Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Arbor Day!

     It was totally coincidental that I had both Earth Day AND Arbor Day off from work. I am not in anyway complaining, either! Today was no different from Earth Day on Monday; it was perfect weather outside, the sun was shining, the trees are starting to show green tender leaves, and over at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the cherry trees were blossoming! Since this weekend is their annual festival, I decided to skip the crowds and see the cherry blossoms for myself in a less crowded garden, the day before. I used to work across the street at the zoo and the line to get into the garden on the cherry blossom weekend, at the gate furthest from the cherry trees, would have a line down Flatbush Avenue!
     The gardens were beautiful and all the birds in the area were singing, despite having a fairly decent crowd of school children and visiting groups around. Now, I am not going to do a whole lot of talking because I think these pictures speak for themselves... WARNING: There are A LOT of pictures! (Is that a bad thing??) And this is the narrowed down bunch! Also, be advised, not everything here is "natural" as it is a botanic garden, but keep a look out for the things I found hiding within!

Grab a cup of coffee or whatever beverage you like to relax with and enjoy:
Overlooking the herb garden at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Dandelions are more than just a weed to me, they were a favorite snack of my beloved iguana, "Spike." I always have a special love for these plants. And who didn't enjoy blowing that puffball of dandelion seed into your friend's/sibling's face?!

A flock of cormorants flew overhead while investigating the herb garden.
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom!

They looked so pretty against the perfect blue sky we had! The blossoms reminded me of clouds.
There were many varieties, some were crossbred to produce unique trees.

I stuck my nose in a few, the flowers were so soft!
Then I saw a red tail hawk carrying a twig, being chased by a smaller bird.
And then it disappeared into this cloud of cherry blossoms!

There were LOTS of red eared sliders in the Japanese Garden.
A new one for me! The best shot I could get of a male yellow warbler!
Large Koi (carp/goldfish family) fight for bread crumbs a man was tossing into the water.
Another first for me, a black-throated green warbler! Looks like he has a fly wing hanging out of his mouth!

I had to toss in this female ruby-crowned kinglet who took my attention away from that warbler, she looks so angry!
He just looks so handsome among the Japanese maple branches.

And then if two new birds weren't enough, let's toss in a third! A black and white warbler! I thought he was a downy woodpecker at first because he creeps along the branches and tree trunks like one!

Where I found all my warblers, the Japanese Garden.
My favorites! Beds and beds and bars of many tulip varieties!

If you are interested in learning more about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, learn more about them here and have a visit yourself!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

A coot swims in front of the Boat House in Prospect Park that also houses the Audubon Center.
     It is a beautiful Earth Day, here in Brooklyn, NY! The sun is shining, the leaves are starting to grow on the once empty branches, it's a perfect day! I went for a stroll through Prospect Park in the late morning. I happened to have the day off and I love nothing better than a quiet empty park, as it can get very crowded on the weekends.
     I biked in and walked my bike up a center road towards the boat house. On my walk I noticed that the barn swallows have returned and are already hard at work swooping over the pond, catching insects. They move quick and maneuver in ways that make me think, how does their little body endure it?! Past the pond, I noticed the trees were full of yellow-rumped and palm warblers, also hard at work catching little insects. Chimney swifts were also noted as they flew high over the tree tops, with their boomerang shaped wings. As I got toward the top of the hill I noticed a red-tail hawk in one of the trees, I needed to walk past him but he kept getting scared off. He kept flying and landing short distances ahead of me until he finally got himself into a little pocket of thicket, which proved to have no peace and quiet for him. Blue jays immediately dive bombed him, trying to scare him off, and they did. He went across the path, but the blue jays followed and dive-bombed him until he flew off for good. Poor guy had a ragged tail, he did not appear to be having the best day ever.
     Also watching the hawk with me was a young couple, they asked me if it was a hawk and I told them all about red-tails and how blue jays can get very territorial towards other birds, including ones that are quadruple, their size. It was a fun teaching moment, I love those! I love that bird/wildlife watching is the only time I ever have a conversation with a complete stranger in the park. Wonder and mystery brings out the social side in us all, apparently, and I love those conversations!
     I hooked my bike up at the boat house and went for a walk along some of the wooded paths. I unknowingly startled many Northern flickers, part of the woodpecker family, but they tend to forage on the ground. I also spotted some red-bellied woodpeckers, sparring American robins, and male cardinals singing their affections to the ladies.
     Around the boathouse pond and connecting waterways I saw a very lovely great egret, with its delicate plumes, grackles, chipping sparrows, house sparrows, warblers, red-wing black birds, mourning doves, and starlings. The winter waterfowl look to have finally moved on and only saw mallards and coots in the water. An osprey spent a lot of time hovering in the air over the ponds as well.
     The 50-degree weather was also nice enough for the turtles to crowd on logs and bask, I did see some painted turtles (a native species) amongst the hoards of invasive red-eared sliders. I also saw my first butterfly of the year, it appears to be, according to the best match and my research, a West Virginia White.
     It was a wonderful walk and a great way to enjoy the planet we all call home! Enjoy some photos from my walk:
A barn swallow goes into a dive over the pond. While you can't see much color, it is easy to identify this as a barn swallow, the deep forked tail is the give away.
A black-capped chickadee forages on a tree. I bet there are yummy insects hiding within those deep grooves.
I kept startling this red-tail, he kept flying in the direction that I was walking.
Perhaps he wasn't satisfied with the background, here he goes for a more urban feel...
He made his way into a tangle of shrubs and vines. I like this photo - I like the sharpness in his eye and the large talons at his feet. Doesn't that eye scream T-rex from Jurassic Park?!
He had a very ragged looking tail, I wonder why... You can see those pins, where tail feathers once were. What is left of his dark banded tail suggests that he is a young red-tail hawk.
Hunched over as blue jays bombard him.

...and he's out.
beautiful (cherry?) blossoms
A yellow-rumped warbler shows off that yellow rump.
A red-wing blackbird sings its very pretty song. I love these birds, they are beautiful in appearance and sound.
Another yellow-rumped warbler.
A grackle fluffs up his feathers to show us all how surprisingly beautiful they are with that iridescent shine.
A red-bellied woodpecker has a loose feather. I am fascinated by feathers and just looking at that one feather with its pattern, it's amazing how such a design came about through natural selection.

Red-wing blackbirds make shoulder pads look real good...
An osprey hovers over the pond looking for fish. I scared off some pretty big looking fish in the pond as I walked around its edges. Remember, you can tell it is an osprey from that "M" shape it has to its wings.

I am fairly sure this is a pine warbler, which is a new one for me! Yippee!

Chipping and house sparrows were rolling and foraging in the dusty soil near the pond.

A great egret balances on one leg while the delicate plumes on its back sway in the breeze. These birds were once hunted extensively for those gorgeous feathers. The huge amount of hunting put a real dent in bird populations and from this, the migratory bird act was created, protecting native migratory birds from feather collection and nest destruction.

Can you find the two painted turtles on this log of red-eared sliders? Hint: they are sitting next to one another...
A mourning dove sits quietly near the lullwater.
I honestly have no idea what this guy is. He looks pretty in this white pine... I was thinking a pine warbler, like the one above? Maybe?
First butterfly of the year, a West Virginia White!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!