Saturday, August 29, 2015

Prospect Park: Birds and Insects 8.29.15

     I got out on a 2.5 hour walk early in Prospect Park, walked from the boathouse through a trail to the Vale, back toward the Ravine followed the water down to the Neathermead and then got to walk along the Lullwater.
Lots of quick-moving red eyed vireos out together. Seen in various areas during today's walk.
A terrible photo, but helped me to ID this unknown at the time... warblers this time of year are notorious for getting a wee bit confusing. This is a black-throated blue. The little white patch at the base of the primary feathers (on the wings) was one clue I went by, as well as the marking around the eye. Black-throated blue is my very best match. 
A not-so shy grey catbird. I like these guys, but they are everywhere!
Not a bee/hornet/wasp or anything from the hymenoptera order of insects. This belongs to the order, diptera- flies! This is a Toxomerus hover fly. They look like a wasp, but do not sting. Like a bee, they feed on nectar and can hover, as their name implies. Nice job at mimicking, by this creature.
Fooled again? This is also a fly (order, diptera)! I a=have identified this one as transverse flower fly. These flies too feed on nectar, and also in turn are helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies. 
A pearl crescent butterfly, feeding in the same flower patch as the two flies above.
An Eastern Bumble Bee comes to join the pearl crescent on the same flower. That bee is coated in pollen! I also found a great online guide to bumble bee species, did you know there were so many??
A robin born this year, just looks so wonderfully awkward in that juvenile plumage.
A grey catbird takes a stroll on the Lullwater with a few others, and myself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Marine Park to Prospect Park

     Yesterday after work I ventured through Marine Park and today after work, through Prospect Park.   I went looking for specific things but really didn't see what I had hoped, but got other little surprises instead. I really wanted to see the bobolinks at Marine Park yesterday and I am 99% sure I saw them, flying among the tall grass, but was kinda sad I didn't get to photograph them. And today in Prospect I went to search for a prothonotary warbler seen earlier, but to no avail. In both today and yesterday I got an alternate surprise instead. So not all that bad!

Marine Park:
More excited to see this guy than ANY bird. I have never seen a real live monarch caterpillar EVER before! This guy munched and munched from the time I first spotted him to when I checked him again before leaving. This guy is a legit New Yorker, if it survives to adulthood it will make it to Mexico. It will never return to New York, it will overwinter in Mexico where it goes into a stall in it's reproductive life, called diapause. When they are ready to head north, they will come out of this period and breed, but in the southern range of the US, it's a pretty amazing life cycle! Learn more about it here from the Monarch Butterfly Fund.
A few least sandpipers landed below the reeds near the osprey nest. Yellow legs, a slightly droopy bill signals least sandpiper.
My favorite thing, a great egret flyover!
 Prospect Park:
An interesting place for a bald faced hornet nest! 
Found a black and white warbles (this guy), redstarts, grackle, and fly catchers among others on the peninsula.
Peek-a-boo! This guy was my favorite part, a chestnut-sided warbler in fall plumage. Yeah, looks nothing like breeding plumage! He was super cute, very active, even landed on the pavement right in front of another birder and myself!
A nice way to end a quiet walk, in good company, with some decent birds.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pretty Little Things

     I tend to like big birds, like raptors and egrets, but sometimes there is satisfaction in the little things, both avian and non-avian. Looking at little things takes a lot of patience because you are many times larger and therefore that much more scary. So in observing little creatures, the challenge is not spooking them off.
     This weekend involved a surprise sight at my in-laws' and lots of beautiful dragonflies at the water features in Green-wood Cemetery, allowing me to add a few more bird, invert, and herps to my list.
     Enjoy the sights!
While sitting on the patio, my inlays pointed out this gorgeous little ruby-throated hummingbird, feeding on the flowers in their garden. Little dude perched for a few quick pictures, and then he visited a few other flowers in the garden before skiddaddling. 
In Green-Wood Cemetery: " I shall call him, mini me!"
A female and a fledgling indigo bunting! How cute are they?! They were in the same exact spot where I spotted a gorgeous male indigo bunting last year. And they live just a 5 minute walk from my home!
There were in that same area a lot of fledged mourning doves following their parents around.
Just so happened to have noticed that this and another Canada Goose were strolling casually past the grave for the Bird family!
Another indigo bunting going through a molt- you can see those sneaky blue feathers!
 A great egret perched up on a tree near the Crescent Water .here is usually a little module in the center of the water that the egrets perch on, but it has been removed. A tree was the next best perch, I suppose.
A little bullfrog in the Dell Water. If you walk along the Dell Water, all you hear are little squeaks, as these frogs jump at any glimpse of a shadow. 

Was able to see one of the common snapping turtles, also in the Dell Water. The water level was much dropped since my last visit,  there were exposed rocks and sediment the frogs could get out onto, and the turtles as well, if they wanted. Still, the water is blooming with algae and filled with a lot of unfortunate trash.
I saw no woodchucks, but I saw evidence of them!

