Posts Tagged 'Brooklyn Bridge Park'

Young Snap

Chelydra serpentinaFour, count ’em four, Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta) were basking in the tiny, northernmost pond on Pier One at Brooklyn Bridge Park the other day. Fools keep releasing these invasive, potentially disease-carrying pet-trade animals. Some do it for religious (!) reasons! The effects of all this can be seen in the water course in Prospect Park. There were three dozen RES basking recently in the Pools. (I once counted 70 in the Lullwater.) Two Painted Turtles,a species native to the region, were seen among the most recent crowd, but the real discovery this day was this young Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).Chelydra serpentina I’ve seen snappers as little as a silver dollar and as big as a Fiat — no, make that a minibus — but not in-between, at least here in Brooklyn. Glad to see there are other generations in the mix. Chelydra serpentinaThe carapace (top shell) was about 6″ long. Snappers aren’t normally a basking species — but the winter was cold! — which is why it’s hard to say how many young ones there are in the park.

Let ’em rip

Populus deltoidesEastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides).Populus deltoides

AesculusAnd these Aesculus buds.AesculusLike lipsticks against the sky.

Podophyllum peltatumAnd down in the leaf litter: Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum).

AmelanchierAmelanchier. Time for the shad to blow.

Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensisBloodroot. What a name, eh? Sanguinaria canadensis has blood-red sap. (The “root” is actually a rhizome.) The sap has historically been used as a dye and for medicinal purposes. Sanguinaria canadensisThey emerge enveloped by the leaf, then shoot above this protective cloak before opening.
Sanguinaria canadensisLook for these on sunny days when they offer their pollen to early-spring fliers. At night and on overcast days, the flowers close.

Hepatica

Anemone americanaA single blooming Anemone in the leaf litter. But more are on the way.

Some interesting taxonomic issues raised by this one: The genus name for this spring ephemeral used to be Hepatica and some still think it is. Hepatica, meanwhile, is used as the common name; it’s also called Liverleaf or Liverwort. I’m not sure which species, A. americana or A. acutiloba, this particular one is (or is that H. american or H. acutiloba)? [I’m taking this info from Carol Gracie’s Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast.]

Longleaf

Pinus palustrisI’m becoming obsessed with Pinus palustris, the longleaf pine that once covered 92 million acres of the southeast from Maryland to Texas, but now exists in only a handful of preserves. I’ve not seen it in its natural state, only as old lumber repurposed. That’s a piece of it above, one of the benches at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I wrote about the strange coincidence of that wood being in my neighborhood for Humans & Nature. Here, with more pictures, are a couple of things I wrote when the picnic tables were new (again): Grain of the Universe and Against the grain.
UnknownA friend lent me her copy of Longleaf As Far as the Eye Can See where I learned much more about the trees and their world. Longleaf savannah is some of the richest habitat in the world: one survey at Fort Bragg (vast military bases have preserved the habitat, first by default and now by recognition that they couldn’t have a better place as a training ground) found 500 species of flowering plants per square kilometer. A square meter may hold 50-60 species. Some 30 genera are endemic to longleaf forests, which are really meadows, savannas, prairies. In comparison, the entire Appalachian province, with all its magnificence of trees and wildflowers, supports a (known) total of 2 endemic genera.

This longleaf savannah woodland is an evolutionary adaptation to fire — the region has some of the highest concentration of thunderstorms. The trees can grow for centuries, through firestorm after firestorm (since long before indigenous Americans used fire as their preeminent technology). They do not grow as massively as hardwoods, though: one profiled tree, for instance, nearing its 400th year, has a diameter of 14″. And it is still growing: according to the tale of its rings, it put on more girth between 1917-37 than it had in its previous hundred. These are trees that just get into their stride after a century or more.

It’s the older trees that have red heart fungus, which softens the heartwood. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers favor these for their cavity nests, which take a while to make and which they re-use. The destruction of over 95% of the wooded savannah has consequently meant these birds are on the Endangered Species List. Another fascinating connection is the high incidence of carnivorous plant species that make their home in bogs within the longleafs. “There are few other places on earth where so many plants have, in so many wonderful and diverse ways, restorted to the consumption of meat.”

Winter Work

oneA bare patch in the snow finds Starlings, Robin, and White-thoated Sparrow rooting in the leaf litter. Snow cover definitely makes it harder to find seeds and invertebrates.Zonotrichia albicollisHere’s one of the White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis). This species comes in two forms: this is the white-striped, with the strong white stripe along the forehead. Zonotrichia albicollisThis is the tan-striped. This particularly bird flew here:fiveYou can see its footprints leading into this temporary cave created by the snow-bent grasses. I didn’t see the bird emerge the minute or so I watched.

Turdus migratoriusSnowy feet, muddy beak.

The Bear and Me

I wrote this essay for Humans and Nature on the resonances of William Faulkner’s “The Bear” right here in Brooklyn, a long way and a long time since the “big woods” of the south. But there are actual remnants of those lost big woods just down the street from where I live, which got me thinking. I believe readers of B & B will be intrigued by my thoughts over at H & N.


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