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Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

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

Bird: Sanderling (Calidris alba) - This week I noticed that small flocks of migrating Sanderlings had returned to the coast at Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden. Many of these birds will continue their journey south, while some will overwinter along New York City beaches. This shorebird is one of the most widespread wintering shorebirds and can be found on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. Only the Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel rival its worldwide distribution. A small wader of the calidris genus, it is a circumpolar Arctic breeder. They winter south to South America, South Europe, Africa, and Australia. Common along U.S. coastlines in the winter, they can be recognized by their humorous behavior of moving up and down sandy beaches; running from advancing waves, then running back and picking up food as the water retreats. On their breeding grounds they feed primarily on insects and insect larvae, as well as, some vegetation. In spring, they often stopover to feed heavily on horseshoe crab eggs. In non-breeding plumage bird is very pale with a dark shoulder patch. In breeding plumage, the face and throat become brick-red. Surveys have indicated a very serious decline since the 1970s, primarily due to habitat destruction.

Wildflower: Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus) - When cycling to the beach, I've been noticing an abundance of Common chicory along the parkway and bike path. A native wildflower of Europe, it has become naturalized in North America. It is a bushy perennial herb resembling dandelion with blue, lavender, or occasionally white flowers. Other common names for this blue wildflower are "blue sailors", "succory" and "coffeeweed". The roots have been roasted to create a coffee-substitute and are also used in some herbal teas. The flowerheads are very beautiful, but short-lived.

Shrub: Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.) - This fast-growing shrub requires little care and is one of the most attractive plants to butterflies, bees and moths. Some species also attract hummingbirds. Flower colors may be purple, white, pink, or red, and usually have an orange throat in the center. The flowers are borne in long, 8-18 in, cone-shaped drooping clusters They are rich in nectar and often strongly scented. It was named after the Reverend Adam Buddle, a botanist and rector in Essex, England. The shrub is a weeping form that can grow to 6-12 ft tall with a 4-15 ft spread. This group consists of about one hundred evergreen and deciduous flowering shrubs. They are a native species of the New World from the southern United States south to Chile, and widely in the Old World in Africa and the warmer parts of Asia. Most blossom from mid-summer to early autumn. The most popular cultivated species is Buddleia davidii from central China, named after the French naturalist Père Armand David.

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