Sunday, January 22, 2017

Creature in my Kitchen.

     I was not able to bird this weekend as I devoted yesterday to showing the world what democracy looks like and participating in the Women's March here in NYC. I then spent today taking care of my companion animals, doing some chores, and putting together a pear pie. So yeah, no birding.
     The last week, I have been keeping a pair of binoculars on the kitchen table-- not to spy birds in our back tree, but to watch our newest friend, who has been squatting in our kitchen, an adorable jumping spider. This little spider made a little silken nest in the corner of the ceiling that it crawls into to rest and we have been seeing him/her crawl out to venture around the moulding of the ceiling.
     During my chores, and multitasking, things I probably shouldn't do, I took some time to stand on a chair and attempt photos of this little spider, because, thats what normal people do, right?
I really love spiders (and I admit, as a child I feared spiders). It is thanks to a chilean rose tarantula in high school that allowed me to overcome my fear and actually really appreciate spiders.

And jumping spiders, specifically, I find absolutely darling! They are robotic, they always look to be thinking, and studies show these spiders are pretty darn smart:

Jumping spider do have fairly amazing vision as unlike most spiders, they are hunters. They don't build webs to capture food, they go out and find their dinner. Their eyesight not only helps them hunt but also successfully make those amazing little leaps.
Some further reading on their amazing eyes:

I also learned how dusty the top of our kitchen door is...

While they don't build webs, they still produce silk. They use it as a lifeline, as they jump, you always have a line in the case you miss. It also acts like a breadcrumb trail, the silk with additional pheromones allows them to find their way home or perhaps find a mate.

I hope you find this little creature as charming as I do and perhaps put your slipper down and think twice about killing a spider in your home. Mine always get to live, unless the cat finds it. Thankfully this one has been keeping itself up high and away from our predatory feline.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Waterfowl etc.

     Yesterday and today I birded 3 locations in Brooklyn. Yesterday I went from Floyd Bennett Field to the Salt Marsh in Marine Park, and today I kept it quick with Prospect. I enjoyed all of my visits, at each one seeing birds that I throughly enjoyed observing with a few good surprises too.
     I needed this weekend, the last few weekends have been kind of cruddy for going out in and I saw birds I very much enjoyed observing, whether rare or common sights.
     I hope you enjoy seeing them too...
I first traveled yesterday (1.15.17) to Floyd Bennett Field in hopes of seeing horned Larks. Was happy to find a nice size group of larkss on the edge of the cricket field foraging in the open grassy areas.
Horned larks have feathers on their head that when puffed up, resemble horns.
These bird could be easy to miss- they are the same color as the ground and they don't fly to get from one nearby patch to another- they run!
On the ground, they forage together for seeds and insects.
From back and side, they are easy to miss, but some of them really had some gorgeous gold chests when they looked your way. These birds foraged pretty confidently, when while a red tail hawk circled over the field. They didn't budge from their very open foraging space.
My next stop was the Salt Marsh at Marine Park, where I met my friends Molly and Corey. We walked along the less traveled West side to enjoy a lot of waterfowl and gulls. Many of the ring-billed gulls were bathing in the shallows.
Other ring-billed gulls took it a bit more easy.
Upon entering the trails, a very not shy N. Mockingbird just watched us from its very close perch.
Not even a flinch as we all stared at him.

A nice surprise, a hunting Northern Harrier over the opposite side of the marsh.
This was a nice surprise, the drake Eurasian Wigeon, among American Wigeons.
We saw quite a bit of waterfowl besides him, including ruddy ducks, lesser scaup, red-breasted merganser, brant, Canada goose, American wigeon, Northern shoveler, mallard, American black duck, gadwall, bufflehead, and pied billed grebe.
I went to Prospect today, keeping my focus near the lake and water features of the park. Much of the lake was frozen over, so the small open pockets were packed with birds, including this male American wigeon (with a female in tow). I LOVE getting a close look at those feathers- the ones covering their wings and flanks are mesmerizing- the detail knocks me out!
Also, those chunky cheeks! I might not enjoy winter, climatically speaking, but I love the ducks that come with it.
Oh natural selection, you amaze me.
Caught some downy woodpecker tongue. Woodpeckers have AMAZING tongues that are used in helping them procure their meal- whether it be insects or sap. Many species possess fairly long tongues and where they keep all that tongue might blow your mind and helps them not lose their while drilling - check out this article that explains what I mean.
The upper pool was filled mainly with Canada geese, but 7 wood ducks were clumped on the shores of the island in the middle of the pond. Here are 5 of them... a mallard swims past - but a good point of reference for how these bird differ, drastically.
One of the males chased the lower male and a hen off the rock, looks like he wants to secure his place in this duck harem.
I was hoping to see the continuing juvenile snow geese and I'm glad I peered across the lake with my binoculars before leaving, because I almost missed them.
Last I saw them, they were sleepy and fairly in active. This time these guys were not the least bit shy, walking close to the path near Three Sisters and grazing on the grasses (evidence is on the beak).
They are now just like all the other geese on the lake, they get close, don't seem super fearful and let folks put their iPhones in an impolite close range to snap an instagram or snapchat message. 
I might have taken a lot of photos myself... but I had my obnoxious lens on, that let me give them some space to walk and graze.

