Hooded Mergansers

Shouldn’t be too long before these come into their breeding finery.


The purples and greens in this male Bufflehead are pretty subtle, especially on an overcast day. But that bufflehead!So named because of the resemblance to a buffalo’s head. If you say so. Was Dewlapped Duck not considered?One of our winter visitors, they bred much further north. They’re cavity nesters, and small enough to use the old holes made by Northern Flickers or Pileated Woodpeckers.


A flotilla of resting Ruddy Ducks.
The bills on the males will turn even bluer before it’s all over.

Raptor Wednesday

This linden tree sported a male American Kestrel in 2017 and 2018, too. Now here’s… another? He’s facing the low winter sun. That makes for good photographs, but also gives his potential prey a good view of him.You’d think he’d want to come out of the sun, but that might throw his shadow ahead of him.So the above pictures were taken a few weeks ago. Raptor Wednesday is usually running behind this time of year. But I always check this spot when I’m near by, and most times I see nothing. But just yesterday, for the first time since the above:Here he was again.(I mean, I think it’s the same bird.)

Waiting Out the Winter

Two specimens from the general area of back-of-the-beach scrublands at Fort Tilden. Big silk moth cocoons, I think.From a distance, they look like lingering leaves, of which each bush or tree still had a few.


The water beading off this Pied-bill Grebe… You know, I think this plumage is more interesting than the breeding plumage. This cinnamon tinge to the neck is not, by the way, found in all non-breeding birds.

Lord Love A Duck

Have you heard about the HotDuck™? Good gravy — which is probably what it should be served with — there’s been quite a media ballyhoo over a stray male Mandarin Duck that escaped from some farm or zoo somewhere and ended up in Central Park. No fan of zoos, I haven’t seen the bird myself.

A New York Times article introduced the bird to the thinking classes (or so they seem to think). In the article, a David Barrett, who has made a name for himself on Twitter as a competitive birder, actually baited the bird with junk food. So the unknowing Times reporter modeled some absolutely terrible birding ethics for many readers. Barrett has also monetized the duck by selling tee shirts, as have a few others. He also broadcasts the specific location of owls publicly, something an ethical birder wouldn’t do. (Unfortunately, such knowledge empowers bad actors like this “asshole,” who makes money off of owl-harassment.)

Now, the duck’s fans will say it could be a gateway for new bird watchers. Maybe, but I don’t see much hope in an exotic animal, practically a pet, inspiring ecological thinking and environmental activism, which we need much more than more listers or tickers vying for the absurdity of “Top Birder” on Ebird.

The duck has been transformed into a kind of pet. And as we know, we prioritize our pets over the wild, as the unleashed dogs and feral cat enablers prove every day.

Is harm done to the wild when we highlight the pretty, the tame, the cute, but ignore, if not actually attack, the not-pretty, the not-tame, the not-cute?  See the bugs being exterminated; the seals being harassed; the owls being captured by Harry Potter fans; the criminal despoliations of the exotic pet industry world-wide.

Are we killing nature with love, with celebrity? Because that is what HotDuck™ is: a celebrity, drowning out all the “little people” with its colorful preening. The question should be asked: is mass popularity of a crazily coiffured critter actually a good thing? Since when? Do any of these thousands of selfies contribute to conservation, habitat restoration, political action against the crony capitalist oligarchies devouring the planet?

Doesn’t it, rather, lead to groups of 50 people shining flashlights on owls in Central Park?

Can this HotDuck™ phenomenon be somewhat akin to the Instagram/selfie effect, in which people trash remote locations, fragile landscapes, and habitats for social media “likes”?

See also: the problem of foraging and mushrooming here in the city. There aren’t enough plants and mushrooms to go around in a city of 8 million, of course, but at least these collectors are still just a small faction. But watch them in action: they stomp off the path with abandon in NYC parks, wild plants be damned, food for wild animals be damned. It’s all about them and nothing else.



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