urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMGP2327_zpssmvduhe4.jpg
This set of pictures was taken at Crane Beach in Ipswich Massachusetts, a mixed conservation and recreation area. Much of the area between the beach and the dunes is roped off, to help protect the nesting habitat of the state and federally threatened piping plover. We didn't see any of the estimated 40 adult piping plovers (as of 2006) that are thought to nest there.

 photo IMGP2325_zpsasgxhbqj.jpg
Instead we saw hundreds of semipalmated plovers Charadrius semipalmatus*, the most commonly seen plover during the east coast migration. They pass along the coast, stopping in protected spots to pick insects, crustaceans, and worms from the sand and mud. A patient birder might pick out some other species in this crowd--I saw terns for sure, and possibly some small sandpipers.

 photo IMGP2326_zpsvedjykzv.jpg
As the tide came in, the space between the humans and the birds narrowed. I was thankful for the roped off area, giving the plovers their own territory. Many plovers nest on open sand, relying on camouflage to protect their chicks. Vehicles, dogs, and gulls kill many in areas that have too much human traffic. If there were no laws protecting these birds, I'm sure they'd be extinct already.

* Charadrius referred to an old world bird originally, but now is taken to be the generic name for plovers. Semipalmated means that their feed are partially webbed.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMGP2335_zps8famkdjs.jpg
The great black-backed gull Larus marinus* is larger still, in fact it is the largest gull in the world, with a wingspan approaching or exceeding 5 feet. They often flock with herring gulls, and are similarly predatory on other birds' chicks. They will quite readily, as the picture above attests, take advantage of human sources of food as well. The great black-backed gull is only found in the Northeast, migrating from the Canadian maritimes to as far south as the Carolinas. They winter as far west as the Great Lakes. They can be found in and around Boston year round.

 photo IMGP2334_zpscwglqacu.jpg
A checkered youngster takes flight with a couple adult blackbacks and a herring gull.

* this is rather embarrassing. It translates to "sea gull."
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMGP2330_zpshafhouwr.jpg
Much larger than ring-billed gulls, herring gulls Larus argentatus* are about the size of red-tailed hawks. They are the most frequently encountered gull in North America, found from the Aleutians to the Caribbean. They are scavengers very well adapted to life near human activity. I've seen a wild population surviving on pizza crusts on Revere Beach, and I've seen one kill and consume a pigeon on Mass Ave in Cambridge. If their populations get too large, the populations of terns and other more sensitive species suffer, because herring gulls are ravenous predators of other birds' nestlings.

 photo IMGP2333_zpsu706eslc.jpg
It takes herring gulls four years to develop adult plumage. This banded youngster was probably hatched last year. Its neighbor in the lower left corner is a year or two older.

* Silver gull
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMGP2320_zps98rjuguu.jpg
It's become a naturalist's cliche to say that there's no such thing as a seagull. We just say "gull," or if we know the species, as in this case, we say "ring-billed gull" Larus delawarensis.* The ring-bill is one of the most common urban gull, and the smallest in our area. About the size of a small crow, these gulls happily feed in parking lots and other places where humans leave edible trash. Among gulls in New England, they're the worst ones to call "seagulls." They prefer to nest near fresh bodies of water.

* Delaware gull. (tough one)
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1020955_zpsyjbqqbis.jpg

5 fact-like statements about the American robin Turdus migratorius*:

1. Named after the European robin Erithacus rubecula**, a smaller unrelated songbird, due to a single visual field marking (red breast) and similar habitat related behavior--they both are unusually tolerant of human behavior and human-caused habitat disturbances.

2. Every year someone tells me they saw the "first robin of spring" and I have to choose between nodding politely or giving them a natural history lecture. In Boston there is a stable population of robins that do not migrate--the city provides year round food and habitat. In some parts of North America the robins herald the arrival of autumn.

3. Since earthworms didn't arrive in New England until European colonists did (with ships loaded with ballast soil), what the hell did robins eat before then? Probably there were a hell of a lot fewer of them, and they ate more beetle grubs and caterpillars in the spring. In the autumn they eat fruit.

4. Robins have about a 25% survival rate per chick per clutch. Since they love to nest near humans and our buildings, we encounter robin fledglings that are injured or dead more than many other birds. This is okay. If all the babies survived, they would only lay 1 egg per nest, twice a year. They lay an average of 4 per clutch.

5. The one in these pictures was having difficulty flying. It was unclear if it was a fledgling with mature plumage or an adult suffering from some injury. It's also none of my business. I grabbed it up and put it over the fence in our brush pile so the dogs wouldn't kill it.

 photo P1020956_zpsvyeqp9od.jpg

* "Migratory thrush." I've long thought it's name should be the "yard thrush," or the "suburbs thrush."

