Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

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

Bird: Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) - Prior to the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty act of 1918, this sparrow-sized shorebird was nearly wiped out due to excessive hunting for the millinery trade. Their numbers rebounded by the 1940s, but declined again after World War II because of over-development and recreational use of beaches. Their sandy coloration makes them difficult to see when standing still. The bird's name comes from its "piping" whistle, usually heard well before the bird is seen. Like many species in the plover family, they move by running in short starts and stops. Piping Plovers are globally threatened and endangered. While it is federally threatened, the Piping Plover has been listed as state endangered in many, if not all, of the states where it breeds. The chicks are precocious and leave the nest to forage for food themselves shortly after hatching. Their eggs blend in very well with the sand, putting them in danger of being stepped on by humans. On NYC beaches, enclosures are placed around the nest and larger sections of the coastal area are marked with fences and signs to alert the public.

Dragonfly: Common Green Darner (Anax junius) - The Green Darner is one of our largest dragonflies. They are also one of the fastest and have been clocked at up to 53 mph (85 km/h).

Some nicknames for the Common Green Darner are: Darning Needle, Mosquito Hawk and Lord of June.

Adults should be considered a friend of humans as they consume an abundance of biting flies. They prey on midges, mosquitoes, caddisflies and other insects. Extremely aggressive, they patrol their territory for intruders and will attack bees and wasps. Like many of our bird species, Green Darner’s migrate in large numbers during the spring and fall.

Wildflower: Iris (Iris spp.) - There are about thirty native species of irises in North America. All belong to the subgenus Limniris, the beardless irises. Approximately 200 different species are found worldwide. The name "Iris" comes from Greek mythology and refers to the Goddess of the Rainbow. The iris bloom has been the symbol of monarchs and royal families throughout history. The most famous royal use of the iris as a symbol of power was that of the Bourbon Kings of France, including Louis XIV. Irises have adapted to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, blooming widely throughout North America. While irises may be seen blooming during much of the late-Spring, Summer and into Autumn, this is a good time to see their varying shapes and forms around New York City. The Slender Blue Flag (Iris prismatica) is listed as "Threatened" in New York State.

Tree: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) - Native to North America, the Black Cherry usually grows 40-60 ft tall and grows best on moist, fertile soils, but can be found in just about any forest, along any roadside, or in any abandoned field within its range. The crushed leaves smell like black cherry soda. Tiny white flowers in drooping clusters appear in early to late spring. Mature trees are easy to identify by deeply fissured, dark grey to black bark. The cherries are dark red and ripen in early summer. Birds feast on the cherries at almost the exact moment that they ripen, leaving very few for me. The pitted fruits can be eaten raw or made into jelly.

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