Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rescued Owlet

On Monday morning I received an email from wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath. He was called in to save a Great Horned Owl chick that had fallen from its nest.

From: Robert Horvath
Date: April 26, 2009 9:31:06 PM EDT
Subject: Owl

This was an easy one this morning. Just got home from a night tour and was loading up the truck with birds for a show today in Riverside Park and got a call for a baby great horned owl at a park about 40 minutes away. I flew out there and some great bird watchers who have been following this nest for weeks told me where it was. Luckily not too high at all and was offered a ladder from the parks people so back this little guy went. There were hundreds of people 20 feet away all day long since it was a Sunday and 80 degrees so no parents ever came by to check but they were close by. I'm sure they'll return tonight and the watchers are there every day monitoring him so if it happens again we'll try another reunion as long as he doesn't injure himself. . .Wish they all turned this to be this easy.

Jim Galletto followed up with this note:

From: James Galletto
Date: April 26, 2009 8:58:49 PM EDT
Subject: Owl

It was still on the nest this afternoon and looked like it was doing well.

Jim























































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Monday, April 27, 2009

Saturday's Migration Insanity

I spent 7 hours in Prospect Park last Saturday and it turned into one of the most extraordinary day's of Spring migration that I've ever experienced.

Doug and I had spoken on Friday about the likelihood of a big fallout of migrating birds overnight. The conditions seemed right: By mid-afternoon that day the winds had shifted to the south and would continue throughout the night. Temperatures were going to be unseasonably warm. Maples and other trees were in full bloom attracting lots of insect life. The moon was in the seventh house...oh wait, that's something else. In any event, we both agreed that a dawn start in Prospect Park was a must. (note: to follow migration predictions from David LaPuma, check out his new Cape May & Twitter service here.)

I decided to start at the south end of the park at Lookout Hill and gradually work my way to the north end. As I pedaled south along Park Drive West I heard Yellow-rumped Warblers singing everywhere. Interspersed were a few Northern Parulas and their rising trills. I got off of my bicycle at the northern end of Lookout Hill near a stand of pines and was surprised to here a Blackpoll Warbler. Some say that the arrival of blackpolls signal the end of the migration. I think this individual was just anxious to get to his breeding grounds in North American's boreal forests. Nearby a Black-throated Green Warbler was also singing. Both were first of season sightings for me. I spotted Doug at the bottom of the stairs near the Maryland Monument and waved him up. We spent the next 2 hours birding just around Lookout Hill. Yellow-rumped Warblers were in nearly every tree and shrub, but we also located Northern Parulas, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler and Black-and-white Warbler. Our first surprise of the morning was finding a singing Yellow-throated Warbler near the northern stairway of Lookout Hill. We had run into Ed Crowne and all three of us were baffled by the song this bird was singing. At times it sounded actually like a Yellow Warbler.

I think it was around 7am when Doug received a call from Dave Klauber. He and Seth Ausubel were making a rare visit to Prospect Park and I volunteered to meet them near the Vanderbilt Playground and lead them to the Yellow-throated Warbler. The bird's non-stop singing made it easy to relocate. Dave and Seth were also bewildered by the bird's odd song. Given that this species is not typically found around NYC, I assumed that it was probably a dialect that none of us "New Yawkahs" were familiar with.

We gradually worked our way north along the main path on Lookout Hill to where it loops south, towards Center Drive. A Black-throated Green Warbler was singing in a Boxelder a dozen yards from the road. Seth put his bins up and, after a moment, exclaimed, "I've got a Townsend's Warbler!" Townsend's Warblers are a dime a dozen West of the Rocky Mountains, but have only been recorded in New York State a handful of times. It may seem funny to non-birders, but our adrenaline levels suddenly spiked. *Below is a great example of how both high technology and pedal power has been extremely helpful for birders in search of rarities:

Doug had left to go play softball about 5 minutes prior to the sighting. While Seth tracked the bird, I called Doug on my cellphone. Dave called Tom Burke. An out-of-breath Doug appeared virtually seconds after I hung up. Dave continued calling people. I called Tom Preston, who I had seen in the park earlier, then I called Lloyd Spitalnik, who maintains a list called "Metro Birding Briefs". Lloyd posted the sighting immediately which popped up on god-knows-how-many birder's cellphones, Blackberries and computers. I then texted Peter Dorosh, who has a group of Brooklyn birders on his own list. I ran out of people to call so decided to pedal around the park rounding up birders. Mary Eyster called me on Peter's cellphone to ask, "Was I serious about the Townsend's Warbler or was I just pulling his leg?" I explained that I may joke about a lot of things, but rare birds during Spring migration isn't one of them. By 8:45am birders were kicking up dust over the horizon like the wheels of a stagecoach, scrambling to get to Prospect Park's Lookout Hill. Feeling like we had done our jobs, Seth, David, Doug and I quietly left Lookout Hill and headed towards the Ravine in search of a reported Prothonotary Warbler.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Prothonotary Warblers breed south of NYC, so they are rarely seen and cause much excitement when once misses the south jersey exit ramp. Keep in mind that I had already seen a Yellow-throated Warbler (another southern bird that is directionally challenged) and a Townsend's Warbler (a western species). Either one of those birds would have made for a great day, but now we were headed for a possible prothonotary. When we arrived at the Rock Arch Bridge in the Ravine, Alan, Janet and three other birders were already there, looking down at the warbler feeding next to the waterfall. Could it get any better? When the warbler hopped out of sight along the edge of the Ambergil I suggested that we walk to the Vale of Cashmere to look for a Hooded Warbler reported earlier by Tom Stephenson.

