A Jamaica Bay Dragon(fly)

Birds weren’t the only interesting things on our most recent visit to Jamaica Bay with Corey of 10,000 Birds.  Danika took these shots of a gorgeous Dragonfly I’ve yet to ID (mostly I’ve been busy and haven’t dug out the field guide yet).  If you can give some hints, I would appreciate it!

Dragonfly at Jamaica Bay East Pond



The Decline of the Karner Blue Butterfly

Once again I turn to the Albany, NY Times Union for another interesting article, this time about a Butterfly, the endangered Karner Blue.  This small blue butterfly, finds its home in isolated pine barrens, ranging from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Eastern New York and parts of New Hampshire and very local with in those areas.

According to the article, the Karner Blue butterfly has been extirpated from Schenectady County and in serious decline in Warren County.  It did mention that the Butterfly seems to be holding on, even making a bit of comeback in Saratoga County, but its last real strong hold in Eastern New York, the Albany Pine Bush, the Butterfly has declined drastically.  And experts are puzzled as to why.  Some are targeting the use of herbicides to deal with invasive species near the Pine Bush in the decline of wild Lupine, the Karner Blue’s main food source.  And while herbicides are not allowed inside the preserve proper, there are no rules governing their use on the large amount of private property that surrounds the preserve and in some cases in the preserve.

Others have pointed out a lack of snow cover, which leaves more eggs exposed to be eaten by hungry birds or just exposed to extreme cold.  Others have looked at a string of cold, wet springs which may impact the Karner Blue’s caterpillars.   The article quotes a DEC official by who said that sometimes Butterfly populations crash from unknown reasons.

So what can be done to save this species?  New York and other states are raising caterpillars at a facility in New Hampshire to be released  Currently it is estimated between 1,000 and 5,000 butterfly’s currently live in the Pine Bush in Albany.  It is estimated that 3,000 is needed to have a sustainable population, so there are either barely enough or not nearly enough.  Other conservation efforts such as controlled burns, to encourage Wild Lupine growth have been done and will continue to be done.  But a major difficulty is this is a small animal in a large area, making it very difficult at best to study and get an accurate population count.

The Full Article Can be found here:


New York State DEC Web Page on the Karner Blue:


Eight Random Things Meme

I hate these silly chain letters, but what the heck.

  • Players write a post with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • At the end of that post, they “tag” eight bloggers to write similar posts, including the rules.
  • The players then leave a comment to tell the “tag-gees” about the meme.

Okay here we go:

 1)  I have a deformed left ear and have been deaf in that ear since birth.  In fact there is no Ear Canal.  So, can some explain Surround sound to me? 

2)  The first bird I ever identified was a Great Blue Heron at the age 18 months.  Don’t believe me?  I have the newspaper article to prove it.

3)  I have lived in New York State my entire life and have been a Red Sox fan, even longer.

4)  My wife’s maiden name Kapusta, which means Cabbage in Slovak.

5)  Part of my family avoided suspicion during World War I by pretending to be Swiss (they were from Barvaria in Germany).

6)  I have written, designed and displayed a full Museum exhibit for the Irish American Heritage Museum.

7)  I read the entire ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy in the 6th grade.

8)  I have a degree in Greek and Roman Civilization with a specialty of Classical Archaeology, but I have never been on an Archaeological dig.

Since just about everyone I know tagged me, the only person I have left to tag is Josh at Armchair Everything.

Loons, Grebes and Deer Flies, Oh My!

It seems I had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off at 3:30am.  Corey and I woke, dressed and got our act together.  Corey went across the stoop and made sure Tom and Jory were up.

Outside the rain had stopped, but it was still wet.  Tom said it was raining only a few minutes before we woke.  The first bird of the day, a calling Common Loon on Cranberry Lake.  It was amazing how fast we got all of our stuff together.  In the end we waited on Tom, to make himself beautiful for the day, but even though it took Tom some time to put his game face on, we were still in the Cars and pulling out of the hotel at 4 am, exactly when we wanted to leave.

We followed a long short cut that Tom knew about.  This short cut was long, I can’t imagine how long the regular route had to been.  However this was a very pretty road, which we could see nothing in the dark and fog.  Lots of Bunnies and a few Deer made driving interesting.  We stopped at a couple of points to listen for Owls, but only heard a Barred Owl at one of the stops.  We pressed on to Canton, New York and Stopped at the McDonald’s, which we were all dissapointed to discover it didn’t open until 6am.  We were there at 5am.

Our first target was Irish Settlement Road, just outside of Canton for field species, in particular Sedge Wren.  The weather refused to cooperate as light rain fell, while lightining flashed off in the distance and thunder rolled.  Corey spotted a Northern Harrier crusing over the fields.  An American Kestrel was seen and Tom and I had a Savannah Sparrow singing, but no Wrens.  We pressed on, the rain falling, but not heavy.  We checked a couple of more fields before we finally heard the distinctive song of a Sedge Wren.  It took some time, but Corey and Tom got brief looks to confirm the bird.  It was a lousy lifer for me.  While we waited for the Wren, two American Bitterns dropped into the field.  White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-bellied Woodpecker (unusual in this area) were also sighted.  Feeling somewhat encouraged, we pressed onto Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area, also just outside of Canton, New York.

