Thursday, August 10, 2017

Green-Wood Updates

Since my last Green-Wood Cemetery walk posting we've seen a few changes in the local flora and fauna, as well as, a few interesting observations.

It would seem to be a little late in the season for turtles to be laying eggs, but we found this nearly 50 lb. female Common Snapping Turtle on the steep ridge above the Sylvan Water attempting to dig a hole. Incubation time ranges anywhere from 9 to 18 weeks. If it's colder the hatchlings will overwinter in the ground. This also presumes that the local raccoons or skunks don't find the eggs. She had pulled herself out of the pond and climb approximately 50 yards uphill in search of a suitable site. Our attention was drawn to the hill by the alarm calls of several species of birds. I guess these lumbering reptiles are, for some reason, perceived as a threat to birds. I thought only ducklings had to worry about snappers.

At nearly the opposite end of the size scale we found this Red-eared Slider laying her eggs across the road from the Valley Water. She did such a good job covering and disguising the nest that we could barely find it when we returned an hour later. With an incubation of 59 to 112 days I assume that this girl's offspring won't be emerging from the ground until some time next spring.

August is the time to see one of my favorite scary insects - the Eastern Cicada Killer wasp. A description of this creature's behavior sounds like something out of a Steven King novel. As large as 2" long, the female Sphecius speciosus are quite intimidating, but usually won't bother humans. Their sting doesn't actually kill the cicada, but rather paralyses it. They then carry into their burrow where they lay eggs on the now immobile insect. When the young hatch...must be tough watching oneself get eaten.

We've been seeing our Green Heron on every walk, either at the Dell Water or the Crescent Water. He has had a lonely existence this summer. For some unknown reasons, his mate disappeared shortly after they began building a nest. A photographer friend told me that he kept reprimanding two other photograpers whom he felt were getting too close to the nest. He said on more than one occasion they caused the heron to leave the nest tree. If this is true, I'm not sure how to deal with it in the future. The management at Green-Wood Cemetery used to have a strict photography policy. I hope they don't have to go back to it. "And that's why we can't have nice things."

Last weekend we spotted this deceased Eastern Red Bat near the Sylvan Water. It didn't appeared to have any obvious injuries. They are not known to be affected by white-nose syndrome, which has devastated cave bat populations in eastern North America. It's impossible to say what could have killed it. Some people find bats to be ugly. I think they are really cool. Not only do they control insects, like mosquitoes, but some are also pollinators and seed dispersers. The diminutive Eastern Red Bat is only about 2" - 2 1/4" long and, clearly, very cute.

I've been have a difficult time finding our two, recently fledged Red-tailed Hawks. They are getting quieter, which means that they've started hunting so they don't have to rely on regular food deliveries from the parents. One of the adults has been frequenting the spires on the main chapel. I assume that it's a good vantage point for scanning for prey. The only downside is that there are several mockingbirds and Eastern Kingbirds close to that location and neither species are very tolerant of a predator. The mockingbirds are mostly just noisy, make periodic close passes at the hawk's head. The kingbirds, however, are extremely aggressive and will peck on the much larger bird's head. Fun to watch.

Finally, it's hard to believe, but fall migration has already begun. Sunday's walk started off with cool, September-like conditions, so it was fitting that we spotted 5 species of southbound warblers - Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. This weekend I take a break from my "Birding in Peace" tours, but will be back on the 20th.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, August 6, 2017
Species: 41

Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron (1.)
Great Egret (1.)
Green Heron (1.)
Osprey (1.)
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (1.)
Northern Flicker (2.)
American Kestrel (1.)
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Kingbird (7.)
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow
House Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
OVENBIRD (1. Walking along ridge at Dell Water.)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (2.)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (1. Lakeside Ridge.)
YELLOW WARBLER (4.)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (1. Foraging in low sapling at edge of Crescent Water.)
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (1.)
House Finch
House Sparrow

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