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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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Red-tailed Updates

The Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery offspring have been making advances.

The last couple of times that I visited Green-Wood Cemetery the two young red-tails were still hanging around Ocean Hill. Big Mama and Junior seem to have slowed down or stopped food deliveries to their offspring. Both youngsters were flying around the hillside calling & whining. It may seem a little cruel, but the adults know that they need to force the young birds to become independent. The young raptors have discovered winds blowing in from the south and the resulting updrafts flowing over the hill. They have now begun soaring high above the treetops. As the strong winds lift them up over the ridge, their wings wobble and rock from side to side, as if it were their first, tentative steps.

A week ago I located the Nelly's Lawn trio sitting at various heights in Elizabeth's Tuliptree. It was the first time in nearly a month that I'd seen them all together.

I recently read a book entitled "Falconer on the Edge: A Man, His Birds, and the Vanishing Landscape of the American West" by Rachel Dickinson. It is a fascinating look into the world of falconry and one man's devotion to his birds and his insights into the natural world. I highly recommend the book. I began observing New York City's urban hawks back in 1995, but didn't start keeping notes and following them closely until 2002. I've always been amazed at these bird's adaptability and tolerance to humans. After reading Dickinson's "Falconer", I started to wonder just how amenable to our desires these local hawks might be. What I discovered surprised me.

I've thought long and hard about sharing this experience. I waited over a week because I didn't want anyone to try to copy me. Now that the hawks are better hunters and have learned to avoid people, I think it might be alright to tell my story. Please keep in mind that, after a certain point, my little experiment might be contrary to most state & federal wildlife laws. I would need a license to take it to the next level. Please do not attempt what I have.

videoI know I'm just personifying, but it seems like one of the trio has become my new friend. He is the smallest of the three and, because he has already lost the salmon wash on his breast and throat, is probably the oldest by a few days. A couple of weeks ago I saw him perched fairly low to the ground. On a whim, I tied a piece of wood to some string I found. When I tossed it into the grass and pulled it slowly, he attacked the wood like a playful cat. The next time I saw him, he seemed ready to play and spent about 10 minutes diving at the lure and footing it. When I spotted all three youngsters perched in "Elizabeth's Tuliptree" across the meadow from the nest tree, I thought I'd try again. With my back to the tree, I started to reach into my bag for my string, but before it was even visible, my new friend flew down out of the tree and over my head to a low perch in front of me. He had dropped down so low to my head that I could have touched him. He watched me with great interest as I unraveled the string. As I swung it around before tossing it, he tried to grab it out of the air. He landed on the ground in front of me and watched, as if to say, "Well, I'm ready". I tossed it on the ground and he ran after it, "killing" it when he caught up. If I were licensed and dedicated to the art of falconry, he clearly would have been a willing and able hunting partner.

Before you send me any hate mail, note that this hawk has already moved on in his development and no longer shows any interest in "playing" with strange humans. Also, I never plied him with food.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Non-Raptor Release

I just received a note from Bobby about a recent pair of patients he and Cathy helped out at WINORR.

These 2 young foxes were rescued about 2 months ago. We got a call from a parks worker that these 2 were barking for days in the bottom of a storm drain that they fell into and couldn't get back out. The mother even tried digging around the cement box to retrieve them to no avail. It was getting dark and after a half hour of me digging and prying on the sewer cap I went to the local fire house for assistance. They in turn called dept. of public works who dispatched a worker who we knew and together we broke the weld that held the lid in place. When I climbed in to get them I discovered the carcasses and skulls of 3 other siblings who were eaten by these 2 starving youngsters. They were ice cold, wet, smelled horrific and had massive round worms, just to start. It was at a small public park in Glen Cove and at very high tides the bay backed up into this storm drain. It's a miracle any survived at all. [...] Cathy bathed and hand fed the smaller weaker one for days not knowing if it was going to make it. We separated them for a while to give the runt a chance and it eventually caught up. A very happy ending last week!
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My Portrait Online

A few months back I was contacted by New York artist Zina Saunders. She has a great website called "Overlooked New York" where she posts portraits of New Yorkers who are, well, different. Zina interviewed me and painted a portrait for her website.

I think Zina does really great work and actually made me look halfway decent. What do you think? Here's a link to the portrait and interview.

The Crow Paradox

National Public Radio just ran a really interesting story about crows holding grudges. And I thought that it was elephants that never forgot...click play to hear the entire story.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Riding to the Beach

I've been taking advantage of the great weather and cycling to Riis Park two to three times a week. If I get home early enough during the week, I quickly change, hop on my bike and head south.

Jacob Riis Park is one of New York City's best kept secrets. Managed by the National Park Service, this ocean front park has miles of beautify, clean beaches. There is bus service to the beach that runs regularly, but this summer I've noticed more people than ever before arriving by bicycle.

Several people have asked me about the best bike route, so here is how I go:

I cut through Prospect Park, exiting at Park Circle. From there I turn left at Parkside Avenue, go a block, then ride through the center of the Parade Grounds. Make a left at Caton Avenue, go one block, then turn right on Rugby Road (Rugby becomes 14th Street). Turn left at Avenue K, then turn right on Bedford Avenue. Bedford has a very nice bike lane which you take all the way to the end, to Sheepshead Bay. At Emmons Avenue make a left. Emmons isn't my favorite street, but you only stay on it a short distance, to Brigham Street, where you pick up the bike path that follows the shore. Cross Flatbush Avenue at the crosswalk (the only crosswalk button that actually works in NYC) and continue following the bike path south, along side Floyd Bennett Field. Cross back over Flatbush near the toll plaza and continue over the Gil Hodges Bridge. At the other side of the bridge cross Rockaway Blvd. and ride down Beach 169th Street to the boardwalk. On the return trip, you may want to make a stop at Randazzo's Clam Bar on Emmons Avenue.