It seemed almost silly to me that I should make a concerted effort to try and find another rarity, especially since it was only April 25th! The Spring migration usually doesn't peak until mid-May. How could I not, though, knowing the bird was in the park. A group of us made our way up to the northern end of the park and slowly circled the Vale of Cashmere looking and listening for a Hooded Warbler. To be honest, I wasn't looking very hard because the hooded has a very distinct, clear, pure quality to its song. If it even sang a few notes, I was confident that I would find it. As it turned out, Janet was heard it first and called us all over. Hooded Warblers, unlike many wood-warblers, forage close to the ground making this one very viewable, cooperative individual. Hoodeds aren't very rare on their breeding ground, but are primarily solitary birds, so are never seen in large numbers. They are also extremely beautiful birds, so most birders make an extra effort to see them. We were very lucky to get long, satisfying looks of the bird in the vale, but I came away feeling a little conflicted. Having already seen a Yellow-throated Warbler, Townsend's Warbler and Prothonotary Warbler in only a few hours (not to mention, in Brooklyn) this delightful little bird, essentially, became a minor footnote on an extraordinary day of birding.

The videos that I used in this posting were from Cornell's Macaulay Library. For images of the actual birds, Doug Gochfeld has posted photos and videos here. You can also read his summary of our insane day on the NYS Birding List here.

Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 4/25/09
Number of species: 76

Brant (5.)
Wood Duck (3.)
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck (5.)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret (3.)
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron (6.)
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo (approx. 12.)
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Hermit Thrush

Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula (2.)
Yellow Warbler (6.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler (4.)
Townsend's Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler (3.)
Prothonotary Warbler
Ovenbird (2.)
Northern Waterthrush
Hooded Warbler

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow (3.)
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of local field trips for the weekend of May 2nd - 3rd, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, May 2nd, 2009, 8:00am - 12:00pm
Prospect Park
Meet: 8:00am at Grand Army Plaza's park entrance.
Leader: Tom Stephenson
Focus: Celebrating the Brooklyn Bird Club's founding in Prospect Park, commemorating the initial 1908 meeting of Edward Fleisher, eventual first President; and inspirational founder Edward Vietor "in a meadow" near the Vale of Cashmere. Each month, a morning walk will venerate the early life of the club, its first's birders, its 1909 charter. These walks will honor all the club members and guests birding in Prospect Park since the first years and throughout our history.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, May 2nd, 2009, 10:00am to 12 noon
The New Old Mill Road
Park at the end of Old Mill Road, alongside the old church. Do not park in the church's main parking lot.
We'll stroll along Old Mill Road, a newly designed multi-use trail, next to Fresh Kills, below the hills of Latourette Golf Course, and turn right at the end toward Richmond Hill Road. We’ll see the flow of the famous Hessian Spring as it crosses the road. We may return by the Blue Trail. This area has not been accessible for many years and is now open. We are surrounded by beautiful, old woodlands where the very tall, state rare, Gamma Grass, Yellow Giant Hyssop (a mint) and American Strawberry Bush grow.
For more information phone Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 or Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009, 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Spring Migrants at Clove Lakes Park
We will do an afternoon walk to look for spring migrants in a number of places in the park, including the ponds, the stream, the meadows and wooded hillsides.
Meet at the Martling (concrete) bridge on Martling Ave. We expect to find a large number and great variety of birds in this walk. Bring binoculars and wear comfortable shoes for walking.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Howie at 718-981-4002.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, May 02nd, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
MARINE PARK

Bird Club: Bronx-Manhattan Birding Big Day Out
9:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Advanced Hiking
12:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, May 3rd, 2009, 7:30am-12:00pm
Prospect Park
Meet: 8:00am at Grand Army Plaza's park entrance.
Leader: Rafael Campos
Focus: Celebrating the Brooklyn Bird Club's founding in Prospect Park, commemorating the initial 1908 meeting of Edward Fleisher, eventual first President; and inspirational founder Edward Vietor "in a meadow" near the Vale of Cashmere. Each month, a morning walk will venerate the early life of the club, its first's birders, its 1909 charter. These walks will honor all the club members and guests birding in Prospect Park since the first years and throughout our history.


