Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

     I end my spring break vacation with some quality outdoor time. If you can, please go for a walk soon, the birds are signing their hearts out as they claim territory and attract mates. The trees are just starting to show green buds and flowers, soon they will be filled with broad, shade giving, oxygen producing leaves. Migratory birds are showing up more and more, the turtles are basking and swimming, butterflies are out, and I even saw my first dragonfly of 2014 today! How can you not celebrate this planet?!
     Earth day is cerebrated every day, by yours truly, and I hope everyone else who does not can start to as well! It is never too late to celebrate the place that houses all this fantastic life!
     My walk today was in Prospect Park, I basically walked along the Lullwater, over the bridge and circled back to the boat house just as it began to drizzle.
Time to get nesting!
Bottoms up! A mallard dips for some food.
The Green Herons are patrolling the area that they will soon nest in.
A European starling sings loudly- birds have the ability to sing two different pitches at once, due to their syrinx- essentially a double voice box.

A palm warbler struts along an old tree limb.
Red-wing blackbird, mid-song. 
I love those red shoulder pads. 
A sleepy racoon
The lullwater in spring. 
Lovely blooms.
A mantis ootheca - basically a case of eggs. These were laid last autumn and were not preyed upon- so a new batch of young mantises should be arriving soon!
My new bike mechanic.


     I have a strange affinity for former President, Theodore Roosevelt. I love that he was a conservationist, and he had that cowboy-outdoor persona. Part of the reason I might love him is also because I was employed for a time at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center - Audubon's first sanctuary (established in 1923), the land of which was donated to the Audubon Society by Teddy's family. Next door to the sanctuary is where TR is buried, in Young's Memorial Cemetery- and I visited him often. Teddy made his home in  Oyster Bay, NY at Sagamore Hill, where my husband and I took a walk yesterday.
My husband asks- "How do you know it's a snowy egret?" 
"Because they have all those feathers." My answer also included ridiculous hand motions, that were supposed to represent those fluffy plumes. Also snowy egrets are smaller than great egrets- they also have yellow feet- like they are wearing spats.
Life goes on- a horseshoe crab perished, but becomes an important food source for the periwinkle snail.
A flock of scaups.
A Mockingbird advertises its territory.

Osprey nesting off the side of the road on our way out. Osprey use different material in their nests including trash- so the bag in the picture was brought there by them, but that doesn't make the situation right.

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.