Raptor Wednesday

American Kestrel male way up there looking for lunch.Ditto this Merlin. Even higher, for this bird is near the top of the reputed tallest tree in Green-Wood, a tuliptree (yellow poplar). Same day as the kestrels above and below.This is the local #BrooklynKestrels male.He has prey.The pair cache prey on this roof, under the solar panels.Female is stretching. There were three food transfers this day: male to female.In the last week, this pair has been very noisy. Up until Monday, the female was going off like an alarm. Last couple of days, not nearly as much.

On Sunday, these two, two more hunting Floyd Bennett’s grasslands, and one perched over the Belt Parkway made for a five American Kestrel day.

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

Eastern Towhee, often more heard than seen because they like the shadows of the shrubs and the woodland floor and the thickness of the scrub. “Pipilo” comes from the Latin for to peep or to chirp. This is a male, seen in Green-Wood.In the southeast, you can find them with white eyes. Up here they have red eyes. The species epithet, erythrophthalmus, means red-eyed. The light wasn’t quite right for revealing that very well.But check out the different patterns and shadings on this vent-view. Of course, this is breeding season. Out at Fort Tilden on Sunday, several males were seen and heard with a vengeance. The throat feathers fly when these boys sing out.There was not a warbler to be seen in that barrier beach scrub (not yet nearly as green as inland Brooklyn, which really started glowing this weekend). But, being in the middle of concurrent towhee, wren, and thrasher songs certainly made up for that.

Earth Day

This beat-up skull comes courtesy of a Great Horned Owl. The owl chomped this down and then spit it back up after the bird’s battery acid stomach had a go at it. I think these might be the remains of a Grey Squirrel skull. Found with plenty of grey hair smushed into the cavities. Cleaned up a bit with toothpick and hydrogen peroxide, but it was already virtually bleached by the owl. Check out these incisors and molars.


Forty-nine years since the first Earth Day. Here are forty years of measurable transformations in migrating birds: a new study finds warmer temperatures are decreasing body size and increasing wing length.

Some Outtakes

As you can imagine, I take more pictures than I ever use here on the blog.
Common Grackle gathering nesting material. These birds like to build their nests in thick pines, often with others of their ilk nearby in the same tree. Brown Thrashers are more often heard than seen. They don’t spend much time out in the open.Double-crested Cormorant.When I first walked by this Frankenstein daffodil, there were three dead bugs here. A couple of hours later, one more was in the haul. Spider around the corner? It’s rare to see insects in these ornamentals; they do very little for pollinators.Ferns a-popping. The fiddlehead shape is seen in many emerging fern species, not just the ones that are eaten.

Tree & Butterfly

In late December, I came across this fine, puzzling tree with a thick bole and garly bark. Here’s what I posted on the bark. Several people were intrigued, so I put up some more photos. Now comes the reveal. Talk about sprung!
Looks like Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis).

And fluttering amongst the flowers while I was taking pictures…Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). Which landed on a nearby tombstone a couple of times. Note the silvery-white “comma.” An overwintering female out and about to lay eggs for this year’s generation?

Imagining the Green New Deal.

Bombus griseocollis

One of the few flying insects seen at Morris Arboretum recently. The Brown-belted Bumble Bee. Probably a female, who has overwintered and is getting ready to start a new colony.The second most common Bombus species in the mid-Atlantic but scarcer further north. Note that the animal is using two of its legs to scrape across her thorax. This is a a good way to comb pollen out.ID on this beastie comes from a bee maven on iNaturalist. Note that citizen science data has gone into this new study of the sharp decline of another Bombus species in Canada.

Both of my parents were children of the Great Depression. My mother was a refugee from Oklahoma. My father only went to college because of the GI Bill, some recompense for serving years in the Pacific during WWII. The New Deal was far from perfect, but it was a bold, multi-fronted attack on economic and environmental disaster. Its history tells us that a Green New Deal is nothing to be afraid of. Keven Baker’s essay in Harper‘s will make you wonder what all the fuss is about: “we have been here before.” Not that he doesn’t recognize the powers arrayed against us: the intensity of the attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by both Republican and Democratic wings of the capitalist party are for all to see.

“In a country this wealthy, and with so much of its wealth being blatantly misappropriated or stolen, how we will pay for making our fellow citizens healthier, smarter, and richer is simply not a serious question.”

“[…] the simple underlying brilliance of the GND: the acknowledgement that we cannot go on as we have, not only in degrading the earth but also in degrading each other, through the existing economic system we have allowed to overrun us.”

Even More Evidence

Pictures from the last week here in Brooklyn and northwestern Philadelphia. As spring continues, so does the most corrupt administration in American history, doing deep and lasting damage to the country, our democracy, and the rule of law.


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