Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rainy Days

     Yesterday was a very rainy day, but I decided to get out before the heavy rains started. Prospect Park (and most places outdoors) are awesome to visit on grey days that threaten with rain because the crowds are few, the park is quiet, and with the lush green all around you, impending rain make the place feel all the more like a wild jungle in New York City.
     While nothing out of the ordinary was seen, the quiet of the park was most rewarding and a plus for getting out just before a heavy rain began to fall-- just in time for the Mets game I attended yesterday evening!
     Take advantage of the grey days, they are peaceful and a nice way to escape for a little while:
If you walk through the Ravine in Prospect Park you can ignore TLC and actually go chasing waterfalls. If you start from the upper pool at Fallkill Falls, then follow the watercourse down to the Neathermead Arches, you'll see a few smaller waterfalls, including this one- beyond the arches, still following the path of water, there is another popular waterfall that takes you to the boathouse pond, Lullwater, and lake.
Found this active paper wasp nest along the Ravine. It actually is made of paper- these wasps chew up plant matter and wood, mix it with some of their spit, and BA-BAM-- a paper nest! On the leaf to the lower right, you can see some bumps- those could be some galls- caused by other wasp species, insects, mites, and sometimes different bacteria or viruses. If caused by an insect, this is where their larvae can develop till they become adults.
A male cardinal brought some nice color to a rainy day. Lots of cardinals out with their fledged chicks, who still follow the parents around and still beg to be fed. Lots of whining young cardinals along the ravine too!
I'd like to think this little honeybee was seeking shelter before the rain under the broad, strong milkweed leaf.
My favorite train side plant, Jewelweed. I love their little orange flowers! I also love that during the heat of the day, they wilt, only to bounce back to normal at night. I also like that when extra saturated, they get rid of extra water and form little  waterbeds at every leaf blade. I also like that the leaves can be used as a natural anti-itch remedy for poison ivy relief. I also LOVE their seedpods- they are also called touch-me-nots, touch their seed pods and the seeds JUMP out Closer examination will reveal a spring-like structure that when triggered by touch, like a curious me, or an animal walking by, cause the seeds to pop out-- a great way to disperse your next generation!
I don't know what these are, but they sure are pretty, eden post-boom.
A great egret perched above the Lullwater, duckweed on its face reveals someone has been fishing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy First (full) Day of Summer!

     I worked this weekend half a day which got me the ability to jet out of work early and head out to check out a new place I have yet to visit. I went out, close to home, on Lido Beach to Nickerson Beach Park. This place is well known among birders for its nesting bird colonies. Today I went out that way to see what this place was all about.
     If you do check out Nickerson, go with a group- the cost for parking is rather high, $30 for non-residents, and a reduced price for Nassau residents who present a leisure pass. It is not hard to find the nesting birds, their areas are roped off, and even approaching the roped off areas, the birds have no problem dive-bombing you.
     After my Nickerson adventure I drove back to Brooklyn and made a quick stop at the salt marsh in Marine Park. It was a satisfying day with a special lifer for myself, not too shabby for the 1st day of summer!
Black skimmers (pictured), American oystercatchers, and common terns greet you in the parking lot of Nickerson Beach Park.
American Oystercatcher
Signs and roped off areas identify nesting areas for plovers, terns, skimmers, and oystercatchers.
Black skimmers are awesome, I was so happy to see so many of them, they also look comical on the ground.
If you looked through the dunes and grasses, nesting common terns seem to be everywhere!
I was photographing this bird, and did not realize the two little chicks hiding in the plant to her left! Thats when I especially gave even more clearance than the roped off area, so mom/dad and babies could do what they do naturally.
This common tern summarizes bird parenting. There is a chick under each wing, waiting for their mate to return, tired and hungry themselves.
No chicks spotted among the skimmers, only the common terns.
I did find this little young American oystercatcher catching a snooze next to one of the nesting area signs. Mom and dad stood close by.
Tern chicks are really cute, like floofy chicken nuggets with legs! They move pretty quickly too!
They are so tiny and honestly, they blend in so well! I just love how they seek out a hiding spot and all you see is their little fluffy bum!
This chick wants a snuggle with their parent to feel secure. This was so incredibly adorable to watch...
Then the second chick joins and squishes underneath.

The dunes are such an important habitat for shorebirds. Those grasses help to hold them in place. It is important not to walk all over dunes as our weight can really destroy this very delicate and important habitat.
And now for some terrible photos, but a life bird for me, piping plovers! Do you see him? They are the exact color of the sand, small, and really are hard to see!
Bonus, there were also plover chicks!! Which are pretty much cotton balls on toothpicks.
Piping plovers are endangered and there is a constant battle with local residents over these birds. From firework displays shot off around their nesting grounds to vehicles allowed access to the beach to feral cats and off leash dogs, these plovers have a lot of human induced obstacles.
Worst picture ever, but I mean, it's so floofy!
There were at least 3-4 chicks plus one adult looking over them. I saw at least 2 other adults, one of which was with another chick.
Super happy to see these guys!
Onto Marine Park! Lots of snowy egrets out actively catching fish, even in a group together, with cormorants at one point! It was pretty cool to watch birds just coming up consistently with fish to eat.
I love their little yellow feet!

