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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saturday in the Park

I was only able to get out into the park on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing so hard that most of the birds were hunkered down and out of sight. The Vale of Cashmere is protected from the wind on three sides, but I only spotted a single Black-throated Blue Warbler and Northern Waterthrush. From the vale, along Nelly's Lawn and the Long Meadow to the Upper Pool, I spent my most of my time looking for dragonflies and assorted wildflowers.

I noticed a Green Darner perched on a stalk of dried thistle at the edge of Nelly's Lawn. Normally, they fly off when you get too close, but he didn't move, even when I held my camera just a few inches away. It was a little cold, so I guess he was in some type of torpor. During a cold fall day several years ago, I found a Green Darner that I thought was dead. I held him in my hand for a couple of minutes. Well, I presume my body heat warmed him up, as he suddenly came to life and flew off.

There weren't any birds at the Aralia Grove, despite an abundance of tiny, ripe berries on the "Devils Walking-sticks". I've heard several Veeries calling from the edges of the woods and, like many migrating thrushes, can be found feeding on pokeweed. I scanned any of the weedy patches I encounter that contained the dark, purple fruit. In September, and into October, they are a magnet for migrating birds.

I spent about an hour at the wildflower meadow near the Fallkill Falls. Towering goldenrod were ablaze in the late afternoon sun and currently dominate the small field. There were also scattered patches of flowering New York Ironweed, Beggars Tick and Nodding Smartweed. Common "Lady's Thumb's", a relative of the Nodding Smartweed, attract migrating sparrows at this time of year who nibble on its pink seeds. After examining my close-up photos, then researching the Nodding Smartweed at home, I learned that the tiny, pink and white seeds were not seeds at all, but minute flowers. The birds are actually eating the buds and flowers of the similar polygonums.

Another interesting discovery Saturday was the flower structure of the New York Ironweed. I had assumed that the flower was the purple things at the end of the stems. Well, they are, sort of. Each thread-like petal is actually an individual flower. As the plant blooms, every thread opens as a five petal flower, so the flower head is composed of 30 to 50 individual florets. They hadn't opened on the plants that I was looking at, so I'll go back this week and take another close-up photo.

I started examining all the flowers looking for interesting insects. Instead, a "Beggars Tick" plant caught my interest and I spent several minutes taking photos. When the small, yellow flower heads dry, the seeds are dispersed in a unique manner. Two hooks at the end of the seeds attach themselves to any animal or human who brushes against it. I've accidentally touched the plants while wearing wool gloves. The gloves become covered in the velcro-like seeds and trying to use one gloved hand to remove the seeds from the other gloved hand quickly becomes an exercise in futility and great entertainment for your friends. I'm sure that I've unintentionally spread hundreds, if not thousands, of "Beggars Tick" plants in the wake of my activities. Just call me "Johnny Beggars Tick Seed". On second thought...

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Oh my gosh, these are great, especially that top one.


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