New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, May 3rd, 2009, 9:00am-1:00pm
Biking & Birding Series Opener
Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery
Guide: Gabriel Willow
Spring has sprung and the birds are returning from their tropical wintering grounds! May is also Bike Month. To celebrate, get outside, get back on your bike now that the warm weather is here, and learn more about our beautiful spring migrants in Prospect Park, home to nearly 250 species of birds and a nationally-recognized Important Bird Area, and nearby Green-Wood Cemetery. A gentle ride of moderate distance with some hills. Bring binoculars, water, and your bicycle.
Meet at the Grand Army Plaza Arch. (Distance: 5 miles, some significant uphill in Prospect Park.) Limited to 15.
$20 ($18 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, May 3rd, 2009, 10:30am to 2:00pm
Early Spring Wildflower and Fern Walk along the Palisades and the Hudson
Join Greenbrook Sanctuary's Director/Naturalist, Nancy Slowik, in her annual wildflower/fern search north of Greenbrook Sanctuary. Moderate 2-1/2 mile walk is scheduled to see the peak blooming of Spring Beauties, Dutchman's-breeches, Wild Ginger, Early Meadow-rue and other spring delights. Dick, Sylvia and Sandra plan to leave Staten Island at 9:30 a.m. for the 37 mile drive in about 45 minutes
Bring binoculars to see raptors (hawks and other birds of prey) and early spring bird migrants. Pack a lunch and beverage.
Phone Dick to carpool. Drivers in their cars take the NJ Turnpike to its northern end, then the Palisades Pkwy to exit 2, and follow signs to the Alpine Boat Basin, where we meet near the historic Kearney House, north end of the parking lot.
To register and for more information phone Dick at 718-761-7496.


Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
Spring Migration
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Canoeing the Creek
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Native Plants of the Marsh
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Cherry Blossom Walk
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature Photography Series: Macro Photography
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Canoeing the Creek
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hardworking Titmouse

I just received the following, funny email from my friend Janet:

From: Janet Schumacher
Date: April 26, 2009 12:59:12 PM EDT

Subject: Sunday 4/26


I saw a Tufted Titmouse vigorously trying to pull hairs from a comatose raccoon high up in a fork in a tree on the south side of the first landing of the steps going down into the Vale. This was no casual effort, the titmouse kept working away. The raccoon must have been so glutted on all the picnic food overflowing the trash cans, that it didn't move a muscle (or fat roll). The Birder's Handbook (Ehrlich) notes that titmice do use fur to line their nests.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Now for Something Completely Different

This is totally out of character for my blog, but I had to share. A friend just sent it to me yesterday and I've watched it a bunch of time ever since. A Gentoo Penguin is being pursued by a pod of Killer Whales and just barely staying ahead of them. Hang in there, it works out well for the penguin. You might want to kill the annoying soundtrack. Enjoy:

Weekly Species Highlights

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

Bird: Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) - "Yellow-rumps" are one of the most abundant and wide ranging of the wood-warbler species. Their ability to digest bayberry & myrtle fruits allow them to winter farther north than other warblers. They have a breeding range that stretches across most of Canada and in the east around the Great Lake States. During this part of the Spring migration they are seen in great numbers, sometimes described as "dripping" from the trees. Expect to observe large numbers of these warblers this weekend.

Amphibian: Northern Green Frog (Rana clamitans) - Within the last week I have begun to see these common frogs warming themselves at the edges of ponds and lakes. They are sometimes referred to as "Banjo Frogs" because of their familiar "twang" call made by males advertising for females. They are primarily carnivores feeding on invertebrates such as insects, slugs, snails, crayfish and spiders. Also on their menu are small snakes and other frogs. Breeding in the late Spring the season can last from 1 to 3 months.

Wildflower: Grape-Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) - This flower's common name come from its clusters of bell-shaped, blue flowers which look like upside-down grapes. They are not native to North America but originate in the Mediterranean region. The genus "muscari" refers to the musky scent of many of these flowers. They secret a lot of nectar making them a useful plant for early Spring bees.










Tree: Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) - The Norway Maple is considered by arborists and conservation biologists as a nuisance. It is non-native to North American and pushes out many native species of trees and shrubs. Planted in cities because of its ability to withstand pollution and poor growing conditions, it has invaded forests and fields. It is recognized as an invasive tree in at least 13 states. I have added it to my weekly highlights because it is just now blooming everywhere within our city parks. The flowers have attracted swarms of insects just in time for the arriving songbirds. Look for flocks of warblers and other songbirds within the maple's pale-green canopy this weekend.
...Read more

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weekend Update

Last weekend the arrival of more migrant birds created some noticeable changes in the status and abundance of the local bird populations. I also had a couple of very unusual sightings. Sunday I spent a few hours in Prospect Park, while Saturday I explored part of the Bronx.

I started out early on Saturday, heading up to Pelham Bay Park with my bike. I also pedaled around City Island, taking an essential seafood lunch break near the water's edge. My first unusual sighting came as I rode past the capped landfill that overlooks Eastchester Bay. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks were being harassed by a larger, black bird. A quick look through my bins revealed that the large bird was a Common Raven! I'd never observed one within NYC, only in Upstate New York. I learned later in the weekend that, while still rare,
over the last several years they have been reported with increasing regularity around Westchester and the Bronx.

The second odd sighting came from Prospect Park. When I was on my way to the Bronx I received a call from Doug Gochfeld. A group of birders on a Brooklyn Bird Club trip in Prospect Park spotted an American Bittern in the Ravine. I made it back to the park by 4pm and headed into the Ravine. What wasn't made clear to me in the morning phone call (but quickly became obvious) was that the bittern was perched 60 feet up in the top of a sweetgum tree! Bitterns are normally shy, retiring birds that use their streaked, tawny plumage to vanish into reeds or marsh grass. I've had experiences in the past where one was pointed out to me, but I still couldn't see it because they are so well camouflaged. American Bitterns have one of my all time favorite calls which is usually described as "onk-a-chunk" or "pump-per-lunk".