Growing up in New York near the ocean, and taking family vacations along the eastern seaboard instilled in me a great love and appreciation for the coast. I'm sure I'd loose my mind if I had to live in a land-locked state. On a recent trip to the beach I was watching a fisherman surfcasting. He had small bells attached to the end of his rod that would ring if a large fish began tugging on his line. With his gear locked into a white, PVC rod holder, the fisherman relaxed on the sand, occasionally glancing up at his line swaying in the surf. For whatever reason, watching this idyllic scene stirred an early memory from a vacation the family took to Assateague Island, Virginia.

My father and I were walking down the beach, stopping every once in a while to watch fishermen cast their lines or to examine their catch lying in the sand. We came upon one man who had a huge, odd-looking fish he had just reeled in. It was mostly flat, with large, rounded wing-like fins, a mouth with whisker-like structures at the corners and eyes set high on its head. The fish reminded me of a stingray, but the fisherman assured me that it wasn't and, in fact, he had no idea what kind of fish he just landed. Having just learned about a living fossil called the Coelacanth,
my thoughts drifted and I fantasized about the possibilities of discovering a mysterious, new species. In my young mind, I assumed that all fishermen knew everything about fish, so if they landed something unknown, it must truly be unique. When I learned that it was called an Atlantic Angel Shark and not another living fossil from the deep, I was a little disappointed. I don't think I've lost much of my child-like inquisitive nature and, whether I'm birding in a city park, or walking along a beach, I find myself scanning the sky, surf, sand or tidal wrack for something new and interesting. This past Saturday I spotted something rare and unusual at Riis Park.

It was about 12:55pm and I was drying off after taking a swim. My back was to the water, when Robin exclaimed, "Is that a pelican?" I turned around and, sure enough, a Brown Pelican was cruising in from the west a short distance from shore and just above the waves. It turned right, then came to rest in the water about 100 yards from shore. I was astounded. What the heck was a Brown Pelican doing at a New York City beach?! Pelicans do, occasionally, stray from their more southerly range into NYC waters and there had been a few reports of them at Jones Beach over the last week, but it was the farthest thing from my mind at that moment. Also, what are the chances that one would show up, and plop down in the water in front of a birdwatcher (who wasn't birding)?
I've seen Brown Pelicans many times, but primarily in Florida. After I posted my sighting on the New York State Birds discussion group, I received an email from a friend. She and her husband, who are both serious birders, were also at Riis Park on Saturday, but left a few minutes before the pelican appeared. As I've pointed out before, sometimes finding a "good" bird is purely a matter of luck. (FYI-I didn't have my camera with me, so the photo above was one taken in Florida.)
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Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming trips and events by local organizations for the weekend of August 1st - 2nd, 2009:

Linnaean Society of New York
Friday, July, 31, 2009 (Note Evening Start)
Prospect Park Bat Walk
Leader: Paul Keim
No registration.
Meet at 9th St. & Prospect Park West (near F Train station at 7th Avenue & 9th St.) at 7:45pm.
Public transportation.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, August 2, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Northern Seaview
We will walk uphill to the back of Seaview Hospital identifying grasses,trees, shrubs and ferns and getting a little history about the hospital.
Bring bug repellant and water, and wear sturdy shoes.
Meet at the corner of Roanoke St. and Brielle Ave.
Call Cathy Zelonis for more information 917-596-4198.

Sunday, August 2, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
Butterflies at Blue Heron Park
Staten Island is home to a gorgeous collection of butterflies. The variety of sizes and shapes, colors and styles is no better evidenced than at Blue Heron Park. Enjoy time with Cliff Hagen as he shares tips for identifying Staten Island's most brilliant insects.
Meet in the parking lot of Blue Heron Park on Poillon Ave. between Hylan Blvd. and Amboy Road.
Bring binoculars if you have them.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Cliff at 718-313-8591.

Sunday, August 2, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Long Pond: Wildlife and Wildflowers
We will look for evidence of animal life, especially reptiles and amphibians as the summer progresses 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.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, August 1, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for this weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh...
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Birding Club
9:00 a.m.
Come bird with us on the first Saturday of every month! Everyone is welcome.
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Early Morning Fishing
9:00 a.m.
Try to catch some of the fish passing through our city's rivers. Equipment provided but...
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Canoe Up the Hutch
10:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers on this paddling adventure through the blue waters and green...
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Canoeing
10:00 a.m.
Learn the basics of canoeing as you canoe with the Rangers on Little Neck Bay. First...
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Kids Orienteering
11:00 a.m.
Put “Red Fred in his shed” and learn how to use a compass the right way...
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Canoe the Meer
11:00 a.m.; 3:00 p.m.
Join us for a fun-filled day of canoeing and water safety. Bring water, sunscreen, and a...
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Putman Hike
12:00 p.m.
All aboard! Join us as we walk the old Putnam Railroad Trail through the park.
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Ethno-Botany
12:00 p.m.
Explore the old growth forest of Inwood Hill Park and learn about the plants and trees that...
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Wonderful Waterfowl
1:00 p.m.
Meet the ducks, geese, and herons of Willowbrook Park and learn how they survive in the...
Location: Willowbrook Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Ponderous Ponds
1:00 p.m.
Join us as we explore with nets and magnifiers to find out what lives in the pond.

Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Who, Who, Who…Did I Eat?
1:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers for a hands-on ecology lesson as we dissect owl pellets.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Kids Orienteering
2:00 p.m.
Put “Red Fred in his shed” and learn how to use a compass the right way. ...
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Intermediate Canoeing
2:00 p.m.; 4:00 p.m.
Canoe along Norton Basin with the Rangers. Canoes, lifejackets, and instruction provided....
Location: Michaelis-Bayswater Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nature Photography Series: Landscapes
10:00 a.m.
As we “focus” on the natural beauty of Van Cortlandt Park, we will discuss how...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Animal Tracking
10:00 a.m.
Animals leave behind different signs of their whereabouts. With the Rangers, you’ll...
Location: Forest Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Gone Fishing!
10:00 a.m.
Practice fishing basics, and learn about the fish you’re catching. Bait provided....
Location: Valentino Pier, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Canoeing the Creek
10:00 a.m.
Enjoy this wonderful route through the tidal waters of Lemon Creek. You’ll see...
Location: Lemon Creek Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

One in a Million Tree-mendous Walk
11:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for a guided tree walk, as we learn to identify different types...
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

The “Reel” Deal
11:00 a.m.
Join the Rangers as we fish the Long Island Sound in search of the area’s saltwater...
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Birding for Kids
11:00 a.m.
Bring the kids to learn everything they need to know about birds to get started. This...
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Canoe the Lullwater
11:00 a.m.
Enjoy creekside views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Canoe the Lullwater
12:30 p.m.
Enjoy creekside views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Highbridge Photography
1:00 p.m.
View one of Washington Height’s gems through your lens. Let a Ranger guide you...
Location: Highbridge Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Canoeing the Creek
1:00 p.m.
Enjoy this wonderful route through the tidal waters of Lemon Creek. You’ll see...
Location: Lemon Creek Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

The “Reel” Deal
2:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers as we fish the Long Island Sound in search of the area’s saltwater...
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Go Fish
2:00 p.m.
Discover the different species of fish found in ponds around New York City, as we see what...
Location: Kissena Park, Queens
Cost: Free

One in a Million Tree-mendous Walk
2:00 p.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for a guided tree walk, as we learn to identify different types...
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Nature’s Remedy
2:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers for a hike through the park in search of medicinal plants and other...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Canoe the Lullwater
2:00 p.m.
Enjoy creek side views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Butterflies and Bees
2:00 p.m.
Learn about their basic biology and their importance to humans. We’ll journey through...
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the last week of July:

Bird: Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) - The Short-billed Dowitcher is very similar in appearance to the Long-billed Dowitcher, however, their common names are misleading, as there is much overlap in their bill lengths. The short-billed was considered one species with the Long-billed Dowitcher until 1950. Range, habitat, and vocalizations can be used to help distinguish between these two species. The call is a sharp, low, two-syllable whistle, easily distinguished from the high peeping of the Long-billed.

A medium-sized, stocky, long-billed shorebird in the family Scolopacidae, it is an inhabitant of North America, Middle America, and northern South America. The body of adults is dark brown on top and reddish underneath. The tail has a black and white barred pattern. In flight, they show a pale trailing edge on their wings and a distinctive white blaze up their backs, which easily identifies them as dowitchers. The legs are a yellowish color. Winter birds are gray overall, with pale eyebrow and white lower back and rump.

Their breeding habitat includes bogs, tidal marshes, mudflats or forest clearings south of the tree line in northern North America. It is strongly migratory. They migrate to the southern United States and as far south as Brazil. This bird is more likely to be seen near ocean coasts during migration than the Long-billed Dowitcher. It feeds on invertebrates often by rapidly probing its bill into mud in a sewing machine fashion. They mainly eat insects, mollusks, crustaceans and marine worms, but also eat some plant material. These are among the first shorebirds to migrate south. Adults leave the breeding grounds as early as July and the young following in August.

Insect: Swamp Cicada (Tibicen tibicen formerly chloromera) - Every year in late-July to early-August the mating calls of male cicadas can be heard ringing through the air in New York City. I'd always been told that it was the sound of the "Dog-day Cicada". I never questioned that until I began researching this week's highlights. I discovered two confusing issues. First, the term "Dog-day Cicada" can refer to more than one species of cicada. It wasn't until I listened to the recordings on the "Songs of Insects" website that I learned that it is actually the annual song of the "Swamp Cicada" that I just began hearing again this week. Second, I learned that what used to be called "Tibicen chloromera" has been renamed "Tibicen tibicen". Anyway, here are some general facts.

Cicadas belong to the family Cicadidae in the order Hemiptera. They are a group of very large insects with clear wings that are held over their abdomen. Most cicadas spend their time high in the trees and are more often heard than seen. Long life cycles involve multiple years spent underground, followed by a brief above ground, adult life. As juveniles and adults, they feed on the xylem fluid of woody plants using piercing and sucking mouthparts. Males produce a loud, mate-attracting songs using specialized organs called called "timbals" located on the sides of the abdominal base. These sounds are among the loudest produced by any insects. However, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans. "Dog days" refer to the late summer when this species is heard singing. In the northern hemisphere, this is the time of year when the Dog Star, Sirius, becomes visible above the horizon. It is part of the constellation Canis Major.

Wildflower: Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) - Neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke (the thistle family), this wildflower is actually a member of the sunflower family. It is surmised that the common name is a corruption of the Italian "girasole", meaning "turning to the sun". A large, robust yellow sunflower with broad, thick leaves and rough, hairy stems, this perennial grows from 6-10 ft. Native to North America, it is found in fields and thickets. Native Americans called them sun roots and introduced these perennial tubers to the pilgrims who adopted them as a staple food. The edible tuber is highly nutritious and, unlike potatoes, contains no starch, but rather carbohydrate in a form that is metabolized into natural sugar.

