Sunday, July 26, 2015


     I have been needing to do some cycling, as my sister and I are riding the NYC Century Bike Tour in September and are pushing to do 75 miles, and 100 would be really awesome, but we are shooting for over 55 (what we completed last year). So I decided I would get in some birding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, buuuuut, I would bike there from my home in Kensington Brooklyn. Round trip, I cycled about 36 miles. Not too shabby, I'd say.
     In challenging myself, I also thought of my next challenge, that would take me from my 30th birthday, on 8/8/15 to my 31st (ew) birthday on 8/8/16. For one year I am challenging myself to my own big year. Big years are competitions birders partake in with each other to see who can rack up the most species in a year. My only competitor is myself and I am not limiting this to birds. I would like to tally up any animal species I can find and properly identify. I am also not going on crazy vacations to chase species, but when I do go away, don't think I won't be looking!
     I suppose to all my friends (if anyone actually reads this), apologies in advance for my super hyped up nature Attention Deficit Disorder. Because if something walks, buzzes, soars, or slithers by, I'm on it-- not that this doesn't already occur in my day to day.
     I am going to hopefully get the camera cleaned this week so it is ready to go for my birthday weekend. 30 will not mean I'm slowing down, it will only be me with even more energy!
     Anyway, about that bike ride to Jamaica Bay.... Enjoy!
Saw these two dudes, just hanging on what used to be West Pond... and I was like, they are not gulls... And now after the fact, I realized I misID'd... totally Juv. Forster's terns! Meh, it happens. Not gull-billed terns.

Waterfront property in Broad Channel Queens. I never noticed the other bird box below the platform. Wonder what the osprey charges for rent...
Aphids on Milkweed. Not sure what the other little white dudes are, but I saw ants on another plant interacting with the aphids. I wonder if ants use the aphids like I have seen in books, where the aphids produce a  "honey dew" from all the juice they suck from the plant that the ants harvest and eat. Almost like farmers and their cattle. Not sure how sweet a toxic milkweed plant is... I wonder...
A snowy egret fishes as the tide begin to rush into the West Pond.
From the most western portion of West Pond I saw flocks of birds flying, fast. Then I saw a large bird behind them, also fast. Through binoculars I saw 2 falcons. I saw they landed and got to them in hopes they'd still be there. And lucky, they were! 
These birds were Juveniles, I could tell from their blueish eyeing and beak, which would be yellow in adults. Also thinking this one is a male, he was much smaller than his counter part.
This other bird was visibly larger, I am thinking perhaps a juvenile female. 
They sat for quite a while before taking of together.
Such a cool bird!
Mom leads her family. Dad marched ahead. Well there were definitely 2 adults, don't know which one's which, but the kids were a few inches shorter than their parents. 
Pretty sure that is mom's/dad's "Don't mess with this" face.
Another Osprey Platform on Cross Bay Blvd had two osprey near by one my ride in and on my ride out. Thought it would be a good chance for a photo op.

Love that binocular vision!!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Upstate Escape

     Friday was looked forward to with great anticipation for some time away from the city life. Tim and I got home, did some last minute care for the critters in our home, and packed up the car. After hoping in, and some Holland Tunnel fails, 2 hours later, we escaped NYC and headed upstate just outside of the Adirondacks. Our good friend invited us up to enjoy his parents' lake house for the weekend.
     We took the camera with us, but honestly, I wasn't toting that thing around. Good times were had, many beers were enjoyed, and all done surround by good people we are lucky enough to call our friends!
     I of course though HAD to go trod through the woods just to take a little peek at what's around. iPhone 6 has some pretty decent photo taking and editing capabilities...
After a 6 hour drive, at 11:30PM, we pulled up in the rain. Moments after stepping out of our car, I caught an American toad. A good start to a good weekend!