Sunday gave me a chance to catch up on the migration in Prospect Park, as well as, to check up on the hawk nests.

videoAs I walked across Nelly's Lawn towards the Red-tailed Hawk nest, Max came flying out of the Vale of Cashmere and perched in Elizabeth's Tuliptree. He was making an unusual guttural, chattering sound. I got the impression that he was agitated. I set up my scope at the east side of the nest and had been watching for about 20 minutes when he flew into the pine tree and traded places with his mate. As I watched, he seemed uneasy, looking around frequently, his head feathers extended like porcupine quills. I'm not sure how to interpret the behavior. Perhaps he had a run in with one of the juvenile hawks lingering in the area or maybe this young bird was finally experiencing fatherhood for the first time. We should know very soon.

At least three Wood Ducks continue to hang around the Upper Pool. A late Ring-necked Duck was also present. The forested areas of Prospect Park are suddenly very active with Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrushes. Large numbers of these three species seem to have appeared virtually overnight. Another warbler that I observed for the first time this Spring was Black-and-white Warbler. I also heard, then saw my first Blue-headed Vireo. We are still a couple of weeks away from a fall-out of migrant songbirds, but it was nice to see some big changes. To give you an idea of the increase in birds beginning to stream through the city parks, on March 15th a long day resulted in a list of 50 species in Prospect Park. This weekend an additional 10 have arrived, but more important, the abundance of some of those birds has gone up from a few individuals to several dozen.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rob to the Rescue

Yesterday I saved a robin from certain death.

On a lunch walk into Prospect Park I came across an American Robin entangled in kite string. The poor thing was snared by one foot and was hanging upside down in a cherry tree. The tree was small enough that I was able to pull the main branches down to where I could reach the bird. I really could have used a third arm. To keep the robin from injuring himself I held him in my left hand. With my right hand holding the tree I didn't have too many options for breaking the string, so I used my teeth. The whole time I could feel the animal's heart pounding in my hand. The string was too tangled to just untie, so I had to use my pocketknife to cut it. My close-up vision is terrible, so I had to take out my glasses, open the case and put them one while keeping a firm hold on the robin. The robin bit me a few times during the process. Either robins don't have a very strong bite or he was too exhausted to really try because it didn't hurt. I once rescued a Baltimore Oriole fledgling from the path of a lawnmower and that little thing's bite drew blood! Anyway, I managed to cut the string from the robin's leg and release him without a problem. Oh yeah, and I guess it's obvious that it wasn't too difficult because I managed to snap a few photographs.

Kite string isn't always a problem with wildlife, but discarded nylon monofilament is a disaster. Birds frequently use it in their nests and the young get entangled in it and die a slow, horrible death. If you ever find fishing line in the parks, please stick it in your pocket and throw it away when you get home. Don't throw it in the park trash cans as birds with take it out and weave it into their nests.



...Read more

Monday, April 20, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of local field trips for the weekend of April 25th - 26th, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, April 25th, 2009
Owl's Head Park, Bay Ridge

Meet 7:30 upstairs on Bay Ridge Avenue and Fourth Ave west corner accessed from "R" subway line at Bay Ridge Ave stop. We will walk down 68th street 4 blocks to Owl's Head Park entrance. The walk will continue south through the park towards 95th street "R" train stop on Fourth Ave. Approximate birding time: 3 hours. Volunteer event in Prospect Park will followed for those interested.
Description: A coastal park along the Belt Parkway, Owl's Head can be productive for incoming migrants who drop into this thin strip of greenspace. Only 27 acres, nevertheless, any green habitat, regardless of size, is a welcoming site for tired, hungry migrating birds. Owl's Head Park maintains an extensive array of pines, locusts, oaks, maples, corks, beeches, and one amazing S-shaped tulip poplar, all popular locations for spring migrants. Furthermore, the views of NYC Harbor with the Verranzano Bridge is a spectacular panorama.
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Spring migrants
Contact: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559


New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, April 25th, 2009, 10am-1pm
Spring Migration at Jamaica Bay
Guide: Don Riepe
Meet at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge visitor center for an easy hike around the ponds and gardens. Come see the warblers, tanagers, egrets, herons, and other beautiful migrants at the Refuge. Limited to 25.
Free
For information and reservations, call 718-318-9344.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, April 25th, 2009 , 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Migrant Songbirds, Frogs and Wildflowers at High Rock
We'll observe migrant songbirds that should be in the woodlands of the Greenbelt at this time, including Blue-headed Vireo and a number of warblers. Frogs should be active in Loosestrife Swamp and some early wildflowers will be in bloom. Skunk Cabbage which was blooming in mid February may still have its flower or fruit.
Meet in the Nevada Avenue parking lot. Bring binoculars and wear comfortable shoes for walking.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Howie at 718-981-4002.