Tree: Japanese Pagoda Tree aka Chinese Scholar Tree (Sophora japonica) - This medium-size tree is a native species of China and Korea, growing to an average of 65 feet. Landscapers have planted it in many parts of the United States, especially in the South. People often plant it as a shade tree and as an ornamental. It has become a common urban street tree due to its rapid growth rate, tolerance to city conditions, heat, and drought. It is in the same family of trees as our native Yellowwood. A yellow dye is made from its wood. The Pagoda Tree blooms during the "Dog days" of summer, sprouting 10-15 inch upright panicles of mildly fragrant, creamy-white, pea-like flowers. The fruit are ornamental pale green seed pods, 6 to 8 inches long, which persist into winter and resemble strings of beads.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unusual Prospect Park Visitor

I was riding my bicycle around Prospect Lake late in the afternoon when I came upon an unusual bird.

The sky was overcast and there were occasional showers, but I needed to get some exercise plus, in the back of my mind, there was always the possibility of stumbling on a "bad weather bird". I know I've mentioned it here many times, but the late Marty Sohmer always said, "The worst weather sometimes brings the best birds."

After checking in on the trio of red-tails by Nelly's Lawn, I continued to ride laps around the park. For my last lap I decided to follow along the edge of Prospect Lake (as opposed to on the roadway). Large flocks of Canada Geese have begun collecting on the lake, but other than the common waterfowl, there was nothing very unusual to report. A flock of seven Laughing Gulls were hanging around near the center of the water. Swallows were swooping back and forth over the lake, with Barn Swallows being the dominate species. I've noticed several Northern Rough-winged Swallows feeding off of the Peninsula point for about a week. On this day there was also
a single Bank Swallow at the small cove to the south of Three Sisters Island. After a brief stop to watch the Bank Swallow, I continued in a counter-clockwise direction around the lake.

At the shoreline behind Duck Island, the stone coping has been broken away creating a more natural edge to the lake. The flooded lawn attracts Red-winged Blackbirds, House Sparrows and other common birds for a convenient drink and bath. As I approached the flock a large, long-billed shorebird darted out in front of my bike and scurried down the remaining stone wall. I never expect to see shorebirds in Prospect Park and this odd-looking bird had me momentarily confused. Was it a snipe?

I stopped my bike and stood, straddling the top-tube for a minute, trying to figure out the identity of this bird. Its plumage was a combination of browns and brick red. I got off my bike and sat down on a log near the watering hole. The bird slowly and cautiously made its way back to the water. It began feeding in a familiar, sewing machine motion unique to this species. I thought, "Aha". It was a clearly a dowitcher. But which one; long-billed or short-billed?

The two dowitcher species are notoriously difficult to separate. Examining their common names, Long-billed Dowitcher and Short-billed Dowitcher, one might presume that there would be an obvious difference in bill lengths. Forget it, there isn't. The "Surfbirds" website has a very complete discussion on the issues here. Shorebirds are not my strong suit, so I called my friends Peter and Doug, hoping that they were around and interested in coming to see this irregular Prospect Park visitor. I should point out that neither dowitcher is particularly rare, especially in the expected locations, such as, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. As far as I know, there was only one other record of a dowitcher (short or long) in Prospect Park.

videoPeter lives close by and showed up pretty quickly. We watched the bird for about 15 minutes before Doug arrived. One of the non-visual ways to identify this bird is by the date. Long-billed Dowitchers migrate much later than short-billed and typically aren't seen around NYC until September. I've learned that nothing with bird movement is absolute, but somethings are pretty reliable. Both Doug and Peter confirmed what I had presumed by the early date, the shorebird was a Short-billed Dowitcher.

Every time I find a foul weather bird I secretly thank Marty Sohmer for the advice he gave me during the relatively short time that we were friends.
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Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Here's a slideshow from a recent visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming trips and events by local organizations for the weekend of July 25th - 26th, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, July 26th
Celebrate the BBC Centennial in Prospect Park series
Meet 8 am at Grand Army Plaza's park entrance.
Leader: Peter Dorosh
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, and 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
Saturday, July 25, 6:30am - 12:30pm
Rain Date: Sunday, August 2, 6:30am - 12:30pm
NYC Audubon Camera Club
Nesting Shorebirds of Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY
Instructors: Lloyd Spitalnik and Cal Vornberger
Learn about how to correctly approach and photograph nesting shorebirds on their breeding grounds. Look for American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Common and Least Tern, Sanderling You will be crawling around in the sand so dress appropriately. Equipment: SLR and long lens. Limited to 16.
$140 ($126 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)

