Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wild Brooklyn Encounters

     I feel so lucky to have Green-Wood Cemetery in such close proximity to where we live. It brings so many creatures right near where we live to the point where we have had warblers out front, hawks out back, and parrots all around. I also swear there are skunks around, I swear I have smelt them, and it wasn't just the usual kids outside smoking funny things. Sometimes to see some unusual things though (for the middle of Brooklyn), you have to venture within these wild oases.
     Upon biking in I was welcomed a hummingbird at the front gate, I dropped my bike gently, slowly made my way up, without trying to look too weird to the security guard. Thankfully he too was watching the hummingbird too. Aside from the lovely hummingbird sightings, as I found a second one just moments later- I found quite a few really interesting things, some completely new to me, which thankfully were documented in photos:
Great egret on the Valley water.
Pretty lily and mini frog on the Valley water.
Fairly sure these are young bullfrogs - they are all over the Valley water, if you move, you hear squeaks and splashes. You can see the small ones scatter all over the lily pads.
I thought crocus were only a spring thing, well apparently there are several varieties of fall flowering crocuses- and they are very beautiful. These were by the Valley water, but there were some other areas where I saw them as well.
A red-eared slider (non-native species) basks and powers up for the day. This slider is shedding the scutes (pieces) on it's shell. The outside layer of the shell is made of keratin, bone in below, alive with blood vessels, protecting all its internal organs and systems. Just like lizards shed their skin, as the turtle grows, it too sheds its skin and scutes.
A great blue heron on Sylvan water. The ripples in the water looked really great behind him.
That beak is it's killing tool, it spears fish, frogs, heck even baby ducks. I know from friends who have worked with herons in rehab or in zoos that the beak of a heron is terrifying in close range.

Now, one thing I never, ever, ever knew-- there are woodchucks in Brooklyn?! In Green-Wood?! I thought this was a raccoon out past its curfew, then as I got closer, I was so surprised! Do note this woodchuck is not chucking wood, but an apple. I found this guy alongside the Dell water.

In all my visits, I had never seen woodchucks!
Woodchucks are rodents, like mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. Note the incisor teeth. Those teeth grow continuously for life, its why rodents need to gnaw to maintain their teeth.
It was like the woodchucks said, "hey, lady, you think I'm a sight to see? Well, wait till you see this!"
That chunker of a chuck led me over to what was a snapping turtle, that shell was almost if not 2 ft long. I had to put something next to it for comparison-- my size 9 shoe. This turtle was probably quite old (these turtles can easily live 50 years, if not more, if things are right) and probably weighed 40lbs if not more, again, depending on how well it ate.
The Dell and Crescent waters both had small minnows in them. The water was very choked up with algae and these fish were gathered and gulped air for access to oxygen that they do, in fact need. Normally fish get dissolved oxygen from the water, but when water is blooming with algae and algae lives and dies, the decay of the algae uses up the oxygen in the water that the fish need. Since the fish were so close to the surface, anytime a plane flew over you'd hear a loud "SWSHHH!" all the fish, simultaneously ducking for cover.
Around the Dell water, I saw lots of flitting in the trees, and saw a few of these birds looking at me, another first, red-eyed vireos. These birds do have red eyes, as their name implies, but they vary from bright to dark, younger birds tend to have darker eyes. This one is probably a younger bird.
While giving a curious appearance and seemingly wondering what in the world those winged contraptions are, this bird is actually foraging for caterpillars and insects that may be hiding on the underside of leaves.
On my way out I head lots of blue jays and aggravated robin calls... well, here is the aggravator. A red-tail having a rest in a pine tree.