Saturday, April 25th, 2009, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Long Pond Park, Wildlife and Wildflowers
With Clay Wollney, we’ll be looking for evidence of animal life, especially reptiles and amphibians as the spring warms up in the woodlands surrounding Long Pond. We’ll also identify wildflowers and examine the geology of the area during this unhurried stroll through about one and a half miles of the park.
Meet at PS 6, on Page Avenue and Academy Avenue about 3 blocks NW of Hylan Blvd.
For more information phone Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 or Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Saturday, April 25th, 2009, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Celebrate Earth Day at Bloomingdale Park
Join naturalist and photographer Sandra Mechanic to look for colonies of May-apple or Mandrake with its beautiful white flowers hidden underneath the paired large umbrella-like leaves at the trail entrance. We will also find Trout Lily, Canada Mayflower and other woodland flowers in this rich woodland forest. Look for a rare fragrant Bush Honeysuckle, "Standishii" along the Drumgoole side. Walk along S.I.'s only true meandering stream with Pinxter Azaleas and violets.
Meet at the intersection of Maguire Ave.and Drumgoole Road West.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 25th, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
MARINE PARK

John Muir Trail
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Fresh Water Fishing
12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Global Climate Change
2:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, April 26th, 2009
Green-Wood Cemetery
Meet 8:00 am INSIDE THE MAIN GATE 25TH Street and Fifth Avenue.
Nearest public transportation: "R" subway line to 25th Street stop; B#63 Bus.
No registration necessary.
Description: Warblers, grosbeaks, orioles, buntings, and tanagers all awaken the spring air with their joyful presence. With Greenwood's magnificent trees in spring bloom, the migration seizes the day with the sounds of birds. This historic 19th century Victorian-styled cemetery enchants visitors with its knobs and knolls, its sloped walkways, its curvy roads, its brick-lined ponds, its ornate architecture, and its serenity. Trees spread out evenly and singly offer excellent views of migrants; thickets, small ponds, and fruiting trees all enhance the experience. One could truly get lost in this historical cemetery. Few know that Greenwood's Battle Hill is Brooklyn's highest point, a ridge of terminal moraine suited for great views. In older days, it was customary for people to picnic here! But in the whole context, Greenwood's neotropic migrant birds are the lure--a testament to the spirit of nature.
Trip Leader: Paul Keim
Focus: spring migrants


New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, April 26th 2009, 9-11am
Birding at the Marine Park Salt Marsh
Guide: Urban Park Rangers
In partnership with Urban Park Rangers, City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation
Join NYC Audubon and the Urban Park Rangers for a walk around one of Brooklyn's most important natural resources, the Marine Park Salt Marsh (meet at the Nature Center, East 33rd Street and Avenue U). Look for several unique species that inhabit and visit the area.
Limited to 20
Free


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, April 26th 2009, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Corson's Brook Woods, Staten Island's Greatest Secret
Celebrate Earth Day with a visit to a magnificent native wildflower display. See tens of thousands of white Spring Beauties and hundreds of yellow Trout Lily in bloom, plus Wild Leek, Canada Mayflower and dozens of red flowered Skunk Cabbage. Meet on Forest Hill Road, corner of Jasper St., opposite rear entrance road to the CSI campus. Wear proper footwear to expect some wet walking. Few places can match this superlative display of wildflower, fern, shrub and tree beauty and diversity in 21 protected acres.It also has the rare Bladdernut, Corn Lily, Zigzag Goldenrod and Dwarf Ginseng. Few people, other than Cathy Zelonis and Dick Buegler, know how to find this site and can find most of the plant species mentioned. Please bring cameras and field guides.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Cathy Zelonis at 917-596-4198.


Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, April 26th 2009
Earth Day Event
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Earth Day Celebration
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Insect Insanity
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

The Last Algonquin
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Dark Trails
7:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cigars for Queens Red-tails

I just received good news regarding the Briarwood, Queens Red-tailed Hawks:

From: Jeffrey Kollbrunner
Date: April 17, 2009

Subject: RTH Nesting Update


I just wanted to give you an update if you haven't already read my posts that Mama and Papa in Briarwood have had some hatches. At least two little white fluffy heads in the nest bowl that I was able to confirm on 4/14. I couldn't see to the bottom of the nest bowl so we will need to wait and see if there is additional youngsters. The oldest is about 12 days young and the youngest about 9 days young as of today. The hatchlings current size confirms my initial thoughts that the first hatch was on 4/5 when Mama's position in the nest changed from all the previous days of nesting.


You can keep track of the Queens hawks on Jeff's website here.
...Read more

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. ...Read more

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hawk Hide-and-Seek

Yesterday, at the end of the day, I rode a few laps around Prospect Park. I was a little concerned that I might get caught in a downpour, but the sun unexpectedly burned through the clouds creating a beautiful sunset. At the southeast side of the park I spotted a large, bright white patch low in a tree at the edge of the lake. I assumed it was a Red-tailed Hawk and coasted over to get a closer look. It was the pale-faced juvenile that has been hanging around the park and Green-Wood Cemetery. He seemed a little confused and twisted his head around, searching for something. I quickly figured out that he had been pursuing a squirrel, lost track of it and was trying to figure out where it was hiding. The paralyzed rodent was in plain view (at least to me), right below the hawk. A few yards away several squirrels were squealing a warning message. I thought that the hapless rodent was destined for the dinner plate, but I suppose few things in nature are completely predictable.

video

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Soggy Trip & Coastal Brooklyn

Saturday's field trip was a washout and I applaud the four intrepid souls who weathered the rain to join me at Cemetery of the Evergreens, Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir. While that day didn't turn up anything unusual, my Friday bike ride more than made my week.

I've been trying to schedule at least one long bike ride during the week. On Friday afternoon I headed down 4th Avenue to Owl's Head Park and the start of the promenade bike trail. It was overcast and I didn't plan on doing much birding, just pedal down to Dreier-Offerman Park and back.