A lovely, back-lit orb weaver.
The woods surrounding the home were very wet, with lots of fungi. The indian pipe is a plant that lacks chlorophyll-- and is therefore not green. It is instead parasitic, getting nutrients from fungi and trees that are symbiotic with one another. I love finding this plant, it's just so alien!
A millipede. I was searching under things in hopes of finding some amphibians...
Another very cool millipede, it had very yellow legs and marking on its segments.
When I originally found it I was a little put off by the yellow, as I recall some brightly colored centipedes from back in the day, and was very put off by those animals- they were fast and packed a venomous bite. I associated that memory with this sight. But then I looked closer, two pairs of legs per segment = millipede. Centipedes only have one pair of legs per segment, and are predatory. Millipedes are harmless, consuming dead decaying plant matter. 
Under a log I found this guy, pretty sure he is a lead back phase red-backed salamander.
These salamanders are lungless, respiration happens through their skin. That's why it is important these guy live in damp environments, like under a log, in a very damp forest edge near a lake.
I learned something new, this common beetle that you find EVERYWHERE is called the oriental beetle. It is an invasive brought over from Asia, often considered a pest by avid gardeners.
I very much want to say this is from a dragonfly nymph. It crawled out of the water and molted into its adult self. I found this on the side of a shed on a dock on the lake, and why I am inclined to say dragonfly. As their larval or nymph stage is aquatic.
An awesome shelf fungus!
An awesome slug on an awesome shelf fungus.
With my ID guides and web help, I think, think, think-- and am 99% sure this is a Clymene Moth. They are active in both sun and dark.
As a fire was being prepared in the pit, this guy was found by our friend. Pretty sure this is a younger American Toad who sought refuge in the old wet logs. Glad he was able to be relocated. I also love that my husband was asking to hold his and squee'd when this little guy vocalized. We let him go in the woods, where he'd be a bit better off.
THAT FACE! Love amphibians. I love catching them too, as a kid growing up in suburban Long Island, I was very much deprived of catching frogs, toads, and snakes. So I take any chance I can to do it as an adult... I always let them go back where I found them, or in this guys case, in a place where he will not become roasted.
A very good time all around, got my first tube down a river experience, shared lots of laughs, and ended our day with a fantastic bonfire under the most amazing sky full of stars and little satellites orbiting around our tiny little habitation in such a vast universe. You don't realize how big the universe is till you can actually see it streaked across the night sky. Pretty amazing and so glad to have such wonderful friends in my life to share it all with.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Salt Marsh Surprise!

     Today I met my friend and fellow wildlife enthusiast at the Salt Marsh in Marine Park. I was almost disheartened as I had left my battery for my camera home, and it was hot. But I'm glad I got my butt out the door because we got quite a show from some salt marsh residents! Lots of photos, hope you enjoy!
A black swallowtail butterfly feasts on the wildflowers that welcome you to the salt marsh.
We had walked down to near the active osprey platform. And were about to walk in a different direction, but saw papa osprey bring in a huge fish to the nest. I was like, I gotta go watch that, so we walked closer, and in the reeds below... GAH! The cuteness! An entire clapper rail family! Mom, Dad, and 8 chicks! The whole family is in this frame, chick #8 was a bit lagging from his siblings. I was over come with cute!
Dad is in the back, with a more orange bill and red eyes, mom seemed to lead the family, dad was more for snuggling.
I have never seen clapper rail spend so much time out in the open, not darting into some grasses after being seen. We remained on the trail, while these guys just did their thing, only coming closer to us.
In the same family as coots, the babies are where I see the resemblance.
Awful photo, but you get some bird drama, as a glossy ibis flew in to land, and mom was NOT happy.
I would have liked to have seen the glossy land there, buuuut, there is nothing like an angry mama clapper rail! Would not want to cross her!
The chicks wade through the rising tide to get to mom.
The family settled here for a bit, the chicks gathered around dad while mom took a time out.
Dad takes on the snuggling responsibility, guarding and watching those chicks.
A devoted dad!
Mom gets some down time.
And I get some lovely shots of mom...
Dad keeps the chicks near by to him and the grasses for cover.
Egret stole my attention for a hot second, lots of birds flying through the area in which we stood and observed the rail family. Those yellow feet, and small size tell you this is a snowy egret.
Mom leads the family closer to us to a patch of grasses just below the trail.
Felt pretty lucky to have such a nice long view of this rail family, it was a great surprise and made me so glad I got my rear end back out after work!
The osprey family was trying out their wings. These babies are no longer babies, but juvenile flighted birds, still hanging with mom and dad, still learning some life skills.
Trying out those wings!
Mom gives encouragement to the juveniles in the middle, while dad feasts on his catch.
Pretty sure these are milkweed borers, a species of beetle that feeds on milkweed. They are making more milkweed borers that will feed on the roots of the milkweed. Adults feed on the leaves, biting them and "bleeding" them of their toxic sap.
The glossy ibis from before settled down further from the rail family. A gorgeous bird!
My first monarch of the year. He looks a little worn, but I hope he gets the chance to reproduce and make a new monarch generation.
Identifying this as a great golden digger wasp. Adults like this, feed on nectar. Larvae feed on insects that their parents paralyze and leave in an underground burrows with them for them to feed and develop in.q1