Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quality Time in the Outdoors

     I had a stellar weekend and it isn't even over yet! What amazing weather we are finally having, and I confidently packed away my sweaters in trade for shorts and summer type clothing. I also spent a good amount of time outside with my husband, for once.
     On Saturday, we traveled to the Queens Botanical Garden and Corona Park. The garden was small, but cute, with ample open spaces where lots of folks just plopped down and relaxed in the grass or on chairs (their own, or ones around the garden).
     Corona Park also had a lot going on, we walked there from the garden (hold onto your receipt and you can come and go from the garden as you please). There were many soccer (fĂștbol) games going on and the place was very lively. The only thing I did not enjoy was the water feature, "Fountain of the Planets." The algal blooms were gross, in one corner gathered muck, algae, a dead, bloated opossum, and 2 dead turtles, among other trash, and probably some other decaying things. It was really upsetting to see how absolutely disgusting the water was and how it did not seem to get taken care of. And clearly this is an ongoing issue and not much has changed, as this article from the NY Times in 2000 shows, it's sad.
     Today, my husband and I went to the Driving range to hit some golf balls then we went across the street to Floyd Bennett to find the new blind constructed at the Return pond, named in honor of Jean Bourque, survived by her husband Ron, these two were most well known for their involvement in Brooklyn birding, natural history, and conservation communities. What a lovely space it is, with a nice sitting area for classes to do outdoor lessons.
     Often when I go out, I am on my own or with other birders, not so much my husband. Thankfully he supports my passions in life, as I support his, but we both enjoy the outdoors and it was really nice to spend the weekend with him, enjoying what the world had to offer.
So. Queens Botanical Garden is COVERED in Italian Wall Lizards. If you are not aware, I LOVE lizards. You have been warned...
These lizards are normally from the Mediterranean, in places like Italy. They were introduced here and have spread among various areas along Long Island, mostly via the railroad tracks. Now, there are LIRR tracks nearby and I am thinking they used the park possibly as a corridor to get to the garden area. I did not see them as plentiful in the park, but there were a lot more people there. The Railroad stop for Mets-Willet's Point is right on the border of the park. 
These lizards eat insects of all different kinds, but energy to really get going comes from the sun. Many were out basking in the afternoon sun, which was perfectly warm. Rocks are a safe place to bask, because if danger lurks, they just dart into a crevice. 
This one looks to be a female- the males are far more green. 
This is my first spotting of wall lizards in NYC, I really do love seeing these guys. They are all over the garden, but are easiest to find on the rocks near the parking lot. Within the garden they mostly just dart across paths to escape anything bigger than them.

Their camouflage is spot on, the grass would be crawling with them, but you don't see them until they make a move.

In New York, especially LI, these lizards don't cause too much harm, in terms of an invasive species. But these lizards have been introduced into other places in the United States where there is potential for competition with native lizard species for resources. Long Island (from Suffolk to Kings) has no native lizard species.

Dandelions grew everywhere and I saw quite a few birds foraging on the seeds from the puffballs they form.
I really liked the Eastern Redbud, the flowers just seem to grow from the bark!
QBG also had a bee garden with some hives that produce honey and provide pollination for the area surrounding them. It was nice to see the bees buzzing about doing their thing, working hard.
Also lots of bumble and carpenter bees. This one, on a cherry tree.
I found this American Lady who surely had seen better days. These butterflies over winter in many parts of Florida and migrate Northward. My guess is this one just made a hell of a flight and has some battle scars, all in the name of finding food and reproducing successfully.
Robins and red-wing blackbirds were foraging on the grounds throughout the garden.
Some double crested cororants- mture adults sport that black coloration and "double crests," while immature/juvenile birds have that grey coloration. They are in the Fountain of the Plants and I feel bad that that is where they swim.
A little glimmer in those teal eyes, they have the coolest eyes, cormorants.
At the Return-a-gift pond (RAG Pond) at Floyd Bennett, a mallard led her brood around as they fed on algae and duck weed. Also spotted were red tail hawks, a turkey vulture, yellow-rumped warblers, black-crowned night herons, mockingbirds, and a falcon species (not sure which, at the time, Tim had my binoculars).
One thing to remember when you visit Floyd Bennet Field is to repeatedly check yourself for these. One of three dog ticks I picked up, simply by walking in some grass.
Looking forward to seeing more butterflies!! :)
And now, it's time for my husband and I to end our great weekend together with a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie I whipped up... and of course, served a la mode! I hope everyone got to enjoy this wonderful weekend!