Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gone fishin'

Off to a computerless wilderness! Be back next Wednesday or Thursday.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Rare wasp

Tachytes Square-headed Wasp-- 8/3/08
Photo by Ellen Michaels

You've heard of bird-watchers and butterfly-watchers. You may even know that there are a number of devoted moth-watchers to be found. But did you know there is a passionate little community of wasp-watchers in Central Park? They have been studying the surprising diversity of wasps to be found in our urban enclave, and every once in a while they discover a really rare one. The one pictured above was found and identified last Monday by Nick Wagerik who is also, as it happens, a bird-, butterfly- and moth-watcher, to say nothing of a dragonfly-watcher, a beetle-watcher, and an everything-else- watcher: an incredible resource for the Central Park nature community.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Protecting the Magnificent Six

The mother duckling has trained her following to form a solid line.

and quickly compress into a solid tight formation.

No matter what, the mother has them covered.

Photos and captions by MURRAY HEAD
Photos taken on 8/3/08 at the Pond -- Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blakeman talks turkey

photo courtesy of -- The Ramble, 8/3/08

Just a quick note.

The photo at of the hen turkey strutting in Central Park, with a person sitting so nonchalantly in the foreground, is a wonderful image of the state of many formerly rare or uncommon native species, particularly the larger ones such as turkeys, red-tailed hawks, white-tailed deer, and many others.

The photo brought a smile to my face, as it evoked a recent experience I had in the prairie I planted in my backyard out here in rural northern Ohio.
I know from early settlers’ accounts that in the 1820s wild turkeys abounded in the great Firelands Prairie here in Erie County. Settlers would see many flocks of 50 to 100. They roosted each evening in prairie-edge oaks, and they were something of a spectacle. But by the 1850s and 60s, they were essentially exterminated from the region.

In July, at dusk, I was walking down a lane in my restored prairie, to be astounded by a giant bird that exploded out of a tree on the edge of my meadow. It dropped quickly to the ground and sprinted into the forest behind my prairie. It was the first wild turkey seen on my property in a century and half.

It was a thrill, both because of the bird’s large size and its explosive flight, and because its presence restored another ancient component of the former wilderness here.

I haven’t seen her since, but I’ve discovered a few of her molted feathers. She’s in the neighborhood, a permanent resident. She’s fattened herself, I’m sure, with bugs and seeds she plucked from the prairie I planted. I’ll see her again, I’m certain.

And there, on a lawn in Central Park was the same thing – except for the fact that not so many recognize or appreciate the bird’s iconic history.

Ben Franklin made a very persuasive argument for the turkey as our national emblem, not the predatory, thieving bald eagle. Mr. Franklin noted, correctly, that bald eagles commonly harass ospreys that have captured a fish, and steal the fish right from the osprey’s talons. This was not to be kind of nation we were to be. The turkey, it was noted, was native (as is the eagle), was large and majestic, had a strong family structure, was clever, strong, and altogether noble.

The bald eagle won the debate, probably because many European countries had one or two golden eagles in their state symbols. As a raptor lover, I concur with the bald eagle’s selection.

The wild turkey, however, has its own majesty, even (or, especially) in Central Park.

Pretty impressive, I think.

–John Blakeman

Monday, August 04, 2008

And then there were six

In regard to the posting on 7/28 entitled The Magnificent Seven, Murray Head sent the above photo he took on 7/30,08, and wrote:

Nature has its way.
One of the Magnificent 7 is missing.

But nature evolves and its creatures learn and improve in order to survive.
(Excepting Homo sapiens that is.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Today's new warbler is . . .

A Worm-eating Warbler, seen this morning by Jack Meyer at the Loch, the little stream around 104th St that runs between Glen Span and Huddlestone Arch. The one below was photographed in Central Park in April, 2007 by Lloyd Spitalnik. Other great photos by Lloyd may be found at

PS The Worm-eating is not an easy warbler to find. It usually shows up for no more than one or two days each season. If you want to add it to your list, get there soon!