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Other Kestrels

The city’s rooftops are alive with drama. Here’s a pair of American Kestrels above Manhattan’s Chinatown. The male has some prey. The Mourning Dove is, what, kibitzing? This photo was taken by a Friend of the Falcons who has been on the lookout for a nest site for this pair.

I recently passed another kestrel nest site in Brooklyn, one used last year, and definitely heard some of these little raptors, but saw no evidence of them. Other friends in that neighborhood have seen them in the area…

Nesting

Two Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were cutting across the parking lot repeatedly. They were gathering nest material: Seems awfully late, doesn’t it? Many species have already fledged this year. Others are well into incubation. But Cedar Waxwings are very late nesters: they want their young to be hungry around the same time as summer’s fruits and berries ripen. A Diamondback Terrapin nesting at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. She comes ashore, clambers towards some sandy soil, and starts digging a hole with her back feet before laying her eggs and covering them up. We saw more than a dozen in the waters, crawling around, or in the hands of Hofstra’s Jamaica Bay Terrapin Research crew. These terrapins, the only local turtle species that lives in briny water, have, like many turtle species, temperature sex determination. That’s right, the sex of the wee baby turtles is determined by temperature. Read more about JBTR research.

I also had a fantastic Independence Day with the terrapins (hey, it’s not their fault some idiots built JFK on their breeding grounds) some years ago.

Amberwing

Perithemis tenera.

***

I found this, on the carbon bombing of the planet and the fatalism that induces in some, interesting.

Raptor Wednesday

Chasing crows and being chased by crows, our American Kestrels pause briefly together in the late breeding season. There should be youngsters in the cornice nest, but there’s been no external sign of them with these eyes yet.

A very quick search for kestrel cavity nest cams in the US turned up little this season, but: here’s a nest cam in the UK, with Common Kestrels. Interestingly, although they look rather similar, American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) and Common Kestrels (F. tinnunculus) aren’t nearly as related as American Kestrels and Peregrines (F. peregrinus) are.

The trio of new Peregrines at 55 Water Street are on the edge of fledgling.

Ladybugs

Two Spotted Ladybug, Adalia bipunctata.Wait, there are four spots, or two tiny dots and some squarish sides? This is one of the melanistic forms of the species. First one I’ve seen this year, on a tree in between Third and Forth Avenues.

Others seen since. It’s definitely insect season.

The Ravens

Two weeks ago, the word went out that a family of five Common Ravens had been spotted near Bush Terminal Park here in Brooklyn. It was nearly a week before I personally saw any bill or feather of them, and then only from afar. These two were so larky I assumed they were two of the three youngsters of the year. They were being harried by a trio of crows but didn’t seem too put out by it.

The Brooklyn Ravens story began on New Year’s Day, 2015. Here are some highlights: The first sighting. And part two of the same. That year I also spotted them gathering nest material.

In 2016, I didn’t see them gathering nest material, but I saw the result.

Here’s a report from June of 2017.

Earlier this year, I again came across some stick-gathering. But this daylight egg raid was certainly the sight of the year, so far.

Re: Rachel Carson

I finally read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in this handy new Library of America edition with an excellent introduction by editor Sandra Steingraber. Along with the chronology and notes, the volume puts Carson in a deep context of the burgeoning environmental activism of the 1950s, which was sparked in important ways by atmospheric nuclear testing.

Just as important was the reactionary response to Carson by the biocide industry. These swine, their flacks, their purchased academics, etc., attacked Carson furiously once the book took off. Misogyny was, you won’t be surprised to learn, one of their weapons, along with a barrage of lies. (The tobacco and petrochemical barons would follow a similar playbook.)

A condensed version in the New Yorker before the book itself came out and a nod from JFK all helped boost the book’s success. By awful coincidence, the book came out right in the midst of the thalidomide disaster. The human assault on the earth was on everybody’s mind.

I hadn’t known that Carson was fighting cancer during the writing of the book. It was published in September, 1962; she died in April, 1964.

Considering we* are still killing, with even more advanced poisons, life on earth for profit, this book certainly bears up. Unbearably so. The eradication and simplification of life on earth at our hands continues with breakneck speed. Perhaps there is nothing new under the shadow of humanity after all. (“We*” in the sense that we tolerate it, collaborate with it, sheepishly surrender to it.)

This edition also includes letters, essays, and addresses. An additional volume of Carson’s three books about the sea and the littoral is forthcoming from LOA. Let me call your attention to one of the essays in the new volume, which was originally published in Women’s Home Companion in 1956, “Help Your Child to Wonder.” Here she argues for the importance of exposing children to the natural world. No, no, not like some antique Greek dumping their spawn off on a hillside to meet the fates of the elements, but to the sounds of the sea, the stars at night, the trees in the wind; the smells, sights, sounds, tactile experience of the life that surges all around us. Don’t let your kids become cyborgs!

I was with some kindergarteners in the dirt of a Greenpoint community garden recently. We found worms, centipedes, grubs, snails, slugs, spiders, and there was much rejoicing, specifically shrieks commingling horror and awe. That did my cynical old heart much good. Another day, another K herd; one girl said rather seriously and sadly that if they killed off the bugs, there wouldn’t be any when she was all grown up.

“Instead of trying to impose our will on Nature we should sometimes be quiet and listen to what she has to tell us.” Carson, in a speech at Scripps College, 1962.


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