At the first stop we quickly started to add birds we didn’t see the previous day.  A Marsh Wren sang from the reeds, Pied-billed Grebes were common and it was interesting to hear them calling.  A bunch of immature Double-Crested Cormorants were being very wet on a dead tree.  Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and Mallards were common.  We also spotted (distantly) another of our target birds, Black Tern.  We saw several of the birds flying off over the marshes, along with a few Common Terns as well.

Even though the rain hadn’t stopped we proceeded to the next tower, which is the shorter of the two.  Here we added Yellow Warbler and Gray Catbird and got much better looks at both Black and Common Terns.  A couple of Common Loons, some with chicks could be seen as well.  Corey took a walk down along the edge and flushed a whole bunch of Wilson’s Snipe and a pair of Northern Harriers.  A family of Common Ravens flew over and we had a nice flyby of a single Caspian Tern.

We made out next stop at the Indian Creek Nature Center, where we had our first major engagement with Deer Flies.  We also added Eastern Towhee and Northern Cardinal.  From the tower we spotted most of the birds we had previously seen, along with an adult Bald Eagle and an interesting Grebe.

This interesting Grebe gave us fits for awhile.  Lucky for us, it gave us good close scope views.  All four of us made the decision that it was indeed a Red-necked Grebe.  This got us rather excited for awhile, since Red-necked Grebe has never nested in New York State and some birds were observed displaying from this very tower in June.  However, our bird looked to be in some sort of strange transitional plumage and could fly, likely ruling out the chance of it being a Hatch Year bird.  A good bird none the less.

From here we hit the McDonald’s in Canton (finally!) and then decided to try for boreal birds one last time in Hamilton County.  Our next stop was Sabattis Bog, where the weather cleared (and I got sunburned) and it got hot.  Few birds were active, and we faced a long and difficult battle with Deer Flies.  I did get a couple of good shots of a Northern Parula and a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Northern Parula, Sabattis BogNorthern Parula, Sabattis Bog

Lincoln's Sparrow, Sabattis Bog

Although I don’t spend nearly as much time as Corey does photographing insects and Butterflies, We did find an interesting butterfly and a Sphinx Moth on the way back to the car at Sabattis Bog.

Okay Patrick, What is it?

Hummingbirds have nothing on me!

While we struck out on boreal birds yet again, we made one last final, desperation shot at Ferd’s Bog in Hamilton County.  We arrived at the Bog, only to have it start raining again.  The bog was very quiet.  A few Lincoln’s Sparrows were busy tending nests and some young Ravens were screaming nearby, but no woodpeckers (except for Pileated), Gray Jays or Boreal Chickadee’s.  As sort of a consolation, I did get one really good picture of a Swamp Sparrow singing.

Just singing in the rain, what a wonderful feeling...

After getting skunked yet again, we parted ways with Tom and Jory, Corey and I returned to Albany.  The ride seemed to take forever, with Corey and I trying to turn Nirvana lyrics into birder friendly songs.  Jory slept and then informed us of the Western Reef Heron sighting in Brooklyn.  The best part of the ride home?  Was sitting in nearly stopped traffic on I-87 just south of Warrensburg and watching a mouse cross this busy highway, without getting hit.  At least someone out there has some luck!

But it was a great weekend, with great company.  I got to visit a lot of new and interesting places in the Adirondacks I had never visited before.  I always find it amazing to find such unspoiled habitat in a state that has around the 4th largest population in the U.S.  Simply Amazing.

Blog Updates 6/17/07

Happy Father’s Day!

It’s a slow day here at the Irish American Heritage Museum, so I’ve taken the time to take care of some odds and ends with the blog.  The biggest changes are to your right in the links and blog roll sections where I added many new links to blogs and other sites.  If you have a site you would like to see linked here let me know!  Hoaryredpoll AT Hotmail dot com.  Please be sure to check out these sites and comment where you can.  People love to see how people got to their sites and where people are viewing the sites from.  As always I’m open to comments and suggestions as to how to improve the blog.

Be safe, do good deeds and have a great weekend!

Invading Army or Lighting Bugs?

Tonight I saw my first lighting bug of the season and made me remember a story that has been passed down in my family for the last 150 years.

My great-great-great Grandparents on my father side moved from what is now Germany to Columbia County, New York in the mid 19th century.  Since they moved in Spring they of course knew nothing of Lighting Bugs.  The first few months of their existence here in America was spent establishing the farm, then late one June evening, my great-great-great grandmother saw them.  Hundreds of twinkling lights in the nearby forest.  Since there was nothing like these insects in Europe, their imaginations began to run wild.  The only thing they could think of was an invading army, moving silently through the woods.  The twinkling lights?  The distant torches of the army.  As the story goes, they spent the night in the cellar.  The next day they talked to their neighbors and asked them about the ‘army’.  That night they were quite embarrassed, but awed by their new discovery.