Raptor Wednesday

American Kestrels, who seem to think it may be breeding season already.

The big antenna at 40th St. and 5th Avenue, a long block away from our apartment, hosts these raptors as well as the occasional Red-tailed Hawk and Merlin. Lousy photos because it’s so damn far away, and now that it’s winter the spotting scope is much distorted by the heat pouring out the windows when they’re opened.

Some bonus Red-tailed Hawks. If I don’t see one or two a day, even when I don’t go outside (this last one is photographed through the window), then something’s wrong somewhere. This last one also has a full crop–has been dining on rat, squirrel, or pigeon perhaps.


The pods of the American Sweetgum are quite distinctive.*
There were at least a dozen American Goldfinches in this Sweetgum the other day. I could hear the seeds from the pods raining down on the leaves on the ground.

The contents of a pod. You will note that there are winged seeds here and other bits. These other bits are infertile seeds. This source: “The infertile seeds found in each of the sweet gum’s compound seed capsules are a naturally occurring source of shikimic acid, one of the main ingredients in the manufacture of Tamiflu.”

Winter birds, especially finches, flock over the pods to prize out these tidbits.

Plantphobes despair of the seed pods, believing they’re messy and dangerous, but the resin is famous. It’s the source of the binomial Liquidambar styraciflua, which is a bit redundant: the words mean liquid amber and flowing gum.

*Caveat on that “quite distinctive” — Green-Wood does have at least three Liquidambar acalycina, a tree native to China. On Thursday, I will compare these two species…

Mammal Monday

Leaf-fall reveals the drays, the summer homes of our Eastern Gray Squirrels. (Yes, that’s a big broken branch balanced up there.)
Almost tripped over the rocks thrown out of this Groundhog hole. Leaned recently that Groundhogs and Possums sometimes share dens.

Raven Roll

Raven barrel-roll. Yes, the bird seems to upside down for a moment of sky bliss.
Lots of good views of the distinctive wedge-shaped tail of the Common Raven with this bird flying around me. This is the best way to distinguish this species from American and Fish Crows.

Sunday is fund day.


Two different varieties of Common Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), the autumn bloomer.

Flowers, seed pods, and, in the foreground, Spiny Witch-Hazel Gall Aphid (Hamamelistes spinosus).

Are There Any Leftovers?

Pumpkin pie for breakfast.

American Sycamore

Happy Thanksgiving.

Raptor Wednesday

Atop Green-Wood’s old Chapel.
Atop the large antenna at 40th St. and 5th Avenue.

Photographs taken the same day. There is about a mile distance between these two spots. Is this the same pair? I don’t think so. The pairs both have great fidelity to their territory.

Meanwhile, here’s a male on Governors Island
Two days later on Governors Island, just a hundred yards away, but this one sure looks like a completely different male. Much more heavily spotted, less russet.
And here’s my first Merlin sighting of the season.

New Moths

Bicolored Sallow (Sunira bicolorago)
Bent-lined Carpet (Costaconvexa centrostrigari)
Ipsilon Dart (Agrotis ipsilon)
Gray Looper Moth (Rachiplusia ou).

All seen since October 31.

Mammal Monday

Squirrel in the hole! The base of this huge beech spreads all over the place, as shallow-rooted beeches are wont to do, and the convolution here makes for a cavity that fills with water. Voila! A watering-hole.


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