Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

Northern Rough-winged Swallows

That’s a mouthful of a common name, but then Stelgidopteryx serripennis is a binomial tongue-exercise as well. We found five fledglings perched over the water. They were being fed at their perches and in mid-air, with the older and/or bolder siblings flying out to meet their busy parents. You can see the cinnamon color on the wings of these birds. And a little lemon-yellowy on the front?

NRWS, the plainest of our swallows in terms of plumage, nest in holes in banks by rivers and creeks and highway cuts and escarpments. They’ll also build nests in various human structures, like drainpipes, crevices in buildings, and nooks under bridges. They’re not colonial like Bank Swallows, but will sometimes nest among them. They’ve been recorded nesting in three of the five boroughs, with Manhattan and Brooklyn missing out. (Governor’s Island, technically part of the borough of Manhattan, has seen them nest in recent years.) This particular nest is in the Bronx. Five to seven are in the average clutch.

Both “rough-winged” and Stelgidopteryx serripennis refer to the same characteristic, the stiff, roughened edges of the primary feathers. Which means something with a bird in hand, but not so much to the observer from afar.


The Common Raven (Corvus corax) family of Brooklyn numbers four. The first I heard of them was near the end of May, when the City Birder spotted them in Green-Wood Cemetery. I first saw them on June 9th. It was 6:15 a.m. and they were turning a floppy right over the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal at 39th Street, flying in the direction of Green-Wood. Yesterday noon, my second viewing of the clan. I’d just exited the 36th St. subway and was walking down 4th Avenue. I heard a strange noise above the infernal combustion cacophony of that grim roadway. The call was not one I was familiar with, yet it was corvid-ish and had my raven-senses jangling. Looking up and around, I saw nothing. But then I heard it again and spotted a big corvid flying over the school I was walking past. The bird turned around and flew back my way (hey, thanks!), giving me a good view of the tell-tale tail. Then it landed on one of the two water towers of the 39th Street building where I photographed the family of five last year. Luckily, I had my camera. A second bird soon joined the first. There was much rejoicing, I gather, but I couldn’t hear anything from where I was. Then two more birds joined them, and the foursome flew towards the water, angling southwards at roughly 1st Avenue (they sure do have a route!).It was on New Year’s Day 2015 that I first spotted a pair of Ravens grooming each other here in Brooklyn. That was pretty unusual in and of itself, but then the pair bred! That was historic. Is it still the same pair? What happened to last year’s trio of fledglings? If it is the same pair, this would be their second year of nesting. As far as we know, the nest is in Brooklyn itself, but its location remains a mystery.

Long-legged Fly

One of the genus Condylostylus long-legged flies.
A little jewel. Same specimen: the light does wonderful things with the metallic sheen. There are more than 30 species in this genus north of Mexico; they usually feed on smaller insects and mites.


A tell-tale growth. Turn the leaf over.The gall of it all! I am fascinated by these things. Galls are created by the plant in response to the agitation of a wasp, mite, or something even smaller. For instance, insects lay their eggs on or in the plant, the plant is stimulated to build up over the eggs. It is a process of containment and isolation. For the gall-forcer, it’s protection and food. The eggs will hatch out to larvae in the gall. The critters will find themselves inside a plant! And that, of course, can be eaten.Eventually the critters will emerge, boring out, unless something gets them first. This one looks like it may have been opened up by a predator. A bird?


Another kind of gall: as a crime family, the Trumps have long connections with mafias of various sorts. Bloomberg on the Russian criminal front.





I know the sun can rise as gloriously as it sets, but the windows here on the top of the Harbor Hill Moraine face north by northwest across Upper New York Bay, to Bayonne and the ridge of the Watchung beyond.

More Adalia bipunctata


This spring, I’ve spotted Two-spotted Ladybugs all over the place in Brooklyn. Down the street. In nearby Green-Wood Cemetery. In Greenpoint. And most recently inside my apartment!

The beetle was on the inside of a window. I captured it by maneuvering a stiff postcard under it — that is, getting it to walk onto the postcard instead of the window — and capping it with my loupe. However, being shy and retiring, it refused to be photographed, so I released it out an open window.

Just a few years ago, Two-spotteds were pretty rare in New York state, after having once been common here. What’s going on? Any chance they’re being released?

Raptor Wednesday fans: I’m barely seeing any raptors right now. Breeding season and all. Last sighting was a Kestrel on Monday. 6:15 a.m., heard first out the window, seen jetting and stooping over Sunset Park. This was a full ten days since the last, a Peregrine on 6/9. Still doing better than one a day, though: 295 raptor sightings this year.

Diospyros virginiana

American Persimmon sex parts brought down during Saturday’s downpour. (I didn’t notice that bumblebee until looking over the photo.)These are the male flowers, rather fleshy bell-shaped things with recurved lobes. And a fruit that’ll never be.


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