Jamaica Bay Summer Nature Walk
Sunday, July 26, 10am-1pm
Guide: Don Riepe With American Littoral Society and Gateway National Recreation Area
Meet 10am at the refuge for a walk around the ponds to look for shorebirds, dragonflies, butterflies & wildflowers. Learn about the history & ecology of this 9,000 acre preserve. Limited to 20.
Free.
To reserve, call (718) 318-9344.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, July 26, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Old Mill Road and Latourette Woods
Park at the end of Old Mill Road, alongside the old St. Andrews Church (at the foot of Snake Hill). Do not park in the church's main parking lot. Bring a cold beverage.
We'll stroll along Old Mill Road, a newly designed pleasant multi-use trail, next to Fresh Kills, below the hills of Latourette Golf Course, and turn right at the end toward Richmond Hill Road. Clay Wollney will show you the flow of the famous Hessian Spring as it crosses the road. We may return by the Blue Trail for a lovely change of scenery. This area has not been accessible for many years and is now open to the public. 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. Keep your eyes up to catch hawks and Turkey Vultures soaring above.
For more information phone Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 or Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Sunday, July 26, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Three mile walk from Egbertville Ravine, Amundsen Trailway to Great Kills Park Wildflower Garden
Park and meet Sandra Mechanic at the intersection of Rockland Avenue and Meisner Avenue.
Protectors provided and planted the wildflowers in Great Kills Park the last two years.
Wear sturdy shoes, bring lunch and beverages.
For more information, phone Dick at 718-761-7496.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, July 25, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for this weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Cycle the Greenbelt
10:00 a.m.
Take a tour of this new bike path and learn a little about the natural and historical…
Location: La Tourette Park & Golf Course, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Crotona Clean-up
11:00 a.m.
Get involved and help clean up the newly restored area surrounding Indian Lake.
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Seashore Safari
11:00 a.m.
Come explore the “wild” side of Orchard Beach. Join the Urban Park Ranger as we…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Basic Canoeing
11:00 a.m.
This quiet lake is a perfect place to learn to canoe. Join us and learn the basic of…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Fresh Water Fishing
11:00 a.m.
Learn fresh water ecology while practicing “catch and release” fishing. Come…
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Nature Scavenger Hunt
11:00 a.m.
Join Rangers on a hunt to uncover Mother Nature’s hidden treasures.
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Duck, Duck...Goose!
Bring your young one to Prospect Park for their first birding outing on this bird tour…
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Fishing at the Lake
This lake is home to many types of fresh water fish. Perch, bass and catfish are just some…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Hudson River Fishing
Discover the joys of fishing, as we connect to the life living within the Hudson River.…
Location: Riverside Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Orienteering
1:00 p.m.
Learn the basics of map reading, compass skills, and exploration.
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Seashore Safari
2:00 p.m.
Come explore the “wild” side of Orchard Beach. Join the Urban Park Ranger as we…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Basic Canoeing
2:00 p.m.
This quiet lake is a perfect place to learn to canoe. Join us and learn the basic of…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Family Camping
5:00 p.m.
A night of camping under the stars in Manhattan’s last natural forest! This will be…
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Creatures of the Night
7:30 p.m.
Enjoy a night hike as we go in search of bats, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, and night herons.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Saltwater Fishing
Come fish with the Rangers at this beautiful park with scenic views of the East River and…
Location: Barretto Point Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Living Log
11:00 a.m.
Ever wonder why we leave fallen logs on the forest floor? We’ll turn over a few and…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Canoeing the Creek
11:00 a.m.
Enjoy a day on Gerritsen Creek as we canoe its sheltered waters in search of shorebirds,…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Canoeing Basics
Enjoy some quality time on Willowbrook Lake. We’ll teach you the basics of canoeing…
Location: Willowbrook Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Canoeing the Creek
12:30 p.m.
Enjoy a day on Gerritsen Creek as we canoe its sheltered waters in search of shorebirds,…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Saltwater Fishing
1:00 p.m.
Come fish with the Rangers at this beautiful park with scenic views of the East River and…
Location: Barretto Point Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Who, Who, Who…Did I Eat?
1:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers for a hands-on ecology lesson as we dissect owl pellets.
Location: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Bugs Away!
1:00 p.m.
Enjoy observing the graceful moves of aquatic bugs dancing on the Meer, followed by a walk…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Living Log
2:00 p.m.
Ever wonder why we leave fallen logs on the forest floor? We’ll turn over a few and…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Canoeing the Creek
2:00 p.m.
Enjoy a day on Gerritsen Creek as we canoe its sheltered waters in search of shorebirds,…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Astronomy
7:30 p.m.
Gaze at the heavens through our telescope, as we identify constellations, stars, and the…
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the third week of July:

Bird: Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) - These small, fast and extremely agile songbirds have managed to evade my camera lens for years, so I opted to embed a video created by a Chimney Swift conservation organization. These "flying cigars" are such skilled flyers that aeronautical engineers have been studying their wings and flight with the hopes of developing more efficient aircraft designs.

Chimney Swifts cannot stand upright or perch, but have small, strong feet tipped with four hooked claws which allow them to cling to vertical surfaces. They are one of only a handful of migratory bird species that have adapted well to urban living, taking advantage of man-made structures. Only occasionally roosting in the open, they prefer enclosed areas such as empty chimneys, silos, well shafts, and building attics. Adapting to manmade structures has also allowed their range to greatly expand. Chimney swifts are a very sociable species and travel with a colony. They are long distance migrants, breeding in central & eastern North America and wintering in eastern Peru. Usually feeding in groups, they fly closely together, making a high-pitched chattering sound. They eat flying insects such as flies, ants, and beetles.

Butterfly: Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) - The male Cloudless Sulphur is a lovely, solid-yellow butterfly with a wingspan of about 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 inches. The female can be yellow or white and has a brownish-black border. Both sexes have two small silver spots on the underside of their hindwings. Larvae are yellow with horizontal brownish stripes. It ranges throughout Southern California and the Southwest, east through the southern United States and south into Baja California and northern Mexico. Their preferred habitat includes many types of open spaces, meadows, gardens, seashores, and watercourses. The summer movements of the Cloudless Sulfur sometimes bring it farther north of its normal winter range, and autumn emigrations greatly reinforce its northern numbers, sometimes introducing millions to relatively small areas. This butterfly rarely perches with its wings open. Similar Species: Yellow Angled Sulphur.

Wildflower: Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) - Queen Anne’s lace is a biennial plant that is native to Europe and southwest Asia. The flowering part is an umbel of small, white flowers, occasionally with a dark purple flower in the center of the umbel. Queen Anne’s lace can be found in sun to partial shade along roadsides, old fields and waste places. The common name refers to the British monarch who was adept at lace-making. The lace-like flower is supposed to resemble a doily. The periodically appearing dark purple flower at the center is said, in English tradition, to be a drop of blood from Queen Anne when she pricked a finger while making lace. A member of the Parsley Family, this aromatic plant is related to Caraway, Fennel, Coriander, Anise-Root and Celery. While it is considered an invasive plant is some locations, Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies have benefited from its introduction as the caterpillars eat the leaves. In addition, the flowers' nectar is a source of food for native bees.

