Saturday, April 30, 2016

4 Days of Wildlife

     Time to play catch-up. This is a busy time of year for work, get-togethers, and birding. Migration is in full swing and the reports keep rolling in, while I am swamped at work with tons to do. It is just absolute torture to be taunted. Thankfully my work load is so heavy, I don't see the reports until I am out of work, but that usually means I have missed my chance to catch something spotted earlier in the day.
     Over the last three days and today, I did some birding in Prospect Park, the Salt Marsh in Marine Park, Calvert Vaux/Drier-Offerman, and Prospect Park, respectively... anyway- let's just get to the sights...

Day 1: Wednesday, Prospect Park
This is a yellow bellied slider, again, not native-- but native to the SE states. Probably another unwanted pet. I wish people knew that pets are not disposable and are very much a commitment, no matter what the species.
A Northern Parula, feeding, from below. I am happy to see them back!
The sassy and bold gray catbird. I love their attitude.
I ended my day on Wednesday very frustrated, personally. Seeing these animals that I love, and the challenge of spotting them was the perfect remedy for me. This is a black-and-white warbler, one of my faves (they are pretty much all my faves).
A chunky chipmunk.
the only semi-clear photo I got of what was originally, a "warbler sp." but turned out to be a yellow throated vireo! Unlike the pine warbler that it closely resembles, it has a much thicker beak.
A very weary veery.
super glad to see the male scarlet tanager.

Female red-wing blackbird taking advantage of leftovers.
 Day 2: Thursday, Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center
Brants still linger. I wonder if they are confused by the colder temperatures we have been having.
Clearly, they are still well-fed!
 A well-hidden greater yellowlegs.
I only spotted this yellow crowned night heron because of its glaring white crown.
A not so clear picture, but one adult killdeer was calling, making as much noise as he could, while this one stood by... I noticed it had a few extra legs...
After a while, the adult let all three babies to go out and explore. But after some time, she called everyone in, one by one.
These little chicks looks like craft pom-poms on toothpick legs... super super cute! I was by myself and could joyfully squee to myself without judgement from those who could have been near by.
Each baby then and snuggled their way into the adults downy feathers.

Two more still need to get over to the adult.
And so tiny!
A patient parent. Number two is just getting underneath.
C'mon number three!

It is so hard not to anthropomorphize, but this is just so sweet and it makes my heart melt. But the real name of this game is survival and ensuring that this next generation survives to adulthood to have chicks of their own.
One of another pair of killdeer I saw, this pair I did not see any chicks, but they could have been hiding.
A song sparrow

Day 3: 6 Diamonds and Drier-Offerman:
I joined my friend, Daniel to look for a Grasshopper sparrow. Instead we found chipping sparrows (above), savannah sparrows, brant, cormorant, and some homeless people making a bon-fire at 6 Diamonds ball fields.
In Drier-Offerman, the most excitement was watching this great egret hunt fish in the ship wreck at low tide. I didn't realize until I could zoom, how both of their eyes face below, and also then making more sense as to why they hunt with that funny stance-- to see anything lurking below.
...Going in for the prize. 
A common loon on Coney Island Creek.
Day 4: Saturday, Prospect Park
A very yellow-bellied yellow-bellied sapsucker. I was glad to have good company on my walk today running into some fellow Brooklyn Birders today and joining forces on a very un-birdy, but still a wonderful walk.
At the Vale I did get to see a blue-winged warbler, it was so fast that it came and went, so all I got at the Vale was a cardinal photo.
A charming bullfrog on the lower pool.

