Published December 22, 2014
Tags: Brooklyn, Gowanus, Nantucket
Sea foam lapping along a bayside. This froth is created the agitation of dissolved salts, proteins, fats, dead algae, and other organic matter churning around in every ounce of sea water.Here it’s along a sheltered bay, which is probably full of organic (and, sadly, non-organic) run-off from the land and not subject to annihilating wave action by the direct ocean.And then there’s this, the foaming Gowanus. I don’t think I want to know what this is made of… and being sucked out into the bay by the tide.
Ἀφροδίτη: Aphrodite’s name comes from the word for “foam,” for she was, according to Hesiod, foam-born, from the gore caused by the flung genitals of Ouranos (Uranus, the sky), who was castrated by his son Kronos. Botticelli that! Kronos, the old charmer, would in turn eat his own children, except for Zeus, who was spirited away as a baby. Zeus would later lead his vomited-up siblings in revolt against Cronus and the other Titans, casting the giants into Tantalus. Oy, those Greeks! I bet you never saw any of this in a Disney cartoon.
Heading towards ‘Sconset on the Milestone Road will take you past the Middle Moors, which are nicknamed “the Serengeti” on Nantucket.This nickname is probably the result of too many nature documentaries and the lesson that they usually teach: nature exists somewhere else and is exotic, something to sit back and enjoy from your living room without having to put up with foreigners and suspect plumbing. In fact, though, these 400 acres are maintained in coastal heathland and sandplain grassland, both rare habitats on the island and elsewhere. This landscape is exotic enough and doesn’t need external referents, thank you very much.
Once sheep grazed this area, making sure nothing ever grew very high. Left untended by those Mesopotamian herbivores (bought in after whaling lost its preeminence for the island economy in the mid 19th century) or, now days, human wielding mowers and fire, the land would quickly become a dense scrub thicket. Habitats are always in flow. Why should we stop them? In this case it’s largely because of the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and some other invertebrate and plant species that make this rare habitat home. Did you catch that reference to “Mesopotamian herbivores”? I picked that up in George Monbiot’s Feral, where he rages against sheep as the “white plague,” an invasive species which has devoured the British Isles and remains the main obstacle to re-wilding. Monbiot argues persuasively, because he calls up the science, that the British Isles, particularly the wet western edges of Wales and Scotland, used to be lush rain forest. Temperate rain forest, like our Northwest, which often takes second place to the glories of tropical rain forest, but are just as rich and wonderful. (The skirts of Dartmoor felt like rainforest when I trod under them last year.)
This is a very interesting book. I will admit to be bogged down in the initial chapters where the author seemed to be in the midst of mid-life crisis and an urge to find his inner animal and challenge the elements. Written very well, but I can take that or leave it. But his ultimate point kept me through to the far more exciting later chapters: we need to re-wild, largely by letting it alone, our world.
Chinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, on Elvira’s window. Easily four inches long. This is a late summer classic, at least since 1896, when these Asian natives were first introduced into North America. There have been many introductions since, as these all-purpose predators will eat anything they can get their “preying” hands on; of course, that also means insects beneficial to your garden, too.
Hymenoptera, the insect order that includes the wasps, bees, and ants, are named after their “membrane wings.” But ants don’t have wings, at least not in the colony, where such appendages would get in the way. The reproductives, males and virgin queens, however, do have wings. The queens break their wings off after mating flights and start new colonies. The males, or drones, die off after their work is done. Last week, a subtle glittering in the grass caught my eye. It was this colony all a-flutter.
Published April 9, 2013
Tags: flowers, Nantucket
Primroses, although they don’t seem so prim to me. Genus Primula, much hybridized. Picture take last week; an early bloomer indeed. A native of western Eurasia, these are in the garden of another native of western Eurasia.
The familiar caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), better known as the Wooly Bear. We usually run into these in the fall, around the time of the first frosts, often crossing the road. (Why did the Wooly Bear cross the road?) But they have several generations a year on the East Coast, and this inch-long specimen may be the first of the spring. Or it could be one that has over-wintered.
As with all elaborately patterned caterpillars, the coloring here suggests this might not be so good for you. Warning, warning! Caterpillars not so defensive opt for camouflage. Some people are allergic to the hairs, or setae, of this species.
Seen earlier this week on Lover’s Lane, Nantucket. Why did the Wooly Bear cross Lover’s Lane?
Published January 13, 2013