Saturday, August 29, 2015


Today when I went out to the Milkweed Garden to check for Monarch Butterflies I came upon these little red guys on a couple of the Milkweed pods.   

Here's a closer look.
 Upon a little delving I discovered these are the nymphs of the Milkweed Red Bugs which very often accompany milkweed.

There are two kinds of Milkweed Bugs and they are called the Large Milkweed Bug and the Small Milkweed Bug.  Both are red and have a slightly different arrangement of  black spots.

Milkweed Bugs are specially adapted to eat Milkweed as are Monarch Butterflies but for most of the rest of  us the Milkweed "milk" is toxic.

And because the Milkweed Bugs feed on Milkweed, snacking on them is not recommended, and therefore they are fairly safe from predators too.  The same goes for the Monarch Butterfly, whose larvae also feed on Milkweed, which makes the adult also safe from most predators. 

The chemicals in the Milkweed latex is toxic. The latex contains cardiac glycosides.  If a predator eats one of these bugs, the predator will more than likely vomit.

And who needs that?

And if you or another predator ate a lot of the bugs (or a lot of Monarch Butterflies for that matter) or the Milkweed itself the cardiac glycosides, which are cardiac arrestors could stop your heart besides tasting really bad.  

Which I have to admit is worse than vomiting. 

Take my word for it.  I tasted Milkweed Sap as a child and it tastes BAD.  No, I didn't vomit.  I spit it out.  I'm no dummy.


Happy Hawking (which we will be back to with the next installment of the Red-tails vs the "Little Bird" Mystery)

Donegal Browne

Monday, August 24, 2015

Part II of The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle

 All times PM

Part II
6:10:26  We left the female screaming in flight and that is how she continued.  On second thought what is more likely going on rather than my earlier surmise is that she is a female Red-tailed Hawk who's  territory has been broached, she has been attacked, and she is having none of it.  

Somebody is going to pay if they aren't extremely

 6:10:27 The camera's view.
6:10:28 The formel (I think) has circled round and is now coming toward the trees she had been chased into moments earlier by the small bird.
6:10:28  Suddenly her wings crook and she lets out a blood curdling scream...

6:10:29 She flaps with vigor toward the trees.  I surmise she has seen what she is looking for. 
 6:10:30  Formel narrows her focus...

6:10:31 She heads into the trees.
 6:10:31 This is my view through the camera...therefore I didn't see...
 The assumed formel has perched on the tip top of the first highest tree.  Now look at the next set of high boughs to the right.  Is that brownish shape, the attacking small bird, its mate, or a leaf?

As I didn't catch the apex perch of the Red-tail,  I then spent the next few moments scanning the sky for her and NOT taking pictures of the above area.   DRAT!

 6:10:36  Five seconds later I see a Red-tail coming in from the left.  Now I ask, is that the perched Red-tail's mate?  Has the previously perched Red-tail circled around?

                                        TO BE CONTINUED!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The "What Bug Is This" Mystery Is Solved and The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle Comes To the Fore!

This is one of the main participants in the Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle but before we get to that there is the previous mystery....the What Bug Is This Mystery.
It was blog reader  Marion Palen who came up with the goods-
​I'm no entomologist, but for the fun of it, I did some web "research"-- 
After a false start Marion identified it...
It's a Squash Beetle.
And so it is.  Which makes perfect sense, as it was found on a pumpkin vine.  Many thanks to Marion Palen for the ID.

Next up!  The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle.

I was on an errand driving in the rural countryside pushing 6 PM when I heard Red-tailed Hawk screams.  They were loud, repeated, and there was obviously some kind of crisis going on.

I pulled the car over, jumped out, and searched the direction the screams  where coming from. 

5:56:58 PM  Far in the distance, beyond a cornfield and above a wooded area what I take to be a Red-tailed Hawk is flying madly back and forth.
Periodically she would dive into the trees and then reappear almost immediately.  
 Screaming and screaming and screaming over and over again. I had truly never heard anything of such duration and what seemed like desperation or fervent  anger or both.
5:58:44 PM  She continues to focus on the same small area.  Sometimes diving.  Sometimes flying back and forth in short spurts and glides.  I begin  to think is not just she who is screaming but also another Red-tail in the same general area as well.
5:59:21 PM  I have cropped the photo and increased the contrast  in order to show that far left and right smaller birds have appeared out of the trees.  After looking carefully, these may just be bystander smaller birds that have been flushed from the area as they don't appear  to be attacking the visible hawk.
 5:59:42 PM Look carefully and you will see the hawk disappearing into the distance center.  I start scanning in all directions.
 6:01:15PM    Is that a hawk on one of the poles following the  railroad tracks to my right?
                                   Maybe, I can't really tell.
6:01:37 DRAT!  I start walking as fast as I can along the road which takes me closer but also farther away in another direction due to the angle of the road.  I begin to think it is definitely a Red-tail.

