Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the heart of summer

I am smack-dab in the middle of my first of three glorious weeks of vacation from work. Week 1 I am spending in and around Brooklyn, adventuring my socks off. I've got plenty of time to myself to explore and notice the small things, too, because this is also Chrissy's first week of work at his real, in-his-field, two-master's degrees, 9-5 kind of job. We'll be vacationing with my family in Old Orchard Beach, ME, from August 18-22, sandwiched between several days in Rhode Island. My binoculars and I are going to be seeing some awesome things in the next few weeks.

But before that, I've got a little catching up to do with you, my friends.

Here's a nice shot I got on a recent free Tuesday adventure to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Not too much bird action when I went, but the insects (and children running through sprinklers) were certainly enjoying themselves.

As an aside: I am slowly coming to know and correct some of the weird misconceptions I developed about insects over the course of my life. For example, somehow I got it into my head that honeybees sting and bumblebees don't. But I read recently that honeybees sting once and then they die, but bumblebees sting multiple times and don't die! Also the more time I spend around dragonflies, the more I realize that I was terrified of them as a child. I'm very comfortable now, but something about them was scary. Maybe the name "darning needle" evoked a fear of being stabbed or bitten? No. I remember now. The fear was that a darning needle would sew my lips together. What crazy ideas get into kids' heads!

The ducklings of Prospect Park are pretty much all grown up. I took this photo almost two weeks ago, and when I saw the family yesterday, the three young ones' feathers appeared to have completed their transformation. The ducks look like their mother now, just slightly smaller overall and with shorter necks.

And the juvenile swan is growing fast as well. I saw it yesterday and it seemed huge. This photo is about two weeks old as well. I like the composition of this one.

I don't remember which gorgeous August afternoon it was that I encountered this delicious-looking grub. Rob Jett turned me on to BugGuide, which I think will come in pretty handy. After a bit of browsing the many photos, I think this caterpillar is in the sphinx moth family. I give one photo for an idea of scale and one for detail.

August 7th marked our fourth wedding anniversary, and we spent it walking on Plumb Beach and scooting from there to Floyd Bennett Field and back on the bike path. Even though Plumb Beach is riddled with garbage, the place holds some kind of magic for me. It stimulates my imagination in a way that few things do, brings me back to my childhood and early teens, playing in the yard with my sisters with stuff we found. I think that's what it is; there's so much stuff to find at Plumb Beach that my imagination kicks into gear, saying things like, "Well, this jug and this tin can and this fan blade could be made into some sort of water purification system, and what can I use these tubes for? Oh, and I'll need to find something like a tarp to make a shelter. Oh, wow, a ladder, what luck!" Well, now you know a lot more about me than I intended to share. I absolutely love to imagine. Don't get me started on all those abandoned boats!

Anyway, back to the beach. The shore was heavily dotted with semi-palmated plovers. Lots of common terns around too, and a few laughing gulls. It was no use trying to get a good shot of the plovers; they escaped quickly when approached and the wind prevented me from getting a steady shot through my binocs. But, here are some other neat things we found:

a crab whose attempts to reenter the water were rebuffed by the relentless waves

a washed-up jellyfish

a snail stuck to the wall

We ate our picnic lunch on a partially shaded bench under a tree, with our feet resting comfortably on a well-placed log. After a while I felt something on my shin, looked briefly, and shook my leg like hell. I didn't know anything about praying mantises at the time, so I was a little freaked out, especially because the little bugger kept trying to get back on my leg, even after I stood up and walked a few feet away. It seemed like it was gauging the distance between its perch and my leg.

On Saturday, we encountered this mantis at Snug Harbor on Staten Island. I'm glad my first encounter with a mantis was a normal-sized one.

Also at Snug Harbor, a great big butterfly in the hedge maze, an eastern tiger swallowtail, I think

a path to make anyone feel like Mary Lennox about to uncover a forgotten garden

If you've never been to Snug Harbor, I definitely recommend a day trip there. It's a great time of year to go, while everything's bright and colorful. I'll leave you with a photo of my favorite part of this gorgeous property, where I saw a female belted kingfisher scanning the pond and a pair of American goldfinches releasing white puffs from the bulbs of some purple flowers.

I'll have more soon about this week's adventures in Prospect Park!


Bethy said...

you take such beautiful pictures. i love to read this blog!

amarilla said...

Is this look new? Nice! It reminds me of one of my favorite children's books, The Lion and the Red Bird. Do you know it?

Thanks for the tip about Plum Beach, I'd never heard of it. I think with the aid of your publicity the kids will consent to be dragged along on an adventure. But maybe we'll get lost?