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Frog, Rock, Turtle

IMG_3716This downward-facing turtle was king of the hill.IMG_3724This frog wanted a piece of the action.IMG_3722And this was one determined frog.IMG_3723It made several attempts to…well, what, exactly? Dislodge the turtle? In theory, the right amount of force applied to the fulcrum here should have knocked off the much larger turtle. IMG_3736But the turtle’s steadying feet made for an impregnable bastion.IMG_3728Meanwhile, and this was somebody else’s storyline, a young House Sparrow landing on all the nearby rocks and the other basking turtles briefly landed here. The turtle seemed to pay no more heed to this than it did the kamikaze frog.IMG_3730A state of equilibrium? IMG_3719But wait. Another rock. Another turtle. Another frog.IMG_3720

A Better Way To Plant

Green-WoodThis patch of native meadow in Green-Wood Cemetery was a revelation on a recent afternoon when it was absolutely pulsing with life as numerous species of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps, and beetles gathered pollen and nectar and munched on plants and each other. Green-WoodI gather it’s an experiment. I hope it thrives, and that those burying their dead here and elsewhere see the relevance and importance of such landscaping and start demanding it. The old-fashioned lawn of a cemetery is no more conducive to life than a suburban lawn and comes from a similar era and ideology. But if you do decide to go the burial route, forest burial and meadow burial should be options for an age with much more concern for ecology and fostering habitats. Sure, direct access to a tombstone is made more difficult, if not impossible, in this kind of situation, for relatives. So I assume that family members had to give permission for this, if there were still any on record for this crowd. And yet what a beautiful thing to visit: flowers in bloom through the summer, grasses heavy with seed in the fall, winter’s stubby potential. While we were there, the animals were buzzing as a breeze blew up the Harbor Hill Moraine and cicadas and Mockingbirds staked out their territory.
meadowSuch a difference from the fake flowers often stuck in front of graves. meadowmeadow7

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Diabrotica undecimpunctataDiabrotica undecimpunctata on Liatris.

Meadowview

monarch

Tadpoles

tadpolesOne of the unexpected sights during our walk along the Northumberland Coast Path was this (tidal?) pool full of what we thought were Common Toad (Bufo bufo) tadpoles. Surprising because this was brackish water at best, if not fully the brine of the nearby North Sea. Bufo bufoIt seems, though, that they can tolerate a certain amount of salt. And they are not the only amphibians to do so. I found this abstract of a journal article that provides a “review of the literature of amphibians in saline waters and present data on 144 species, in 28 families, on every continent except Antarctica. In doing so, we make the case that salt tolerance in amphibians may not be as rare as generally assumed.” IMG_3017Speaking of salt tolerance: near the tad-pools were some clumps of Glaux maritima, which seems to have more common names than you can shake a tadpole at, including, in the UK, Sea Milkwort. Found across the northern hemisphere, on coasts and high-elevation alkaline meadows.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Sympetrum vicinumAn immature or teneral male Sympetrum vicinum in Green-Wood. Sympetrum vicinumWhen mature, this small dragonfly will be a beautiful shade of red, and a representative of one of the few dragonfly species to be seen locally into October. The yellow-legs will stay this color: an alternate common name is Yellow-legged Meadowhawk. Sympetrum vicinumHaving recently emerged from its larval stage, probably in the nearby Valley Water, this young adult had to harden up its exoskeleton and wings before flying. It’s probably still getting used to flight, and was very nonchalant about my phone pointing at it.The teneral stage lasts about a week as the animal gets its mature coloring. Here’s what they look like mature.

Gather Ye Terns While You May

Sterna hirundoGather in the optical sense, of course. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) have been breeding in New York Harbor for the last few years, a new and exciting development in a world where the environmental/ecological news is usually bad. They use the abandoned piers on Governor’s Island, with some help from friendly bipeds (cf. NYC Audubon) who have been spreading gravel to make the nesting sites more welcoming. (One must also assume there are not so many feral cats on GI. Ground nesters are particularly vulnerable to the plague of feral cats infesting the nation.) The birds, old and young, will be heading south within a month or so; the adults are also in the process of losing this striking breeding plumage. So enjoy them along the harbor edges while you can for this season.

If your binomial senses are tingling over the scientific name of this species, you probably recall that several swallow species are in the genus Hirundo, which is Latin for swallow. Sterna is simply Latin for tern; so this is a “tern swallow,” no doubt because of the swallow-like forked tail, which is actually more pronounced in some other tern species.


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