Tree: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) - The Black walnut is a member of the hickory family. It grows mostly in riparian zones, from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia, northern Florida and southwest to central Texas. It is a large deciduous tree valued for its beautiful hardwood and edible walnuts. They can grow up to 150 feet but are more commonly found in the 50 to 70 foot range. The tree is native to North America and sometimes referred to as "Eastern Black Walnut" or "American Walnut". Prized as a fine furniture hardwood, but historically has also been used for gunstocks, flooring, paddles, coffins, and a variety of other woodworking products. Since early Americans, this tree has been used for its edible nuts and a blackish dye made from the husks. Topped only by the Pecan, the Black Walnut is considered by many as the most valuable native tree in the United States. Forestry officials are often called on to track down walnut tree poachers.

The walnut is the fruit of the Black Walnut tree and are shelled commercially in the United States. Walnuts are harvested in autumn, and must be removed from a shell and a very strong husk. The husk secretes a strong-smelling juice that creates very difficult stains.

Along with its commercial uses, Black Walnut makes a wonderful shade tree. This tree produces an allelopathic chemical called juglone. Juglone will inhibit the growth of some species of plants and trees within a 50- to 60-foot radius.
...Read more

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prospect's Red-tails Exploring

I went into Prospect Park on Monday morning, looking for the three juvenile Red-tails from Nelly's Lawn. It didn't take me very long to locate them.

Since their fledging, the trio of young Red-tailed Hawks has been primarily hanging around the edges of Nelly's Lawn, Elizabeth's Tuliptree at the northwest corner of the lawn (and beneath it) and the small wooded area across the road at Sullivan Hill. It's a small territory just across Flatbush Avenue from the Brookyn Botanic Garden. I expect that, at some point, they will probably follow their parents over to the garden.

I was walking across the Long Meadow from the 3rd Street playground towards Nelly's Lawn when I began to hear alert calls from several robins. The noise was centered around a large Linden Tree near the north section of the Long Meadow, about 250 yards west of the nest tree. Two women were sitting on a blanket in the shade of the tree. They noticed me scanning the tree and asked, "Are you looking for the hawk?" I said "yes" and they pointed to the north side of the tree. For non-New York City readers, this is a fairly typical New Yorker reaction ... sure, there's a large bird of prey perched above me, what else is new. I walked over to the smallish hawk (probably a male) and, while talking to him in a low tone, snapped a few photos. The young hawk videotwisted his head from side to side, like a cat sizing up potential prey. I decided to try and entice him to fly to the ground for a close-up. In retrospect, it was probably not fair to the hawk, who is just learning how to hunt and didn't need my stupid distractions. I won't reveal what I did to draw his attention. I really don't want readers to get any silly ideas or bother our resident hawk.

He hopped around on the ground for a minute or two then took off flying, landing in a Black Walnut tree several yards to the west.

This was the farthest from the nest that I've observed any of the three fledglings, to date. After taking photos of the first bird, I went in search of the other two. One was still hanging around in Elizabeth's Tuliptree, hopping around on the favorite perch. It took me about 15 minutes to find the final youngster, who had made it to the northern edge of the Midwood. The dense foliage on the sweetgums and tuliptrees in that spot made it difficult to see, but several chirping calls eventually brought her out into the open. I haven't seen any of the three juvenile red-tails soaring or flying higher than treetop level but suspect they will surpass that hurdle very soon.
...Read more

Monday, July 13, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming trips and events by local organizations for the weekend of July 18th - 19th, 2009:

New York City Audubon Society
City of Water Day Eco-Cruise
Saturday, July 18, 12-1:30pm
With Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance
Guide: Peter Mott
As part of City of Water Day, a celebration of the waterways and harbors of New York City, NYC Audubon is offering a special eco-cruise past Hoffman and Swinburne Islands exploring the natural history of the area. The tour leaves from Governor's Island. Visit www.gipec.com/Visit_the_Island for information and schedule.
Limited to 175.
Free

Butterfly Identification Workshop
Sunday, July 19, 10am-noon
Instructor: Don Riepe With NYC Butterfly Club
Meet at the Jamaica Bay Refuge Visitor Center for this program on finding, identifying and photographing butterflies, moths and other insects in NYC parks.
Limited to 25.
$10 ($9 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, July 18, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
North Mount Loretto Woods
This is a great new purchase by New York State DEC. Explore these beautiful woodlands' extensive American Beech, Oak and Sweet Gum forest with naturalist, photographer Sandra Mechanic.
Meet at the corner of Bartow and Richard Avenues off Hylan Blvd across from Mt. Loretto Unique Aea.
Bring bug spray, lunch and beverages.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.

Sunday July 19, First Part, 10 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Corson Brook Woods Late Summer Flowering Walk
Meet at the intersection of Forest Hill Road and Jasper Street, near the rear entrance to College of S.I. Join naturalist, photographer Sandra Mechanic on an exciting walk searching for late blooming wildflowers where dozens of wildflower species were in bloom this spring. We will search for White Snakeroot, Black Cohosh, Spotted Wintergreen and the flowers or seed heads of the Wild Leek whose tasty leaves appeared for a week or two in early spring and "melted" away. We may also find the 1 to 3 inch bladders of the Bladdernut that bloomed in June that now rattle when shaken.
Bring bug spray, lunch and beverages.
For more information, phone Dick at 718-761-7496.