A short distance south of the 69th Street fishing pier I spotted a few Purple Sandpipers feeding along the rocky shoreline. These arctic breeders usually depart our coastal areas by May. I was curious how many were still around so pedaled slowly while periodically looking down at the boulders that line the shore. By the time I arrived at Bensonhurst Park I had counted 38 sandpipers - an all time personal high.

The path around the outside of Dreier-Offerman Park is about 2 miles long and I planned to ride clockwise from the south cove to the north cove, then head back home. A temporary fence has been constructed near the south cove, so I turned around and headed back towards the opposite side of the peninsula. Some waterfowl paddling about in the low tide caught my attention and I decided to walk my bicycle along a short footpath above the water. There were mostly just Brant and a few Mallards in the garbage strew cove. The 100 yard long path is separated from the grassy fields of the park by a narrow stretch of locust, ailanthus, multiflora rose and other weedy plants. The end of the trail opens onto a view of the harbor and Verrazano Bridge. As I approached the end of the path I noticed several Palm Warblers feeding low in the trees and within a forsythia shrub. It surprised me how many birds were suddenly present. Up to that point I had only seen two or three Palm Warblers around the parks. I counted over a dozen in that location. Then I noticed one very different bird.

I focused my binoculars on a totally unexpected find. The words "Holy crap" either just popped into my head or I actually blurted them out, I can't be sure, but suspect the latter. It was a Yellow-throated Warbler and the first of the year for New York City. The black and white songbird with the brilliant, golden-yellow throat was feeding leisurely in the understory, occasionally moving higher into the locust trees. Besides the obvious beauty of this bird, what makes it special is that their normal range is far south of New York City. When one makes an appearance, everyone wants the opportunity to see it (and be able to add another check on their year list).

Here's a little insight on how quickly NYC birders learn about "special" birds:

Keeping my eyes on the warbler, I dialed my friend Scott. He is a freelancer and I thought he might be in the area. Scott was near a computer, so sent in a report to "Metro Birding Briefs". Those reports are also picked up by the "NYS Birding List". Within seconds, hundreds of birders had the news. In addition, when I got home I posted a follow-up with a link to a Google Earth map of the location. Saturday's foul weather didn't stop people from looking for the bird and at least one person tracked down the Yellow-throated Warbler and posted the news on the web. My friend Janet Zinn located it on Monday and took some great photos. At least a few people have been able to see the warbler at Dreier-Offerman Park. Shortly after my discovery a second one was found in Central Park.

Stumbling on a rare bird is always great. Knowing that others have been able to share in the experience is even better. If a rare bird is foraging in a city park and no birders are there to appreciate the moment, does it still have a beautiful song?
...Read more

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of local field trips for the weekend of April 18th - 19th 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Prospect Park, BBG Walk - Our historical meeting places
Meet 7:00 am at 9th Street and Prospect Park West entrance
Focus: This walk focuses on some buildings that featured in our club's history; we'll birdwatch along the route from building to building. The tour will start at the Litchfield Villa, with subsequent stops at the Picnic House, Tennis House, and Boathouse, into the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to the Brooklyn Museum (formerly known back then as the Brooklyn Institute). We then proceed as an option to the Brooklyn Academy of Music as our final stop for lunch.
Note: nearest subway is "F" line 7th Avenue stop. Walk up 9th St for meeting spot at Lafayette Monument.
Leader: Peter Dorosh

Queen County Bird Club
Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Garrett Mountain, NJ
7:00 a.m. carpooling at lower Alley. 8:00 a.m. at Garrett Mountain, NJ
Leader: John Collins, 908-575-0139, jjcbird@verizon.net.
Meeting Place: First parking lot inside the park

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, April 18th, 2009, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Spring Coastal Plant Walk—Join naturalist and photographer Sandra Mechanic in an exploration of life in the challenging beach dune habitat. We'll see many Bayberry plants, a shrub famous for the candles made from its wax coated berries. Other salt tolerant plants we'll find are Beach Plums, Purple Love Grass, evergreen False Heather, native Prickly Pear Cactus, Earth Stars (a puff ball fungus) and more. Meet at the Hylan Blvd auto entrance to Great Kills Park opposite Buffalo Street. Bus 78 stops there. For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
MARINE PARK

Sneak Park Preview: Fresh Kills Tour
10:00 a.m.

Pre-Earth Day Hike
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Spring Migration
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Spring Nature Journaling Series
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

On a Wing
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Canoeing Basics
11:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, April 19th, 2009
Dreier-Offerman Park/Floyd Bennett Field Preserve
Trip Leader: Tom Preston
Focus: Open field birds, weedy inclined species, coastal waterbirds, and early migrating passerines
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: James Cooke: james@jamescooke.net or phone 516-739-0647
Registration period: April 7th- April 16th

Linnaean Society of New York
Sunday, April 19th, 2009
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Flora
Leader & Registrar: Joyce Hyon
Registration opens Monday 4/6. (info@linnaeannewyork.org)
Public transportation.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, April 19th, 2009, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Harbor Seal Watch — Join Dick Buegler at the bluff of Mt. Loretto to gaze down on the large glacial erratics that the Harbor Seals use for midday sun basking during low tides. Low tide is at 10:30 a.m. today so we have hours to watch them before the tide rises to wash them off. Meet in the Hylan Blvd parking lot of Mt. Loretto Unique Area, across the Blvd. from the Mt. Loretto CYO Bldg. Dress warmly, for the bluff can be windy. We'll check DEC's tree plantation. We may walk down to the beach for a closer view, or search the meadows and woodlands for spring wildflowers. We'll drive up Hylan Blvd. to show you two other beaches where Harbor Seals have been seen. For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, April 19th, 2009
Seton Falls Hike
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Backpacking 101
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
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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.
...Read more

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk updates

Here is a brief update of the progress of some of New York City's nesting Red-tailed Hawks.

