I saw my second Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of the year today. This was my first in Brooklyn; in Brooklyn Bridge Park, feeding on Joe-Pye Weed (Spotted JPW, I believe, Eupatorium maculatum).
As you probably know, we have done quite a number on this spectacular species, through deforestation in Mexico, reducing its food crops further north in the U.S., and poisoning its habitat everywhere; such blows make them even more susceptible to external pressures, like severe weather, in particular the drought in Texas (“external” if you don’t count our carbon-dirty hands in disrupting traditional weather patterns through global warming).
Here are some graphs of the shocking declines and here’s an interview with a biologist whose entire professional career has been about them disappearing. There’s nothing personal, of course, in this drive to extinguish one more species; we’ve done it to the whole planet, and even ourselves.
Can you do anything to keep this remarkable animal, which has a multi-generational, continent-spanning migration, around for your grandchildren? You can plant milkweed, stop the wide-spread poisoning of the environment through herbicides and pesticides, and drive less.. say what? The field-to-field cropping of corn to meet the ethanol demand means that “weedy” edges have been plowed under. We must all change our lives.
I was enjoying the life above the Duckweed (Lemnaceae) recently, marveling that I’ve never seen so many Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).There were also a few Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), making more Blue Dashers.A damselfly of unknown provenance was depositing eggs.
And then, along the edge of the lake, some disturbance from below. There was an agitated simmering, not quite bubbling. I wondered what it might be. Then, rising, a mass of little black fish, tightly clumped together at the surface, swarming over each other, some half out of the water momentarily. They were feasting on something. The individual fish visible on the edges of this mass had serious whiskers, barbels, making me think of some kind of catfish. What the hell, I took the plunge.I’m taking a semi-wild guess that these are Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas); what do you think?The barbels are flush to the sides here.As an added benefit of my open-handed catch and release, the underside of the Duckweed, some of the smallest flowering plants anywhere, is revealed as purple.
Published July 1, 2014
Tags: Brooklyn, plants
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) in exuberant fuzziness.
Published June 17, 2014
Tags: Brooklyn, flowers, plants
The flowers of sumac (genus Rhus) are astonishingly small.
Published June 14, 2014
Tags: Brooklyn, galls, insects, plants
A few more from Maine. Here’s Low-bush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) in flower. I’m mad for those little Maine blueberries, which I get frozen and eat all winter.Starflower (Trientalis borealis).Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), a wildflower relation of Dogwood.Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) needs to be revealed. Hiding its light under a bushel. This is a plant I’ve never run across locally, and more is the pity.A lichen? Red-belted or banded polyphore (Fomitopsis pinicola).A fine example of witch’s broom, whereby something (fungi, insects, mites, nematodes, viruses, etc. are all possibilities) causes the plant to grow wildly thusly. They are variations on the principal of the gall: another life form hijacking the plant’s own growth systems. In this case, the intruding element interferes with the hormone that limits bud growth, and the tree goes wild.
Published May 26, 2014
Tags: plants, Texas
10* yesterday. This is one of four American Robins who were scouring the Sumac berries. Not all Robins head south for the winter. These could also be birds from further north, this their south. Wintering Robins tend to flock and change their dietary habits, since there are few earthworms to be had now.