Friday, August 29, 2014


     I rode my bike down to the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. I was hoping for shore birds, but the tide was (really) high and most I got were 2 great blue herons, a great egret, and yeah, just that. When walking within the shrub and tree filled South West portion of the nature center, the song birds were very active. I also had a few first sightings ever, and one super awesome first sighting of the year:
I was really hoping for this song sparrow to be more like a  salt marsh sparrow...
The large milkweed bug, this is a TRUE BUG, not all insects are bugs, but all bugs are insects-- it's like when you learn about rectangles and squares in math class. You can see the proboscis folded under this bug's body, which it uses to pierce milkweed seed pods to feed.
As opposed to the bug above, this species is the small milkweed bug, creativity runs strong throughout nomenclature...
Morning mallard streches.
"Whatchu want?!" This young mockingbird already has some sort of battle scar, part of his lower mandible has been chipped away.
This male horseshoe crab was very much alive, thankfully I love horseshoe crabs. You know its a guy because its first pair of legs look like boxing gloves.
Be free!
A silver skipper.
One for the life list- a great crested flycatcher! You can almost see his crest.
I think he let me get close because I was attracting SO MANY mosquitoes!  
This common yellowthroat looks like a pom-pom, I adore these little guys!
One of the clearings in the SW portion of the nature center. The goldenrod is gorgeous right now!
A first of something-- I found out when you cannot differentiate between an alder and willow flycatcher it's referred to as a Traill's flycatcher, which is not by any means a species of flycatcher. But I have no idea which one this is, so Traill's it is!
This American redstart was just walking around on the trail, like it's completely normal... 
Great blue heron runs a red light.
This is the first great blue heron I have seen this year (really!). 
I love how the fiddler crab is underwater, but he is poking his eyestalks out above the water.
The American kestrel is the smallest species of falcon in North America. This little guy is perched on an unoccupied osprey nest platform. These little guys are also called sparrow hawks, for their dining on sparrows, but they will also eat insects.
A skipper of some sort. 
Yellow "dots" = aphids
 Round guy- red with black spots = lady bug (not a REAL bug, but a beetle, possibly, also not a lady) aka nymph predator,
Red-orange and black oval guys= milkweed bug nymphs (not yet adults)
 And the grand finale-- my first (confirmed) monarch butterfly of the year! These butterflies are facing (really, really) tough times, so seeing one today was AWESOME- I paparazzi'd out with this guy...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prospect Park 8-26-14

     I started my day with a walk in the park. It has over all been a very mild summer, temperature-wise, but today and the next few days seem to be wanting to get away from that and turn up the heat. My walk was humid and sweaty, but still had some fun surprises, the on-coming heat did not stop the wildlife. I saw a new warbler species, the blue-winged warbler, ad also saw my first Eastern wood-pewee. The silly name comes from the call it makes, literally calling out, "PE-ee-weeEEE!" The highlight was being able to observe a green heron catching its breakfast, over and over again!

Mallard reflection on the Lullwater.
I found this on my last walk through prospect, there seems to be a collection of red-eared slider shells up in the rafters of the Lullwater bridge, perhaps its the dining area of a raccoon.
A juvenile green heron.
Very active and hunting. I always wondered how these guys eat when the water is COVERED in duckweed, not being able to see anything underwater...
Question answered, they look to the skies, literally. Do you see what this heron has his eyes on?
I love the leftover downy whips on his crown...
GOTCHA! a quick fling of the neck and even the quickest dragonfly can't make the escape... and dragonflies are fast. But this green heron seems to be faster.

Down the hatch!
Happy hunting, little buddy! 
I love how the morning glories come in so many colors. They are so beautiful!
Blue-winged warbler in a tulip tree sapling. I didn't get to see its face, but had enough field markings to go by...
This mallard just looks so fresh, like it was a duckling this past spring...
I love that flash of color all mallards have on their secondary feathers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Tourist's Guide to Nature in NYC

     I love hosting friends, giving them the chance to stay in NYC and do all sorts of things with them while here. Whether extravagant or on a budget, I can find something to do. My friend Julia visited, and like me, she is a nerd for nature (in the very best of nerdy ways, of course!) so I took her around to see what is hiding here in NYC looking to be discovered.
     Our first stop was Prospect Park, we walked the Lullwater up to Lookout hill, to the upper pool, along the Ravine, and back to the boat house. At first, we didn't see much, but as we arrived at the upper pool had a pleasant (really) little surprise:
A ruby throated hummingbird zipped by us at the upper pool. We followed it and it zoomed off. Then we waited patiently and back it came, and perched for us! How awesome!

     On day two we headed to Central Park Zoo, in the zoo there is the resident wildlife, but I found the staff did a lovely job putting flowers in between the duck aviary and the snow monkey exhibit. The flowers attracted bees and one (while I was there) lovely butterfly:

A great spangled fritillary

     Later on day two after a request for "Real" Pizza, and a much worthy wait at Di Fara Pizza on Avenue J in Brooklyn (it really is the best, but please don't eat your pizza with a fork and knife, really, just don't, ever). We headed to Dead Horse Bay to beach comb the remnants of the past, busting out of the time capsule of an old landfill. I was happy to introduce Julia to the black scoter that was still there, plus some oystercatchers and black-bellied plovers:
Aphids feeding on milkweed.
Racoon tracks on the beach.
A group of black bellied plovers on the shore.

A funny yawn from the black scoter. 
Can you spot the semipalmated plower in the mix?? I originally didn't notice him!

Oystercatcher fail, that's a mussel, dude. 
Black bellied plowers in flight.
Black scoter.
A double crested cormorant dries it wings.
Two juvenile brown headed cowbirds along Flatbush Ave.
     If you're the type that loves to hike and look for wild things, NYC is a treasure trove of little pockets to explore, always with surprises. The little parks and wild oases are great places for wild things to congregate, and like most New York City folk, may not regard your personal space, like that of a crowded subway car, the birds tend to be close in range and much less shy than when in rural settings. It's the only time you will not get judged when you have a camera hanging around your neck in the big city, just as long as you have some binoculars too ;-) I hope I was able to show my good friend a good time without huge expenses and the chance to truly explore the wilderness within the city.