 And when I got home, cropped, and lightened it up, it WAS a hawk!  But that didn't help me much at the time.  Because when I finally did manage to get closer after passing behind other trees...
6:04:59 PM  This is what I saw.  No hawk. She/he waited until my eyes were out of view.... and flew.  But I didn't know that.   I took photos of all the other poles in view.  Nothing!

6:07:59...Nothing.  I keep walking on the road towards the railroad tracks glancing up at the poles and wires. 
I follow the road, watching the poles down the line carefully.   

6:09:50  When I  get to the railroad crossing and look nearly directly  up at the pole by the road...
Unbelievable there she is.  How can one not love Red-tails.

She gives me "the look" or is it any rate 7 seconds later...
6:09:57 PM  She has something else to deal with besides me.  Note her beak.  She is screaming again. See her beak. Is it the hounding of the little bird that has set her off or is she warning a mate about me?  Her mate has to have seen me...must be the little guy.  And upon looking at the photo of the "little guy"  I begin to wonder if that bird is a Kestrel.  A Kestrel can kill a Red-tailed hawk.

6:09:57 (within the same second as above)  The Red-tail takes off  for the trees.
 6:09:57 PM Also within the same second.   Okay all you birders out there.  What species is  the bird almost totally in silhouette, chasing the Red-tail and causing it to call?   I'm thinking Kestrel...look at the crook in the wings.  Very falcon like.

6:10:23 PM  26 seconds later, a Red-tail reappears.
6:10:24 This looks like the same Red-tail.  She still has an eye on me.

6:10:25  The camera's actual view.
6:10:25  The next frame as she is pursued, she once again begins to scream.  It is almost like she has begun to panic? 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Insect Is This?

First, an explanation.  When I find various creatures in my yard, tree frogs and the like, and the little girls next door are outside, I call them to come and see whatever wonder I have discovered.

Today their mother Jessica, waved me over to their yard.  The girls had discovered some insects in their accidental pumpkin patch...the compost area in which last years jack o lanterns had been deposited.  There was a very healthy accidental pumpkin vine in which two pumpkins were growing. The weather has been abominably dry and the vine next to it was on its way out. 

The girls had discovered a nest of the above white insects.  
 They had also discovered eggs like the ones above, had watched tiny versions of the top insect hatch and noted they started teeny and then grew to adult size like the one above as the insects were visible in a great variety of sizes.

Though fascinated by all creatures and any living thing for that matter, I've never delved very far into the bijillion forms of insects.

Does anyone know what these insects are?  Or even which family they may belong?  Or any thoughts on the matter?

Shoot me an email.

It began to drizzle, therefore I didn't get decent pictures of the multiple sizes and the activity of these guys.  

I'll try for some behavior pictures tomorrow. 

Donegal Browne

P.S.  The tree frog was back on the lighted window tonight.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Cope's Gray Tree Frog, Slugs Love Beer, Plus the Day Lilies and the Hummingbird

Never fear we aren't finished with the Harris Hawk, nor hawks in general but the Harris piece is taking a very long time to put together.  Therefore today's  an intermission...

I was out picking Japanese Beetles off just about everything that is capable of photosynthesis in my domain when I pulled back a Rhubarb leaf for inspection...TA DA!

                            Cope's Gray Tree Frog

 Yes, I know, he isn't gray.  As it turns out a Cope's Gray Tree Frog can be gray to green to brown.  Seems like one would just call him a Cope's Tree Frog right?   But no, too easy.

I've enlarged the photo for better detail but he is actually about one and half to two inches long. 

If you'd like to hear what he sounds like click the link below.

Not the sharpest shot in the world but it does give documentation.  See the yellow on his abdomen and inner leg?  One of the field marks of Cope's.

Actually it rather looks ot me as if he is wearing socks.  Highly unlikely of course.

If you look carefully you will see another field mark, rather oversize very sticky toes. 

I had been having trouble with slugs wrecking all of my strawberries of late.  I remembered as a child reading that slugs LOVE beer and and that this love could be capitalized on when they were wrecking your garden.

