Posts Tagged 'Bronx'


Finally, some songbirds! I’ve spent a lot of  time in Green-Wood this winter and it has been barren of some of the usual winter bird suspects. So it was good to run into Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet (rather unexpectedly) and a small flock of American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) all hanging close together on Hunter’s Island recently.The Goldfinches were ravaging these catkins. The nuthatch was nattering (nuttering?) and the single Tufted Titmouse was finding something pretty darn exciting to eat on the paved path.

Mammal Monday

Deer tracks on the continent. Found on the grounds of the Bartow-Pell Mansion, in Pelham Bay Park. (FYI for you out-of-towners: the Bronx is the only part of New York City that is not an island.) On nearby Hunter’s Island, part of the same park, but no longer an island. Last time we were here we saw a couple of deer. This time we noticed three.
And, of course, they noticed us.

Boots For Scale

I wear a 9/9.5. These are rabbit prints.

There were some other curious prints in the snow on the frozen Bronx River that I could not figure out. No tail, as in a muskrat, and although rather canine-looking, (but too big for fox?) they looked too close together for coyote. Perhaps a cat whose prints, Bigfoot-style, had gotten bigger in the thaw-freeze cycle. I was too far away, unfortunately, to get pictures. Disturbingly, there were also human footprints on the ice.Found right across the street at the entrance to the park.

The Year in Raptors

Suddenly, every local Rock Dove and Starling is in the air. They swirl this way and that, creating visual confusion: which way do your eyes go? Then just as suddenly, the long tail of a Cooper’s Hawk concentrates the eye in the airborne melee. The Accipiter is hunting, surfing over the tops of buildings, jetting through the alleys between. Sunset Park, the neighborhood I look out on from up here on the top of the moraine, is the bird’s forest.

New York City is raptor country. Plate glass, rat poison, and all the vile two-legged enemies aside, this town is full of hawks and falcons.

Over the past year, I tried to keep track of the number of raptor sightings I had here. When I started thinking about doing so in late 2016, one a day was the minimal count, and I wanted to see if that could be maintained. My total of 331 is obviously just slightly less than that on average. (I spent 49 or so of the year’s 52 weeks here in the city.) Closed curtains to block the sun, combined with breeding season (half of all birds at nest), meant summer had runs of several days without a single sighting. My best single day’s count was five, a record reached half a dozen times.

A raptor a day, or almost every day, it should be said, keeps the doctor away.

Note that these aren’t necessarily separate individuals. For instance, I started noting the Peregrines atop the Industry City smokestack, the subject of an upcoming Raptor Wednesday, in late December; subsequent daily instances were all probably one of the two birds first definitely seen up there 12/24.

The species:

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius, formerly Circus cyaneus)
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

This list is roughly in order of frequency. Only the Goshawk, a rather unusual occurrence in the city, was a solo instance (after I made multiple attempts to see it, by the way). A notable absence: the occasional winter-visting Rough-legged Hawk, but I didn’t often get to Floyd Bennett Field and other coastal areas they prefer when they’re down here. Unlike 2016, Osprey did not nest atop a light at the waterfront parking lot this year, so they were not a potential sight from my window during breeding season.

Elsewhere, trips to Virginia, Great Swamp NWR, Croton Point Park, two fall hawk watches, and Sweden (nine new species of raptor!) added substantial numbers to the grand total of 470. (The frequency of sightings in Sweden and the two hawk watches within short drives from NYC were so fast and furious I just threw up my wings and only counted species seen.)

Pictured above is a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk perched in Green-Wood Cemetery, 12/17/17. Pictured below is an adult Cooper’s preening on a fire-escape a third of the way down the block, 12/26/17. Long-time followers may remember that a juvenile Cooper’s perched on the same fire-escape, at virtually the very same exact spot, in April 2017.

And we’re off to a good start for 2018: One Peregrine Monday. Two Peregrines Tuesday (one screaming bloody murder over a perched Red-tailed Hawk). Also yesterday, a male Kestrel perching on the fire-escape pictured above in the cold, cold morning, and a Cooper’s on the mid-day prowl.

Spider Update

On Wednesday, Araneus diadematus ate brunch.

Judging from the size and shape of the mummified-in-silk prey, I’d say it was a fly. The temperature was already near 50 that morning and would rise up to 60 in the afternoon. Diptera weather! There were also two gnats stuck to the web, but these were so small they hardly seemed worth the effort to eat after all the juices sucked out of the big fly.Which was reduced over a few hours to a gnarly ball of gristle.

In three months of sporadic observation, we’ve only seen this spider eat once.

The Spider Who Stayed Out in the Cold

This large Araneus diadematus orb-weaver has been living outside a Bronx living room window for nearly three months now. That included the last of summer, when a large window fan blew out towards her, making the web bounce like a trampoline.

The web spans the breadth of the window. When she isn’t in its center, hanging face down, she-spider is tucked up into the top right of the storm window frame, with two legs on the web to keep in touch. She prefers the night, which of course is never that dark here in the city. We only once saw her wrapping some prey… or was it an egg case?

Bits of leaf and plumed seeds, however, were often seen stuck in the usually rather tatty web. The first big, but brief, freeze, didn’t seem to faze her. On the 16th, when the video below was shot, she was devouring the lower right quarter of the web, having taken out the lower left earlier that day. The silk proteins, crazy strong material as you probably know, can be recycled this way.

Then she disappeared. The web too. But then, last Tuesday, there she was again! A Thanksgiving miracle!

The Cross Orb-weaver, so named because some to them have a cross-shape on their abdomen, is a cosmopolitan species. They were evidently imported from across the Atlantic some time past.

Lifespan doesn’t jump out in online material about this species: six to twelve months, evidently, for orb-weavers. The male, by the way, is much smaller, and, when attempting to mate, approaches gingerly so he doesn’t get eaten.

Hmm, perhaps, given the times (well, all times) women should take a lesson from that.

And here’s another moving view on my Instagram.

Update: the spider is still going strong today, Tuesday 11/28/17.

Fungus Boroughs


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