** "Little red robin." A bit on the nose, don't you think?
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1020765_zpsfrotel9c.jpg

Australian swans. According to Wikipedia they have a 25% homosexuality rate and a 6% divorce rate.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1020440_zpsfmhvk1zt.jpg
I like the Massachusetts story of the heaviest flying bird in North America. It has gone from valuable food source to completely extirpathted from the state, reintroduced from other states, and is now a fearless suburban pest. Wild turkeys are hunted across the region, but they have adapted to rely on human food sources, and the protections that come with living in settled areas. There's no turkey season in the town center, or at the wildlife sanctuary where I took these photos.

 photo P1020441_zpseeq6l6wc.jpg

 photo P1020442_zpsmobx2y56.jpg

Imagine if the largest land mammal in North America had a similar story. Wood bison at your birdfeeder? Towering hornless rhinos nibbling at the tops of the maples and sycamores lining main street?
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1010838_zpsfnsblsx2.jpg
Lily cuddles into Sarah's sweatshirt.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1010803_zpsp7nbqrzb.jpg
The snow recorded a crow walking in a spiral
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo P1010740_zpsfzkidtzq.jpg
Get all your ducks in a row they said. Well, all the peacocks are in a row, that should count for something.

 photo P1010742_zpsciangmrf.jpg
All the ducks are in a small amount of unfrozen water--impossible to get in a row.
urbpan: (dandelion)
Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_0147_zpsd4bbc87d.jpg
When I was scouting out Drumlin Farm on Sunday morning, checking for mushroom hot spots, I came across this troop of giant birds. They were not very afraid of me. I held still, two of them walked right by me while the others cut through the woods to avoid me.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_7631_zps76953700.jpg
Duck duck duck duck hey you gonna finish that?

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_5914_zps8c6ee493.jpg
Capron Park Zoo is a small zoo in Attleboro Massachusetts, near Rhode Island. It's the closest zoo to me that I hadn't been to yet (now York's Wild Kingdom holds that place), and a former coworker is a zookeeper there. In fact, I've met most of the staff from this zoo, owing to our regular zookeeper meet ups! I thoroughly enjoyed this zoo, which was clean and attractive, providing a lot of value for a relatively small space. Their lions look very different from the one at Franklin Park--a different subspecies I think.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_5248_zps8e9034e9.jpg
160 lbs of rumpled khaki on an old mountain bike.

 photo IMG_5236_zps521ebd60.jpg
Meanwhile, inside in the tropics, a yellow-billed stork and some scarlet ibises look down upon it all.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_5166_zpsc2523d6e.jpg
From up on the footbridge, it looks a little like chaos, but we can see a commuter rail train leaving North Station, the Zakim bridge, Boston Garden (which changes its name every few years with the change of corporate sponsorship), and some tall apartment buildings over the frosty river.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_5079_zps4c61168a.jpg

This snapshot-from-my-phone idea was going so great until I left my phone in my pants pocket and then put the pants through the wash. My Beloved Wife went and got herself a Windows Phone the dimensions of a 1975 Texas instruments calculator and gave me her phone. (I'm fantasizing about the waterproof Sony phone with the really high megapixel camera. That thing costs a lot of bucks but I'll tuck it away on my list of material possessions that will fix all my shortcomings and make my life better if I could only afford them.)

So here's a nice snapshot of Sigmund the yellow-billed stork taken with my regular camera on Thursday. Sigmund is the largest free-flight bird in the tropical forest exhibit, flying wherever he likes but spending much of his time with the saddle-billed storks, similar but much bigger birds who seem to tolerate him.

I forgot my camera on Friday and took a snapshot with my interim phone which was Alexis' last pre-smartphone phone. I couldn't figure out how to send the picture anywhere, and it sucked anyway, so let's just let that one disappear between the cracks of technology.
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_4882_zps6613b637.jpg
On the second to last day of the vacation we decided to return to Fort Myers Beach. We had enjoyed it before, and it was close enough to the last place we wanted to visit (the Edison/Ford) house, and we were not disappointed by going back.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_4691_zpse7bceb06.jpg
As I said earlier, we stayed at the Tween Waters Inn, in a room on the top floor of the building behind my dad in this picture. We were told that since it's "cold," that the manatees have moved away from the ocean into warmer inland waters.
Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
 photo IMG_4725_zps1d68d7d2.jpg

 photo IMG_4688_zps0ce47d9d.jpg
The beaches at Sanibel and nearby Fort Myers Beach, I noticed, are composed mostly of the surf-ground skeletons of bivalve mollusks. It ranges from unbelievably fine, to entire shells.

Read more... )


urbpan: (Default)

May 2017

1415 1617181920


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:17 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios