Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category


Wood Ducks.
And Hooded Mergansers on the Sylvan Water, largest of water bodies in Green-Wood. The Hoodies, nobodies’ fools, were not approaching anyone on the shore, unlike the shameless Mallards.
Mallards are, by the way, some of our largest wild ducks.
Bonus freaks of nature… Actually, it’s the aeration devices that keep these very round holes open in the ice.

Mammal Monday

There isn’t much meat on a maple samara, so this Eastern Grey was rootling and grubbing and chomping. Each picture above is a different samara. Then suddenly…
She found a piece of paper bag. She stuffed one end into her mouth and crushed the rest of it to herself.
And carried it across the street and up a linden tree and into a hole. The overhanging branches prevented me from getting a picture of the entry, but…
She emerged to gave me the eye afterwards.
One year ago, this same hole was the entrance to a Starling nest.

One Moment

Next to a well-stocked bird-feeder, this Black-capped Chickadee goes for a black willow bud.

I remember when the shutting down of the Gulf Stream was a wild hypothetical, the absolute worst-case scenario that would never happen in the lifetime of anyone alive today. But, as in a lot of the news about climate change, the worst-case scenario limit is the one we keep breeching.

And yet, some adapt. Life on a wall in Bangalore.

Hunkered Great Blue

This heron was hanging out here on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Not vociferating; perhaps yawning or working up a pellet of nocturnal fish and who knows, maybe rats….

Brood X is Coming

Get ready! This year’s big Magicicada 17-year cicada emergence covers a lot of the eastern U.S. It’s “among the largest (by geographic extent) broods.” Here’s a map of the last Brood X emergence in 2004. Maryland/Delaware and Indiana are the places to be (get your shovels, the remains will be piled high!). Long Island is the easternmost part of the range, but little activity is expected there. They’ve paved even more of this place (Brooklyn is the western-most part of Long Island) in the last 17 years.

For those of us in New York City, the Princeton, NJ, area looks like the best bet.

The most obvious difference between the periodic (13- and 17-year cycle) cicadas and the “dog day” annual cicadas is that the periodicals show up in May and have red eyes, while the dog day cicadas emerge in August and have dark eyes. Dog day cicadas actually spend 3-5 years underground, but there’s a brood every year so they seem to be annual. Also, the periodic ones emerge en masse, in enormous numbers, vastly more than the annuals.

In May, 2013, Brood II emerged locally. Staten Island, the greenest, most undeveloped borough, was the only part of NYC to have any activity. And did it ever! Here are some of my posts from that visitation:

February 16, 2013.

May 1, 2013.

May 28, 2013.

May 29, 2013.

June 3, 2013.

July 2, 2013.

Raptor Wednesday on Thursday

When twenty Monk Parakeets are hooting and hollering, you know something’s up.
Ah, yes. Atop the Neo-Gothic pile of an entrance gate designed by Richard Upjohn for Green-Wood Cemetery, there’s a large parakeet nest.

And on this day, there was a Red-tailed Hawk.
The bird did some stretching.
And flexing. Note how the darker bands in the tail are thinner than the lighter bands on this immature bird. The red tail feathers should all be in this spring to summer, the bird’s first birthday. In the immature Red-Shouldered hawk, which looks a lot like an immature Red-tailed from the back, the bands are evenly-sized.
This is a warning.
Look out below! That white squiggle is excrement.

Pebble Anniversary

I started this blog on March 3, 2010 with a picture of a baby Painted Turtle. It was simple, a picture and quote by Stephen Jay Gould: “We must tackle and grasp the larger, encompassing themes of our universe, but we make our best approach through small curiosities that rivet our attention — all those pretty pebbles on the shoreline of knowledge.”
A little later that day, I launched a meatier post, more of a statement of purpose, a manifesto. Another quote, from Thoreau: “Nature will bare the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect’s view of its plain.”
I keep thinking I should put up some kind of fundraising to pay for the WordPress upkeep and maintenance, now, with ten years of archives, substantially more than when I started. But the Patreon model doesn’t seem right.

Invertebrate Fever

Chomping at the bit here for some insect life after months of winter. Sure, I’ve seen a few flies all winter long.
And I took this picture of this Polyphemus Moth cocoon in December, but saw it still going strong (i.e. just sitting there) the other day. This is the only one of these I’ve seen this winter. I spotted about half a dozen last winter. And last summer was a good one for the adults (although I never saw one).
These farm animals were out of the hives the other day in temps in the mid 40s, albeit in bright sun.
The cellophane bee slope under snow. Come back in May.

Speaking of the lower end of the food chain, far from the madding crowd of charismatic megafauna, misinformation is a real problem in the fight for biodiversity. Read this on “misplaced conservation” that actually decreases species targeted for help, waste resources, and confuse the pubic, among other negative outcomes.

Mammal Monday

The Eastern Gray Squirrel comes in a handful of color forms.
Gray is the predominate one.
There were six squirrels in this silver maple the other day. Two were gray, the other four were a mix of very dark gray and black with reddish highlights.
They were all eating the maple buds. Spring is cusping.

Unmistakable Feathers

The loudest avian voices during winter here are the Blue Jays. They will often mob a raptor, shrieking stridently and even attacking. It’s as good a raptor-alert system as any: attend the noisy Jays and you may very well find a Red-tail or a Cooper’s in the tree or shrub with them.
They aren’t just doing it for kicks. They know who eats them. These feathers were the remains of one under a pine.

The world warms to an unprecedented-in-human-history degree, but there can still be cold snaps like the recent one in Texas. (As always, the old slave states are the base-line of inhumanity and brutality that the white supremacists and their oligarchic masters work to return us all to.)

Meanwhile, the authoritarian-tech oligarch octopus in India, among other places.


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