The dragonflies are out and about. This one I am pretty sure is a painted skimmer. I cannot ever get a dragonfly photo unless they have landed. This one gave me the abdomen... thanks, dude. 
A red-wing blackbird holds on as a breeze sways him back and forth.
A Forster's tern nabs a fish!
Many of the flowers planted at the marsh are in bloom, attracting local pollinators like this cabbage white.
It's hot out there, and summer is totally here. Hope you all get the chance to go out and have yourself an adventure!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Prospect Park Potpourri

     It's hot out and after the last few days at work, a stroll outdoors was all I needed. Didn't need to see anything special, but just relax and be outside among the nature to be found within Prospect Park. Well, I suppose nature wanted to treat me to all it has to offer. From tiny insects to splendid birds, and everything in between, it ended up being a great walk with plenty to see, despite the heat and stifling humidity.
     Enjoy the sights!
The baby birds of spring are out of the nest, but still following mom around. This young mourning dove just perched and stared at me. Mom then taught it a lesson, by chasing him off into the brush, as if to teach the lesson of "HIDE YOURSELF!" Because this little bird didn't seem to do that oh so well, quite yet.
I love watching the pollinators, like this bumble bee hover in search of the best nectar. I am so proud of myself for having become so much more calm around bees. Taking photos like this in my past would have never ever happened.
Came around a turn on Lookout Hill to find what I thought was a downy woodpecker, but now I'm thinking hairy, after seeing just how long that bill is!
I'm still goin' with hairy woodpecker on this one.
The plain and simple cabbage white butterfly is still very beautiful, and should not be dismissed! Often mistaken as a moth because of its coloration, this is indeed a butterfly-- not to mention there are some moths out there that are stunners in the color and pattern department, themselves!
This photo makes for an easy ID, this is the Eastern Comma. This butterfly, the Eastern comma, can help you in any writing you do, it carries two white commas, one on each wing!  
The Eastern comma is also gorgeous as heck! I love that the summer brings with it many other winged beauties, besides just birds!
Butterflies belong to a group of insects called Lepidoptera, which means "scaly wing." Under a microscope, tinny little scales give their wings the color and structure.
A honey bee has this cloud of blooms all to herself!
Found a painted turtle on the trail. It is very much turtle nesting season and turtles will wonder beyond lakes and ponds to seek a proper place to nest. This is a turtle I am more than happy to help in the direction she is going, which was away from the water-- meaning she is seeking a place to lay. She was not huge and perfect size for a dog to pick up. It's things like this that remind us of the importance of keeping dogs on leash in wildlife areas. Painted turtles are a native species to our area, so I hope she successfully lays her eggs and that they hatch and make it back to the lake.
Isn't she beautiful??
Found some other birders who were kind enough to introduce me to the hummingbirds nesting in the park. That bump on a branch is a nest with 2 young hummingbirds within!
This nest was quite high up, this image is zoomed in and then cropped. It is important not to cause disturbance to nesting birds. They should be able to act normally if you are observing them. That means that you should always remain at a respectful distance.
Nothing seems more precarious than sticking a needle like beak down the gullet of your begging chick to feed it with straight up sugar (nectar) you collected. If you look, you can see the baby's head up and mom has her beak inside that lil' guys mouth and is feeding it! 
You can see baby #2 is begging on the left-- its beak is clearly open and waiting!
Mom finishes feeding baby #2- what lucky little chicks!
Hummingbird nests are like something out of a forest fairytale. This nest is constructed with moss and lichens, then spun together with spiders silk, collected from webs, you can even see a few strands connecting from the twig to the nest. The mom then shapes this tiny little silken cup around her body and places 2 tiny eggs within. You think how can this tiny little ruby-throated hummingbird have survived the intense rainstorms and weather we have had in the last week... well it appears that those tiny leaves above act as the perfect roof, to shield her and her family from the rain. Like seriously, how much cuter and whimsical can this life get?!
A young robin seems to be out on his own and beginning the game of life. Act one: eat and grow!
A chipmunk forages in the soil for seeds and grubs. Lots of chipmunks out, and plenty of them are oddly not very shy.
This green heron was active all around the Lullwater, it was calling a lot. It's call sounded kind of like my stomach growling, and it threw me off, because I skipped breakfast-- but didn't feel hungry. Then I saw him.
I love these guys, I hope they have more babies this year!
I leave you with a catbird making an absolutely absurd face.