Sunday July 19, Second Part, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The above walk will continue at Blood Root Valley
Park and Meet Sandra Mechanic at the back end of Wagner HS on Manor Road, near the JCC, where we can enjoy the deeply shaded cool mature forest with ancient Red Oaks, American Beech and Sweet Gum trees and in the brook bottom below, Black Walnut trees laden with edible walnuts along with dozens of Sugar Maples, a rare Staten Island forest.
Bring bug spray, lunch and beverages. The leaves of the spring blooming Bloodroot may still be showing.
For more information, phone Dick at 718-761-7496.

Sunday, July 19, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Butterflies at Blue Heron Park
Staten Island is home to a gorgeous collection of butterflies. The variety of sizes and shapes, colors and styles is no better evidenced than at Blue Heron Park. Enjoy time with Cliff Hagen as he shares tips for identifying Staten Island's most brilliant insects.
Meet in the parking lot of Blue Heron Park on Poillon Ave. between Hylan Blvd. and Amboy Road.
Bring binoculars if you have them.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Cliff at 718-313-8591


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, July 18, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for this weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Early Birding
9:00 a.m.
What birds will we see? Bring your comfortable shoes, some binoculars, and your curiosity…
Location: High Rock Park, Staten Island
Free

Canoeing the Lagoon
10:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers on this easy adventure paddle through the sparkling blue waters…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Free

Backyard Birding
10:00 a.m.
Crotona Park is home to many species of birds. Join the Rangers as we help you to identify…
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Free

Canoeing
10:00 a.m.
Learn the basics of canoeing as you canoe with the Rangers on Little Neck Bay. First…
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Free

John Muir Hike
11:00 a.m.
Stretch your legs and get some air as we traverse the park’s only east-west trail. …
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Free

Nature Hide and Seek
11:00 a.m.
Join the Rangers and discover how some animals hide or disguise themselves and why others…
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Free

Children’s Hour: Bottle Biology
1:00 p.m.
This month we will be creating soda bottle terrariums. Bring an empty, clean two-liter soda…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Free

Little Red Lighthouse
1:00 p.m.
View the famous Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse! Bring a camera because you won’t…
Location: Fort Washington Park, Manhattan
Free

Nature Bingo for Kids
2:00 p.m.
Learn about nature while playing a fun game. Prizes awarded to the winners. This activity…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Free

Bird Eco-Crafts
2:00 p.m.
Bring the kids to the park for an afternoon of creating bird-themed crafts. Materials…
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Free

Family Camping
5:00 p.m. Enjoy a barbecue cookout and night hike too! Tents, dinner, and a light breakfast provided.…
Location: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Free

Exploring Twin Island
10:00 a.m.
From the rocky shore to the forest, this island has it all. See it for yourself!
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Free

Nature Scavenger Hunt
11:00 a.m.
Assemble your team and challenge yourself to find nature’s treasures. How many can you find?
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Living Lakes
1:00 a.m.
Join the Rangers for a lake ecology lesson and look for fresh water insects and other critters!
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Free

Tree-mendous Walk
11:00 a.m.
Join the Rangers for a leisurely stroll through the park and find out all about trees.
Location: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Free

Canoe the Lullwater
11:00 a.m.
Enjoy creekside views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Free

Canoe the Meer
11:00 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.
Join us for a fun-filled day of canoeing and water safety. Bring water, sunscreen, and a…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Free

Canoe the Lullwater
12:30 p.m.
Enjoy creekside views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Free

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nature Scavenger Hunt
2:00 p.m.
Assemble your team and challenge yourself to find nature’s treasures. How many can you find?
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Free

Living Lakes
2:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers for a lake ecology lesson and look for fresh water insects and other critters!
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Free

Botany: From Beach to Forest
2:00 p.m.
Learn about the diverse plants that live at the ocean’s edge and in the forests of…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Free

Canoe the Lullwater
2:00 p.m.
Enjoy creek side views of wading birds and basking turtles. First come, first-served. Ages 8+.
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Free

Go Fish
2:00 p.m.
Discover the different species of fish found in ponds around New York City, as we see what…
Location: Kissena Park, Queens
Free

Family Camping
6:00 p.m.
You’ll pitch a tent, build a campfire, and go on a night hike to meet the nocturnal…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Free

Night Hike
8:00 p.m.
Come check out the parks nightlife, and don’t forget to bring a flashlight!
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Free
...Read more

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kestrels in Prospect Park

On Friday evening I received a phone call from Bobby Horvath. He had several young American Kestrels that he had rescued in Brooklyn. The juvenile falcons were ready to be released and he asked if I wanted to meet him in Prospect Park for the event.

I was absolutely giddy when I hung up the telephone. Kestrels are my favorite raptor. They are colorful, vocal and, despite their tiny size, very feisty. These falcons may only be the size of a robin, but they act like they are ten times larger. I couldn't wait.

Bobby wouldn't be able to get to Brooklyn until early afternoon. I went into Prospect Park early to scope out the best location for the release. It was breezy, sunny and dry, perfect weather for a picnic. Families were streaming into the park and claiming spots on the Long Meadow, Nelly's Lawn and near the bandshell. I decided that the Nethermead Meadow would be the best choice for the release as there were less crowds. I also tracked down the Urban Park Rangers and told them where and when to meet us. On my way out of the park I ran into Judy, who was on her way to a bird walk lead by Michelle from the Nature Center. She would make sure the group headed over to the Nethermead for the event.

We met Bobby at the 5th Street parking lot and packed into his car with famiglia Horvath (Bobby, Cathy, Christopher and little Sadie) plus two animal carriers loaded with kestrels. Bobby doesn't know Prospect Park very well, so I would direct him to Center Drive and the Nethermead Meadow. I mentioned to him that I was surprised that the falcons were being so quiet. He assured me that would change the moment he reached into the first carrier.

