Sometimes these guys make it into the Garden. Always a pleasant surprise! ~AR
Sometimes these guys make it into the Garden. Always a pleasant surprise! ~AR
Some male Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) showcasing their ‘impressive’ mating displays.
Guys. Guys. It’s not working. Just … just stop, go home.
We’ve often got plenty of these hooded fellas hanging around Twin Lakes, but we also get the punk rock Red-breasted variety on the scene. Not sure if their pickup artist goofcapades are as, er, forward. —MN
A tawny-bellied hermit (Untamed Americas - NGC)
As a kid, I saw my first hummingbird sipping sugar water from a farm feeder in upstate New York. I saw my last few here in our Perennial Garden, buzzing around the spring blooms back in 2012.
With our area’s Ruby-throated Hummingbirds returning for spring and summer, it’s just about time we got to plunking ourselves down on a garden bench and watching. —MN
Living in the city and don’t have a backyard? No problem! Come to the Garden (pretend our 250-acres are the biggest backyard in the city) and help us count our birds!
Join the Great Backyard Bird Count - now through Monday. If you have 15 minutes, you can help The National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology count birds in your area!
American Goldfinch Photo by Pamela Wertz, LA - Great Backyard Bird Count Participant in 2012.
For anyone who’s ever watched an owl swivel its head 270 degrees and thought it unnatural (you’re not alone), there’s good news: it is absolutely not a process made possible by malevolent or supernatural forces. Rather, owls just have much more agreeable blood vessels.
Whereas we would cause serious damage to our arteries if we were to try and cock our heads that far in the wrong direction, owls have flexible, ballooning circulatory infrastructure that allows them to perform these feats of cranial acrobatics. It makes looking around with those stationary eyes a much more agreeable process.
Click through for more of a scientific explanation on how—and why—these raptors do this. Better yet, you’re welcome to visit us on Saturday mornings in the NYBG for our weekly Bird Walks, where you might see it for yourself.
Debbie Becker has been leading these birdwatching tours for over 25 years, and if there’s any time to see our several species of owl in action, it’s a chilly winter morning with the leaves gone from the trees. As always, just be sure to keep your ears open for the telling hoots in the Forest. —MN
The next time you’re walking through the Forest enjoying the symphony being trilled from the trees, remember this: The birds are having an emotional response, too! According to a new study, birds respond to the songs of their fellows in much the same way we respond to Beethoven’s “Pastoral” or the theme song the “Twilight Zone.” So much for bird brains … ~AR
Saturday, December 8! Mark that one down on your calendar, birders. And if you haven’t the tiniest inkling as to what a “birder” is, mark it down anyway—you might learn something. Debbie Becker has been our resident bird expert for over 25 years, and while Saturdays throughout the year are always a good time to catch her leading Bird Walks around the NYBG’s 250 acres, this day is particularly special.
With the annual Christmas Bird Count taking place in the five boroughs throughout December, the 8th is our chance to help veteran birdwatchers brush up on their craft. But it’s an even better opportunity to enlist new recruits in the biggest birdwatching event of the year. Finally, it’s all for a scientific cause! Click here for more information on how to get involved. —MN
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that often kills or severely damages the trees upon which it grows. So, removing it is a good thing, right? Read the Economist’s take on a study done in Australia to learn the surprising conclusion. ~AR
Rosemary Mosco is a new-to-me web comics illustrator (thank you Laughing Squid for the intro). If you are in the least interested in science, paleontology, ornithology, biology, botany, or evolution, I implore you to visit her site immediately. It’s the perfect antidote to the Monday doldrums. Also, she’s on Tumblr, so why not give her a follow!~AR
Absolutely loving this story of Genevieve Jones—and subsequently her family after her untimely death—who set out to write the “missing” companion to Audubon’s Birds of America. Genevieve and the Jones family set out to illustrate a volume documenting the nests and eggs that Audubon had omitted from his epic work. In the end they only were able to document one state, Ohio, but their multi-generational book has now been turned into a biography, America’s Other Audubon. Via Design*Sponge.
