Posts Tagged 'Great Swamp'

Barely Glimpsed Birds

This is a natural history blog, not a photographic one. I try to use my best pictures for illustrative purposes, but my PowerShot SX50 definitely isn’t a SLR with a long lens. Sometimes I get a fine shot. Often not. You’ll notice few in-flight images here, for instance. And sometimes I get shots for reference’s sake only: what was that bird, or flower, or insect? So here are some recent less than great photo opportunities that still have, I think, some educational value.A Piliated Woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus) in Great Swamp NWR. You can hear them — oh, can you hear them, their maniacal laugh resounding through the woods — and you can sometimes see them. Big as they are, though, they’re generally elusive.Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) at Marine Park Saltmarsh Nature Center, another elusive species that usually lurks amid the reeds and grasses. So not one to pose too long. There were two; perhaps they’re setting up a nest? There are nesting records for Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. The Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) stand out, but how those little ones in front of them? Click on image to make it larger. The peeps sure blend in, rather better than at the beach. Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), I think: their legs are barely visible, but don’t look yellow (which could turn them into Least Sandpipers).A bathing Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera). The two wing bars, not visible here, and the line through the eye of the yellow face and head are the “tells” here. A male American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) is unmistakable even without a head.You’d think an orange and black bird would be easy to see, but male Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) are often best revealed by their song.

Snake in the Moss

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). Saw a half dozen basking off of the boardwalk. This common snake, second only to the Garter in abundance regionally, is, like that species, somewhat varied in form. You can see stripes on this youngish one, but most Great Swamp specimens look very dark and unmarked (as they dry in the sun, the scales tend to look more uniform). This is one of the snake species that give birth to live young, one to three dozen itty-bitty snakes.
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This Tom Tomorrow cartoon encapsulates it all well: Trump’s bullshit and his refusal to admit it was his bullshit.

May Day

Some mammals for Monday and May Day.Did you ever wonder why they, and we, are called mammals? I have to admit I never did until last week.
Linnaeus came up with the term Mammalia in 1758, from the Latin mammae, meaning the breasts. This we all know. Yet everything else Linnaeus named is based on male characteristics. His botanical system, for instance, is based on the male sex parts of plants. So why not the hairy quadrupeds and bipeds with three ear bones, fur, four-chambered hearts, etc., too? Why not John Ray’s term Pilosa (hairy animals)? Or, sticking with the milk part, the Lactantia or Sugentia, both of which mean “the suckling ones”? Therein lies a tale which I’m writing for work. We shall return to this question.
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I like the return of May Day as a radical holiday. Get out there and smell the flowers while you act up.

But Let’s Not Get Too Sentimental

Turdus migratoriusAmerican Robin nests are the easiest to see, not least because there are so many of them. Turdus migratoriusThis one was in Inwood Hill Park. When we walked by again coming down the hill, it wasn’t filled by the parent bird. Sometimes the birds will dart off, but that does leave the eggs vulnerable. The day before we watched as three Crows each took a turn eating the eggs in a high nest in Prospect Park. A bit of blue egg was seen. Other thrushes have blue eggs, so it may not have been a Robin, but it probably was.

So Crows are notorious for raiding nests, but their reputation here is much overblown. This may surprise you, but this species actually takes more bird eggs than Crows: Tamias striatusYes, the adorable Eastern Chipmunk. Which just goes to show you that moral views of nature should always be suspect.

Don’t Know Jack?

Arisaema triphyllumArisaema triphyllumArisaema triphyllumSpathe and spadix: Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), a plant with many other names, including Bog Onion. I’ve never come across so many. Unfortunately, they were off the boardwalk, so I could not lift their hoods to check out their engines. Arisaema triphyllum

Squirrel Pile

Sciurus carolinensisSciurus carolinensisYou didn’t think I was going to let you get away with just one picture of the baby Gray Squirrel Pile, did you?
Sciurus carolinensisSciurus carolinensis

What a Great Swamp!

Symplocarpus foetidusI missed the emergence of Skunk Cabbage this year. Here’s some of the mature, cabbagy leaves as they look now. The time-travelling internet, however, can take us back to a previous year’s sprouting.

It seems as if everything happens at once during spring. At Great Swamp NWR recently, we saw and heard so much it was a true spring wonderland. Spring Beauties on the ground and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers gathering spider silk for their nests in the trees. We had a brief glimpse of Pileated Woodpecker and lots of sound-effects from same. A Broad-wing Hawk circled overhead. Baeolophus bicolorThe clarion call of Tufted Titmouse was heard repeatedly.Baeolophus bicolorThey are, it develops, cavity nesters. This is a female popping out of her nest — she came out to mate.Nerodia sipedonOne of the Northern Water Snakes. Arisaema triphyllumJack-in-the-Pulpit: do they always bloom pointing away from the sun? Sciurus carolinensisBaby Gray Squirrels. In the leaflitter, there were a couple dozen tiny, swift mammals impossible to photograph; they were shrews or voles.


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