Sunday, April 20, 2014

Barbecue Guest

     Spring decided to come back, after it being almost 80 a week ago, then snowing 2 days later, the temperature was just right for eating outside. We were visiting our family and spending time at my in-laws home in Rockland County, NY. On the grill were veggie burgers and some hotdogs. My in laws are vegan, and most of what we eat is very vegetable-based, which is okay with me as I am mostly vegetarian myself. While eating and kids playing amongst us all, a black vulture landed on the roof. Little did he know it was mostly vegetarian, it would have really just be a huge letdown if we even had any leftovers! He was very cool for the kids to observe and once he flew off, the nieces and nephews began flying around the yard like birds. Future bird nerds? Perhaps!
This stance is very "Game of Thrones." It was sunset, so lighting was not on my side... literally. 
Black Vultures have been moving up into NY recently, usually it was predominantly Turkey Vultures in NY, this Southern species has been expanding their range Northward.
Vultures tend to have a negative attachment with them - but they are incredibly important to the ecosystem. They are nature's sanitation department, eating dead animals, playing the role of scavenger.
Their bald head is that way for a reason- as they eat decaying carcasses, their bald head free of feathers, will not harbor bacteria and other nasties that may be picked up when eating their delicious meals.

Vultures are easily ID'd in flight as they soar almost exclusively on warm columns of air in the atmosphere called thermals. That's why they circle, allowing the warm air to carry them upward. Their wings are held in a "V-shape" while hawks and eagles hold their wings flat when soaring.

He found out we only had veggie burgers... my nephew did give an out loud "awesome." When he saw this very ninja-esque pose at take-off. Super cute. 
Unlike hawks and eagles- this bird does not need sharp talons and strong feet - the main killing tools of most raptors - so just regular "chicken legs" for this guy- cute vulture legs, none the less!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Are you sure it's spring?

     First I want to share that seeing a rare bird in Prospect Park has been an absolute thrilling experience. My sighting was even mentioned (without my name - but I know that's mine) in an interview with Paul Sweet, who works in the Ornithology Dept. at the American Museum of Natural History, on the Brian Lehrer Show. I also submitted my first observation report for my rare bird sighting to the American Birding Association, where one can submit and look up local area sightings.
     It is moments like this that I live for, discovery, adventure, and fun in nature. This is the reason I am passionate about science, we have natural inquiring minds and finding something out of the ordinary really gets my heart pumping. In the moment of sighting that bird I know I was smiling, I know I ran across the patch of grass between paths to follow it, I know I exclaimed out loud to myself (like the crazy animal lady that I am) "Oh my God, is that really a kite?!" That my friends, was some serious passion and love of nature happening, right there - and also pure happiness, something I very much needed.
     On Thursday, 4/17, I went for a walk in Prospect Park, to escape the continuous lesson planning I have been doing in my preparation to return to school next week. My walk was overcast, breezy, and COLD. So cold, I wished that I had gloves and a scarf on. By time I got home my hands were red, chapped, and icy cold. Spring made a brief appearance, and then it snowed two days later. I wonder what toll this weather is taking on the inhabitants of Prospect Park. The highlight of my walk was a Louisiana water thrush, a palm warbler (my first for the year), and a red tail hawk, perched up in a tree.
A mallard drake is in pursuit of a hen in front of the Boat House.
This Chipmunk came out of hibernation and is NOT impressed with the weather.
My first (of many) palm warbler sighting of the year.
It was 46 degrees out. The fact that these red eared sliders are still out, powering up in the sun, really is a great show of how these turtles are able to outcompete the native turtles in the area. These turtles are invasive exotics that are most likely released unwanted pets.
A Louisiana water thrush foraging in the upper pool. 
Can you find the water thrush? A really great show of this animals' ability to camouflage! 
I always love a fat squirrel... 
Red tail hawks also love a fat squirrel...
Perched on one foot, feathers fluffed up, keeping warm as the wind blows over the cold neathermead.
Who's watching who?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Awesome Sightings!

     I made an early venture into Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I'll just let the photos do the talking...
Female redwing black bird down at the lake.
I COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT I SAW- A swallow tailed kite flew over the Lullwater. This is super zoomed in. The original photo follows. Much too large to be a swallow - normally these birds live in the South Eastern United States.
The original photo and the only photo I was quick enough to get!
The always handsome cardinal...

Even in a subpar photo, Mallards are gorgeous in flight!

A handsome American Robin.
I heard green heron calls and then I found him! So glad they are back for the season!

A mallard drake. 
Dust bath time.

peregrine? merlin? 

a lone egg near the boat house.
First warbler! A (blurry) prairie warbler.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break!

Lunch with a view.
     In my first year of teaching, I am beyond overjoyed that it is spring break. It is much needed, in the sense that I can do work and get ahead so I can successfully make it to June. I suppose I also get some time to myself to do things I find enjoyable.
     The temperature today was in the upper 60's so being outdoors was mandatory! My husband and I went to Marine Park, down on Avenue U in Marine Park, Brooklyn. We saw some good wildlife, had sandwiches overlooking the water, and took the baseball gloves out across the street in the park for catch. Among the un-photographed were a belted kingfisher, shy fiddler crabs, lots of bufflehead and ruddy ducks, nesting osprey, and more. It was a great day to be out and it finally feels like winter has gone away for good - but who knows, maybe it will snow again next week because that's how insane it has been.
A mockingbird working hard to protect its turf outside the nature center.
We were kindly pointed over to this area by a ranger who told us there was a red tail around. He was very well hidden, and my camera had a hard time focusing.
Then he was on a mission. 

He gave this great egret a really hard time, chasing it down. Was it trying to capture this bird?
Well, maybe he was, he seems to still have much to learn. See his long tail? That tells us he is a young bird, maybe still getting the hang of hunting.
He looks beaten up, but really he is molting. Those tail feathers are banded, telling us he/she is young. Mature adults have those brick red tails. Maybe his is just coming in.
Mute swan test shot.
A double crested cormorant and a pair of bufflehead ducks.
A greater yellowlegs.
As opposed to the lesser yellowlegs that has a shorter bill. The greater's bill in appearance can seem slightly upturned.

A common grackle voices his opinion to the nearby waterfowl.
A common grackle attempts a photobomb on some foraging crows.
There is always that reminder that amongst it all, you're still in New York City. The Freedom Towers peeks over the tree line and nature center.