Sunday, November 24, 2013


The wild turkeys of New Jersey, Meleagris gallopavo. 

Slipping into the woods. Happy Thanksgiving! Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flesh Flies

A pair of flesh flies, family Sacrophagidae, copulating on a fence rail. Click to enlarge. 
I saw these flies on a fence in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I was the only one of hundreds of people there who was watching the flies have sex. It impressed me with how much of the lives of urban critters goes unnoticed, as if they occupy a parallel universe.

Here is a poem by Ethel Jacobsen.
The Insect's World

Insects are creatures with three pairs of legs,
Some swim, some fly; they lay millions of eggs.
They don't wear their skeletons in, but out.
They come in three parts. Some are bare; some have hair.
Their hearts are in back; they circulate air.
They smell with their feelers and taste with their feet,
And there's scarcely a thing that some insect won't eat:
Flowers and woodwork and books and rugs,
Overcoats, people, and other bugs.
When five billion trillion keep munching each day,
It's a wonder the world isn't nibbled away!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Great Black-backed Gulls

An adult Great Black-backed Gull, Larus marinus. They are called great black backs for short, or just black backs.  Click to enlarge. 
I saw a flock of great black backs on the beach at Cape Henlopen Point State Park in Lewes, Delaware, a few weeks ago. They are the largest gulls in the world. Adults are about 30 inches long with a wingspan of about five feet. They have pink legs and a yellow bill that has a red dot on it near the tip. The adult in the picture above is in non-breeding plumage with faint streaking on the head; when breeding the head is pure white. The bird's size and dark colored back and upper wings make it easy to identify.

The brown checkered plumage of the bird in the center identifies him as a juvenile. He was born this year and is still wearing his first set of feathers. His bill is black. His legs are pink.  

The bird in the center, above, is also immature but changing from  the juvenile state  into his first winter plumage, which is a bit darker and shows some pink at the base of the bill. He is hiding his pink legs. Great black backs take four years to achieve their adult plumage, passing through summer and winter outfits every year until then.  

I walked all the way around the point from harbor side to ocean side. I recommend it. Click here for directions and information. There are two lighthouses!

Delaware Breakwater Light. 
Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Goodbye Broad-winged Hawks

The broad-winged hawk, Buteo platypterus, is pale below with brown barring.  The dark tail has a conspicuous wide white band in the middle, with thinner stripes at the base and tip. The wings are light below with brown barring and have a wide dark band on the trailing edge. Click to enlarge. 
Here's a hawk we won't see again until next spring. Broad-winged hawks are long-distance migrants. They leave early, passing Cape May on the way south in September and early October. The one in the photos is probably in South America now, soaking up the southern spring sunshine. Individual broad-winged hawks have been tracked traveling about 70 miles a day during migration for a total of over 4,000 miles.

I took these pictures on a warm spring day in Whitesbog, New Jersey. When the weather gets warm again, the broad-wings will be back.