Monday, April 30, 2012

Jumping Spider Catches a Honeybee

A jumping spider, in the family Salticidae, has captured a honeybee. The pair of bumps on the upper surface of the first body segment, just even with the second pair of legs, are eyes. It has another, tiny, pair of eyes just in front of them (not visible in this photo). Click to enlarge.
This spider was walking down a post on a fence in Brooklyn Bridge Park, carrying a honeybee just about as big as itself. The spider kept all eight of its eyes on me as I tried to take a picture, moving to the far side of the fence post as I followed it around.

The spider has four big forward-facing eyes. Click to enlarge. 

The jumping spider doesn't spin a web; it wanders while hunting for prey with its excellent eyes. It can jump many times its body length, but trails a thread of silk for retreat in case an attempted pounce doesn't work out.

This pounce worked just fine.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Central Park Night Heron

The black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax. Click to enlarge.
I saw this black-crowned night heron in Central Park on Thursday as I was walking in The Ramble near the north edge of The Lake in Central Park. It has a black cap and upper back, white feathers below, and gray wings. Its eyes are red. Its legs and feet are yellow. Males and females look the same.

Black-crowned night herons breed across North America, and are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Black-crowned night herons are most active at dusk and during the night but they can be seen feeding at other times. For birds that are about two feet tall with a wingspan of almost four feet, they can be surprisingly hard to see. They stand completely still, waiting for prey of fish to pass within reach. They will also eat frogs, insects, worms, crayfish, or any tasty-looking thing that passes. On the dark side, black-crowned night herons are famous for raiding bird nests, mainly those of terns, gulls, and other herons. 

The black-crowned night heron grabs, not stabs, food with its bill. Its beak is serrated so it can hold securely. Fish get flipped in the air to orient them, and then swallowed head first.

I will be speaking and signing copies of my book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, at the Earth Day celebration at Camden County Community College in Blackwood, NJ, on April 24th at 9:00 a.m. in the Civic Hall. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New York City is Full of Spring Birds!

The insect-eating migrants are returning from their winter grounds, following the insects that come with warmer weather and blossoming flowers. In the past two weeks I have seen a Louisiana waterthrush, a phoebe flycatcher, and a palm warbler.

The Louisiana waterthrush pictured above, Parkesia motacilla, was in the small shallow stream in Central Park called The Gill on April 3rd. It is just the kind of place they like to hunt insects. As I watched, it caught a big crane fly. Louisiana waterthrushes spend the winter in Central and South America. They breed in the eastern United States as far north as Maine, so this one might stick around.

The eastern phoebe pictured above, Sayornis phoebe, was behaving typically by perching on a low branch, flicking its tail, and calling  phee-bee! in a loud raspy voice. The call got my attention and helped me locate the small drab bird. It darted into the air to grab an insect and quickly returned to its perch. Phoebes spend the winter in Central America, Mexico, and the southern half of the eastern United States. This one was in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn Heights on April 5th. Phoebes breed throughout the eastern United States and across Canada.

The palm warbler pauses to look at me. Click to enlarge.

This palm warbler pictured above, Setophaga palmarum, was in Brooklyn Bridge Park on April 13th. It is passing through New York on its way to Canada to breed. Palm warblers spend the winter along the coasts of the southern states, and in Central America and the Caribbean.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

100 Posts

This is Urban Wildlife Guide post number 100. Yay! I'm uploading pictures and taking the day off. 
Not a decoy -- it's a domestic goose posing ironically in front of the sign at a waterfowl decoy shop. 

Non-decoys in action. Click to enlarge.