The trick is as slugs love beer you put beer in saucers around your garden.  They can't wait to get some so they crawl into the saucer have some beer, wallow in it, oops, and then it's curtains.
See there is only a little beer in this edge of the saucer.  They could have scooted to the verge, drunk their fill and then scooted away.  But no, they drank to excess and see what happened.  A cautionary tale for us all.  Do not swim in beer.

I had been seeing for some near evenings of late a hummingbird making a practice of visiting the feeder but also taking nips from the Tiger Lilies.

 What must it feel like to be able to put your full weight on a flower and not crush it?
 And here's the little fellow coming in for a landing on a mulberry twig.

Happy Hawking....
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


 This eyass was seen perched on railing above garage at Met Museum behind the 3 Bears on Saturday , 7/18/15 .  I'm told by a Met visitor that this baby has been perched there for 2 hours trying to hunt . She eventually caught a small bird , a sparrow it seems .

Then off he or she went to Cedar Hill for a stroll to digest her meal.
 This eyass decided to relax on tree on Cedar Hill . It's siblings can be heard calling out to each other on top of the hill at dusk .

Many thanks to Stella for her eyass updates!   The final installment of  the Harris Hawk Saga is coming up next!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


When I got to the beginning of the very long line of Sandhill Cranes traversing the landscape.  The lead crane had stopped.  You may note in the previous procession of cranes that the Canada Geese tended to stop what they were doing and watch the cranes with focus.

Ethologically speaking I'm not sure what the behavior means. What is the relationship between these two species?
A rear crane takes to his wings.
Then two...
Then another.
Three cranes in flight.  Note that another pair of geese has come into position on the far side of the cranes.

The flying cranes are going to land in the water.  It is some sort of positioning switch.

The lead crane is now on the far side of the water.  The other three who flew forward are now taking the lead across the water.

Remember at the very beginning of the day a male Sandhill had flown over the fence and waited for the female to do the same.  Then she took the lead across the grassy area and he followed.  That is normally how the forage in pairs.  The female leads and the male brings up the rear, I posit,  to guard her while she is intent on foraging.

I'll now posit that when something that might be dangerous or even strange occurs in the landscape that a male takes the lead. 
See the male on the far right has stopped and is staring intently right. 
See?  The two cranes that follow are smaller.  Females?  Yearlings?
If this flock consists of family groups, do the males all switch so that they are heading their family groups?
The group on the land appears to be waiting for something before they enter the water.  The geese have formed a line in the water watching  the cranes.
Everyone waits a few seconds.
And a few seconds more.
Still waiting.

Some progress on the right and the first left crane enters the water.
Is the fluffed up crane center a juvenile?
Conceivably.  Most of the other cranes appear to be hyper vigilant during this water crossing.  While everyone else is alert, center crane has lost focus.
   Note the absence of the red head patch and the nape of the neck is brown.  It is a juvenile.

Sandhill Cranes become sexually mature at two years.  Most do not mate until they are five years old but 75 percent of successfully raised young are raised by birds that are 8 years old or older. 

 One of the reasons hunting extirpated the Sandhill Crane nearly to extinction during the plumed hat era.  Too many of the older experienced cranes were killed so besides the death rate many of the younger cranes though sexually mature were not experienced enough to be successful parents.

Here are the lead cranes.  A possible family unit?

 As the last crane steps into the water, the goose on the right honks to the three geese on the left.  Note the last crane off that tussock appears to be a mature male as is the point crane at the front of the nine Sandhills. 
And another version of the upside-down-head move so popular with young Red-tailed Hawks. 

Amazing.  Sandhill Cranes do it too.
 The lead crane is still vigilant and a mid positioned crane checks behind.
 The last crane stands mid water  and watches those before him.  The geese are still lined up watching the cranes.
 The lead crane starts forward.
 They all begin to disappear into the long grass.
And when I move forward the cranes have disappeared.  I keep moving forward along the road....private land.
And I keep going.
What is that?  I'm using a long lens and far far across the bog is...a bird I don't recognize other than it appears to be some kind of hawk.
Long tail, white rump patch.  That's a field mark in Peterson's for...what?  A Harrier Hawk!
She's so far away and moving at a speed that I have to use autofocus but there is tall grass that keeps grabbing the focus.  DRAT!
Wings in dihedral and hunting looking straight down close the ground.  Either a female or a juvenile?
                                      Buoyant flight.

              Still at long distance but at least coming this way...
                                       And there she is!

                      TO BE CONTINUED!