I might have taken a few head shots for reference, I have been trying to do more drawing and I try to use my own photos for reference, so perhaps there will be a snow goose sketch in my future.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

LI Birding 1.14.17

     My husband asked me during the week if I'd join him out at a bar for a band out in Nassau. I said sure, but if we're going out there, can we make a day of it and... go birding.
     To my delight, Tim said yes. So he learned his geese, dipped on a snowy owl, and napped as I located the black headed gull. All, in all, a success of a day, as we got to lunch with one of our dear friends and her adorable family, beat the snow, and I got in a nap before a late night out, while we watched football.
     Enjoy the sights:
I had already taken Tim to see the pink footed goose about a month earlier. At that time, he was pretty annoyed because "it really looks like all the others." Unlike yesterday, when he stated, how he was much batter at picking him out from the crowd of Canada geese.
So, we had to step up the challenge- find on this same pond, a cackling goose. I explained its smaller, more compact than the regular Canada Goose, but it has a smaller wedge-shaped bill- but has many of the same markings as a Canada Goose...
Almost all the geese on the pond were resting, bills tucked into their feathers. But as Tim marched ahead, helping me locate this goose, I noticed one bird maybe 20 yeards from the pink footed goose who had a much chunkier and smaller look all around..
Around the base of its neck, some white feathers showed- a white ring around the neck is a typical cackling field mark.
Tim was not convinced I had the cackling, but was pretty proud to spot this oddity- a Canada goose showing piebald plumage on its neck and head.
I admit, he was pretty cool.
Then, my little goose showed face, a small, wedge-shaped bill confirmed a cackling goose.

The cackling goose used to be considered a sub-species of the Canada goose (which there are many subspecies of), but genetic analysis determined this to be a separate species, also they breed in areas different than that of Canada Geese- in the high Tundra- Canada's breed south of there.
The smallest cackling variety is about a 1/4 size of the largest variety of Canada goose.

I love this pink footed goose- I also love that in terms of viewing both this goose and the cackling goose are often within easily viewable range, no binoculars needed!
That's one check off our list, next stop was the West end of Jones Beach...
Jones Beach turned up empty for owls of any kind, but I did enjoy these "ipswich" savannah sparrows.
I am used to Savannahs being a bit darker- and upon first glance I identified them as Savannah, they just seemed slightly different- very light, with beautiful fine streaks.

Further down the jetty... binocular vision revealed something more than rocks.
Hundreds of dunlin just resting, safety in numbers- especially as peregrine falcons have their eyes out for these guys.

At the coast guard station, we were greeted with a black scoter.
Both common (this guy) and red-throated loons were out on the water.
Herring gull before leaving.
I love that Tim let me go to our third and final spot, Cammann's Pond in Merrick...
What I really loved about Cammann's Pond was that it was a huge roosting place for black-crowned night herons, I spied at least 20, immature and adults hidden among the tangles near the shorelines all around the pond.
But what I really came to see...
A black headed gull had been hanging out here for some time now. Figured I'd get to see and admire him for my 2017 list.
Whats in a name?
Well, during breeding season, their plumage is quite different- as these birds don a black head, as their name suggests. But winter plumage, it's not necessary. Instead, just some small wisps of black remain.
This bird is also noticeably smaller than the numerous ring-billed gulls on the pond and unlike them has red-orange legs and bill.
For a small pond, I liked that Cammans was filled with plenty of hooded mergansers (above), N. shovelers, American black ducks, mallards, herons, and gulls. I enjoyed this visit, while Tim took some time to recline in the car and take a power nap. Fair enough, I just enjoyed spending a day together and appreciate him obliging to my crazy bird requests.