Archive Page 2

Sweet Carolinas

Carolina Wrens. Thryothorus ludovicianus. Two at the Dell Water. Full-throated.This one was rooting about in a crotch of a tree about six feet up.

Yup, that’s mostly raccoon shit.

Kestrel Food

What is this? He thought it was edible.American Kestrels eat birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. Saw a picture recently of a male working on a Garter Snake. Some years ago, I became aware of Fence Lizards in the city because of a picture making the rounds of a kestrel flying to a nest with one dangling from the talons. They’re famous for hunting dragonflies. The pair we’ve been watching are eating a lot of birds. This picture is from Thursday morning: the female is gripping some prey. Still Thursday, but three hours later.In this instance, the female did not take the prey. She flew off first, the male afterwards, taking the food to a spot I could not see. Thursday, 7:21 p.m., 12 hours after the first of this sequence. (At this distance, the camera needs all the light it can get for a tolerable photo.) This is the roof the female caches her uneaten prey on.

Keeping Up With The Kestrels

…is exhausting!

The distinctive calling of the birds brings us to the windows throughout the day.They seem to be very effective hunters. In the photo above, the male is gripping a dead sparrow. You can just see the sparrow’s little toes. As he usually does, he proceeded to eat the sparrow’s head. Then he plucked out the tail and wing feathers. These remains he delivered to the female. She often eats part of the prey and then caches the rest on a roof. I suspect she’s using the solar panels up there to shield her tidbits from eyes of passing scavengers. I have seen her retrieve stored items from her stash, eating them later in the day. The falcons take rather small bites: I watched her eat for a dozen minutes recently, and there was still meat left over to cache.In this pic, both falcons have their own meal. It looks like House Sparrows are usually the food. The male’s flight when he carries a headless, wingless, House Sparrow is rather labored.

I can’t see the corner with the cornice with the nest from here, unfortunately. But yesterday, walking downhill, I heard and then saw the male fly into the hole. He perched inside looking out as I passed. It was nice and warm yesterday, too: is there finally an egg in the nest? Clutches range from 3-5 eggs, laid on alternate days. There are 29-31 days of incubation, mostly by the female. I found one study that said males incubated from 0-60% of the time, a very wide range.

Young Barnacles

Barnacle sets. Found on a rock on the rocky glacial shore of Cold Spring Harbor at Sagamore Hill NHS. Barnacles are crustaceans, related to shrimp, crabs, lobsters. Shrimp that have glued their heads onto surfaces and built up walls to stand the siege of low tide…

These strange sedentary — at least as adults — creatures fascinated Charles Darwin. They are hermaphrodites who reproduce thusly: eggs are fertilized by sperm tubes extended from one barnacle to another. (At least one species broadcasts the sperm in the water.) The eggs hatch inside the barnacle and are released as planktonic larvae in winter. The larvae have two stages. The first, called the nauplus, molts multiple times. The second, the cyprid, has the job of finding a substrate. The little dudes float around for six weeks until late winter/early spring, when they start settling out of the water onto any available surface.

Are these Northern Rock (Balanus balanoides) or Little Gray (Chthamalus fragilis), the two types found in Long Island Sound? Someone on iNaturalist voted for the later, which, by the way, were named by Darwin. A saltmarsh bank anchored by Ribbed Mussels (Geukensia demissa). Look closer:Encrusted with little barnacles!

The Raid

I heard the raven’s wings. The bird flew right overhead, close enough for me to hear the work of those great wings.This Common Raven returned to this duck nest six times, taking five eggs.The bird wasn’t gone very long after each foray. Presumably the eggs were eaten or cached nearby. The fifth time, the bird flew out of the cemetery.No egg extraction the sixth time. None left, presumably. Was the raven just making sure? The geese were very agitated. In fact, at the first attack, they splashed loudly towards this corner to harry the raven. But, judging from the size of the eggs and the fact that the female duck hopped up there and then down into the nest after it was all over, I think they were all her’s.

There’s plenty of time for her to make more eggs. The thing is, the last time I saw Ravens here, a week ago, they were sweeping over precisely this spot. They know. I’ve seen them pass over Sylvan Water any number of times before, but never so low and for so long. I think they were scouting this nest.

Raptor Wednesday

I was returning home after several hours of birding. Right across the street from my apartment, a Red-tailed Hawk suddenly landed on top of a parked car. At the edge of the park, a shrub full of House Sparrows and a bush with a Grey Squirrel reverberated with chattered alarms. The big buteo launched into the park, then emerged not with the squirrel or a sparrow, but a pretty grim looking specimen of dead mammal, probably a rat. Raptors will scavenge when they can. (Unfortunately, rat poison remains a threat to eaters up the food chain.)

Corvus corax

You usually hear them before you see them. Common Ravens are loud, croaking, talkative, barky.The pair circled around the Sylvan Water recently, skimming down low over the water and stirring up the geese. It was a spectacular display.And it was quite a scene there at the Sylvan. At least seven Phoebes and two Northern Rough-winged Swallows were fly-catching. It seemed to cool for insects, but I know they were there because I caught one of my own: something winged flew into the corner of my mouth. Two Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead. A Yellow-rumped Warbler hopped along the edge of the pond. A Fox Sparrow kicked the ground around five smaller Song Sparrows, and a Field Sparrow, looking terribly out of place, continued the sparrow theme. There was a stealth male Wood Duck that didn’t move for the 20-30 minutes I was there, even while the Ravens soared overhead. A male Kestrel ate what I fear was a Golden-crowned Kinglet; I had just seen two of them. And then came the Ravens.The middle feathers of a Common Raven’s tail are longer than the ones on either side, so the tail looks pointy in the middle. “Wedge-shaped” is the usual description.


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