Beginning with the earliest dates in my corner of Brooklyn:

Big Mama and Junior, in Green-Wood Cemetery, began incubating around March 18th. We will see signs of hatchlings between April 17th and April 22nd.

Our new couple, Nelly and Max, started sitting on eggs on March 20th. That would bring the arrival of little ones to April 19th - April 24th.

Our second pair in Prospect Park, Alice and Ralph, commenced incubation around March 28th, bringing "chick day" to April 27th to May 5th.

D. Bruce Yolton has Manhattan updates on his Urban Hawks blog. He recently checked on the confirmed nests at Inwood Hill Park, Highbridge Park, Lower Riverside Park, Fifth Avenue and 888 Seventh Avenue. All seems to be going well for those pairs.

Jim O'Brien's Origin of Species blog reports that the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine hawks are not nesting this year. Construction on the cathedral may have scared them off. He does have information of a pair of nesting kestrels, which reminds me that I should check on the Park Slope pair.

I don't know about the "Unisphere" pair or other Queens nest sites. If you have any info, please post it in the comments. I also don't know how Rose and Hawkeye are doing up in the Bronx, but will fill you in as I learn more details. This weekend I will check on a nest I found over the winter in the Cemetery of the Evergreens.
...Read more

Prospect Park walk

This past Saturday I led a Linnaean Society trip to Prospect Park. Gusting winds and overcast skies didn't seem like ideal conditions for Spring birding, but we ended the day with an unexpectedly diverse mix of birds. The four hour walk yielded 48 species; a combination of the usual suspects, plus some lingering overwintering birds and several early migrants.

I began the walk at Grand Army Plaza then proceeded south, spending a few minutes at the Vale of Cashmere. As we were walking down the path to the vale I heard the high, insect-like song of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The first of the season for Prospect Park, it was quickly joined by a second bird that had been foraging in a stand of bamboo. By morning's end we spotted a surprising 4 gnatcatchers spread between the Vale of Cashmere, Ravine and Lullwater.

Most of the people on the trip (myself included) hadn't seen Spring's traditionally first arriving species of wood-warbler. It made my day, though, when we located our first Pine Warblers of the season in the trees along the water's edge at the Lullwater. All told, we counted 4 pines feeding below
the Terrace Bridge. They were within a mixed flock that also included Yellow-rumped Warblers and gnatcatchers.

As others have reported around NYC within the last week, we observed a few Great Egrets within the park.

One of my favorite hyperactive, colorful songbirds, Golden-crowned Kinglets, have increased in abundance throughout the park. Also, as more insects emerge, so to have the number of arriving Eastern Phoebes. These flycatchers time their northward migration to coincide with the availability of insects.

Under the category of "lingerers" a few Fox Sparrows were found singing at the North end of the Midwood within a flock of White-throated Sparrows and juncos. At the Upper Pool a Wood Duck remains in the company of Ring-necked Ducks, although the ring-neck flock has dropped from 6 to just a male and female pair. One Pied-billed Grebe remains on the lake. Also persisting in Prospect Park were at least a few Brown Creepers and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Finally, a look back at my Prospect Park notes reminded me that in about another week we should start looking out for vagrant Yellow-throated Warblers. Breeding to the south of New York City, these birds occasionally stray beyond their normal range. Strictly rare just over a decade ago, they are now regarded as "rare, but regular" visitors around New York City parks during the Spring migration.
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Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 4/4/09
Notes: Linnaean Society field trip.
Number of species: 48

Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck (2.)
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron (2.)
Great Egret (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk (4.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (5.)
Fish Crow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (3.)
Carolina Wren (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (12.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (4.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (3.)
Pine Warbler (4.)
Eastern Towhee (2.)
Chipping Sparrow (2.)
Fox Sparrow (3.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (4.), American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow
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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list and links to some nature trips and events around NYC for the weekend of April 11 - April 12, 2009. I'll be leading one of the trips (Eastern Brooklyn Habitats) on April 11th for the Brooklyn Bird Club:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, April 11th, 2009
Eastern Brooklyn Habitats Medley - Cemetery of the Evergreens, Highland Park, Ridgewood Reservoir
Trip Leader: Rob Jett
Focus: Early migrating spring passerines, sparrows, and occasional raptor
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Janet Schumacher: janets33@optonline.net or 718-941-4210
Registration period: March 31st -April 9th


Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, April 11th, 2009, 8:00am
Mini-trip - Alley Pond Park
Trip Leader: Eric Miller
Mini-trips: These trips usually last to lunch time or the early afternoon. Lunch is not required, but you may want to bring snacks. Times listed are for meeting at the destination, except for starred times.
Alley Pond Park Directions:
Take Union Turnpike to Springfield Boulevard, turn north, drive to 76th Avenue, turn right. Parking lot is on your left.
To reach Union Turnpike:
- Heading west on Grand Central Parkway, take exit 23 then drive past the Cross Island Parkway exits to Union Turnpike and turn right.
- Heading south on Cross Island Parkway, take exit to Grand Central Parkway, then exit at Union Turnpike and turn right.
- Heading east on Grand Central Parkway, exit at Union Turnpike and turn left.
- Heading north on Cross Island Parkway, exit at Union Turnpike and turn left at the traffic light.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, April 11th, 2009, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Bloodroot Valley Walk—Join Sandra Mechanic, naturalist and photographer, at Manor Road side of Susan Wagner High School. Walk can be tricky; wear waterproof footgear even if it is not raining. Hundreds of Bloodroot plants line the stream hillsides. Bloodroot flowers from late March to mid-April. It is pollinated by ants. The native inhabitants used the juice of this flower to make dyes and body paint.
For more information, Phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 11th, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
MARINE PARK

Park to Park: Moses Mountain
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Healthy Choices for You and the World
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Wildflower Walk
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Spring Nature Journaling Series: Part II
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature's Music
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Red-tailed Hawk Nest Watch
12:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

On a Wing: Part I
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, April 12th, 2009
Early Birding
9:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Bunny Hike
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Ravine Walk
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature Scavenger Hunt
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Easter Scavenger Hunt
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nuts About Squirrels
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

History Club: American Revolution
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Literary Walk and Beyond
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

...Read more

Friday, April 03, 2009

Butterfly Encounter

I had an appointment in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon. It was close enough to where I live that I went by bicycle. Cutting through Prospect Park shortened my travel time, so when I saw a Mourning Cloak land on the path in front of me I had to stop and take some photos.

A woman passing in the other direction saw me looking down at the butterfly and made a comment about the creature's delicate beauty. I told her that the Mourning Cloak was a sign of Spring's arrival. She stopped to watch me taking pictures and I shared my little bit of butterfly knowledge. I told her that I've been creating a series of photos of butterflies perched on my finger and she was surprised that they would be so cooperative. As I was explaining that they really weren't, the butterfly took flight, heading in her direction. She held out her hand and the insect obliged by alighting on her opened palm. I snapped a couple of shots before it fluttered off again. I never caught her name, but she was absolutely elated by the experience. I said that I'd post the photo on my blog. I love touching nature.

Weekly Species Highlights

As a new feature, each week I will post a selection of animal and plant species highlights. The choices focus on some of the seasonal changes for that week. The following are for the first week of April:

Bird:
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) - As seasoned birdwatchers await the arrival of colorful neotropic songbird migrants another, more modestly plumed species has recently made its presence known around our area. Over the last week, my cycling through different Brooklyn neighborhoods has gotten noticeably noisier, but in a good way. As an ear-birder, I always try to identify birds by their vocalizations when I'm on my bicycle. Last week I heard, what I assumed was, a Tufted Titmouse in Ditmas Park. The source of the call suddenly morphed into a robin, followed by a kestrel, followed by a Blue Jay. New York is within their northern range and most migrate south during the winter. Suddenly these talented mimics have returned and they are everywhere. Over the next week, if you are awakened at 3am by a noisy bird on a neighbor's roof, it's a very good chance your night bird is a mockingbird. To help lull you back to sleep, try to identify all of his vocalizations, don't be surprised if you hear a car alarm or a truck's back-up warning.

Butterfly:
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) - These butterflies are generally the first species seen in the northeast in the Spring. They are one of the most common species of butterfly in North American and their populations seem to be safe. Unlike many other butterflies, Mourning Cloaks prefer tree sap to flower nectar and can be found feeding on the sides of trees. I spotted the individual in this photograph in Prospect Park the other day and was able to coax it onto my hand for a portrait.

Amphibian:
Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) - As the temperature warms and daylight hours increase, these turtles can be seen around the edges of our city's ponds and lakes. Native to southern North American, their expanded range is due, primarily, to the pet trade and people releasing them into the wild. Unlike their relatives in warmer climes, turtles around New York City need to hibernate when the temperature drops. They can sometimes be seen basking on rocks or logs during unseasonably warm winter days but don't begin their breeding cycle until March or April.

Wildflower:
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) - In the moist, rich soils around Prospect Park the first blooms of the year are Snowdrops. Those white flowers are then followed by Spring Crocus. As the crocuses begin to wane, the squills suddenly emerge. The first photos I took of this Eurasian wildflower included a pair of Honey Bees feeding on its nectar. When I enlarged the images I realized that the bee's pollen basket, which is normally golden yellow, was heavy with blue pollen. I wonder if a hive fed entirely on Siberian Squill produces blue honey. While this wildflower is not native to North America I checked the website "Invasives.com" and it does not list this as an invasive species. Too often I discover a beautify botanic around New York City only to learn that it is one of the "bad" plants taking over the country.

Tree:
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) - Within the next week or two magnolia trees around the city will bloom in an explosion of color and fragrance leading the way to Spring's preeminent event. The first of the species to bloom is the Star Magnolia. Cherry trees will follow in quick succession, unfortunately, overshadowing these magnificent trees and relegating them to yesterday's news. Don't let that happen. Get out to your local botanic gardens as soon as possible!


...Read more

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