Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Walk in Maine

One day last week I took a walk in Maine -- on the nearly mile long breakwater to the lighthouse in Rockland Harbor. 
The Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light.

The breakwater that leads to the lighthouse is made of large stone blocks with cracks between them. You have to watch your footing! 
Looking back along the breakwater to the land.  Phew! 
On both sides of the breakwater, double-crested cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus, were diving for fish. 
Herring gulls, Larus argentatus, were swimming among the lobster buoys. This is an adult in winter plumage.
Click on the photos to enlarge. 
Chipmunks were running around in the little park where the breakwater begins. This is the eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumnal Equinox Today

The autumn equinox occurred at 4:44 this afternoon, EDT, giving us 12 hours of daylight and 12 of dark as the sun crossed the celestial equator. Summer ended. Autumn began. Here are pictures of some of the last of summer's butterflies (and one lovely moth) taken in my Brooklyn neighborhood during the last few weeks.

Cabbage White, Pieris rapae. Click to enlarge. 
Buckeye, Junonia coenia
Sachem, a skipper butterfly, Atalopedes campestris
Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea
American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis

A haiku written by the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa in 1814:

are you aware 
that autumn has dawned?
meadow butterfly

Sunday, September 15, 2013

First Winter Herring Gull

A young herring gull, Larus argentatus, flying with a crab in its mouth. Herring gulls are common on both American coasts in winter. Click to enlarge.  
Herring gulls take four years to acquire their adult plumage, molting into different sets of feathers, each with a distinctive appearance, each summer and winter. The bird pictured above was born this year and is in its first winter plumage now in September: mottled brown all over, patterned wings, slightly paler head with a dark eye, a mostly black bill, and pink legs.

Walt Whitman, the poet, also stopped to watch gulls. He might have been thinking about herring gulls when he wrote this in his poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:

 ... seagulls -- I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies, I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, left the rest in shadow, I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Flesh Fly

A flesh fly in the family Sarcophagidae. They typically have three longitudinal stripes on the back and a checkerboard pattern on the top of the abdomen. Click to enlarge. 
Flesh fly larvae (maggots) feed on corpses and carrion, and sometimes on the wounds of mammals, hence their common name. They are also found on excrement and decaying organic matter. Adults feed on sugary liquids like nectar, sap, and fruit juice. But sometimes they just sit in the sun casting tiny shadows.

The one I photographed, above, was grooming itself on a yellow sign. It reminded me of this haiku from the Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828):

Don't strike
the fly! He wrings his hands! 
He wrings his feet! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is only 25 miles from New York City in Vernon, New Jersey. It's a great place for a day of strolling and wildlife spotting. There are duck blinds, roads and trails, wildflower fields, and boardwalks over marshes.

Wood ducks and eastern bluebirds are some of the wildlife rock stars that breed in the refuge. On a recent walk I saw a mother wood duck steer her flock of seven teenage ducklings deeper into the brush and away from my prying eyes.

If you pause on the boardwalks and look carefully at the marsh vegetation, frogs, birds, snakes, and dragonflies will come into focus.

Check the lily pads for bullfrogs; there are lots. 

This bullfrog had a tail! It was in the last stages of transformation from tadpole to adult. 
A milk snake posed for a photo while being moved from a parking area to a safer place. 
Painted turtles bask by the boardwalks.