Friday, May 01, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the first week of May:

Bird: Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) - While warblers and other colorful neotropic songbirds have begun streaming through the city on their way north I've selected this little gray bird as my focus for the week. A medium-sized bird, this species of mimic thrush is named for its cat-like mewing call. Like other members of the Mimidae family, it mimics the songs of other birds, frogs and mechanical sounds. Its song is distinguished from the Northern Mockingbird, who
repeats phrases 3 to 4 times and the Brown Thrasher, who repeats each phrase twice, by the fact that each phrase is sung only once. Gray Catbirds can be found in dense undergrowth dominated by saplings and shrubs. In New York City, the arrival of Gray Catbirds is an indication that the Spring songbird migration has finally taken off and that our parks will be filled with hundreds of beautiful birds heading to their breeding grounds.

Amphibian: American Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris) - Many people are unaware that there are more than just Red-eared Sliders and Snapping Turtles in our city's ponds and lakes. If one looks closely at the groups of sliders
basking on logs and boulders you are likely to notice a different reptile; an American Red-bellied Turtle. These shy, wary turtles swim rapidly and bury themselves in the mud when scared. The range of the red-bellied includes Massachusetts and coastal areas of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina. It has appeared on Pennsylvania Fish Commission lists of endangered amphibians and reptiles since 1978. Threats to red-bellied turtle populations are numerous: wetland loss, habitat fragmentation, pollution, collecting of turtles for pets, food or other trophies, competition with the invasive red-eared slider turtle for food, habitat, basking sites or nesting sites, and the potential for hybridization with red-eared slider turtles.

Wildflower: Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) - The Trout Lily is found in rich, moist woodlands.
Flowering from March to May, its name comes from the speckled leaves, which are reminiscent of the skin of a trout. This wildflower is native to North America and grows in groups of dozens to hundreds of plants. Another common name is Adders Tongue, referring to the tightly rolled, pointed leaves as they emerge from the ground.










Tree: Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) - While most New Yorkers are flocking to the botanic gardens to view the climax of the cherry blossoms, I've decided to select a non-cherry species for this week's tree highlight. The Eastern Redbud is native to North America and Canada with similar species in Europe and Asia. This tree was first cultivated in 1811. In his diary, George Washington frequently noted the beauty of the tree. He spent many hours in his garden transplanting seedlings from the nearby forest. The seeds of the redbud are eaten by many birds. In early spring, before leaves appear, its twigs are covered with masses of pink flowers. The flowers can be eaten in a salad.

3 comments:

Marie said...

Lovely trout lily - one of my favourite flowers. I did not know they grew in Prospect Park.

Rob Jett said...

I only just recently discovered them in the park. They are in a tiny wooded area near the carousel. Here's a link to a map:

http://tinyurl.com/dnev42

Matthew said...

I've been wondering what those turtles were. Saw a big one (w/foot long shell) on that big snag in the Lullwater recently, hanging out with a black-crowned night heron.

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope