Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Lower Manhattan sunset, rainbow, and a spooky surprise

Sunday evening rewarded us with an unexpectedly beautiful sunset and rainbow over the East River. We took the photos below from Governors Island.
 
 
The sunset was pretty on its own, but the rainbow added a touch of magic.
 
 
 
The white boat near the center of the photo below is the Governors Island ferry on its way to dock on the island.
 
 
 
The sailboat in the photo below is the Clipper City Tall Ship, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.
 
 
The photos didn't quite do the whole scene justice, so we took some video to show the whole sky. 
 
To our surprise and amusement, the music playing in the background of the video is the opening to  Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus. The music was playing at an outdoor restaurant, adding some pumpkin spice Halloweenish flair.
 
 
This video gets into the lyrics:
 
 
About ten minutes later, the pink sky and rainbow were gone, and the moon rose over Brooklyn, making for a lovely end to the day.
 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Quick update on Tompkins Square red-tails, Christo & Amelia

This is just a quick check-in with East Village red-tails, Christo and Amelia. There hasn't been much notable activity recently, but raptor migration is underway, so we should be seeing more hawks in the area from now through winter. Christo and Amelia have been staying around the neighborhood since their fledgling embarked on its own migratory journey in late summer, and now they're making sure their territory is secure against intruding raptors.
 
I didn't have my bird lens when I caught up with the pair Tuesday evening on Avenue A, so had to make due with my little point-and-shoot camera. In the photo below, Amelia is perched on top and Christo is on the right.
 
 
Amelia always impresses me with her size. She's larger than Christo and may be the largest red-tail I've encountered.
 
 
After a quick fly-about, Amelia returned and perched on the left side of the cross.
 
 
As I feel I've taken the same boring photo of the hawks on this cross a thousand times, here are some videos to liven things up:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As raptor migration is underway across the city, keep an eye out for immature red-tails and Cooper's hawks in our area.
 

Monday, October 4, 2021

A few more lively summer insects

As we wait for raptor season to ramp up again, we're continuing with our theme of summer insects. Butterflies and dragonflies were definitely the superstars of our summer, but some other insects also deserve credit for continuing to feed our curiosity.

We watched a generation of orange Asian Lady Beetles hatch and grow in a patch of wildflowers over the course of a few weeks. 
 

This beautiful little Long-Legged Fly is surely an inspiration for costume jewelry design.


This striking insect is a mystery. We found it perched prominently on a tall plant stalk out at Floyd Bennett Field, but do not know what it is. If anyone out there can advise, please drop us an email.
 

We were captivated by its huge iridescent red-green eyes and hairy mustache.
 

We saw a lot of Differential Grasshoppers this summer, and find the black herringbone pattern on its back legs visually appealing.
 
 
 
 
Our most engaging encounters with insects were with Praying Mantises. This one is a Chinese Mantid and is apparently a female, based on its size (almost six inches in length). We watched her creep along the leaves of a milkweed plant.
 
 

She kept her eyes on us the whole time. Not intimidating at all, no.
 

We're not 100% certain, but this looks like a Carolina Mantis.
 

It hitched a ride on our backpack as we crossed a field of wildflowers.
 

This one measured about four inches long and was very active, making jerking motions as it crept across the bag. This video shows a mantis making similar moves as it stalks a cricket.
 

This one never took its eyes off us, and it kept flattening its abdomen from side to side, resembling a dead leaf flipping in the breeze. Note the Nosferatu shadow.
 
 

After a few minutes, the mantis leaped from the bag and tried to snatch a butterfly in the grass (but missed). In the grass, the predator's camouflage came into play and we had a hard time keeping our eyes on it. No doubt it was watching us, though.
 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Summer dragons

Every summer, we look forward to seeing our favorite flying insects: dragonflies. Many species can be found in and around NYC. Below are a few of our favorites from this past summer.

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer:  This one was seen on Governors Island and indulged us by posing for a few minutes.
 
 
 
 
 
Yellow-Sided Skimmer:  Also seen on Governors Island.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The ubiquitous Blue Dasher:  This one is a male, identifiable by his blue eyes.
 
 
 
 
This is a female:
 
 
 
 
These two were observed at Jamaica Bay performing their mating ritual. In the photo below, the male is flying in front, while he hangs on to the females neck with a "clamp" on the end of his body. She hangs on to him with her forelegs.
 
 
The male flies the female low over the water so she can dip her abdomen into the water and deposit her eggs. This takes half a second, then the male lets go of her and the female must pull herself up and not be dragged down into the water. In the photo below, the male has just released the female.
 

 
 
 
 
 
Check out this fascinating video which shows the entire life cycle of a dragonfly. The macro photography is incredible.
 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Summer butterflies

As summer comes to a close, so does the season of butterflies. Below are some of our favorites seen in and around NYC this last summer.

This is the caterpillar one of the most well-known butterflies. One clue to its identify is that it's resting on the leaf of a milkweed plant.
This colorful caterpillar will eventually transform into something much different...
This Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. It's said that the color bands of the caterpillar are indications of weather, specifically winter. True or false? You decide.
We saw more Skippers this summer than any other butterfly, and they were relatively easy to photograph, so here are a few of our favorites.
We didn't see as many Red Admirals this season as we have in the past for some reason.
Many thanks to the contributors at iNaturalist who helped with some of our identifications. The site is a great citizen science resource for learning about plants, animals and insects.
 
Next up, dragonflies...