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Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Below are the species highlights for the third week of April. As Spring progresses and the blooming rate accelerates it will become increasingly difficult for me to pick a single highlight for each grouping. At some point I may just have to include multiple selections:

Bird: Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) - This medium-sized, migrating woodpecker has suddenly appeared in large numbers around our city parks. Unlike most woodpeckers, the flicker spends an inordinate amount of time feeding on the ground. Right now they can be seen foraging in open fields in the company of American Robin flocks. Like most woodpeckers, their flight is marked by a distinct undulating pattern. They are easily identified by the large white patch of feathers on their rump. A typical call is a loud, repeated, "flicka, flicka, flicka, flicka". In the eastern US, flickers range extend from Quebec south. They can also be found in Central America in the highlands of Nicaragua.

Butterfly: Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) - Introduced in New York in 1868, this Eurasian butterfly has become one of the most widespread and common species in the United States. Caterpillars host plants include many species in the mustard family including broccoli, radish and cabbage. They can be seen during any month of the year when temperatures exceed 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that NYC is beginning to experience the warmer days of Spring, Cabbage Whites are being seen in greater numbers.

Wildflower: Daffodil (Narcissus spp.) - The Latin name for Daffodil is Narcissus, which means "numb" or "numbness" referring to its sap's narcotic effects. Native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, there are between 50 and 100 wild species, although most Daffodils seen in our city parks are hybrids or cultivars. Legend says that the center of the daffodil cup holds the tears of Narcissus, who in Greek legend fell in love with his reflected image in a pool of water, and gazed at it until he died of starvation and thirst.

Flowering Shrub: Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) - Most species of Forsythia are native to eastern Asia. They are a deciduous, flowering shrub in the olive family. The most commonly cultivated Spring flowering varieties are Forsythia × intermedia and Forsythia suspensa. Their early-blooming, bell-shaped, yellow flowers, which usually open before the leaves, provide an important food source for pollinating insects.

Tree: Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) - The Callery "Bradford" Pear is one of the most common street trees in New York City. It was planted because of its beautiful Spring flowers, tolerance to a variety of soil conditions and resistance to pollution and fireblight. Unfortunately, it has recently been recognized as an invasive species in some locations, pushing out native North American trees and plants.


Pamela said...

today we had a flicker in the neighbors tree which spreads out over our lawn.
It made a ruckus for several hours. It kept calling and calling...
very very loud. Was it looking for a mate?

Rob Jett said...

Yes, it was most likely calling for a mate.

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