Posts Tagged 'Staten Island'

Mammal Monday

Ondatra zibethicus: muskrat! As busy as the proverbial beaver.Thoreau reveled in calling them “musquash.” (See Geoff Wisner’s collection of HDT on animals.)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Senator Susan Collins says the President has assured her he won’t be asking his Supreme Court candidates about Roe v. Wade. Two things: 1) Trump’s record on lying tells us he’ll say ANYTHING to try and get what he wants; and 2) the list he’s using is from the Federalist Society, an organization openly dedicated to transforming the American court system. The people on the list have already been asked about Roe.

Also, Senator Collins seems to think it’s legit for someone — who will in all probability have his case(s) in front of SCOTUS — pick another of the justices.

Glossy Ibis

The first time I saw a Glossy Ibis was in Jamaica Bay. I didn’t even know we even had ibis in the Americas. There are actually three species found in the U.S. The Glossy, Plegadis falcinellus, gets up as far as southern coastal Maine during the breeding season. The White-faced is a prairie states breeder and the White is a Florida native. An occasional White-faced or White will show up in these parts. This Glossy was on Staten Island recently.Doing a little bathing, a little foraging, in a small pond that looked like it would dry up by the deeps of summer.

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.

Red Meadowhawks

Obelisking meadowhawk of the Sympetrum genus. This abdomen-up position minimizes the amount of heat hitting the body.The Sympetrum are difficult to distinguish out-of-hand in the field. This could be the White-faced, Cherry-faced, or Ruby-Faced.This male was the only specimen seen at NYBG. The females are even harder to distinguish, but they all know the drill: the sex parts are all unique for the individual species. This dragon made many sorties and perched in multiple spots within a very short compass, but he always faced the pond.Another, this time on Staten Island. Note that segment 2 of the abdomen doesn’t seem as keel-like as the one in the first three pictures. Also the only example seen at this location. They seem to like the perch and foray style, unlike, say, the gliders, which are constantly on patrol in the air.

Swamp Loosestrife

Decodon verticillatus is also called water-willow and whorled loosestrife. The flowers are spectacular, but you sure have to get close to them.These leaves certainly look rather “willowy,” but the species isn’t related to Salix. It is related to Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), the dreadful invasive, but D. verticillatus is a native from Maine to Louisiana. Talk about liking to get its feet wet! It grows in fresh water. One source says muskrats like to munch on these bulbous underwater bits.

Great Golden Digger

Busy as a wasp. A Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus).She builds a nearly vertical burrow with cells off of a central tunnel, each stockpiled with paralyzed grasshoppers and katydids for her young.

Raptor Wednesday

Ran into a family of four Bald Eagles at Mt. Loretto on Staten Island. Haliaeetus leucocephalus: this is one of this year’s youngsters. The white head and tail feathers come in fully by age 4 or so. The bird was making a racket, calling its parents for food. Big, but still learning. An adult flew in with a fish; this one joined it, and then the other youngster, unseen and unheard before this, did as well. Eventually, both parents perched over the pond. There was something rather curious going at the other end of this pond. It looked like a mostly submerged, dead Canada Goose was being jerked about in the water (primaries were occasionally seen) and chomped on by at least two large Snapping Turtles. I do not think this escaped the eagles’ eyes. They are great scavengers. Probably the closest I’ve ever been to one of these birds. Looked so much bigger on the ground and in the water than up in a tree. From the back, I was reminded of a Turkey.The bird was poking at things in the water, picking some of them up.

We urged it to drop this (plastic bag, mylar balloon?). It did, luckily. The first year is fraught with hazards.


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