Forecast: Birds

A very few of the birds noted on recent trips to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Central Park, and Green-Wood Cemetery:Exploration of nest box at Jamaica Bay’s West Pond. Troglodytes aedon. And then suddenly there were three of these bubbly-voiced House Wrens zooming about. But don’t fall for the small-is-cute thing. I reported this collar. Waiting to hear back.Agelaius phoeniceusBoom!Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus).The male. The female. Rather harder to photograph.Cardellina canadensis, Canada Warbler, one of the last migrants to arrive. Sturnus vulgaris.All ready to fledge — others have, while Baltimore Orioles are just starting their nests. Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus).Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum.

Mammal Monday

Sciurus vulgaris.I think it’s ice-cream…

B.B. Cuckoo

The Black-billed Cuckoo is relatively elusive, which is surprising for such a long-tailed creature. “Sluggish and secretive” says Cornell’s All About Birds about Coccyzus erythropthalmus. I was surprised on Friday when a popped into eye-level view at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

I see the Yellow-billed (C. americanus) more often — and that isn’t that often. Both species are great devourers of caterpillars and tend to congregate around outbreaks of tent, fall webworm, and Gypsy moth caterpillars.

The Black-billed’s specific epithet erythropthalmus means “red eye,” although, of course it’s not the eye itself that is red but the lining.

But why “cuckoo”? “Coccyzus” refers to the famous Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), but our New World birds are unrelated to the Old World one. They also aren’t brood parasites like that Cuckoo so famously is. That Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, like our Brown-headed Cowbird, and gave us everything from “cuckoldry” to metaphors of humans being the animal that doesn’t make its own nest (Thoreau, Holmes).

But evidently the cuckoos of the Americas were thought to sound a little like the Cuckoo… which really does sound like a cuckoo clock. The name imitates the bird’s sound so well that it’s found in classical Greek (kokkux), modern Greek (kukkus), Latin (cuculus), Italian (cuculo) French (coucou), German (kuckuck), Swedish (gök)… and, taking us down the Indo-European road, Sanskrit (kokila).

Spencer: “The merry Cuckow, messenger of Spring.”

And the famous round:

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu

Our cuckoos are declining, due to our chemical/neurological war on life. In the UK, theirs are disappearing; ditto.

Weekend Kestrels

The female is rarely seen these days. She emerges from the cornice nest and flies up to the London Plane on 41st Street to take food bought up by her mate. Here she briefly perches on the avenue London Plane.It gets gory from here…

The male with prey in the fog.An hour later, the fog had cleared off. This is, I think, the leftovers of the same dead bird. Remember: they cache their food on various local roofs, including, I suspect, mine.

Trying to capture the ticking/purring sound he makes when he’s eating with my hand-held camera.
Note the urban cacophony in the background.

I have a lot of photos like this, since this perch is the favorite. Tiny chickens…

Rust Never Sleeps

Cedar-apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperivirginianae) just past its peak gelatinous stage on an Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. These telial horns fire off spores during the wet spring season. The spores float off, perhaps to find a rose family tree like an apple or crabapple (Malus) for the the next stage of its life.

One of my favorite lifeforms.

More Swedish Birds

Skata. Magpie (Pica pica).Makers of massive stick nests.Björktrast. Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris). Like one of our fledgling Robins (T. migratorius) on steroids.And speaking of thrushes, the Common Blackbird (T. merula). Koltrast: the Swedish national bird. Cue “blackbird singing in the dead of night” — our Robins start up around 4 a.m.Kaja. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula). On the balcony of our hotel room…Very much roof and chimney birds, these chirping corvids.
We — my British birding co-conspirators and I — think this is a Chaffinch nest. Note all that moss and lichen; looks rather like a hummingbird’s nest, but much larger, of course.

Raptor Wednesday

I wrote about the local Kestrels for the Brooklyn Bird Club’s excellent Clapper Rail. Several days of hunting portrayed here. By now, I guess that there are young in the nest.


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