At the Nethermead Meadow we met with four Urban Park Rangers and a small group of folks from the Audubon Nature Center. The first kestrel Bobby extracted from the carrier was a feisty female that he immediately handed to me! She proceeded to use her razor-sharp bill to try and remove small chunks of my hand. Fortunately, she didn't break the skin and she quickly settled down. The second falcon was a male, which he handed to Robin. On the count of three, we released the pair and they rapidly ascended to high perches at the edge of the meadow to survey their new surroundings.

videoIn all, there were six young kestrels released. Bobby shared the excitement of releasing these beautiful birds with the rangers and several onlookers. Some of the falcons immediately disappeared towards Quaker Ridge to the west and stayed nearby perched in the mature trees dotting the meadow. As the onlookers dispersed a group of us stayed behind to enjoy the weather and keep an eye out for the kestrels. videoAt one point Bobby spotted a Peregrine Falcon heading our way from the direction of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I remembered that there is a large antenna tower at the southern edge of the BBG that a pair of peregrines periodically perch on. They must have spotted the tiny kestrels as the first bird headed directly towards the treetops at the edge of the Nethermead. A few minutes later a second one swooped in to check out the activity at the meadow. Thankfully, the kestrels were not discovered by the much larger raptors.

Thanks again, Bobby, for the great experience and watching over our city's wildlife.

Here's a slideshow from yesterday:

...Read more

Kestrel Release

Check back tomorrow morning to see my pics and a video about this afternoon's American Kestrel releases in Prospect Park with Bobby Horvath. "Klee, Klee, Klee, Klee, Klee, Klee!"

Weekly Species Highlights

Sorry for the lack of posts. I was out of town for a week. Here are the weekly species highlights for the second week of July:

Bird: Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) - A tern-like seabird, the Black Skimmer breeds in North and South America. They is primarily found in bays, estuaries, lagoons, mudflats, beaches, shell banks, spoil islands, and coastal marshes. Chicks are semiprecocial and leave the nest as soon as they hatch. They lie inconspicuously in a nest depression where they are shaded from the sun by their parents. On adults, the basal half of the bill is red, the rest mainly black, and the lower mandible is much longer than the upper mandible. On young birds the mandibles are of equal length, but they rapidly become unequal during fledging.

Skimmers have a light graceful flight, with steady beats of their long wings and usually feed in large flocks. They fly low over the water surface with the lower mandible skimming the water for small fish, insects, crustaceans and mollusks.

Black skimmers are seen as far north as New York and in the south along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. They occurs along the west coast of North America, from California through Mexico. In South America, they occur virtually throughout the continent. They are a social species forming colonies that consist of flocks containing both young and old birds. Colony size can vary between a small number of pairs to several thousand pairs.

Butterfly: Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) - The Silver-spotted Skipper is one of our most common and familiar butterflies. The spot on their wing for which they are named, however, is white, not silver. They frequents roadsides, fields, and backyard gardens throughout North America. The name "skipper" refers to their habit of dashing quickly from flower to flower, as if they are skipping around a meadow. It is the largest skipper in North America where they can be found in open parks, fields, gardens, and meadows, and where larval food plants are available.

The yellow-greenish striped caterpillar with a large head and two orange eye-spots eat foliage of leguminous plants, including locust trees, wisteria, alfalfa, and stick-tights. Black locust is the favorite host plant.

Dragonfly: Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) - Feeding mainly on tiny flying insects, the amberwing is primarily a summer species but are active all year in the far southern U.S. It is the only tiny dragonfly with amber wings on the male. They can be found in many habitats from streams to lakes to ponds and marshes. It is one of the smallest dragons in North America and it is sometimes called a "wasp mimic" since it can look very wasp-like in flight.

Amphibian: Northern Diamond-backed Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) - This turtle was recently in the news in New York City as a group of 78 individuals caused the closing of one of JFK airport's runway. The diamondback terrapin is the only turtle in North America that lives entirely in brackish water. Diamondback terrapins can be found from southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico. In New York they can mostly be found on Long Island. They are a moderate-sized estuarine turtle reaching a maximum length of about 9 inches.

It is sometimes seen in the Atlantic Ocean, but are mainly found in coastal rivers as far as tidal influence. It inhabits brackish water, saltwater estuaries and tidal marshes. They feed mainly on estuarine mollusks, crustaceans and worms. They breed and lays eggs in the spring and summer. Nests are usually constructed in sand, but may also be in fill dirt. These turtles usually overwinter in the mud in channels and tidal flats.

The word terrapin is derived from an Algonquin word meaning "edible turtles that live in brackish water." In the late 19th century many populations were decimated for the food industry.

Diamondback terrapins can have a life expectancy of about 40 years.

Wildflower: Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) - The ripe seedpods of Jewelweed or "touch-me-not" pop open at a gentle touch. Water drops bead up on the leaves, and a leaf held underwater has a silver sheen. They are a native North American native summer annual that can grow to 2-5' tall. The blooming period is mid-summer to early fall, and lasts about 2 months. Preferring light shade to partial sun, wet to moist conditions, this plant often forms large colonies by reseeding itself.

The flowers attract hummingbirds and long-tongued bees, including bumblebees and honeybees. The caterpillars of several moths feed on the foliage, including Obtuse Euchlaena, Pink-Legged Tiger Moth, White-Striped Black, and Toothed Brown Carpet. White-Tailed Deer browse on the foliage, while the White-Footed Mouse eats the seeds.

The Jewelweed's sap is supposed to be a cure for Poison Ivy and Stinging Nettle rashes. This sap also has fungicidal properties and has been used to treat Athlete's Foot.
...Read more

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