Another Silly Video by Susan Kirby

The Ancient Ritual of the Horseshoe Crabs

For more than 300 million years, horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) have left the ocean depths to crawl onshore to breed. In New York, these ancient animals — more related to scorpions and spiders than to crustaceans, and older than the dinosaurs — come to our many shores at full moons, new moons, and high tides beginning in May and continuing into June and early summer. On May 29, 2018, we went to Plumb Beach in Brooklyn close to high tide on a night with a full moon, and were rewarded as the female horseshoe crabs came onshore, with the males grasping onto them. The females dug a nest in the sand and laid their eggs, which the males then fertilized. 

Breeding horseshoe crabs, Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, May 29, 2018

Breeding horseshoe crabs, Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, May 29, 2018

The video showing the horseshoe crabs coming to shore was filmed on May 29 at Plumb Beach, using the soundtrack of the waves. Also in the video are some clips from other beaches throughout the city where I've seen the shells of dead horseshoe crabs, which are beautiful in their own right. Our trip to Plumb Beach was led by Keith Michael of New York City WILD!

Horseshoe crabs have 10 legs, which they use to walk along the ocean floor. They have hard exoskeletons, and nine eyes spread throughout their bodies, plus light receptors near their tails, or telsons. These long, pointed telsons are not used to sting or poison, but to help the horseshoe crabs right themselves if waves push them on their backs.

Horseshoe crab at Marine Park, Brooklyn, May 24, 2018

Horseshoe crab at Marine Park, Brooklyn, May 24, 2018

When the horseshoe crabs were on their backs, rocking back and forth and using their tails to turn themselves over, we watched until we were sure they could right themselves. There were some times when the male and female crabs were both shell down, their legs moving in the air and seemingly without the ability to turn back over. At that point I gently turned the two over and they were able to move again.

Horseshoe crab, Plumb Beach. May 29

Horseshoe crab, Plumb Beach. May 29

A horseshoe crab attempts to right himself.

A horseshoe crab attempts to right himself.

The horseshoe crab eggs, tens of thousands of them, are a food source for fish, reptiles, and birds. About two weeks after the eggs are laid and fertilized, those that survive hatch into larval horseshoe crabs, which are tiny versions of the adults but without tails. These youngsters settle on the sandy bottom of tidal flats, where they grow and molt, shedding their exoskeletons and growing larger ones, as they move farther into the ocean depths. Once they become adults, roughly 10 years old, they begin the breeding process.

Watching the horseshoe crabs on Plumb Beach, May 29, with the New York City WILD! group

Watching the horseshoe crabs on Plumb Beach, May 29, with the New York City WILD! group

Horseshoe crab shell on the beach, 2017

Horseshoe crab shell on the beach, 2017

Orchids in Bloom

When I was growing up, my Dad loved to buy an orchid corsage, usually in a rich purple, for my Mom to wear on Eastern Sunday. She would look so beautiful wearing that corsage, while we proudly wore our corsages of pink baby rosebuds and carnations.

The Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 17, 2018

The Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 17, 2018

The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden this year featured installations by Daniel Ost and thousands of orchids held in the garden's permanent collection. It ran from March 3 through April 22, and I filmed the show on April 17. My four-hour stroll through the orchids resulted in a half-hour video, which I accompanied with music by Gabriel Fauré, Erik Satie and Léo Delibes.

The Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 17, 2018

The Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 17, 2018

Some of the orchids are identified in the video when they were labeled in the show. But most were filmed in the context of the installation, which combined so many varieties. You will see several corsage orchids in the video. When I saw them at the show, I felt my Mom standing next to me.

The photos were are taken on April 17. You can see more photos on my New York Botanical Garden page. According to the New York Botanical Garden, Orchidaceae is "the largest plant family on Earth."

Ducky, It's Cold Outside!

It has been really cold in New York since Christmas, and I've been going down to the 59th Street Pond to feed Woody and his buddies as the ice takes up more of their habitat, plus checking out the ducks and other waterfowl at the Reservoir in Central Park, and at the beaches at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and Great Kills on Staten Island. These birds seem so resilient in the freezing cold (although I have seen casualties, often the result of a duck or cormorant trying to land on the ice and breaking a leg).

Woody Wood Duck, Jan. 9, 2018, the Pond

Woody Wood Duck, Jan. 9, 2018, the Pond

Northern pintail and mallards, the Pond, Jan. 9

Northern pintail and mallards, the Pond, Jan. 9

I put together a video homage to the ducks, geese, gulls and other water birds I've seen during the cold weather. I call it Cold Ducks!!! and it's set to music by Debussy. It features hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks (including the only time I've seen one try to run on ice), a common loon, ring-billed gulls, buffleheads, greater scaup, herring gulls, Canada geese, wood ducks (Woody and his buddies at 59th Street, plus two at the Reservoir), long-tailed ducks (the first I've ever seen — a video of them to come soon!), ring-necked ducks (my second-favorite duck), mallards, northern pintail (Pinny), American coot, American black ducks, northern shovelers, great black-backed gulls, brant and red-breasted mergansers.

Below you can find a photo gallery of some of the cold ducks and other freezing birdies.

Hooded merganser on the Reservoir, Jan. 2

Hooded merganser on the Reservoir, Jan. 2

Northern pintail (Pinny) at the Pond, Jan. 9

Northern pintail (Pinny) at the Pond, Jan. 9

Ring-necked duck on the Reservoir, Jan. 9

Ring-necked duck on the Reservoir, Jan. 9

Ring-billed gull, Floyd Bennett Field, Jan. 10

Ring-billed gull, Floyd Bennett Field, Jan. 10

The photos below were taken Dec. 27 and 28, 2017, and Jan. 2, 3, 9 and 10, 2018: Canada geese, long-tailed duck, hooded merganser (female), wood duck (Woody's nephew), wood duck (back, at Reservoir), male and female ring-necked ducks, black ducks, great black-backed gulls, northern pintail, herring gulls, American coot (you can really see those great "fern feet"), red-breasted merganser, more black-backed gulls.