Posts Tagged 'mammals'

Persimmon Bandit

Yesterday’s pictured Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) were not quite ripe. Here’s another: Diospyros virginianaLooks ripe, but it’s still pretty hard. And they really have to be smushy soft to eat. Then they are perfumed and delicious. But bite too soon and you’ll get a mouthful of astringent tannins that you’ll rue all day long. Bleagh! Funny thing, though, there never seem to be many ripe ones. Could be bipedal foragers, of course, but I suspect that the four-legged are busy as well with this bounty. We’ve got Raccoons, Woodchuck, and:possumThis Oppossum (Didelphis virginiana) is immortalized in an American Museum of Natural History diorama. It’s going after the fruits, although they look mighty unripe here, but then it is supposed to be getting dark in this scene.

American Persimmon is also known as Possumwood in some parts of the country. And the animals seems to be disseminators of the tree, since the seeds survive the fantastic voyage through their intestinal tracks.


IMG_4379I was surprised to see one of the best birding spots in Green-Wood Cemetery shaved down to the bone recently. This was an impenetrable thicket along the flank of the hill overlooking the Sylvan Water, perfect for songbirds and woodchuck.

Two woodchuck dens are exposed here now, but then most of the cemetery’s dens are out in the open, not buried behind dense underbrush. There’s very little underbrush in Green-Wood: it is, after all, a garden cemetery. This is why, in general, it is not as good bird habitat as Prospect Park, which has more woodlands and understory. Many birds like to forage at the edges of woodlands, which they can retreat to when threatened. I was watching some sparrows, grass specialists, and noting how they kept inside or just at the edge of a shadow of a tree, making them harder to see.

In Green-Wood recently, I counted five separate woodchuck dens. I only saw one of whistle-pigs, though.Marmota monax

Marmota monax

Marmota monaxA week later, another sighting, this one rather smaller. One of this year’s crop? It looked at us and moseyed behind a large tree.

Union Sq Squrl


The Way of All Flesh

IMG_4143The other day I wondered what our Common Ravens are eating. They are greatly attracted to carrion; but how much carrion is found in New York City? This young Raccoon was gone the next day: presumably staff cleaned it away. The natural process of decomposition had already begun. Scavenger wasps and flies that lay their eggs on carrion were at work. IMG_4145Granted, this may gross some people out; but without these insects, without all the other carrion-phages, the bacteria, insects, birds, mammals, we would be neck-high in corpses.

Brooklyn: It’s Not Just for Hipsters

Marmota monaxA parent and young Woodchuck/Groundhog (Marmota monax). Marmota monaxHere’s the youngster, perhaps 2/3rds the size of the adult, who is presumably the mother as males visit burrows to mate but don’t stay around. Both animals were mowing through the grasses, then this one found a nut or fruit. They are eating-machines this time of year, fattening up for winter hibernation in the ample hills — but not as ample as they used to be — of Brooklyn. Chelydra serpentinaA big old Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).Chelydra serpentinaGiving me the beady eye. The length of neck here is arm-like, hence the serpentina. I’ll be damned if I know how a) this big reptile survives in this little pond, and b) how it gets out, which I doubt it can do, since the wall surrounding it is about 3 feet high.
Archilochus colubrisA Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), look closer, maneuvers for a drink.

All in Brooklyn, and on an afternoon’s walk.

In Da Bronx


Franklinia alatamahaFranklinia in bloom. What a scrumptious flower! And the bees agree. (All of today’s trees are descendants from seeds collected by William Bartram in the 1760s. The plant is unknown in the wild.) Sylvilagus floridanusOn the mammal front, Cottontail and Chipmunk and Gray Squirrel.IMG_3877In addition to the frog, a Garter Snake crossed our path, and a couple of the elusive Italian Fence Lizards were seen (more on these anon).IMG_3829See the exuvia? AsclepiasPurple Milkweed Asclepias purpurea. IMG_3838

Strange Cries in the Night

The other day, I woke up at 4:44 a.m. to a weird sound in the backyard. It was just about time for the local Northern Cardinal to start up with his “what-cheers,” the regular crack-of-dawn soundtrack around here since way back in late winter, but this was nothing I’ve ever heard before and if it was a bird it was in very bad shape. It wasn’t at all human, but it sure sounded like distress. Like a screechy toy being tortured by a cat sick to death of the damned dog’s stuff. Or perhaps like a Republican who had built a career on fulminating against sex and was suddenly caught in the act of doing it.

I turned on the outside light: in the corner were two Raccoons: parent and cub. I suppose the youngster had gotten into the cul-de-sac of a yard and couldn’t figure a way to get out and so set off wailing. The parent mouthed the cub by the scruff of the neck and took it to the stairs leading to the upstair’s neighbor’s balcony. They continued upstairs, caterwauling all the while.

This was the first time I’ve seen a Raccoon here, although I’ve seen plenty elsewhere in the borough — clambering down the Union St. Bridge towards the Gowanus for instance. I wonder if the empty building next door is where they hang?


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