Posts Tagged 'birding'

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisSee me?Buteo jamaicensisWell, I don’t want to be seen.

Speaking of being seen! There are lots of elections this year, and although the Republican anti-democracy campaign plows full speed ahead, their nasty little oligopoly isn’t here yet.


Bubo virginianus

A note on populism. “There is no right [-wing] populism, only intolerance.”


Melospiza georgianaWhat an unfortunate metaphor “draining the swamp” is. We need all the swamp we can get. Melospiza georgianaHere’s a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana). This species has longer legs than its cousins (the Song Sparrow is in the same genus), the better for wading. But this particular bird was tucked away in a bit of rather dry habitat in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Flushing the sewer is a more appropriate for our political situation.

Raptor Wednesday

A winter trip to Croton Point Park up in Westchester Co. has become a regular thing for Backyard & Beyond. Last week I took a group from Brooklyn Brainery up to see the Bald Eagles. It was the annual Teatown Hudson River EagleFest: there were volunteers with scopes stationed at the boat landing south of the train station (as well as other spots along the river); and a shuttle bus service to ferry us into the park.

On the train heading up, I spied five eagles perched in a little tree-thickened spit jutting out into the river just south of Sing Sing. I had been worried that sightings might be slim, since there wasn’t much ice on the river. A cold winter further north means more eagles heading further south on the river to look for open water. But it was in the high 40s.
Haliaeetus leucocephalusBut there were eagles in the scopes trained across the Croton River’s mouth. Nice to fulfill the mission of the expedition within ten minutes of getting off the train. From there we headed into the park itself, which is dominated by a capped landfill. This is maintained as grassland, habitat vital for various diurnal and nocturnal hunters. Some of our group got a quick glimpse of a Long-eared Owl harassed by songbirds before it flew over the parking lot.

Through the day, we saw a female American Kestrel and at least one juvenile Northern Harrier hunting over the hill. Two distant eagles cavorted over the hill. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks were seen repeatedly in the trees around the hill.Buteo jamaicensisAt one point, the male caught, or scavenged, a mammal and called for his mate with a sound I can’t recall hearing before. She appeared, and there was some dancing from tree branch to tree branch.A food transfer seemed to be in process, although we never saw the actual talon-off.Accipiter cooperiiThe next to last big bird of the day was this Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii), making for five species of raptors. It was, you will not be surprised to learn, near the bird feeders at the Nature Center. There, a Carolina Wren (the ones around my parents’ house never came to the feeders) was joined by the usual winter crowd of Juncos, Cardinals, Songs, and Downies.

On the return train, we saw a mature Bald Eagle with a fish in claws being shadowed by a hopeful gull. The giant raptor flew low over the water and paralleled the train for a few seconds.

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisIt is not easy being a large hawk. They’re slow, obvious, and nobody likes them. A case in point: this young Red-tail (Buteo jamaicensis) was being hassled by several Blue Jays, who screamed and shouted in alarm. They were pressing the advantages of the many smaller against the larger one. Buteo jamaicensisEven a bold Black-capped Chickadee got involved in the verbal melee.Buteo jamaicensisBut it wasn’t just verbal. My fellow-birder noticed this disturbance on the bird’s head. Then both of us saw one of the Jays slam into this spot, no doubt exacerbating the effects of the earlier blow(s).

Yes, it is not easy being an airborne hunter. Which helps to explain why most won’t make it to their first birthday.

FYI: it looks like there are still spots available for our Croton Point Bald Eagle expedition.

Raptor Wednesday

AccipiterIt sometimes seems like I have a raptor sighting every day. So, for the last month, I’ve been keeping tabs. My “daily raptor” is a good practice. In the political shitstorm, it is my daily rapture.

Over the 31 days of January I had 37 raptor sightings, the majority of them (21) from my windows. Others were seen around and about Brooklyn (Bush Terminal, Green-Wood, overhead here and there) and the Bronx (in and near NYBG). There have been four species: Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawk. Cooper’s and Red-tailed are the most frequent. Some of these sightings were undoubtedly the same bird, like that reliable male Kestrel on the antenna (who hasn’t been seen since the 16th). My protocol was loose; if I saw a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk circling the neighborhood ten minutes after seeing a juvenile RTH circling the neighborhood, I didn’t count it as another sighting. But if I saw a juvenile three hours later, I did.img_2241

So how about some eagles? I’m leading a Brooklyn Brainery excursion to Croton Point Park on Feb. 11th.

“I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here. Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.” Francine Prose.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinusI’m seeing, and hearing, more Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) this winter than Downy Woodpeckers. In the Spartan woods of winter, their loud calls can be the only sound other than the wind. Melanerpes carolinusI learned recently that this bird, with its ambiguous name (the Red-headed Woodpecker is a whole other species, and the red-belly here is just sort of an orange stain), is a relative newcomer to our region. A century ago, they would have been rare accidentals. (Some have argued that the first colonialists found them here, but that deforestation extirpated them locally.) In my lifetime (not that I was here, or paying attention), they started appearing more regularly. Bull (1964) has no breeding records in the NYC region. Having moved northwards in a relatively short period, they definitely nest in NYC now.
Melanerpes carolinusThis female was really twisting to get at some arthropod treasures in the bark. Note those toes, in the zygodactyl foot pattern: two forward, two back. With her stiff tail feathers anchored back against the trunk, her X-pattern toes aid her climbing. As a comparison, most songbirds have three toes forward, one back.

Philip Roth as given a succinct description of the Orange One: “I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

A nice nod to Newspeak there: the whittling down of language, its debasement in hideous euphemisms (“alternative facts”), in the gobbledegook word-salad that is his extemporaneous blather, is something we must all struggle against. This is not normal and will not become normal as long as we insist that it isn’t.


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