Guide to Troubled Birds: showing birds as the jerks they sometimes are

Guide to Troubled BirdsDo you like birds but are not fooled into thinking they’re all tiny, adorable angels with pretty feathers? Then Guide to Troubled Birds is for you. In the spirit of David Sedaris’ Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, the Guide sheds light on birds’ lesser known and even flattering features.

Written ostensibly by “the mincing mockinbird”, illustrator Matt Adrian paints pictures of birds with a mean or crazy gleam in their eyes. He draws on their cunning and personal scheming. On owls: “A barn owl…once successfully impersonated a mailman for several months in St. Charles, Illinois. If you see an owl, or suspect someone may be an owl, play dead immediately…”

Sure, some of the birds are in nice stable relationships–until their brutal death. But most in the book are demanding, greedy, nasty, selfish, narcissistic. It’s more fun–and maybe more realistic–to see birds as individuals with creepy personalities than as automatons that can only be differentiated by their feathers.

It’s a short book that I laughed all the way through. And when my young daughter picked it up, fascinated ┬áby the pretty pictures, I found there was virtually nothing I could read to her that wouldn’t scare the crap out of her.

 

Humongous Polyphemus Moth hatches--sorry, ecloses--from one of two mystery cocoons downed from oak trees during the harsh winter.

Moth upon hatching

Humongous Polyphemus Moth hatches–sorry, ecloses–from one of two mystery cocoons downed from oak trees during the harsh winter.

Keep reading Mystery cocoon revealed: giant Polyphemus Moth

Nest Quest in Prospect Park: wood ducks, herons, swans, cardinals, swallows and, of course, robins nest in the park

Green heron on nest by the boathouse. Babies are tucked under her wing.

Wood duck mother and duckling

Something is going on with nests in Prospect Park this season. They’re everywhere. You can’t walk 50 feet in the park bumping into some adorable tableau of chirping baby birds. Half the trees in the park seem to be brimming with exhibitionist robin families. The big unusual nests this year are green herons and wood ducks (which are living somewhere near dog beach–but where they nested, I don’t know.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green herons are nesting on the lullwater and near the less-fancy bridge by the boathouse.

Green heron on nest by the boathouse. Babies are tucked under her wing.

Green heron feeds her creepy-looking babies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swans in the park, as if in defiance of a potential plan to wipe them out, are multiplying. They have two nests, one helpfully placed on an island by the ice rink to make for easy viewing.

The father swan normally spends his days chasing off other waterfowl, but he came and sat on the eggs with his wife. Apparently he was alarmed by a mommy mallard and her ducklings nearby.

Baby Swans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I havent’ seen barn swallows build nests on the boathouse yet, just in the tunnels.

Barn swallow nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These robins are so desperate for attention they build nests at eye level, sometimes

Keep reading Nest Quest in Prospect Park

Elusive Cardinal Nest

DAY ONE The first day I saw the cardinal nests. It took me 10 minutes to find the nest in a bush about the size of a small car.

Baby cardinals, so hard to find, have a weird red tint to their bodies. After years of looking I finally found a nest. The babies left before I thought they could make it. I’ll never know if they did.

Keep reading The Elusive Cardinal Nest

Dogs Don't Eat Warblers--in Prospect Park or Anywhere

Warbler Flavored Milkbones

Birders harass dog people in Prospect Park saying they disturb ground-nesting birds. But only six species nest on the ground here, none exclusively. Some aren’t even in the park in the summer.

Keep reading Dogs Don’t Eat Warblers–in Prospect Park or Anywhere

Two peacocks escape zoo, wander through Brooklyn's Prospect Park and delight kids

Peacock runs away from zoo workers in the Vale of Cashmere

Two peacocks walked and flew around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Botanic Garden after escaping from the zoo. The naughty birds had just been given free range of the zoo and took their freedom a little too far.

Keep reading Two peacocks escape zoo, wander through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Botanic Garden

Bill Gates’ Mosquito Chart Too Harsh on Wolves, Sharks, Hippos; Too Easy on Humans

Bill Gates’ popular chart on World’s Deadliest Animals tries to visualize shows mosquitoes as the most despicable creature on earth. But it makes hippos, wolves and sharks look worse than they are and lets off humans (the true villains) way too easy.

Keep reading Bill Gates’ Mosquito Chart Too Harsh on Wolves, Sharks, Hippos; Too Easy on Humans

What to do with cocoons falling from late winter trees?

polythemus moth

Dreary winter is a great time to find cocoons in trees or on the ground. I found a luna or polyphemus moth cocoon and am anxiously awaiting its emergence. Turns out there’s a huge online market for cocoons among moth and butterfly breeders.

Keep reading What to do with cocoons falling from late winter trees?

Odds good for owling in Brooklyn

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How easy is it to see a snowy owl in Brooklyn this winter? Your odds are pretty good–if you’re willing to haul yourself out to Floyd Bennett Field, an old timey airport on Brooklyn’s shore. I got to see one today after looking on eBird and figuring it was the most likely spot.

Keep reading Owling in Brooklyn

What's inside that paper wasp nest?

When you peel back the outer paper of a wasp nest, you find layers of hive, some dead larvae, some wasps springing to life and not much honey. Also a faint odor.

When you peel back the outer paper of a wasp nest, you find layers of hive, some dead larvae, some zombie wasps springing to life and not much honey. Also a faint odor.

Keep reading What’s inside that wasp nest?