A Falcon Perches in Soho

Think there’s no wildlife on the city streets? Look up! This Peregrine Falcon hung out in Soho for an entire afternoon last week, taking in the sights (of pigeons? of starlings perhaps?) along Broadway.

New York City is home to about 32 falcons who live here year-round. To find out why NYC is such a prime spot for this endangered species, check out this episode of Nature Minute.

Posted in Animals, Birds, Habitats of City Wildlife, Nature by the Seasons, News, Photos, Predators and Prey, Winter | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Take the Spider Web Challenge

I wasn’t kidding when I filmed this spider episode. Go out there, find a spider web and see if you can find out which silk fibers are sticky and which are not. (Adults, I’m talking to you too. Why should kids have all the fun?)

Not all spiders spin orb-webs. Some make sheet webs, cobwebs, funnel webs, you name it. If you find something different, see if you can figure out which parts of those webs are sticky. With a light touch, you can satisfy your curiosity without harming the spiders or their webs. When you’ve done it, leave your comment here about your experience. What was it like for you? Did you discover something that surprised you?

Posted in Animals, Fall, News, Photos, Spiders and Insects, Spring, Summer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why don’t spiders stick to their own webs?

Is the thought of walking face first into a spider web enough to make you scream? In this episode of Nature in a New York Minute, biologist Kelly Rypkema shares a little experiment to help you face your inner demons and answers the age-old question “Why don’t spiders stick to their own webs?”

Trouble viewing? Watch on YouTube instead.

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How to Build a Web Site – Nature Minute style

One lucky Autumn morning, I awoke to find this Argiope spider gracefully spinning the sticky part of her web. In the process, she might thrust her legs on that sticky silk more than 1000 times…. So why don’t spiders stick to their own webs? Find out in our upcoming episode of Nature in a New York Minute.

Posted in Animals, Fall, Nature by the Seasons, Predators and Prey, Spiders and Insects, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

9/11 Tribute in Light Attracts Many Eyes…and Birds

The “stars” in this photo are actually migrating birds circling around the 9/11 Tribute in Light memorial. The lights appear to draw the birds off their course, but thankfully the Municipal Art Society, which produces the memorial, is cooperating with NYC Audubon to minimize impact on these birds. When there’s too many birds circling the beams, the MAS turns the lights off. This year (2013) the beams were turned off four times to allow the birds to reorient themselves and continue on their migration journey.

The twin beams shine a spotlight on a larger issue – the effect that city lights have on migrating birds across North America. Birds appear to be attracted to light from skyscrapers and lit windows. One theory is that this artificial light mimics features in the night sky that birds normally use to navigate, like the stars and the moon. The result is that, for the many species of birds that migrate at night, city lights could distract them from their journey and increase their risk of collision with buildings.

Conservation groups across North America are partnering with businesses to find a solution. In New York, NYC Audubon has started the Lights Out NY program and has fostered agreements with corporations behind major buildings, like the Rockefeller Center and Chrysler Building, to turn their lights off at night during migration season. To find out how your company or building could join in this effort, check out Lights Out NY.

Posted in Animal Behavior, Animals, Articles, Birds, Fall, Nature by the Seasons, News, People and Nature, Spring, Wildlife Conservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Got No Milk on this Farm…

…for humans anyway. To update you on one of the stars from a past episode, Clover the Cow has given birth to a cute little calf. For the time being, she’s on vacation from the milking demonstrations she does for children and the public, as officials at the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm, where Clover lives, are letting her reserve all her milk production for her baby.

These days Clover can be seen grazing the fields of the Remick Farm with her calf close behind, much like her pasturemate, pictured here, with baby in tow. Looks like the calf is trying out a new ‘do with the help of mother’s tail.

In case you missed it, check out our episode MILK to see Clover in her glory, and to see how I did in my first try at milking a cow. It’s not as easy as you might think.

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Brick in a Stick

Tree trunks grow out, not up, and sometimes engulf whatever might have been resting on them. Someone must have placed this brick in the fork of the tree some time ago. Examples of this kind of “tree hugging” can be seen all over the city, reminding us that trees, which might seem dead, are indeed alive and moving!

Posted in News, Photos, Plants, Trees | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Video: Cicadas – Tiny Tymbals, Big Sound

Have you ever wanted to ask Cicadas why they’re so loud, but thought it would be Brood 2 ask? Biologist Kelly Rypkema ventures into the thick of the 2013 appearance of Periodical Cicadas to answer the questions of why, who, and what body parts they use when they raise the roof after taking to the trees.

Special thanks to the Staten Island Museum. See their special exhibit “They’re Baaack! Return of the 17-year Cicadas” on display through Spring 2014.

Trouble viewing? Watch on YouTube instead.

