Mighty Elm

elm1An enormous American Elm (Ulmus americana) crowding a yard on 44th Street near 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park. The old giant took us by surprise: the neighborhood still suffers from the blight of highway above 3rd Avenue, a product of the 1940s and a wretched vision of a promised land of highways to segregated suburbs. Ulmus americanaThe massive bole towers up in the vase-shaped habit characteristic of the species, dwarfing the home it graces. It was hard to get a photographic grip on it because of its height. I wonder what its story is? Who planted it, and when?Ulmus americanaLooking from the opposite, farther end of the block, downhill from 4th Avenue: the taller, darker green is the canopy of our specimen.

I assume its isolation from others of its species has protected it from Dutch elm disease, a fungal infection inadvertently spread by a bark beetle. The damned fungus has killed off many of the great elms in our cities and towns. I recently walked along 3rd Street in Park Slope and remembered another giant U. americana that was there when I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago. There is no sign of it now.

We are in the midst of the latest city street tree census, Trees Count!2015 This noble life form, however, is not a street tree…

Great Swamp

Great SwampIt’s already been two five weeks since we visited Great Swamp NWR. Great SwampSo these pictures are really out of date in the rapid advance of spring.IMG_1788For instance, whatever was holed in here may have emerged by now.

Irises Now



Raptor Wednesday

Falco peregrinusYou can eyeball the birds at the Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ, pretty closely, albeit through fencing and netting. A Peregrine (Falco peregrinus). Falco sparveriusAmerican Kestrel (Falco sparverius). The animals on display aren’t releasable, but many of the birds bought here for rehabilitation are returned to the wild. Cathartes auraTurkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). The facility, surrounded by Great Swamp NWR, operates on a minimal budget, so you may want to consider donating to their good work.


IMG_1877This larval critter was snapping and bucking in the water. IMG_1887Because it clearly had places to go. Or something to become.IMG_1892


Butorides virescensGreen Heron (Butorides virescens) sitting on eggs out over the water. Hirundo rusticaIt rare to see Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) on the ground. These were stuffing their bills full of mud for their cup nests. Talk about the importance of varied habitats and general all-around messiness! This is a patch where the stone border of the Lullwater has completely disappeared, creating a small, but richly goopy mud beach thick with organic muck: it was so important for them that they landed just a few feet away from us repeatedly to get more.Hirundo rusticaThere are no barns here, but the underside of bridges will do nicely.Troglodytes aedonA House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), between choruses of his mighty song. Right next to his nest, which, fittingly for a bird named for its association with human structures, is in the back end of a street lamp housing.

Snout’s Up

Chelydra serpentinaSmall-to-medium-sized Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) peeking from the Duckweed and algae atop the perhaps deceptively named Lullwater in Prospect today.

Update: On second thought, and thoughtful suggestion, this is probably just another Red-eared Slider. All that yellow in the chin wouldn’t be on a Snapping T.


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  • "There the politician has come to be looked upon as the very scum of society." ~ Kropotkin analyzing America in 1890. 39 minutes ago
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