Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

Raptor Wednesday

Blue Jays and Nuthatches are a reliable source of alarm when a Cooper’s is in the hood. This one was out in the open with prey when I followed the shrieks, but soon retreated to the foliage of a beech.
The raptor was plucking.
A few of the prey’s feathers fell down to the road below.
Lunch seems to have been a woodpecker.

Speaking of woodpeckers, our largest, the Pileated, has returned to NYC.

Mammal Monday

The quick and the dead.

Just Batty

A Green-Wood gardener called my attention to two Eastern Red Bats hanging from maple leaves in the cemetery last week. These were at eye level. Who knows what was further up…. Looking like old leaves or rotten fruit/cones, this is their day camouflage.
I’ve seen the occasional bat in flight in Brooklyn over the years. There are a couple species found in our air space, and closer to the ground. These, Lasiurus borealis, are the most common. November seems an odd time to see them, but then it has been warmer than usual (when do we drop the “than usual” since this is the new usual?). This is not a species that resorts to bat caves, or mass hibernacula, for the winter. Some seem to migrate, but others may stick around, hibernating inside leaf litter or tree trunks. Here’s some more info.
Remember not to handle bats because of the dangers of rabies.

Late Pollination

There is very little pollination real estate available out there now. It being past middle November and all. This dandelion flower, the only blooming flower visible, was crowded with two Margined Calligrapher flies and a Common Drone Fly the other day.

It seems as if capitalism no longer needs democracy. China’s ample proof of that. But then so is the history of capitalism: it certainly didn’t require democracy to begin with. Quite the opposite, in fact. We’ve been lucky to live during an interregnum, during which the countervailing power of labor forced democratization. But the neoliberal counterrevolution put paid to that. Labor is dead. The restoration of the power of oligarchic property is nearly complete.

Flocking Fall Birds

Red-winged Blackbirds.
Dark-eyed Juncos.
Cedar Waxwings.
American Goldfinches.

Ok, these are mostly solo shots, but each of these birds was part of a flock…. This male Red-wing, however, was on the todd.

Raptor Wednesday

Red-tailed Hawks are commonly seen here in Brooklyn. It’s notable when I don’t see one on a walk in Green-Wood. They not even uncommon sights from the apartment window. A couple of weeks ago, on a very windy morning, I watched four of them simultaneously riding the wind.
But this is something different. All these pictures are of another Buteo genus raptor, the Red-shouldered Hawk.
About 50 minutes after seeing this air show, I ran into what was the presumably the very same juvenile Buteo lineatus, too-briefly perched.
Famed as a snake-eating species, but this one is going to have try for something else to munch on. Yes, we have snakes in Brooklyn, but they’re awfully rare. I’ve never seen one here.

Looks like they will eat whatever they can catch. Here’s one list of prey: mammals, birds, frogs, fish, insects, centipedes, spiders, crawfish, earthworms, snails….

“I found in the stomach of one, a striped ground squirrel, a young rabbit, and twenty-four full grown grasshoppers” reported Pro J.E. Gutherie of Ames, IA in 1931 after dissecting two Red-shouldered hawks shot down for the crime of predating birds. The second hawk was “completely filled with our largest common species of grasshoppers, and one that perhaps has been doing the most damage of any in the central states this year.”

Q.: How many grasshoppers does it take to fill a Red-shouldered Hawk’s belly?
A.: 49

Quotes from A.C. Bent’s Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey, Part 1.

Yesterday morning I opened the curtains to a spotlight of dawn illuminating a crow hovering around the tall car service antenna one avenue block away. Something was at the top. A Merlin, as it turned out. The Merlin dived down at the crow, chasing it off, and returned to the high perch. It wasn’t there long. Then I noticed a Peregrine on St. Mike’s. Then an American Kestrel on the car service antenna. Then the Merlin showed back up to perch briefly on a bare ailanthus (the day before we watched what was presumably this same Merlin eat a House Sparrow in this tree). For less than a minute, we had Falcon triangulation, all three birds perched and visible from the windows. Moments later they were all gone. This all took place over about 20 minutes, mostly as I made steel cut (30 minute) oatmeal.

By noon yesterday, the ailanthus, which overtopped four stories and a parapet, was cut down and run through the chipper. Didn’t see that coming. Over the years, the Brooklyn Kestrels have frequently resorted to this tree. Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks (a bit wobbly on this upper branches!) have joined Merlins there as well as the usual local suspects, Blue Jays, Northern Mockingbirds, Starlings, Mourning Doves…

Solar Powered

A 73-degree November day early this month kept the lizards slithery.

Have we seen the last of them until the spring?

I saw my first years ago in a Queens cemetery where Harry Houdini is supposedly buried. (Well, he got out of a lot of things, right?)

Podarcis siculus. iNaturalist’s lizard crew marks them as the subspecies campestris, Northern Italian Wall Lizard, offshoots of the pet trade.

Speaking of the pet trade: flea treatments for dogs and cats are poisoning the UK’s waters, threatening other insects, and fish, and so on down the line. People evidently apply these pesticides prophylactically, even with no evidence of infestation. I imagine the same here, where pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent decades and dogs, particularly, have been transformed into members of the family, with all the rights they’re entitled to against the planet’s unvoiced claims.

Fall Birds

Catharus guttatus

This Hermit Thrush was unusually confiding/unconcerned about my presence.
The bird rapidly shook its legs on the ground. Like an American Woodcock, but more spasmodically.
Calling forth the invertebrates…
Admittedly, at first I thought this was a nervous disorder! I’ve seen a lot of thrushes over the years, but this was surely the closest, and not in the deep shade of some bush. But I’d never seen “foot-trembling,” as the ornithologists call it, before. Yes, this trick is to stir up prey.

Leave the leaves be.

Cooper’s Redux

The next time I passed this thicket, there were no Blue Jays to be heard.
But right out in the open, albeit on the other side of a chain-link fence, this Cooper’s looked alert.
Note the bulging upper chest. This means the bird’s crop is full of lunch.

Was it as long ago as Monday that unnamed Republicans were being quoted saying “what was the harm” in letting monster-baby Trump act like the election was stolen from him? (God-damn these reporters and editors for giving anonymity to these bastards!) The harm is a full-fledged assault on our democracy, as national and state Republicans push back on the clear majority of Americans who voted for Biden. The harm is the huge percentage of Republican voters now saying they believe there was fraud against Trump. The harm is the General Services Administration (America’s GSA, not Trump’s!) refusing to sign off on the transition, which includes enhanced Secret Service protection for the P- and VP-elects.

Saturday’s celebrations were fine and dandy, but our enemy is implacable. Are they “planning” a coup? I think plans are red herring, it’s the movement they’re making towards rejecting our votes that count, whatever the motivation (which surely includes fundraising for the Trump campaign).

Still relevant: Ten Things You Need to Know To Stop a Coup.


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