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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Barn Swallows

The barn swallow is one of those simultaneously common yet elusive birds that I see all the time but rarely photograph because they never seem to sit still. They fly by me at high speed doing aerial acrobatics as they catch insects in the air; I see them swooping along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade all through the summer. But yesterday I was lucky enough to stumble upon a nest. The bird above is a youngster that has recently left is nest (nearby) to sit under an eave. Click to enlarge.

It is waiting for a parent to show up with food. Opening its gape to beg reveals a bright yellow target for the parent.
In a flash of wings, an adult arrived and delivered something.
At least one sibling was still in the nearby nest. Barn swallows make their nests out of dabs of mud and line the interior with grass and feathers.
The bird in the nest got a food delivery, too.
Here's an adult trying to take a rest; notice its adult beak.
But eave bird got fidgety and started begging.
And made it clear it was still hungry.
And shortly got another tasty delivery.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bobwhite!

I usually hear bobwhites but don't see them, or catch a glimpse of a boldly patterned head as the shy bird disappears in grass. The call is an unmistakable loud whistled "bob-white!" that rises in pitch on the second syllable. But during a recent visit to Cape May Point State Park I saw this unusually bold male above and equally unselfconscious female below.      Click to enlarge.
Both birds were uncharacteristically nonchalant about nearby humans and did not seem to mind me photographing them. One of the park employees told me that the bobwhites had been around for a few days, sitting on the hawkwatch platform railings and practically posing for selfies with delighted park visitors.
The northern bobwhite, also called the Virginia quail or bobwhite quail, Colinus virginianus, has experienced steep population decline across its range and is considered to be Near Threatened. For the past three years, the New Jersey Audubon Society has released 80 northern bobwhites each year in southern New Jersey as part of a reintroduction program that also includes habitat improvement.  I don't know if the pair at Cape May Point have anything to do with that program, but they are a lovely addition to an already great park. I hope they thrive there and become a permanent attraction.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Assassin!

I was poking around in the leaves at Cape May Point State Park last week and I found this saucy wheel bug nymph, Arilus cristatus. Click to enlarge.
It's an immature form of the fine adult wheel bug pictured above. See that long sharp beak at its mouth? Wheel bugs are predators of other insects. They feed by piercing prey with their beaks, injecting salivary fluids that dissolve the victim's insides, and then sucking them up. Wheel bugs belong to an insect family known commonly as the assassin bugs. Nothing makes my day like finding a wheel bug.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!




No blog this week -- just a couple of red, white, and blue local birds: northern cardinal, great egret, and blue jay. Have a great holiday! Click to enlarge.