Posts Tagged 'birds'

Butorides virescens

Butorides virescensAn inside source tells me that there was indeed a Green Heron nest in Green-Wood this season.Butorides virescensBehold a juvenile; there are at least two. Butorides virescensThis one caught two fish as it walked around the edge of the pond towards me.

These pics are from earlier this month. They will fly south any… minute now. After spotting none last Saturday, I thought they might have all left, but then I saw one Sunday.

Raptor Wednesday

On Saturday, two passes through Green-Wood Cemetery on either side of brunch came up zilch on the raptor count, so Sunday I went back in amidst the nuthatches, kinglets, and warblers. Within a ten-minute period, I’d spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, a Merlin, and then an American Kestrel: now, that’s more like it!

The Kestrel was munching on a dragonfly, probably a Common Green Darner. And then the Merlin showed up.img_0755You can just see the dragonfly in the enlarged version.

Welcome back Raptor Wednesday…!


Ardea herodiasimg_0300This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) had a bum left foot. It was holding the toes curled and not putting any pressure on it. In flight, which seemed fine, it looked as if a toe was sticking weirdly upright. Butorides virescensGreen Heron (Butorides virescens), also at Crescent Water. I think it’s standing on something under there, because judging from some of the creatures that have emerged from there, it’s deeper than that usually.Ardea herodiasThis was all the same day, and since this Great Blue at the Valley Water was standing well on its left left, it was another bird entirely.Ardea herodiasWhen I passed Valley again later, it was gone, but then this one was at my next stop, Sylvan Water, so it may have been the same bird.

Raptor Wednesday

On a recent afternoon, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Brooklyn falcon trifecta. It all started in Green-Wood: the distinctive shape of one of the small falcons tearing through the air in the distance, met by the rough chorus of outraged Monk Parakeets stirred up by its cousin. (Yes, falcons are more closely related to parrots than they are to other raptors.) The bird proved to be a Merlin (Falco columbarius), and I snapped a few mediocre pictures of it on top of pine. Alas, the light was wretched for photos. Falco columbariusNot too long afterwards, a sudden excitement in the air proved to be a Merlin chasing a male Kestrel over the Sylvan Water. This was a first for me, although I’ve seen Kestrels go after Red-tailed Hawks and Ravens. The Merlin, perhaps the same individual as the first sighting, was in turn harassed from conifer to snag and back again by two-three Blue Jays. Falco columbariusFalco columbariusThen it was gone. Falco sparveriusThe Kestrel, which had perched high atop a tree briefly and then vanished, reappeared suddenly rather close, evidently trying to jump on something mid-air, presumably one of the few dragonflies to be found. He returned to the same far perch he’d been on earlier and did some grooming. I couldn’t tell if he’d dispatched the dragonfly after all.

Upon returning home, I took a glance out the window as I’m wont to do, and noticed something on the cross of Mike’s Spike, a perch with fantastic views of the neighborhood.Falco peregrinusPeregrine (Falco peregrinus).

For completists, there is another eastern North America falcon, the Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), but it’s a boreal bird only rarely seen in our parts. It is on the NYC list, but not mine; I’ve only seen one in Iceland. As a bird of the far north, they’re like Snowy Owls in that when they do show up in our parts, they’re generally found along the barrier beaches further east on this Long Island.


gnatLate afternoon, under an elm and its satellite Redbuds, these little flies were thick in the air, and in the ear and eye, too. Many birds were feasting on the tiny things, including a Red-breasted Nuthatch, lots and lots of Palm Warblers, a noisy Black-throated Blue Warbler, several Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Downy Woodpecker, and a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers who were actually flying after the tidbits. I’ve never seen woodpeckers hawking for insects before. One of the Palms was picking the flies off a statue of one of Green-Wood’s innumerable angels.

The fly that got in my eye was eventually worked out at the corner tear duct, as I discovered an hour and half later upon getting home. Now, that’s what I call a good day’s nature observing. Up close and personal…

Fly Bird

Sayornis phoebePerched on the edge of the dry moat surrounding Fort Jay, this Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) was one of several to be seen the other day darting around the old defenses hawking insects out of the air.Sayornis phoebeThis juvenile — note the touch of yellow on the belly — was on the Crescent Water in Green-Wood. They’ve been all over lately. You might think that there are hardly any flying insects about to eat, but clearly they’re getting something on their sorties.

Looks like that honeybee just crawled over the bird’s foot.

The Trouble With Tibbles

img_0140Tibbles is right up there in the roll of famous cats, along with Hodge, who has a statue in Gough Square; Mrs. Chippy; and Unsinkable Sam, originally Oskar, who abruptly abandoned the Kriegsmarine for the Royal Navy and then proceeded to survive two more ships going down.

Tibbles was the pet of Lyall the lighthouse keeper on Stephens Island, off the coast of New Zealand. She was first brought to the island in 1894, evidently already pregnant, so it was either Tibbles or one of her offspring who ate the last of the island’s endemic wrens, a rare flightless passerine. Over a hundred cats were hunted down on the island in 1899, but it was already too late for Traversia lyalli.

Along with the Stephens Island Wren, cats have helped cause the extinction of 122 other species of birds; 25 species of reptiles; and 27 species of mammals. They kill many millions of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects each year in the U.S. alone — the numbers are highly contested, but the thing about cats is that they are “subsidized predators,” fed by their keepers, which makes them (50% of the 86 million pet cats in the US are allowed to roam free) able to survive at extraordinarily high densities outside the house. Another 80 million or so cats are feral, outside all the time, and some of these are also fed, or subsidized, by humans as well, meaning they continue to do their thing out there. k10809A new book details this slaughter, its implications, and the struggle to stop it. The cat lobby has chosen, in classic style, to challenge the science and not the enormous problem. (This strategy goes back at least to the chemical industry’s response to Rachel Carson.)

I like cats. I like dogs, too. I grew up with both as pets. It seems to me a peculiarly limited mind that must distinguish itself between being a “cat person” or a “dog person.” But I am whole-heartedly on the side of all the other species against the cats.  This is an invasive species run absolutely amok.

If you have a pet cat, you must not let it out. It’s obviously healthier for the cat, too.

For the armies of feral cats, Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) programs superficially sound like a good idea, but they presume continuous management & funding since the supply of cats from fertile  domestic cats and the pet industry remains unchallenged. Meanwhile, the individual TNR’ed cat continues to kill during its lifetime. Feral cats have to be removed from habitat where they don’t belong.

Pet owners helped create this problem, but like consumers everywhere they don’t really want to take responsibility for it.img_9785This cat has an enclosed porch she can use, which lets her get plenty of fresh air but keeps her from stalking the animals she sees outside (we saw pigeons, doves, squirrels, cardinals, and a hummingbird in this Park Slope backyard over a few hours of lazy summer attention). Cat patios (“catios”) are a thing now; friends of mine have made window-box versions. Turns out to be pretty easy to stop a cat from what it wants to do. Rather less so for people.


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