Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer in the City

     This week has been incredibly hot. I rode my bike (22 miles roundtrip) to and from work Monday through Wednesday (highs were in the upper 90's!), had to take a break Thursday and Friday. The midday heat brings that eerie humid silence to the world, all you hear is the hum of air conditioner units. The birds stop chirping, even the cicadas stop buzzing. I woke up fairly early this morning after falling asleep very early, I actually slept on the couch since that room was most comfortable, temperature-wise.  In my early morning wake-up I decided I'd take a walk in Prospect Park to see who was out in the heat (mind you, it was 7:30AM when I left and already in the mid 80's).
Dragonflies are AMAZING animals. They are literally solar powered, they fly on sunny days and bask to power up.
This dragonfly is called a blue dasher - and I am so happy I remembered this species. When working at Audubon, we did a lot of dragonfly catching and ID'ing. They are VERY hard to catch because of their spectacular sense of sight. Random Dragonfly Fact 1: Dragonflies cannot walk. They must fly and land where they want to sit.
Dragonflies are predators only going after the pests we all dislike, biting flies, flying insects, mosquitoes. Not only are the fierce predators in the air, they start as larvae underwater and as fierce little things, eating small tadpoles, small fish, and the larvae of other insects. Random Dragonfly Fact 2: Dragonflies are possibly THE MOST efficient predator on Earth, check out this article from the NY Times, it will blow your mind! 
A dainty and perfectly camouflaged house wren. There seemed to be a whole group or family of them in the area. Perhaps with their fleeing young. These guys are hard to photograph, they flit and move fast, they are also tiny. But their voices are loud, its amazing how such noise can be projected from such a tiny guy!
A fledgling catbird. The parents were still feeding it. Notice how it has its flight feathers, but still has that brightly colored gape (mouth) of a young bird. Super cute! This is the time where you see baby birds leaving the nest, chances are they are trying out their wings and mom and dad are nearby. Best bet is to watch from afar. If baby is unattended for a very long period, then call your local wildlife rehabber for advice and help.
A very freshly fledged robin. The nest was directly above this guy and mom and dad were spotted nearby, chances are this guy will be alright. Love the downy feather on his head!
Another blue dasher. Random Dragonfly Fact 3: Dragonflies do not bite or sting people. If one whizzes by your head, chances are it is snatching a flying insect that you have attracted over to yourself. Thank a dragonfly.
The small Eastern Amberwing. While small, Get ready, Random Dragonfly Fact 4: Dragonflies are one of the oldest insect families (odonata) - fossils of their ancestors (the group protodonata) have been found dating over 300 million years old! Some of these ancient dragonflies had wingspans of close to 3 feet!
I walked up a trail and it led to to the center drive in the park. I realized I was standing amongst many cicada killer wasps. Yes, they are really called cicada killers. They grow up to 2 inches long, sting and paralyze cicadas, drag the cicada into a borrow they dug, lay an egg on the cicada (who is still alive, just nocked out), cover up the burrow, let their larvae hatch that then eats the cicada alive. Lovely, right? When I realized what I was standing amongst, I may have done a little hop, skip, and a jump, equivalent to that of my 5 year old self running from a bee. Thankfully, no one saw... I think.
A cabbage butterfly drinks some nectar.
Eastern Kingbird.
An invasive red-eared slider basks in the early heat. This turtle is covered in duckweed. Each little space of duckweed is actually a tiny little plant. Pretty amazing!
A blue dasher. Random Dragonfly Fact 5: Dragonflies get their name and their family name (Odonata) because of their incredibly fierce looking mouthparts, especially as larvae, that they use when catching and consuming their prey. Check it: here.
Well.... Hello, Blue Jay.
Showing off its catch, a juicy looking inchworm.