Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Importance of Arthropods

     Arthropods are your creatures with jointed legs- there are a many different kinds and its one of, if not the largest group of animals on this planet. Arthropods include insects (there are a lot of those), crustaceans (lobsters and crabs), chielicerates (spiders, scorpions, ticks, horseshoe crabs and sea spiders), and myriapods (millipedes and centipedes) - all these animals have an exoskeleton, segmented bodies and of course jointed legs.
     We usually don't think much of arthropods except perhaps mainly as nuisances, let's be real, I HATE roaches - but without arthropods, this place would fall apart. Filling so many niches and being such an important part of the food web they serve a heck of a lot of purposes; from small pollination gigs to filling in the local keystone species role arthropods are pretty amazing.
     This morning there was a report of a hatchout in Prospect Park, this is when the termites take their nuptial flight- they disperse, breed and begin a new colony on a prime piece of real estate, a fallen log. This brings birds in for the all you can eat buffet- this is an important meal for birds who wish to continue northward in their migration. A high protein, high energy meal was erupting from Lookout Hill and the swifts and swallows flying and diving above it were a sure sign something delicious was happening...
Magnolia warblers were everywhere- but in general, birds were brought down from the trees to catch flighted termites rising from their birth site.

Lovely to have this black-throated-blue warbler entirely too close for photos, I had to step a few feet back!

In flight, that little white hankie on their primaries turns into more of a scarf- such a large flash of white when flying!

And then he asked for some "beeeer, beeeer, BEEEER, BEEEEER!" (that what he sounds like...)

A super sweet surprise was this low bay-breasted warbler. Such a beautiful merlot-colored bird.

I was suspecting a hatchout would soon occur, the weather felt right - had some rainy days previous, and it's always around this time of year- I time it with the Brooklyn Half Marathon which is happening on Saturday. The first time I witnessed a hatchout was during the half, I got into the park and had logs covered in termites and birds treating themselves to the feast. It was so memorable that I get super excited when they happen. It truly is a treat for the eyes and a super important event for the birds-- see, even termites are important!

An interesting view of a chestnut-sided warbler.

Normally up high in the canopy- this black-throated green warbler feasted just a foot and a half off the ground.

Also, when it comes to photo shoots- it's not this birds first rodeo...

This bird was super cooperative and a real treat to observe.

It also had its eyes on many prizes, taking off in small hops so that no insect could escape its beak.

A moment that feels like far longer in photos, this was such a wonderful 15 seconds observing this bird on this tiny plant.

The bay-breasted warbler wasn't done- another flew onto the small trees growing up out of Butterfly Meadow- super close, giving superb looks.

What a treat!

Northern Parulas were practically falling off of trees...

This is a male parula, but I also saw a female today, super beautiful, colors a bit more subdued but she totally caught my eye and confused me for a moment, she still has the tell tale yellow-olive patch on her shoulders that the males also have that cued me in to her true identity.

I also saw a lot of Canada Warblers. They are one of my faves, I love those spectacles and that dainty necklace- but... THEY. ALWAYS. LAND. BEHIND. LEAVES. or their photos come out blurry... until.

This was the best part- right before leaving, I got a few clear views of a Canada who just came out of a scuffle with another Canada warbler.

How stunning is this animal?! After a long (really long) and cold (also, really cold) winter, these little birds really brighten up our local habitats.

Thanks for making my day, lil guy!

And one last look at those super cooperative Bay-breasted warblers...
Tonight (as long as the weather cooperates) I am off to take part in monitoring an arthropod that helps many local and migrating shorebirds survive, the horseshoe crab. It's a new moon and as long as the thunderstorms stop by 8pm, we'll be counting and maybe tagging! I look forward to doing this with NYC Audubon every single year!

Birding Between Adulting

     I admit that to this point in my life, this has been the most stressful. Marriage was easy, a near-death bike accident- I just shook that one off, but the combo of a my new role at work with some big moves happening in Tim's and my life (no, not having babies!!!!!!) we have a lot on our plates and weekends have become a time for little R&R-- but in the end, it will all be worth it!
     Something hard for me is limiting my birding to focus on things that are actually important. Birding is my mental break and the only period of time my brain stops thinking about everything except birds. So I took a mental break yesterday and glad I did, and flanked my outing with my chores, phone calls, and grocery shopping. It's a bird-life balance....
The first bird that caught my eye was this female Baltimore Oriole. Especially because she came down to the ground. Normally these birds are up high.
She came down to collect nesting material, picking, peeling, to get the very best flexible strands to weave into her hanging nest. And then, with nesting material in her beak, her male counter part also flew down, and then in a twittering of song and twisting of tails, they mated. It was very quick and very not-exciting, but orange feathers flared and I suppose passion too-- anyway, it was very interesting to observe and I am so happy they will soon be raising their family from those dangling, perfectly woven nests.

Also down low, a female orchard oriole. I saw no nesting material with her, she kept going down to the ground at the lakes edge, where they covered up the invasive phragmites with tarps.