I was able to identify this dragonfly as a calico pennant.
How gorgeous are you?! I love dragonflies, they are such amazing little creatures. 
Fairly sure this is a female twelve-spotted skimmer. A lot of the dragonflies were actively depositing their eggs into both the Crescent and Dell Waters.
This is the male twelve-spotted skimmer, what a stunner!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dead Horse Bay Introduction

     Dead Horse Bay was my destination after work today, planned in accordance with low tide, so that the shoreline would be accessible. I was playing host to my coworker, who takes awesome photos and is always looking for fun places to visit and snap some awesome pictures. After spraying ourselves with a high concentration of deet, we soon ran into Eastern Cottontails as we traveled down the trail that leads out to the beach.
     I got some birds to add to my personal big year, plus I also get to add periwinkle snails and hermit crabs, as I am counting all species!
     Thankfully the bug spray worked, or there were actually no biting insects. We were able to explore and take in the uniqueness of this site, and got a couple of cool wildlife sightings! Enjoy the sights...
In total, we ran into 5+ Eastern Cottontails between our walk in and our walk to exit. We had adults like this, but also half size bunnies who are offspring from this year.
Very happy to add this guy to my personal list, a black bellied plover, there were two of these on the beach, near the Gil Hodges Bridge side.
A handsome, boldly marked bird. Striding across one of the many tires that are from a time long past, the entire beach is littered with trash, in a post about my very first visit to DHB, I explain why.
A juvenile common tern still begging and interacting with one of its parents. One would fly over and interact closely with this little dude.
These two semipalmated sandpipers were very comical, chasing each other around this tidal puddle. It was cute to me, but they may have had more serious matters between each other.
These plovers were much smaller than their larger cousin, the black bellied plover. They blend in very well with their surroundings, and sometimes you don't know they are there until they move or vocalize. Oh yeah, and all those little snails, surrounding this plover, those are periwinkles!
plover reflections
Some dramatic lighting over the Verrazano Bridge and Southern Brooklyn.

A 3rd winter herring gull attempting to smash a clam to get to the delicious insides. Gulls cycle through plumages, next molt will result in its adult plumage.
That is the face of satisfaction, this dude got to consume his prize soon after this!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunset Cruising

     On Sunday, 8/16, a few of my coworkers and I got on the last NYC Audubon sunset cruise of the season, on board the water taxi.  Earlier that day I got a little worried as thunder clouds rolled in and we experienced a lot of heavy rain. The rain must have caught many species by surprise, because while cleaning reptile enclosures in our spare bedroom, I saw a flash of yellow in the tree outside the window. For the next 15 minutes I was on it and hanging out the window, running back and forth between that room and the kitchen, to access our sad excuse for a terrace.
He was fast, but this is the first yellow warbler we have ever had in our Brooklyn backyard!
The tree in our yard is full of wisteria and it's a tangle of a mess to try and grab a picture of a fast moving bird. But he was a gorgeous little thing and a pleasure to watch at (mostly) eye level from our window.
     Once skies cleared, we were in perfect shape for a boat ride up the East River towards North and South Brother Island. The NYC Audubon cruises are always great, they provide a wonderful way to see NYC from a very different perspective, the naturalist on board is incredibly knowledgeable about the history of New York, and it always provides really great scenery. So we were very much pleased and really enjoyed the sights on this adventure.
The thunder heads southeast of us, really gave the skies a dramatic look over Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The sun sinks low over lower Manhattan.
Clouds over the Willamsburgh Bridge and Brooklyn. 
Double crested cormorants nesting on U Thant (legally known as, Belmont) Island. This is a small man-made island lying between Long Island City and the UN Headquarters.
Cormorant condominiums. The area behind them was once industrial warehouses, now you can't afford to live there. Luckily, cormorants have a rent stabilized nesting area.
Cormorant silhouettes.
I really love their nests, they have a very mysterious, spooky look to them. The trees on these little islands they nest on also tend to be tiny, bent over, and weathered- really adding to the look.
Juvenile cormorants can be easily told apart from adults with their lighter bellies and necks.
All that is U Thant Island, on the East River.
A great egret graced us all with a fly by.
Fish crows on the move, probably finding a place to roost for the evening.
I was able to spot a great blue heron on Mill Rock, an odd place for a normally freshwater bird to be. The East River is an estuary, connecting LI Sound to the New York Harbor, so the water is not fresh.
Looking past North Brother Island to refineries and other industrial buildings in Hunt's Point, Bronx. North Brother Island was once a quarantine of sorts for sending the ill, famous for housing Typhoid Mary, and it was a potters field- a place where the dead were buried who had no family ties or any other place to be laid to rest.  Now, it is a bird sanctuary.
Add in a little nature and Hunt's point can look rather beautiful when draped in late evening colors.
The waxing crescent moon, just after a new moon on August 14th.
As the light grew dim, I played with scenery, sorry for some really touristy-type photos, but really, I'm not sorry. Every New Yorker should go on a boat around NYC at some point, it really makes you feel incredibly small, gives you a new perspective on the reliance of the habitats surrounding the city, especially back in its beginnings, and it's just gorgeous!
An industrial complex never looked so beautiful! Nature works wonders in that way!
The river we sailed upon is home to so many species of fish, birds, mammals and beyond its regular route, it connects to more water that houses even more species that are tied to those in the river. These waters are all vital resources to not only the animals and plants growing from them, but us too! We often forget that life on land is tied to life in the water and it is important for us to think about our choices and how they can affect things that in turn connect back to us.
Empire state building.
Chrysler Building
Midtown Manhattan alive with light. I only think about how many stars are hidden away by the lights from the city below.
Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance, where the Harbor of New York lies and eventually meets the Atlantic, just a ways down. Soon birds will be flying all through this area, as we are sailing below the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration route for flighted creatures. Lights and building glass can make this migration tough, especially as many bird species fly by night and become disoriented by the bright city lights.

         Audubon does some pretty nifty tours in the city and beyond and I love living here and being able to discover on my own or with others species thriving, despite a giant city looming over them. I am always amazed by the diversity of life found within the city's nooks and crannies!
Check out their tours here, maybe I'll see you on one!