Posted in Communication, Mating and Courtship, Spiders and Insects, Summer, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Wildlife Moves In – a Modern Parable

by Michele Dudas, PSQ
Naturalist Interpreter

I awoke to the faintest scritching sound (you know, not quite a scratching sound…something much more quiet and tentative), in my bedroom one night. When I was fully awake, I stayed very still in the dark trying to determine where the noise was coming from and what could be causing it.

Nothing about the sound made sense to me so I decided to quietly ease open the night stand, grab the emergency flashlight, snap it on and point in the direction of the scritching sound. When I hit the light, I saw something dark scoot into one of my slippers. Mouse, I figured. So, I headed to the kitchen to nab the mouse catching device (plastic food storage container with a lid), and hustled back to my bedroom. I placed the container completely over my slipper and slipped the lid beneath. I scooped it all up and off to the den I went to release my nocturnal visitor back into the great outdoors. I lowered the container to the ground, popped the top on the container and prepared for launch….Nothing exited the container or my slipper.

When I looked, there was no animal in either, so I returned to my bedroom to go critter hunting. I didn’t find a thing. As I was walking past the dresser mirror on my way to return the container to the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of myself. There on my right sleeve was a dark shape, mouse-like in size.

I recalled a car trip, many years ago, in which I found myself with a mouse clinging to my pantyhose in the vicinity of my knee while I was driving down a west Texas highway. It just did not seem likely to me that I would be packing a small rodent twice in one lifetime but there I was with a clinging mystery blob on my sleeve. Upon closer inspection I realized that was no mouse on my sleeve. It was a tarantula.

Back to the kitchen I went praying the tarantula would stay put but, it didn’t. It made a beeline for my neck. I love animals, all of them, but was not in a tarantula-on-my-neck-the-middle-of-the-night kind of place. I placed the container lid at the base of my head in effort to persuade the spider to stay out of my hair while I ran back to the den and out the door. I could see in the den window reflection that the spider headed onto my back rather than onto my neck, but it would not leave my back no matter how much I squirmed around. In the end, I had to take off my sleeping shirt to shake the tarantula off. I thought that was the end, but…

The next morning my neighbor called me. In the course of the conversation, she casually mentioned how it was so private around my yard that a person might feel compelled “to go naked back there in the middle of the night.”

Moral of the story
Even if only relocating wayward wildlife to your backyard,
for all outdoor excursions, it is good to wear layers.

Editor’s Note: Right about this time of year, May-July, Texas Brown Tarantulas embark on their own migration when males venture out in search of females, who stay in their dens. In some areas, tarantulas can be seen crossing the road in multitudes, or perhaps one might find a lost male who accidentally wandered into the den of another kind of female – the human female! As with all wildlife that undergo large-scale movements to new places, please watch out for them. It’s a tough enough existence as it is.

Michele Dudas is an excellent Naturalist and friend from Texas who is filled with a treasure trove of wildlife stories and experiences. You might be hearing more from her in later posts. Carissa Braun is a Nature Photographer and Naturalist. Check out her blog Nature Photography and Facts for a glimpse of the amazing nature of North Texas.

Posted in Animal Behavior, Articles, Habitats of City Wildlife, Mating and Courtship, News, People and Nature, Spiders and Insects, Summer | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living Fossils Go to Town on NYC Beaches

New Yorkers, if you go to the beach tonight, you might witness some hanky-panky involving a lot of grabbing and intertwined…carapaces? Of course you know I mean spawning horseshoe crabs. Every May and June, during high tide around the new and full moons, these ancient creatures (as in they haven’t changed much for >300 million years) migrate from the depths to lay and fertilize their eggs on certain beaches. And guess what, we’re skirting around a full moon this week, folks.

To see it, horseshoe crabs actually kind of get swept in with the surf. Now if you’re picturing From Here to Eternity, I’m sorry to say there’s no kissing involved, but the males do grab onto the female and hold on for dear life. (Seen here, a male hangs onto to a female who is partially buried – the better to lay eggs.) Sometimes both end up on their backs. But never fear, there are volunteers present to help them get back on their feet. I’m one of them, and no, it’s not kinky.

I’m volunteering with a team from NYC Audubon as they participate in the NY Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Network. We survey how many male and female horseshoe crabs we see, (flip them over if needed), and then tag them. If any of the tagged critters are recaptured, scientists can estimate how many spawned, plus get information on survival rate and migration habits.

Why is it important to help the horseshoe crab survive and thrive? One reason is the hugely important role they serve in the beach and marine environment. Each mature female lays something like 80,000 eggs each season, and they are mighty tasty to endangered sea turtles, fish, and migratory shorebirds. (Just check out how critical they are to the Red Knot, which is one cool critter itself.)

So if you’re walking down the beach this spring and see one, or an orgy, of these creatures, no need to avert your eyes. You are witnessing an important event in the web of marine life. Hey cheer them on. Wish them well. Even flip them over if needed – gently!

Posted in Animal Behavior, Animals, Articles, Birds, Mating and Courtship, News, Spiders and Insects, Spring, Story Bites | Tagged , , | 5 Comments