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.

Grebe

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.

 

Beech

Beach

Probably not what most people think of when they think of New York City.But the Rockaway Peninsula, the lower jaw of the “fish-shape Paumanok” (happy 200th year, Walt Whitman!), is a part of Queens facing the New York Bight.On a recent winter day — at least according to the calendar, for the temperature was near 60 — we found some beach runners.Sanderlings (Calidris alba).Darting before the surf, scurrying, probing, running, occasionally giving a squawk and flying.Looks like sand crabs were on the menu.

Nestled Nests

It’s the time of year to spot the paper nests of Bald-faced Hornets. They usually build their nests in trees. Winter weather often destroys them and/or brings them down to the ground, like this one. But this one looks to be in excellent shape. However, it won’t be reused; the colony is gone, having only lived over the course of summer. Only the queen survives. She over-winters somewhere, perhaps behind the bark of a tree.But wait. Did you notice that hole in the glass behind the bars, visible in the first picture above? Mud-daubbing wasps have gotten in to build their nests of mud. These round holes are where the adult wasps dug their way out of their mud-encased cocoons, probably last August. This one, however, looks like it was never sealed off. Nor filled with spiders.


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