of Sunset Park. That is the famed car service antenna on 40th St. behind her, a Kestrel (and Merlin, Red-tail, crow, N. Mockingbird, Starling) perch behind her. Keeping a sharp lookout.

Red-ish

Red-bellied Woodpecker. Another regular winter sight, often heard first. This one landed in the horse chestnut the trio of White-breasted Nuthatches were working over. Gleaners do like company. The multi-species flocking behavior of winter is always heartening to see.

Spring Slithers In

The spring equinox was hit yesterday about 6 p.m. in our time zone. So welcome to the first day of spring!Meanwhile, last Saturday morning there was still ice out at Great Swamp NWR. There was not a skunk cabbage to be seen, but a few frogs were calling, unseen, echoing in the watery woods.It’s a great place for snakes, in warmer weather. But we only spotted one, curled immobile in the sun.Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus). I’d never seen one before. I thought at first this would the usual suspect of a Common Garter (Thamnophis sirtalis). But note the white mark in front of the eye. And see that pale lip? My companions pointed this out: Garters have dark vertical edges to their scales on the lower lip, making for lines coming down around the eye, as in this of a Common Garter from April, 2018:

A slender, long-tailed snake, the Ribbon favors semiaquatic habitats. This one had hauled out on one of the tussocks in this part of the NWR. They eat frogs, toads, small fish, and insects. Like the other members of the Thamnophis) genus, they’re fairly cold tolerant. This one was clearly gobbling up the sun.

Notably, the tail on this species can be up to one third its body length, hence presumably the “ribbon.” On a snake, the tail starts after the anal plate/scute.
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The dreadful Electoral College, which keeps electing Presidents with a minority of actual votes, is in the news again. I’m for abolishment, but barring that, there’s a simpler way to undermine its anti-democratic purpose: the states can proportionally assign Electors instead of assigning them winner-take-all (which isn’t in the Constitution). Unsurprisingly, the Republicans, the minority, authoritarian, anti-democracy party, will fight hard to prevent this in some states. But not every state has to be on board.

Raptor Wednesday

Merlins like the lookouts.This one was way up there grooming.Of course that altitude makes for a photographic challenge, what with the sun, the other trees, the snow-slopped mucky slope…If you open up this image, you can see that there are a lot of flying things up there with the grooming falcon. Some kind of fly hatched out in the warming weather. Spring is a verb.

More about Merlins:
The name.
A closer look.


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