Xenox tiginus is a large fly with a distinctive black and clear wing patterning. At least in our eastern region, where there is just one of these Xenox genus flies; there are a few more out west. These lay their eggs at the entrances of Carpenter Bee nests so that their larvae can parasitize the bee’s larvae. And around we go…
They also seem to have an affinity for landing on humans.
Well, if I don’t recognize it, how will the other birds?
Spotted in Marine Park’s wild west side a week ago: the identity of this bird baffled me for while. And then it hit me. Young Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). This bird was raised by another species, for Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites: they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, and Red-winged Blackbird are typical targets, but there are 220 species possibilities! Talk about adaptation.
Some birds will recognize the alien egg and push it out, or, if not strong enough for that, build a new nest on top to it. Other species, however, can’t recognize that the egg doesn’t belong to them (even though it may be larger). Hatchling cowbirds will then out-compete if not outright kill their step-siblings in the nest.
Brood parasitism is a remarkable adaptation by several bird species around the world. The BHC use other nests because, we think, they followed the bison around the grasslands of the American west. This left them no time to make a nest and brood a clutch of eggs themselves. They’ve expanded their range eastward as we’ve destroyed forests and otherwise paved paradise.
Some people get very moralistic about BHCs–the birds can negatively affect rare bird populations–but as usual the problem was created and/or exacerbated by us humans, definitely the world champion nest-wreckers.
Also, close by was a singing Eastern Towhee male (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) atop a cherry tree. Coincidence?
Starting to see a few Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) out and about.
And the Black Swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) are also active now. Male above, female below, I think.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail(Papilio glaucus) female. A very conspicuous butterfly, both for her size (4-4.5″ wingspan) and her bold tiger-like patterning. Males lack the deep blue.
But wait! Delaying this post has meant I keep running across more species! This American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) was spotted the other day. Close enough to touch.
Here, then, is every species of butterfly I’ve seen within the bounds of NYC. I only have a few skippers listed, for there are certainly several more “grass skipper” species that I just can not differentiate.
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)
Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)
Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) ? this complex is complicated!
Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) these two Colias are pretty hard to differentiate, but I think I have
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas)
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
Duskywing (could have been Horace’s, Erynnis horatius or Juvenal’s, E. juvenalis)
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) — our most common butterfly, introduced from Europe. Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon)
Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius)
Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)
Eastern Comma Polygonia comma
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
Grey Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
(I’ll update this listing as necessary.)
All my butterfly posts. Which ones are you seeing?
Rails are elusive, secretive, reed-habitat specialists, blending in quite nicely in their saltwater and brackish marshes in their thin-as-a-rail way. Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) less so than the others. For one thing, they can be quite vocal: their namesake “clap” is more of a “kek.” Recently, we heard several at Marine Park and saw three individuals.
Here’s a previous encounter out there: note that I used the old binomial. The Atlantic and California/Arizona subspecies were split in 2014.
Here’s the hell. Across the tidal inlet from the restored portion of Marine Park Nature Center is the wild west of the park, a strip bordering the neighborhood of Gerritsen Beach. Last year, the last time we ventured over there, we just missed a brush fire, probably caused by the addled dopeheads we’d passed, and dodged brats and their parents playing paintball. The dogs are always unleashed, and sometimes these ATVs, also illegal in the city, rip the shit out of the fragile sandy terrain. (Note that the first vehicle has a kid aboard, being poisoned early.) There’s no enforcement over there and never has been as far as I can tell. Rumors that these trolls are all related to cops — Gerritsen Beach is one of those segregated parts of the city where the adults all seem to be in the uniformed branches of city services — may suggest why Parks Enforcement and rangers do nothing about the unceasing trashing of the place.
The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is no stranger in our midst, but you really need to be along the coast to spot a Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major). Marine Park had a few of them foraging in the reed stubble recently. Here’s one of these spectacular “blackbirds.” They are bigger than the Commons, with longer tails and a full-body iridescence where Commons have purple-blue heads and brownish-bronze bodies.Unfortunately, none of my pictures quite captured the intensity of this bird’s blue iridescence in that back-lit bright morning sun.
They’re called “boat-tailed” because their tails looks like keels in flight. Their other cousins, the Great-tailed Grackles, have even bigger tails.
About that binomial: Pandion was a mythical king of Athens who had two daughters, Philomel and Procne. The latter married Tereus, king of Thrace, even though he wanted Philomel. To get Philomel, the Thracian cut out Procne’s tongue and pretended she was dead. Unable to speak her woe, Procne informed her sister of her fate by way of weaving a tapestry, or a web in some versions, that told all. The sisters then took ancient Greek vengeance, killing, cooking, and serving Tereus’s own son to him. The gods, with their somewhat delayed sense of justice, punished the sisters by turning Philomel into a nightingale and Procne into a swallow (no singers, they), who would be pursued forever by Tereus in the form of a hawk. Still with me here? Linnaeus thought Ospreys were hawks of the genus Falco. Savigny said baloney to that and placed them in Pandion, where they remain the sole members of their genus, although perhaps the genus name should probably have been Tereus.
The specific part of the binomial is the Greek for “sea eagle”; fish hawk and fish eagle are other names for this fish-eater, which is no eagle.* “Osprey” is also a bit of mess, meaning more or less “bone-breaker,” a name which really refers to the Lammergeier, the enormous Old World vulture.
*The Bald Eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalus, with an extra “e” in the genus.