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Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly Species Highlight

Here are are the weekly species highlights for the second week of April:

Bird: American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) - Classified under the general heading "Shorebird", woodcocks are rarely observed along the shorelines, but are associated with wet forests. These long-billed, stocky sandpipers have eyes set far back on their heads giving them a 360 degree view of their surroundings. Cryptic, dead-leaf coloration and pattern render them nearly invisible on the forest floor. They arrive on their breeding grounds as early as late-February. Communal courtship grounds, or leks, are the setting for their extraordinary displays. Each day, at dawn and dusk, males gather at the lek and began making a nasal "peent" call. The individual males then spiral high into the dark sky returning to earth while making a high-pitched twittering sound. These displays are occurring now. Some known display sites around NYC are the Ridgewood Reservoir, Floyd Bennett Field and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Mammal: Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) - The inquisitive and endearing chipmunk is not found in all of New York City's parks. Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, is one area where they are common. Chipmunks do not truly hibernate, although they spend most of the cold months sleeping in their dens, waking periodically to feed on cached food. Long daylight hours and warmer days have drawn them back out into the forest. Look for them now around woodland edges, stone walls and rock piles. Their loud "chips" can be mistaken for bird calls as their renewed activities coincide with the songbird migration.

Wildflowers: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) - Bloodroot is a native of eastern North American and is found in open mixed deciduous forests. It gets its name from the root's bright red juice. The juice has been used as a natural cure for, among other things, asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and warts. It has also been used in love potions, but I highly recommend that you avoid ingesting this toxic liquid. Also note that this increasingly scarce member of the poppy family should be preserved, not exploited.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) - These pale pink or white flowers are highly fragrant. The plant is a member of the heath family and can be found in woodlands dominated by oaks and pines with acidic soils. While classified among shrubs, the trailing arbutus grows close to the ground and has trailing stems. Unfortunately, this plant has been eradicated in many places due to its popularity as an herbal remedy and for sale as a spring wildflower.

Tree: Okame Cherry (Prunus x 'Okame') - Among the hundreds of cherry cultivars the Okame Cherry is the earliest bloomer. Its deep, rose-colored blossoms are in bloom right now but, by the climax of the cherry blossom festivals here in the northeast, most will have withered.


Bluebird of Friendliness said...

Are these species highlights going to be a regular feature? I love it!

Rob Jett said...

Yes. My only worry is that, as we get deeper into Spring, it may become more difficult to pick the highlights ;-)

Yojimbot said...

great info! love the bloodroot passage.

ps i had a dream last night of a scarlet tanager!

Rob Jett said...

Sometimes when I dream of birds they are imaginary species...a composite of the best parts of some of my favorite birds.

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