Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

It's a stinging rose caterpillar, Parasa indetermina. Call me crazy, but they remind me of Christmas candy, although, of course you cannot eat them or even touch them because of their stinging spines. Happy Holidays to all! Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

First Snow

We had our first substantial snowfall in Brooklyn this week. I am always impressed at how well the birds endure the cold winter weather; see how the sparrows on my fence puffed up their feathers for maximum insulation. Click to enlarge. 

I provided a breakfast buffet for the birds the next morning. There are always European house sparrows like these around happy to accept a handout. 
This extra cold looking mourning dove had some seeds, too. 
And my favorite -- a winter robin -- ate some raisins. We'll see more of this guy in the coming months. He looks great on a white winter background, doesn't he? 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vulnerable Giraffes!

This week the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the keepers of the Red List of Endangered Species, declared wild African giraffes Vulnerable to Extinction.   
It makes me sad. I've always loved the gentle gangly giants. I photographed this young pair at the Cape May County Zoo, in New Jersey. Click to enlarge. 
Want to sign a petition to urge their protection? Click here.
Want to make a donation to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation? Click here. 
And maybe, if you have not finished shopping for holiday gifts, you might want to click here to check out how to send a giraffe adoption package from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) -- you can shop and save giraffes at the same time. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bird Jokes!

Know why I fly over the sea?
Because if I flew over the bay -- I'd be a bagel. Ha ha ha ha ha!
Know why I hold up one foot?
Because if I held up two -- I'd fall over. LoLoLoL!
What's got six legs and can fly? Us! Ha ha ha!  
What's the best time to buy a parrot?
When they're going cheep! Ha! 
Composing a tweet right now. :-) 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

As a great Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, a few of New Jersey's wild turkeys see me watching them and mill about nervously. 
And then slip away quietly into the trees. Happy Thanksgiving! Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Leaf Edition

The leaves are turning colors and blowing away as the seasons change and the last of the migrating birds pass through. But not all of our New York wildlife goes away for winter. 
There's still lots to see in Central Park -- in addition to the beautiful November colors. 
This gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, for instance, eating something delicious. 
Prospect Park in Brooklyn looks exceptionally pretty in autumn, too. 
This common shelduck, Tadoma tadoma, now paddling picturequely among fallen leaves, will be at the Prospect Park Zoo all winter. 
Brooklyn's Green Wood Cemetery is worth a fall visit just to walk under the fiery maples. 
And the famous Green Wood Cemetery monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, are there year round. They are loud. You cannot miss them. 

Click on the photos to enlarge.  
All the views at Brooklyn Bridge Park are great, but autumn is especially nice. There are birds in the trees and on the water there year round. 
Pigeons like this guy, Columba livia, are available for photo shoots any time at all. I'm planning another batch of pigeon profiles soon. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Wreath of Sparrows

Wow -- a bunch of European house sparrows, Passer domesticus, gathering grain. Are they in a wheat field?
Nope. They are systematically taking apart an autumn wreath on the door of a Brooklyn brownstone. Looks a bit bare on the lower left, doesn't it?
A dozen more sparrows sat the on the steps below, waiting their turns on the wreath and snatching up fallen snacks. Clever foragers! No wonder they are such successful urban birds. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


A few weeks ago I saw this little black-and-white warbler, Mniotilta varia,  hunting insects to fuel its long migration south to warmer wintering grounds. Click to enlarge. The migrants passing through, now mostly gone, made me think of this quote... 

“In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes. The birds who are leaving look very serious. No silly spring chirping now. They have long journeys and must watch where they are going. The staying birds are serious, too, for cold times lie ahead. Hard times. All berries will be treasures.” 

                                                               From In November by Cynthia Rylant

It might be a little hard to take this acrobat very seriously. But wait a month or two. 

And all berries will become treasures indeed. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Edition

Urban wildlife takes on a new meaning on October 30th in New York City. Here are a few recent sightings. Click to enlarge. 
Dog bones.  
There are a couple of rats near the guy's knees. 
Rat bones. 
Horse lady. 
Horse bones. 
Lion man. 
And cat bones. No skeletal lions yet this year. 
Happy Halloween, humans! 

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!