This is awesome! I have always wondered whether woodpeckers get headaches or brain damage from all their insistent pecking. Turns out, they don’t, and it also turns out that some of my own half-baked reasoning (usually dreamed up while trying to get back to sleep after being awoken by one banging away on the bedroom’s external walls) including bone density and anatomical buttressing, are in fact true.
What does this have to do with the Garden? Well, we have a lot of woodpeckers, including a very rare Pilleated Woodpecker which was spotted recently in the Garden for the first time in 73 years. Want a chance to see him (or her?), come along for one of our free Saturday morning Bird Walks! Bring your binoculars! ~AR
The Garden’s resident hawks have been really active today. I saw one riding a thermal with a crow when I went out for lunch, and this morning Sarah Paulson, Coordinator of Teen Programs in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, watched “Mr. and Mrs. Hawk land in side by side tree tops,” (maybe it was Rose and Vince?). Sarah continues saying that, “neither joined the other in the same tree. Maybe that only happens when we aren’t watching!” Bird watching, just another perk to one of the best jobs in New York City! ~AR
Mockingbirds can be annoying, especially when they feel the need to mock a car alarm at 3 a.m., but they are also mighty adorable. Here are three photos from Library staffer Paul Silverman of this little bird sitting in a Viburnum dilatatum behind the Watson Education Building.
Excellent question. Your answer comes from Sonia Uyterhoeven, Gardener for Public Education. If you want to learn more from Sonia, she writes a weekly column on our blog, Plant Talk.
This is an excellent question, Susan. The short answer is no. Whenever I am asked about foraging, my initial response is one of caution. It is always best never to eat anything from the garden or your community unless it is properly identified and you know for certain that it is edible.
That being said, if you are planning a bird-friendly garden there are many good options that both you and the birds can enjoy. Birds are tough competition and a hungry bunch, so plant en masse.
Some popular choices are high bush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), red and black raspberries (Rubus idaeus and Rubus occidentalis), gooseberries (Ribes grossularia), and alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca).
Some more unusual choices that are generally viewed as ornamentals but are also edible are beach plum (Prunus maritima), serviceberry/juneberry (Amelanchier alnifolia and Amelanchier laevis), American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum (trilobum)), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), native dogwood (Cornus florida), Cornelian dogwood (Cornus mas), and Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa).
Several words of caution: Just because one species is edible doesn’t mean all species in a genus are edible. For example, with the above list the American cranberry bush is edible but that does not imply that all viburnums are – they are not.
If a plant is edible, make sure that you are aware if any parts are poisonous. For example, wild black cherry (Prunus serotina) has edible fruit but the seeds are poisonous so that you have to pit the fruit before eating. American and European elderberry (Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus nigra) have edible berries that must be cooked before they are used. The berries are slightly toxic when they are unripe and the stems should always be removed.
There is also the taste factor that is not mentioned in the list. You can eat the berries from the native dogwood but they are bitter and the Cornelian dogwood and Kousa dogwood tend to be more popular (although not conventional) tastes. With the serviceberries, Amelanchier alnifolia has sweeter fruit than Amelanchier laevis. Many berries are tart and make good jams – beach plum and American cranberry bush are two examples.
This is just a start. The best advice I can give is to search the Internet and books in the library for information and recipes. Often you will find older books on herbals that will include information and recipes. There are also newer books on edible landscapes. The Internet is always a wonderful resource but I would surf cautiously when you are collecting information on whether or not something is edible and make sure that it comes from a credible source. Poisonous Plants from North Carolina is a reliable cross reference. There is also a surfeit of recipes available on the Web and this will give you some good ideas. Hope you and the birds enjoy your garden.
Thanks Susan! Best wishes for a healthy, happy, berry-filled New Year. ~ AR