A lurking common snapping turtle also in the lower pool.
A subpar picture of a Louisiana Waterthrush also on the lower pool.
This guy was just too much, love him!
A spotted sandpiper foraging on the peninsula.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quality Time in the Outdoors

     I had a stellar weekend and it isn't even over yet! What amazing weather we are finally having, and I confidently packed away my sweaters in trade for shorts and summer type clothing. I also spent a good amount of time outside with my husband, for once.
     On Saturday, we traveled to the Queens Botanical Garden and Corona Park. The garden was small, but cute, with ample open spaces where lots of folks just plopped down and relaxed in the grass or on chairs (their own, or ones around the garden).
     Corona Park also had a lot going on, we walked there from the garden (hold onto your receipt and you can come and go from the garden as you please). There were many soccer (fĂștbol) games going on and the place was very lively. The only thing I did not enjoy was the water feature, "Fountain of the Planets." The algal blooms were gross, in one corner gathered muck, algae, a dead, bloated opossum, and 2 dead turtles, among other trash, and probably some other decaying things. It was really upsetting to see how absolutely disgusting the water was and how it did not seem to get taken care of. And clearly this is an ongoing issue and not much has changed, as this article from the NY Times in 2000 shows, it's sad.
     Today, my husband and I went to the Driving range to hit some golf balls then we went across the street to Floyd Bennett to find the new blind constructed at the Return pond, named in honor of Jean Bourque, survived by her husband Ron, these two were most well known for their involvement in Brooklyn birding, natural history, and conservation communities. What a lovely space it is, with a nice sitting area for classes to do outdoor lessons.
     Often when I go out, I am on my own or with other birders, not so much my husband. Thankfully he supports my passions in life, as I support his, but we both enjoy the outdoors and it was really nice to spend the weekend with him, enjoying what the world had to offer.
So. Queens Botanical Garden is COVERED in Italian Wall Lizards. If you are not aware, I LOVE lizards. You have been warned...
These lizards are normally from the Mediterranean, in places like Italy. They were introduced here and have spread among various areas along Long Island, mostly via the railroad tracks. Now, there are LIRR tracks nearby and I am thinking they used the park possibly as a corridor to get to the garden area. I did not see them as plentiful in the park, but there were a lot more people there. The Railroad stop for Mets-Willet's Point is right on the border of the park. 
These lizards eat insects of all different kinds, but energy to really get going comes from the sun. Many were out basking in the afternoon sun, which was perfectly warm. Rocks are a safe place to bask, because if danger lurks, they just dart into a crevice. 
This one looks to be a female- the males are far more green. 
This is my first spotting of wall lizards in NYC, I really do love seeing these guys. They are all over the garden, but are easiest to find on the rocks near the parking lot. Within the garden they mostly just dart across paths to escape anything bigger than them.

Their camouflage is spot on, the grass would be crawling with them, but you don't see them until they make a move.

In New York, especially LI, these lizards don't cause too much harm, in terms of an invasive species. But these lizards have been introduced into other places in the United States where there is potential for competition with native lizard species for resources. Long Island (from Suffolk to Kings) has no native lizard species.

Dandelions grew everywhere and I saw quite a few birds foraging on the seeds from the puffballs they form.
I really liked the Eastern Redbud, the flowers just seem to grow from the bark!
QBG also had a bee garden with some hives that produce honey and provide pollination for the area surrounding them. It was nice to see the bees buzzing about doing their thing, working hard.
Also lots of bumble and carpenter bees. This one, on a cherry tree.
I found this American Lady who surely had seen better days. These butterflies over winter in many parts of Florida and migrate Northward. My guess is this one just made a hell of a flight and has some battle scars, all in the name of finding food and reproducing successfully.
Robins and red-wing blackbirds were foraging on the grounds throughout the garden.
Some double crested cororants- mture adults sport that black coloration and "double crests," while immature/juvenile birds have that grey coloration. They are in the Fountain of the Plants and I feel bad that that is where they swim.
A little glimmer in those teal eyes, they have the coolest eyes, cormorants.
At the Return-a-gift pond (RAG Pond) at Floyd Bennett, a mallard led her brood around as they fed on algae and duck weed. Also spotted were red tail hawks, a turkey vulture, yellow-rumped warblers, black-crowned night herons, mockingbirds, and a falcon species (not sure which, at the time, Tim had my binoculars).
One thing to remember when you visit Floyd Bennet Field is to repeatedly check yourself for these. One of three dog ticks I picked up, simply by walking in some grass.
Looking forward to seeing more butterflies!! :)
And now, it's time for my husband and I to end our great weekend together with a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie I whipped up... and of course, served a la mode! I hope everyone got to enjoy this wonderful weekend!