Posts Tagged 'invertebrates'

Speaking of Ticks, or More Foxes, More Possums!

I didn’t have my camera with me, so recent run-ins with three young rabbits in the Bronx went unrecorded. Each of them was festooned with ticks, around the ears, face, and neck. Some of the ticks were hugely bloated, looking like malignant gumballs or creepy purple pearls. A few days later, armed again with lens and digital thingamajibbles, I caught this Cedar Waxwing at the communal bath.There in the throat.

Yes, there’s a Waxwing nest nearby.

Summer

You never know what you’ll see out there. Sure, the frying days of summer make it hard to enjoy the brute sun and humidity, but on Saturday we had a respite from the heat tsunami. So off we wandered down to Bush Terminal Park, where lo and behold! Two amazing (and concurrent) sights/sounds.

 


1. A couple dozen Laughing Gulls were flying low over the recently mown meadow hillock. As we got closer, we realized they were hunting the plentiful Green June Bugs, which were swarming low to the ground. The gulls were snapping the beetles up and swallowing them whole.The beetles rarely paused in flight, but I did catch this one. Note that one of the beetle’s wing isn’t fully tucked under the elytra.

2. As we approached the park, we saw a pair of American Kestrels over the statue of old man Bush (the developer of the docks, in an era before we realized how damn evil developers are). Inside the park, we heard a Killdeer in great agitation on the other side of the fencing that separates the park off from the empty concrete and weed jumble (presumably the site of ugly apartment buildings in the future).

Sure, Killdeer always sound like they’re agitated, but here was extra good reason. That’s a Kestrel there in the background. On the far fence, like these two:There were at least three Kestrels. They made passes over the Killdeer, flushing it into the air. Then the rowdy Killdeer would turn around and chase the Kestrel. A couple of Mockingbirds also harried the Kestrels. When the Kestrels flew further afield towards the June bug fiesta, a Red-wing Blackbird went after them. The Laughing Gulls also chased the falcons, who, we know, also love to eat Green Junies.

Now, a couple of weeks ago, we saw a Killdeer fly into this fenced area and thought, huh, could a pair be nesting in that desolation? Killdeer will nest practically anywhere, often quite close to people. The fence didn’t stop a photographer and model Saturday, and the whole neighborhood is beset with feral cats. And yet, there were three Killdeers visible there Saturday. One definitely looked like a juvenile. We only spotted it after the Kestrels flew off. (Although the falcons came back later). I gathered the noisy adult was trying to lure the falcons away and/or telling the youngster(s) to sit tight.

Team Kestrel was made up of two females and one male. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Were they the #BrooklynKestrels generation? Bush Terminal is five avenue blocks away from the nest (a little more than half a mile).

Bluets & Forktails

Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum) male.Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) male.
Familiar Bluet female, one of three color forms for this species. When odonating, you will quickly see that it’s males who patrol the water. Females are often munching away elsewhere, and come down to the water to pair up and lay their eggs in the wet stuff.Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male and female.Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) male.Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis) male.And another: some definite photographic challenges with these living inch to inch-and-a-half long critters.

Ladybugs

Two Spotted Ladybug, Adalia bipunctata.Wait, there are four spots, or two tiny dots and some squarish sides? This is one of the melanistic forms of the species. First one I’ve seen this year, on a tree in between Third and Forth Avenues.

Others seen since. It’s definitely insect season.

Mud Castles

Wasp nests, provisioned with spiders and other delicacies for larvae to eat. Vintage ’17, awaiting the warmth of ’18. I had a Black & Yellow Mud-dauber Wasp under the balcony at my Cobble Hill apartment. The brand new adult wasps emerged in June.

Flies

They get no respect, the two-winged insects known as flies. The biters, bloodsuckers, shit-eaters, in-flesh laying parasites, maggot-spawners.

Ooooog, you say, why are you doing this to me on a Sunday morning?

Well, at least they’re not Republicans.

There are an estimated 17 million flies for each and every human. We’d be drowning in excrement and corpses if not for all these flies, or at least the types that do the dirty work. But as Erica McAlister, a curator of diptera at London’s Natural History Museum, tells us, they do a lot more besides. There are also, for instance, vegetarian flies and pollinators. Indeed, chocolate depends on Forcipomyia genus midges for pollination. Paradoxically — or humanly, if you prefer — the expansion of cacao tree cultivation has meant clearing the forests in which chocolate midges live. Uh-oh. McAlister notes that cultivated cacao trees already have a very low pollination rate….

Obviously in love with her life’s work, McAlister’s enthusiasm is infectious.

And speaking of infection (this is a book review by Borscht Belt routine, evidently…) it’s not the mosquitoes — yes, they’re types of flies — who cause trouble; it’s the disease they carry. And they carry those because of the blood they need to produce their young. As vampires know, blood is very rich food; there are even tiny little midges who tap the blood mosquitos fill themselves with.

Cue up Jonathan Swift:

The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.

Pulp Nonfiction

All right, then, I will admit an obsession with these Bald-faced Hornet nests.

The scraps of paper blown down from one that I bought home recently revealed at least two tiny invertebrate species making their home there after the wasps were undone by the year.

At 10x magnification, you really begin to see the tiny fibers of wood pulp, so painstakingly gathered.


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