Posts Tagged 'Prospect Park'

Step into my funnel

funnel1Appropriation of the unnatural: this fence post has been taken over by what I think is a sheet-web building grass spider of the genus Agelenopsis. Note the funnel descending into the post. That’s where she hangs out. funnel2I picked up a leaf and gently tapped the other end of the webbing, which brought her out alert and curious. About 1.25″ long.


Sciurus carolinensisSciurus carolinensis.Sciurus carolinensis


Insect-summer is over. But last week I was in Prospect Park and saw masses of dragonflies over the Butterfly Meadow, in a patch of the Nethermead, and then in two clusters along the Long Meadow. They all seemed to be Common Green Darners, the large migrating species. And they were hunting on the wing. Gnats, for want of a better description, filled the air.

And hunting for the dragonflies, a Kestrel, swooping in great deep arcs before briefly perching way up on a tree-top.falco


dreyA large clump of leaves in the branches of a tree is often mistaken for a bird nest. It’s actually a drey, or squirrel nest. More specifically, it’s a summer nest. Winter will find them squirreled away in warmer, sturdier spots, like your attic.
Quiscalus quisculaThis Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), helping to perpetuate the impression that this is a bird’s nest, was rooting around in the leaves, which had no doubt attracted various invertebrates over the months.

My Shorter OED and Webster’s 3rd both throw up their hands on the origins of “drey,” which may also be spelled “dray.” The OED has it going back to the early 17th century. Also, it should be noted that, given English’s often multipurpose flexibility, there are no other definitions for the word.

Update: I am in error. See comments. THere is another definition for dray.

Seen on recent saunters

FagusBeech nuts and the pods they come in on. bumblestump1At another beech tree, this time a stump, some funky fungus.I like the way one of these “organ pipe” mud-dauber-wasp nests follows the arch here. Colaptes auratus
leavesIt will be some months before we see the trees this leafy again.

A Bumper Buckeye Crop

Aesculus flavaThere is a single old Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava) on the edge of the Long Meadow. I walked by on Tuesday, wondering if there might be any of the big seeds, or buckeyes, still around, or yet to fall. Well, I hit the jackpot. There were many and they had just fallen, so they were plump and gorgeously colored. They’ll darken, fade, and shrivel soon enough, so enjoy them now.

Yellow Buckeyes are native to southern Appalachia. We don’t have to many up here; they don’t even rate on entry in New York City Trees. Much more common are the Common Horsechestnut (A. hippocastanum), a native of Eurasia, and the Red Horsechestnut, a hybrid between the Horsechestnut and the Red Buckeye.

While the seeds — buckeyes, conkers — look very similar, the larger Yellow Buckeyes have fleshy, smooth pods that tend to decay quickly, while Horsechestnut pods are spiky and dry to hard little cases. Aesculus flavaThe buck’s eyes?

Sympetrum Meadowhawks

Sympertrum vicinumThe red meadowhawk dragonflies are difficult to identify in the field, since several members of the genus Sympetrum look rather similar.Sympetrum vicinumBut I figured these out because of the legs. These are Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum), in some sources called Yellow-legged; other meadowhawks have black legs. They’re small: 1.3″ long. Sympetrum vicinumTheir colors, especially the bright males, rival fall’s leaves.Sympetrum vicinum“Typically the last species on the wing northern climes,” says the Stokes guide, although it was a balmy 80 when I ran into them in Green-Wood this weekend.


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