Posts Tagged 'Bronx'

Mammal Monday

If it’s quiet enough, not generally a condition found within the bounds of NYC, a squirrel gnawing on a walnut will ring throughout the area.The eating of buds, on the other paw, is much more subtle. You may only notice when things start falling on your head.

Mammal Monday

Usually raccoons sleep off the night’s revels in a conifer, as here in Green-Wood, but when in Rome….Someplace, for instance, where the evergreens are in short supply, as in this section of Pelham Bay. A sharper eye than mine pointed out that this hammock is fundamentally made up of poison ivy vine.

In the news: canine distemper virus is sweeping through the city’s raccoon population. Since the infected raccoons can infect dogs, perhaps this will get people to leash their dogs in the woods? The NYCParks website warns about it for Pelham Bay Park. The Prospect Park Alliance has had an advisory up since October. Green-Wood, of course, isn’t a park: no dogs allowed, although it does have feral cats.

I’ve come across five dead or dying raccoons in Green-Wood in the last month.Here’s a sad trio of them. Point of argument, there are probably too many raccoons in Green-Wood. Many of the big trees there have their bases ringed with raccoon turds. The animals are nurtured by the garbage accessible on the bordering streets, the rich takings of fruit and nuts within, and, of course, no predators. Not to be vulgarly Malthusian, but viruses love large populations.

Oh, Schist!

The eastern edge of Twin Island, facing Long Island Sound just north of Orchard Beach in the Bronx, is an outcropping of the Hartland Formation schist.And does it ever outcrop!Quoting the geological argot of the USGS “The rock consists of granitic and garnetiferous amphibolite gneiss with numerous quartz veins and migmatite dikes. Migmatite is an type igneous rock that forms when metamorphic rocks begin to melt under high temperature. Felsic minerals melt and are injected into the surrounding rock along joints, faults, and other zones of weakness in the rock. As the igneous material gradually cools, bands of feldspar and quartz crystals form along the edges of the intrusion. The center of the migmatite veins typically consist of larger crystals of feldspar and quartz. The migmatite stands out in outcrops as light-colored bands in contrast to the darker amphibolite gneiss host rock. In some cases, the dikes cut across older dikes and quartz-filled veins; many are folded or display offset by faulting.” It’s an open-air classroom, so here’s Hunter College on the spot: “The site contains the following rock types: gneiss, amphibolite, migmatite, pegmatite, quartz veins, marble, ptygmatic folds, pearl gneiss, and boudines. The following minerals can be found here: K-feldspar, quartz, biotite, muscovite, hornblende, garnet, pyrite, limonite, kaolinite, calcite, tourmaline, plagioclase, and chlorite.” .I’ll say that again!

Raptor Wednesday

A Red-tail miscellany.On this day, there were three at the same time; a pair of perched adults and an airborne yearling.Here’s a pair on an overcast day. Note that fist.When the light is right, and the bird is over a year old, then there’s no mistaking a Red-tailed Hawk on the east coast even at some distance. That’s some red tail.January, by the way, is not too early for these big birds to be courting.

While we’re on the subject of small birds

This Golden-crowned Kinglet, spotted just over a month ago in the Bronx, seems to have escaped notice in the photo file until now. So, have at it! And this. Same day, same place. I think it’s a “wild” House Sparrow nest, but will certainly entertain alternative theories. When they do nest out in the open, House Sparrows weave great, confused balls of material. If you examine the nooks and crannies they usually colonize, you’ll find them stuffed with nesting material a la a hoarder. When we had a sidewalk shed up around the two sides of our corner building for most of last year, there were at least three H.S. nests in-between the I-beams holding up the elevated platform.Slate-colored Dark-eyed Juncos: female in foreground focus, male in background blur.

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A noteworthy examination of how historic populism has been perverted into an excuse for Trumpism.

Raptor Us

As I turned the corner onto 41st Street across from the park, preparing for the hike up the moraine, I noticed a big bird take off from the slope above the park’s retaining wall. It was a Red-tailed Hawk, of course, and it landed in a London plane tree anchored in the sidewalk. Crossing the street to stand beside the tree’s bole was but a moment’s work for me. The hawk paid no heed to my efforts, nor to three other bipeds passing below. Instead, it swallowed some food in just a few bites. No feathers flew, so perhaps it was a small mammal. The bird was about 15 feet away from me. That’s some FID — flight initiation distance to the ornithologists, a mark of habituation to humans. In fact, the bird hopped down to a lower branch that was even closer to me. It was one of my closest encounters ever with these big raptors, an almost daily sight here in Brooklyn. I’ve been reading Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities (edited by Boal & Dykstra). Neither Red-tailed Hawks nor American Kestrels, the most common nesting raptors in NYC, rate their own chapter, but there are lessons to be extrapolated. Adaptability, dietary catholicism, ability to withstand human presence (now, that’s an achievement).

Like for instances:
Last weekend, a young Bald Eagle sailed over the block and down towards the avenue. It was below eye-level for us here on the 4th floor atop the Harbor Hill Moraine. What a thrill! Yesterday, an adult was high overhead Green-Wood. That’s three sightings of at least two different eagles this month within a mile of home.Here’s a shot for ID purposes only, taken through a moon roof. This is a Merlin atop this regular American Kestrel perch one avenue (long) block from home.This antenna, five blocks away, is a more infrequent American Kestrel perch, but only because I don’t pass it all that frequently.A pair of Peregrines. They’ve been seen up here almost every day for months now. This morning: one was there when I first looked at 7:09am;  both there at 7:18am. Only crappy weather keeps them elsewhere. Another Peregrine, in the Bronx this time.And another Red-tailed Hawk, also in the Bronx.

Stay tuned for more raptors in the New Year. I already have the whole month planned for “Raptor Wednesdays.”

Red What?

The red head of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a bold flag in winter. But it’s not the “Red-headed Woodpecker” because that name goes to another species, which has an entirely red head as an adult, not just this mohawk-like swath of color. This is a male, the color going from the nape to the bill. The female of Melanerpes carolinus doesn’t have red on the very top of the head. The nominal belly is rather more subtle. Here’s a glimpse.

By the way, that’s a sweetgum tree, a good place to look for birds in winter. Those death-star seed pods are loaded with small seeds.


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