July 14, 2019

Seaside Aphids

Today's adventure took me to a bay in one of Long Island's barrier islands. I didn't get too much in the water besides some Blue Crabs that chased me for some time (Canada Geese of the sea). The same was true on land, where there were only 10 or so species in a small strip of saltmarsh, but I picked up some odd Aphids almost coating some Carolina Sea Lavender. Some further research identified them as an undescribed and very poorly known species in the genus Staticobium, which had never been recorded in North America until recently. It's unknown if the Staticobium in North America are a new species or a known species that was either always present or recently introduced. Hopefully I can get some specimens (if I can figure out how to preserve them) in hopes of at figuring out some part of this mystery.

Posted on July 14, 2019 03:34 by astrobirder astrobirder | 3 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

July 10, 2019

Mystery Insect

While leaving (retreating from) a tick-filled spot out in the Long Island Pine Barrens, this weird little thing ran across my path. I only got a few shots before it disappeared into the leaf litter, but from what I was able to get I could tell that this was something I've never seen before, both in life and on the internet. It seems to look vaguely like a Cockroach or Termite (Blattodea) but I can't tell. Does anyone know what this oddity is?

Edit: Mystery solved! It was a False Bombardier Beetle larva

Posted on July 10, 2019 20:08 by astrobirder astrobirder | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 13, 2019

Shells and more shells

The highlight of today's multi-spot trip down to Jones Beach were a few odd birds and the discarded homes of long-dead bivalves. Just before arriving to the first location I saw an Eastern Bluebird materialize and disappear in flash of blue on the side of the road, my first ever for Long Island. I spent the first 30 minutes there fruitlessly trying to refind it, but I picked up an early Chipping Sparrow while searching for it, making the slight detour worth it. After that, I went down to two stretches of beach for the main reason why I was there; to see if I could find any interesting shells to get a boost in the yearlist competition I'm in. The first spot, which was on the calmer bay side, didn't yield too many shells, but the second spot along the ocean had representatives of at least 12 species of bivalves lying around, along with evidence of two widely-separated groups of boring animals on a very old Surf Clam shell. The best find there was a Fossor Coquina (Donax fossor), which is endemic to the coast between Long Island and Virginia. The arctic winds forced me to go back to the car before I could look for more shells, but the quick glance was still encouraging for future prospects. A pair of what was either Hoyt's Horned Larks (E. a. hoyti) or Prairie Horned Larks (E. a. praticola) and a flock of of Snow Buntings were some other nice sightings at that spot.

Tomorrow I'm heading to two other beaches to try to get more shells along with an area that supposedly has a state-rare but very distinctive Spikerush. Birdwise there isn't likely to be too much out, but the second spot has hosted a ridiculous amount of rarities in the previous few years, so perhaps something strange will pop up.

(live) Lifers today: 0
Total species: 2122

Posted on March 13, 2019 01:16 by astrobirder astrobirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 12, 2019

First Post?

I guess this is my first post in here. I'm usually busy studying up in college in Syracuse, NY most of the time, but this week I'm back home on Long Island for spring break, so I'm hoping to get a boost in a yearlist competition I'm in (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/discord-inaturalist-yearlisting-2019). I'm also very enthusiastic about trying to see as many of the planet's one trillion species as possible, so most of my adventures surround trying to get new species that I have never seen before.

Today I went from my western Long Island homebase out to a few spots in the biodiverse Pine Barrens on the eastern end of the Island. The Barrens are extremely biodiverse (and very ticky!) in the summer, but most of it dies off in the winter, leaving only a few evergreen plants and wintering vertebrates visible for most people. Nonetheless, I managed to somehow get +30 new species (and countless others that I already had seen) on a trip out there earlier this year in a spot that I already had visited last summer, so the Pine Barrens are usually still worth the trip in the dead times between November and April.

The first spot was a place labeled on eBird as the Preston's Pond Complex. Preston's Pond and the surrounding pine barrens ponds are apparently very good spots for Dragonflies in the summer, so I wanted to scout them out beforehand. While I didn't get a chance to go deep into the area, I did pick up a few interesting species, such as the locally common lycopod Dendrolycopodium obscurum and some weird lichens. A half-decayed White-tailed Deer in Preston's Pond was also interesting, although I didn't get a chance to take a photo of it in its gory glory due to time constraints and to resist the temptation to show it to my death-queasy family.

Up next was the EPCAL Grasslands right across the street from Preston's Pond. I've visited here in the summer a few times to see the breeding Grasshopper Sparrows in the fields, but never in the winter beyond a quick dusk trip to look for Short-eared Owls years ago. I managed to pick out a few Field Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow and two Horned Larks from the grasslands, but the star of this spot was a Red-tailed Hawk that swung down to a Woodchuck that crossed the road a few minutes before. The two disappeared before I could see what happened between them, but I'm assuming that either the Woodchuck was smart enough to follow the fence it was using as a shield against the hawk into the safety of the woodlands nearby or the Hawk got a very large meal.

The last stop was all the way east on the North Fork in a patch of woods just outside of Greenport. I've heard that an interesting species of plant was present out there (I'm not allowed to say what it is), so I spent most of the hour or so I was there looking for it. While I never found the plants, I did wonder through some pretty weird habitat, which included a large steep-sided ravine and ephemeral ponds everywhere. I picked up my first Snowdrops of the year as a single plant near the entrance then a huge area about 30ft in diameter covered with Snowdrops. I also got my long awaited lifer European Holly, a local invasive on Long Island that I thought I had some time ago but turned out to be a much stranger species (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19257504), and my first Spotted Wintergreen, a common plant denizen in the Pine Barrens. Another highlight at this spot was a Green Wood Cup in the heartwood of a downed branch, staining it an almost unnatural aquamarine color.

Tomorrow I'm heading south to get coastal oddities on the beaches and along the pools on the Barrier Islands. If I'm lucky I might be able to catch an early Eastern Phoebe that's been found in one area a few days ago.

Lifers today: 5
Total species: 2121

Posted on March 12, 2019 01:37 by astrobirder astrobirder | 13 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

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