Posts Tagged 'Marine Park'


Actual entomologists often trap their subject specimens. Some dragonflies can’t be identified unless they’re in the hand. Others rarely stop moving. (Red meadowhawks, I’m thinking of you.)Not that “capturing” a dragonfly by camera is easy. The swaying reed, the moving camera, the photographer’s crappy eyesight… When I spot a dragonfly I don’t think I’ve seen before, my heart starts racing. Which is unfortunate in dragonfly season, already hot enough as it is. These were definitely unfamiliar. Nice of them to perch, too!These are all Seaside Dragonlets (Erythrodiplax berenice). The darks ones are male, the yellow female.Look at this patterning! I think this is a variation on the female.Females further south don’t have as much spotting on the wings.

It turns out I’ve seen the females before, on Plumb Beach, which is not far from where I saw these at Marine Park. That first time was under quite different light conditions, though. The jumping yellow here wasn’t imprinted on my eyes the first time.

This species is unusual: they lay their eggs in salt water, so look for them around salt marshes.

* * *

Paine: “Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.”

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.

Raptor Wednesday


The all-Merlin (Falco columbarius) edition.
In Green-Wood. This falcon, seen here on two different perches, was one of two by the Crescent Water at the same time. The other flew into a nearby tree — but the photography possibilities were not worth posting home about. The second bird took off, followed by the first. I wasn’t sure if this territorial or courtship behavior.Another day, another place, this time Marine Park. An hour before sunset, so that House Sparrow looks like dinner.

Sibley gives the following stats for average Merlin size:
length: 10″; wingspan: 24″; weight: 6.5 oz (109g); females always bigger than males.
For House Sparrow:
length: 6.25″; wingspan 9.5″; weight: 0.98 oz (28g).

Tiger Bee Fly

Xenox tigrinusXenox 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.


Molothrus aterWell, 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.
Pipilo erythrophthalmusAlso, close by was a singing Eastern Towhee male (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) atop a cherry tree. Coincidence?

Butterfly Showcase

Danaus plexippusStarting to see a few Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) out and about. Danaus plexippus

Papilio polyxenesAnd the Black Swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) are also active now. Male above, female below, I think.Papilio polyxenes

Papilio glaucusEastern 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.

Vanessa virginiensisBut 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.Vanessa virginiensis

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?

You Don’t Need To Be A Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Is Blowing

Nyctanassa violaceaLast week, we had some nice views of the more common Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax. This is a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea).Nyctanassa violaceaIf you squinch up your eyes, you can sort of get that creamy yellow crown color the birds are named after… remember that a lot of birds got their names from a dead specimen in hand. (But also see this bird on a nest in Texas.) Nyctanassa violacea The binomial name, meanwhile, translates as “night lady violet,” the violet color of the back being imaged, I mean referenced. Nyctanassa violaceaAnother NYC breeding species, nesting in several locals within the city’s watery borders. And  last year there was some exciting news: a pair nested on Governor’s Island, a first; the island’s brief span of isolation after it was abandoned by the Coast Guard seems to have opened the gates to nature again; will the renewed frenzy of human re-occupation close them? Nyctanassa violacea


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