Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bee meets Beetle

A Japanese beetle and a brown-belted bumblebee on milkweed flowers. The bee is touching the beetle with a foot; they both drew back a second later. Click to enlarge.

"Summer afternoon -- summer afternoon; 
to me those have always been 
the two most beautiful words in the English language." 
Henry James

Sunday, July 20, 2014

East River Terns

In summer it is easy to spot slender aerodynamic terns diving head first into the East River to catch small fish. Common terns, Sterna hirundo, and Forster's terns, Sterna forsteri, are both likely sightings.

This Forster's tern is resting on the Brooklyn shore of the East River between dives. Click to enlarge. 
This is a common tern. The differences between common and Forster's terns are subtle and confuse many birdwatchers. Common terns have darker backs, bills more red than orange, and a less extensive black area at the tip of the bill. The feathers of the folded wings are noticeably darker.  

Tern Joke Time!

A German taxidermist walks into a sausage store, places his order, but then notices he has forgotten his wallet. All he has with him is a stuffed bird, which he offers in payment. The storekeeper agrees to take a tern for the wurst.

Why do terns fly in flocks?
Because one good tern deserves another!

A flock of terns flew over a marijuana club in Denver.
No tern was left unstoned!

A deckhand on the night shift of a cruise ship was assigned to clean mud from the links of an anchor chain. A big broom was the perfect tool to sweep away the mud, but a little tame bird kept landing on the broom and getting in the way. The deckhand repeatedly caught the bird and tossed it into the air but it came back again and again. The next morning the captain was shocked to see that nothing had been accomplished. “Not my fault,” the deckhand said, “I tossed a tern all night but couldn’t sweep a link!”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Two Kinds of Coots

I was in London last week for a conference. My hotel was near Kensington Gardens, one of London's Royal Parks. I walked all over the gardens, saw the famous statue of Peter Pan, and sat by a pond watching the royal waterfowl. There were mute swans, tufted ducks, Egyptian geese, moorhens, great crested grebes, great blue herons, and abundant Eurasian coots.

Eurasian coot adult, Fulica atra. Click to enlarge. 
A Eurasian coot chick strikes the same pose. 
This is our local version -- the American coot, Fulica americana. Note the different features on the face. Ours has marks at the tip of the beak and on the forehead. 
And here is Peter Pan... 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Red & Blue

I have a story in the latest edition of  NY Pets Magazine! Click here to read the online version.

P.S. July 6, 2014. I just updated this to fix the link. Try it again, please. I originally posted from a hotel in London where the WiFi kept dropping out and it was impossible to check the link and upload the lovely baby jay photo. Just returned, checked, and fixed it all. Click the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More Raisins, Please

An American robin, Turdus migratorius, collecting food. 
A robin stayed in my Brooklyn garden all last winter. Click here to see him all puffed up against the cold. When spring came, a mate arrived and both of them came regularly to my porch for grapes and raisins. Every visit, each robin ate three or four raisins and then left. They had a predictable pattern.

That changed yesterday. One of the robins landed on the porch with a worm in its beak and started picking up (but not eating) raisins, one after the other, as many as it could carry. Then it flew away. All day yesterday the robins gathered raisins by the beak full.

A closer look. Click to enlarge. I count four raisins. 

I haven't found their nest yet, but I'll bet there are some robin nestlings nearby -- sated with raisins and worms.

Another trip. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A New Turtle

Red-eared slider left. Yellow-bellied slider right. The size difference is probably due to their different ages; when I first saw them I thought they were parent and offspring. Click to enlarge.

I saw a yellow-bellied slider turtle, Trachemys scripta scripta, in the lake in Central Park last week. I have never seen one there before. I see red-eared sliders, Trachemys scripta elegans, every time I pass the lake from spring through autumn; red-eared sliders are common and widespread. The two turtles are conspecific subspecies, close relatives of the same genus and species.

Neither are native to this part of the country but are native to the southeastern states. They are both popular pets, though, and consequently show up in unexpected places. Humans probably released these turtles or their ancestors into the lake. The turtles seem right at home and are basking contentedly now. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reflected Gull

This laughing gull was bobbing up and down on swells in the East River near the Brooklyn shore. The moving surface of the water distorted and redrew its reflection. Click on the images to enlarge. 
“Silence. How long it lasted, I couldn't tell. It might have been five seconds, it might have been a minute. Time wasn't fixed. It wavered, stretched, shrank. Or was it me that wavered, stretched, and shrank in the silence? I was warped in the folds of time, like a reflection in a fun house mirror.” Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance. 

“Mirrors are perpetually deceitful. They lie and steal your true self. They reveal only what your mind believes it sees.” Dee Remy, from There Was Once a Boy.  
“Bewilderment increases in the presence of the mirrors.” Tarjei Vessas, from The Boat in the Evening.  

"Look in the mirror and one thing's sure; what we see is not who we are." Richard Bach.   
“Mirrors,' she said, 'are never to be trusted.” Neil Gaiman, from Coraline. 

“Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.” Jean Cocteau.