Savannah Toes

Passerculus sandwichensisThe touch of yellow between eye and bill here is telling, but did you know that Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) are also notable for their long toes? Passerculus sandwichensisThose nails look a little long, too. What do you think?

Rambur’s Forktail

Ischnura ramburiiI’ve spotted another Brooklyn damselfly species, bringing my NYC list up to nine species. This is a male Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii). Approximately 1.25″ long. He was flitting about the edge of Green-Wood’s Sylvan Water among a fair number of Familiar Bluets.Enallagma civileThis is a pair of Familiars (Enallagma civile) in the mating grip: the male will hold on as the female lays her eggs, and even when she’s not, which precludes another male from assuming the position.

According to odonate master Ed Lam, there’s a population of Rambur’s at Jamaica Bay and they will sometimes stray inland.

Red-breasted Nuthatches

Sitta canadensisA good number of Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) have been seen in the region this migration, an irregular occurrence for this tiny species of song bird. I heard some a few weeks ago at Green-Wood, but I hadn’t seen any in the feather until Sunday at Jamaica Bay. Sitta canadensisTwo of them were wheedling pine nuts from cones and taking them to nearby hardwood snags, where they wedged them into crevices in the bark to batter them open with their chisel beaks for the nutmeat within.Sitta canadensisLook in coniferous trees, and if the pines aren’t very big also, obviously, in neighboring hardwoods with bigger branches/anvils.
Sitta canadensis

I must say, as reds go, this is definitely subdued, albeit quite handsome. More fiery was the juvenile Norther Harrier we also spotted that trip; when it rocked in flight towards the afternoon sun, its belly was like a flare.

Ocola Skipper

Panoquina ocolaNote the long forewings here, which certainly makes it stick out of the common storm of skippers. This is an Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola), a butterfly of the southeast (and down to Paraguay) that occasionally gets as far north as Canada. It’s a “regular stray” up here according to the Kaufman guide. Panoquina ocolaThis is a new one for me. Spotted in Green-Wood.

Green Heron

img_0074The squad of geese attracted my attention. But then the young Green Heron (Butorides virescens) stood out amidst all that gooseflesh.img_0078These juvenile herons are heavily streaked in the neck. The “green” of the name isn’t so helpful (ditto “Green-backed,” the old common name for them). They have nested in Brooklyn in recent years. I haven’t heard or seen a Green-Wood nest, but I have my suspicions. Butorides virescensCrest up, sometimes.Butorides virescensButorides virescensThey prowl slowly along the shore and strike quickly. They’ll eat whatever they can catch: fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals. Fish are a big part of their diet, but this one was just a snack. I’ve seen them snatch dragonflies out of the air. Butorides virescensI was doing pretty good at stalking myself, mostly by not moving. The bird came towards me, with the geese still behind. It was finally flushed by one of the little carts cemetery staff get around in.Butorides virescensThe iridescent green of the lores comes across well in a couple of these shots. Speaking of iridescent, that blue streak is a Familiar Bluet damselfly. Butorides virescens

Perception

rockThis is a detail of a volcanic rock I picked up in Iceland a few years ago. Do you see what I see? The chocolate brown portions look like they are above the darker blue-black portions. They look like hills.

But they’re actually the subsurface part of the rock, the pits. Twice now I’ve experienced my eyes bringing this background to the foreground, as if it was a moving image, rack-focused. Now I can’t get my eyes to see it correctly.

This was a nice reminder that we should always consider our perception as well as our perspective. You all know about the classic social science studies which show how biases of various kinds color our perception of events (the majority of white students who say the white man who barges into the classroom with a gun is black, etc.), how malleable human witness turns out to be. TV dramas have long perpetuated the opposite notion, how foolproof eye-witness is, but then that bullshit industry has also convinced many that crime is much more prevalent than it actually is.

I was reading some comments in a piece on the myth of the black panther, which a fair number of people claim to have seen in the Southeast and elsewhere. After a thorough explanation of why there are no “black panthers,” the first comment essentially says: I know because I’ve seen one and everybody who disagrees with me has a closed mind. Actually, no; sorry, although mind might be the best place to look for your conviction. The fact that there are no black panthers will no more stop some from believing in them than the lack of verifiable UFOs stops UFO-spotters (or alleged abductees).

Interestingly, there don’t seem to be so many UFOs anymore. Could that phenomenon have been specific to its time and place? And aren’t these black panther sightings very much a phenomenon of our now? Doesn’t it seem to speak to a longing for the wild, a diminishment of the natural world, a rebellion against the shrinking of the imagination, not to mention a guilt-ridden sense of denial? The Thylacine, for instance, was “seen” for decades after its extermination in Tasmania. Many species are gone now, but we obsess on some examples: everybody knows the dodo, or thinks they do. Mostly they picture John Tenniel’s illustration for Lewis Carroll, for only a few parts of the bird remain; what it looked like is a conjecture.

We live in a time of a longing of another sort, too, at least among some. Too many, as it happens: millions are clamoring for a corrupt, orange-tinted reality-TV huckster, a con-man who wants to be a strong-man. A creature of astonishing mendacity, even on the spectrum of politician-bullshit, yet he still appeals to a crowd of sucker-punching racists and authoritarians as well as that desperate and broken contingent abandoned by the Democratic Party. I strive to understand how someone who lies so much can have a following, but Reagan long taught the Republicans that “facts are stupid things.” Rationality is irrelevant here: it’s emotion that empowers fascists, above all rage and resentment, and gives wing to the fantasy that Trumpenstein will get the trains running on time.

To return this to nature, which is of course inseparable from politics, consider the experiences of J. Drew Lanham, who “birds while black”: that’s the deplorable America Trump supporters are voting for, regardless of their reasons and/or their grievances.

View From The Moraine

img_9734A green lacewing (Chrysopidae) paused briefly on the window recently.


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