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!

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