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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Botanic Garden & Prospect Park

Suspended on the leaf of a Cup Plant

(About 3" across, this is the smallest spider web I've ever seen)

Robin and I took a walk to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the late-morning. It takes us about 15 minutes if we cut through the Midwood...that is, if I do not find something unusual along the way to slow us down. I have not seen any postings about the Acadian Flycatchers, so I also wanted to look around for them. It would be a treat to see a whole brood of little, squeaky flycatchers.

Small flocks of Barn Swallows have converged on Prospect Park's lakes and meadows. As we walked across the Long Meadow from the Picnic House towards the Ravine, about a dozen swallows zoomed back and forth over the footpath. The freshly mowed expanse of grass stirred millions of tiny insects and the iridescent, blue birds coursing low over the grass quickly snapped them up.

In the Ravine, we spotted several very young robins and cardinals. It seemed unusually late in the season to see fledglings. We briefly listened for the Acadian Flycatchers near the nest, but it was very quiet in the woods; even the young Red-tailed Hawks were mute.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

(Now blooming throughout the city)

The botanic garden was noisy compared to Prospect Park. As we entered near Empire Boulevard a mockingbird greeted us with an unending string of robin, Blue Jay, cardinal and oriole vocalizations. Unlike Prospect Park, open, grassy areas dominate the garden’s landscape. Northern Mockingbirds prefer open areas and several pairs nest in the relatively limited space. Conversely, they rarely nest across Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Park.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)

In addition to looking at flowers, I was hoping to find some interesting butterflies or dragonflies. During the mid-summer, there is always a stunning array of mixed perennials around the edges of the Lily Pond Terrace. If you have limited time, it is a good garden starting point.

Robin pointed out a beautiful bee with lightening bolt-like patterned wings. I was sure that he was not a real bee, but an imposter. As he patrolled a small cluster of day-glow pink, beet plants, I followed closely, camera at the ready.

When returning home through the Midwood, I decided to scour the woodlands near the main waterways for signs of the Acadian Flycatchers. At a small, grassy patch at the north entrance to the Midwood, I spotted a young cottontail nibbling on blades of grass. I told him that it wasn't a good idea to be eating out in the open, with his back to the trees. He was about a foot from a fence and the protection of thick underbrush. He ignored my warning about the Red-tailed Hawks, so I prodded him into the cover of a dense growth of goutweed. The Ravine's wet, deciduous forest seemed like it would be the most desirable habitat. Two paths loop around the area. For an hour, I slowly examined every stretch of trees and stream.

Young, careless Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Blue Dasher female (Pachydiplax longipennis) in the Midwood

I primarily just listened for the sounds of young birds. There were some very young, "crestless" cardinals begging for food in thickets near the ground. I followed the non-stop pleas of a speckled, fledgling robin to a perch in an oak tree. Near the Lower Pool, there were three fledgling kingbirds, side by side in a weeping willow, simultaneously squawking. I never located the Acadian Flycatchers.

I am not aware of any reference material to learn baby animal vocalizations. In addition, I cannot describe the difference between various baby animals’ cries, but much of the time I can just tell. I started to wonder what is it about the frequency and/or quality of a baby in distress, any baby species, which stimulates a reaction in adults? Who among us has not had an immediate, instinctive response from the sound of an orphaned or abandoned kitten? How many children have heard the cries of then brought home, an injured baby bird? I have read several accounts of dogs or cats adopting an orphan of a different species. How did they know that the small creature's noises meant, "take care of me"? I do not have any answers to these questions. Maybe it is just better to believe that inside of nearly all of us is the drive to survive and to help others do the same.

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

- - - - -

Prospect Park & Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 7/22/2007
Red-tailed Hawk
Laughing Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
House Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow


Pamela said...

yeah.. I get distressed when I hear that. Especially when that Kestrel flys off with one of the sparrows screaching in its claws.

circle of life... sigh.

Marie said...

A tiger bee fly! Thank you. One flew into my apartment two days ago and into the waiting paws of my cat. I confess that I over- reacted and dropped a copy of Delirious New York (Rem Koolhaas) onto it, thinking it was a horse fly. Only it's perfectly falttened form was all wrong for that. If only it had made please save me noises...

Lovely post.

Marie said...

Incidentally, whatever happened about the alleged Walnut Shooter??

Rob Jett said...

I asked, through the article's comments, that the person who made the charge contact me. They never did and, for all I know, the accusation could be a wouldn't be the first time that one was circulated through the net.

For the sake of the birds, I hope it was fake.

Alex Wilson said...

That’s not good news on the Acadians. I was hoping others might have better reports, but yours are similar to what I’ve been able to observe. On 7/11 the adults appeared to be bringing food to the nest, although I could not see any actual chicks or even movement in the cup. During heavy rain on 7/18 an adult was perched atop the nest, much higher up than previously, when only its head was visible. Conditions were poor and I didn’t stay long, but again I couldn’t verify any actual nestlings. On 7/21 I had a brief look at an adult in the general vicinity of the nest, and heard a few adult calls, but there was no activity at the nest itself. On 7/28 I did not see or hear any sign of the birds. I hope they are still around, and it’s certainly possible, but I’m inclined to believe that they did not successfully fledge any young. I’d love to hear if anyone knows better.

Rob Jett said...

I have a small bicycle, rearview mirror that I plan on using to check the contents of the nest.

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