I walked up Lookout Hill as I noted reports of it being quite birdy. After seeing ovenbirds, common yellowthroats, and gray catbirds the whole way up- at the top I saw a Wilson's Warbler, American Redstart, and more common yellowthroats and ovenbirds...
The Oak on lookout when I then checked out was full of birds like this blue-winged warbler who does its best to blend in while foraging.

A Canada Warbler (one of my faves) flew out from the Oak and to a lower, more sparse tree-- doing its best impression of an Audubon Painting.

In addition to this Canada Warbler and the Blue-winged Warbler, the oak tree had Black-and-white warbler, Black-throated-green warbler, Yellow-rumped warbler, and at its base--- more common yellowthroat.

Did I mention.... ovenbirds?
These little guys creep along the ground, but despite their size, you can hear them as they loudly blast out their "TEACHER-TEACHER-TEACHER" song.

Also very present in the park were Magnolia Warbler, another very handsome bird.

In walking the Lullwater, I came upon a handsome pair...

The female wood ducks totally lead the show. Two males were following her as she ate and did her thing. 
While watching the wood ducks, this common yellowthroat hops out onto a rock within inches of my feet. He, then stole my attention...

And then I realized a green heron was hanging out on the tangle of branches the common yellowthroat then located to. We just looked at each other and I went on my way as I realized how close we both were to each other and I wanted this bird to be able to relax and keep doing its thing.

As I backtracked on the opposite side of the Lullwater, near the rustic arbor/seating area I found a second Wilson's Warbler who was easy to photograph, except for when he got too close!

He worked the low growth, looking for yummy insects and larvae.

Best warbler photo of the day. Thanks for posing, dude!

After watching the Wilson's, the two very sparse trees in the clearing of that rustic seating area each had about 4-5 different species of warbler in them. It included Prairie (this bird), yellow, magnolia (both Male and Female), yellow-rumps, parula, and black-and-white warbler.
Tonight, if weather cooperates is my first night out of horseshoe crab monitoring at one of our local beaches. Looking forward to seeing some ancient arthropods on the beach!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Weekday Weekend of Birding!

     I spent my Monday-Tuesday Weekend Birding! I know, you're not surprised. I have upped my year list to 189 species and I'm pretty happy about that! Lots of warblers in Prospect and down by the shore, not much excitement -- yet. But it was nice to walk Plumb Beach, it's been a while!
I began my day yesterday with a very long walk in Prospect Park.
A chestnut-sided warbler, my FOY -- and one of those warblers that come fall does a 100% wardrobe change.

Lots of this in the park.

The only time you can get an ok shot of an American Redstart-- when it starts to sing. Otherwise this thing is always always moving- taunting you with flashes of orange as it splays its tail and wings.

A little masked bandit-- who will steal your heart. Common Yellowthroat.

I'm pleased with this profile- these birds are smaller than sparrows- so tiny but they are characters. I think the smallest birds are the best because they have attitudes and personalities that are far greater than their size.

Another lucky redstart shot...

I have an obsession with black and orange birds- American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, and Blackburnian Warblers are favorites -- toss in a black skimmer, with that carrot-orange bill and I'm still in.

Sing it out, little buddy!
There is so much bird song in the air- nothing more beautiful than male birds begging to the moon and back for a female to mate with him.

You had to work for those birds- and I did, got this aforementioned Blackburnian Warbler (note the orange) AND a bay-breasted warbler.

Spied a raccoon who was woken by the drama of blue jays going after a red tail hawk.

A few stretches, scratches and back to sleep it went.

I love finding bull frogs in the waterways around the park with the warmer weather we are finally having.

A photo of a white-eyed vireo who much rather would not be in full view. Ever.

Gave up and thankful for another birder friend who pointed out a Cape May Warbler who was a tad less tough to capture.

Pretty scenery helps.
Favorite part of my walk, I sat at the Peninsula. I didn't have to crane my neck, had this green heron come over my way and enjoyed a quiet, neck-strain-free moment with my FOY Green Heron.

This bird was on a mission...

It may have a derpy face-- but those forward facing eyes are for a precise strike of the beak.

... But I Love that face!

Like I was saying, precision. This bird caught a fish that probably didn't even know what had hit it!


And then this bird walked closer- like I had to back up because it was out of focus close.

Such a lovely looking creature. 
Today I visited Plumb Beach and The Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.
Lots of Gull. Lots.
Here a herring gull feasts on a once was spider crab.

Lots of Forster's and a few Least terns. Happy to see them all, back for the summer!

A willet probing for snacks in the water at low tide.

A different willet looking for a friend. maybe.

Orange and black! Black skimmers, I love these birds- they are so weird!!

Check out those amazingly weird beaks!! The lower bill is dragged through the surf and when it touches something like a fish, the birds beak, like a trap snaps shut-- this amazing capture happens without the bird getting whiplash and it continues to fly. It's a sight to see and wonder how this animal manages not to get severely injured with such a feeding method.

At the Salt Marsh I wondered if he wondered what I am thinking...

One of the pair of osprey. The other bird is sitting on the nest.

I wonder what next week will bring... still waiting for clapper rails to show up, I love them. I don't know too many birds I don't love.
And just so you know, here are all the warbler outtakes-- with fast, little birds you get a lot of...

Lots of funny feet, levitating birds, or falling forward.