Monday, October 24, 2016

A Downy Woodpecker

This cute downy woodpecker, Picoides pubescens,  landed in a tree near me while I was taking a walk earlier this week. He sat in this vertical pose, typical for a woodpecker, just long enough for a quick photo. Click to enlarge. 
Woodpeckers have a few special features that help them sit upright clinging to the sides of trees, and also to climb up, down, and sideways on tree trunks while pecking for insects. First, like most woodpeckers, this downy's feet have two toes that face foreword and two that face back. It's called a zygodactyl foot. And second, he has a few stiffened tail feathers that act like a prop for support. He can sit quite comfortably in an upright position on the side of a tree or vertical branch. Click here for a close up of a downy woodpecker's foot. 
Most perching birds have a different arrangement of toes -- like this robin. Notice how three of his toes face foreword and one faces back. It's called an anisodactyl foot and is the most common kind of bird foot. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Cardinal's Progress

Remember this little immature cardinal from last week's blog? Click to enlarge. 
He has grown in the intervening week -- longer tail, longer wings, and check out that working crest! I like to think that the peanut breakfasts I provide are helping him grow big and red. Oh, and he makes a better impression when dry, too. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Baby Cardinal Poses for the Camera

Maybe it was the cold windy rain on Sunday, or maybe he's now old enough to recognize a friend, but the normally elusive baby cardinal that's been coming to my porch for seeds and has always flown away before when I pointed a camera at him, finally sat still for photos. Click to enlarge.
As usual, his mother was not far away. He has her nose, don't you think?
The little fella still begs with fluttering wings and soft chipping sounds for mother to pick food up for him and put it in his mouth, but when she's not close he feeds himself. 
Unlike his mainly tan mother, he's growing male red body feathers. 
 A nice addition to our Brooklyn garden! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Happy New Year... 5777

The Jewish NewYear 5777 begins today. I'm relaxing and thinking about what kind of sweet dessert to make. I'm pretty sure it will use apples and brown sugar and I'll borrow some raisins from the supply we bought for the birds. These days two and sometimes three robins show up on my porch every morning for a breakfast of raisins, so we use them up pretty fast. The robin above is hanging around hoping for a few. 

The female cardinal pictured above is usually waiting in the morning, too,  and she brings a begging baby; she hops over to the window sill and looks in if I'm not there soon enough for her schedule. She says "CHIP!" to get my attention and I give her a peanut, which she breaks into small pieces to feed beak-to-beak to the baby. I can't show a photo because they let me watch them but both grab their peanuts and fly away when I point a camera at them. Click to enlarge. 

So for dessert I think I'll stew tart apples in butter with brown sugar, pie spices, and a few of the robins' raisins, and then pour it over yogurt. Sounds good, right? We can eat it while watching the birds outside the window having their own feast of raisins and peanuts.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More Flickers

Last week I wrote about the northern flicker that landed in the tree by my window. Here's a few more of them, this time on the grassy lawn that overlooks New York Harbor on Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. There was a flock of flickers there this weekend. I was alerted to it by Heather Wolf who has taken pictures of ALL the birds in that park. Click on this link to see them: You can tell that the flicker pictured above is a female by her unmarked face. 
The male has a black mark on his face, usually called a mustache, but technically a malar stripe.  Click to enlarge. 
The male also has a red crescent on its nape -- just like the female's. Both have dark tipped bills this day because they've been probing in the mud for tasty invertebrates. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Woodpecker Visit

Look what landed in the boxelder tree outside my window! It's a woodpecker called a northern flicker, Colaptes auratus. Although flickers are common in New York and across the country this is the first time I've seen one in my very urban Brooklyn garden.
This birds was too big and noisy to miss -- about a foot long, and announcing its presence with repeated loud calls of kyeer as it eyeballed a little pile of raisins and peanut bits I had left on a fence post for the cardinals and robins. Although flickers eat mainly insects, they also take fruit and seeds, especially in winter.

The northern flicker is mainly brown and tan. Click to enlarge the photo and you will see the pretty pattern of bars, crescents and spots in its plumage. Note the red crescent on its nape. This one's black mustache, or malar stripe, indicates that it is a male; females have plain tan faces. See those yellow lines on the closed wing? The undersides of the wings are the same bright yellow and make a pretty flash of color when the bird flies; the bird is sometimes called a yellow-shafted flicker because of it.

Here he is in a typical woodpecker pose -- stiff tail feathers used like a prop for support.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11

September 11 is a sad day in my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights as we remember 9/11 2001. We are within sight and walking distance of the World Trade Center. Last night's Tribute in Light reminded me of 2010, pictured here, when the lights attracted migrating birds. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will be able to make out the sparkling specks in the columns of light. I wrote a blog about it then which you can read by clicking on this sentence. 
I watched much of the aftermath from this spot and I (and lots of New Yorkers) are still likely to burst into tears about it without much provocation. It hardly seems like it has been 15 years. But there's the New World Trade Center in the skyline across the East River, seen from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with one of the day's many spontaneous memorials in the foreground.  

Here's another memorial.
And another. 
And another. They are everywhere. 
These trucks from our local firehouse, Hook and Ladder Company 118 and Engine Company 205, were parked on the street today to make space in the station for the annual ceremony. The FDNY's motto is New York's Bravest. Six firefighters from this station died responding to the attack. Click on this sentence to read more about them. 
I took this picture at the Saint Patrick's Day parade this year. It is FDNY members carrying flags -- 343 flags -- one for every member of the New York City Fire Department who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Such a sad day today in Brooklyn Heights and everywhere.