Raptor Week I

Accipiter cooperiiCooper’s Hawk. Accipiter cooperii. William C. Cooper’s hawk. The species was named in his honor by Charles Lucien Bonaparte. Cooper was a conchologist and founder of what became the New York Academy of Sciences. Bonaparte was a Bonaparte, a nephew of the Emperor, and an ornithologist who explored the U.S. in the 1820s. You can’t name a life-form after yourself… you can’t name them at all, really, but it’s a convenient fiction.
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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here’s his “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.” In it King defends the non-violent strategy of resistance to segregation and racism in response to some white clergy who complained that he was breaking the law.

A Week of Raptors

raptorHow about some raptors? Let’s start with this mosaic in the 81st St. subway station, one of a large series illustrating some of the breadth of the American Museum of Natural History. (You can actually enter the museum from underground there.) It’s very much worth a MetroCard swipe to explore both platforms, which are stacked one above the other. The lower level, downtown-bound, is full of life-size dinosaur fossil-reproductions. I love trailing my fingers across those old ribs. But I digress.

That’s a Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) above, isn’t it? I’ve never seen one in the wild. In the U.S., they’re found only in the open marshes of central Florida, and in rather small numbers. As their name suggests, they’re snail eaters. An invasive snail, larger than their usual prey, may be adding to their difficulties.
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If history is any judge… a case for optimism in the storm by Corey Robin.

Calyces

Diospyros virginianaThe calyx of the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is this beautiful cross shape. Diospyros virginianaA few stay on the tree as the fruits come down, but most fall with the fruit. Diospyros virginianaThere’s still some fruit on the trees. Most of it, though, is on the ground, and some of that is well beyond eating stage. We need more possums!

(My intelligence community tells me that the “Date Plum” Asian persimmon (D. lotus) at NYBG holds onto its calyces, giving the tree a tiny-star-studded look.)

Wigeon And All

Anas americanaAn American Wigeon (Anas americana) and American Black Duck (Anas rubripes).

The other day a commentor here bemoaned the intrusion of ideas into his refined quest for pictures of nature. Those who refuse to make the connection between politics and the natural world, or what there is of it, are a monstrous problem.

From the beginning this blog has been inspired by Henry David Thoreau. You can read posts I’ve written about him here. This is the 200th anniversary of the year of his birth. I am committed to honoring his great legacy of acute natural history observation and his politics. They were inseparable.

Stay tuned for more HDT200, including a new book by my friend Kevin Dann, Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau, just outAs you can imagine, this is going to be a banner year for ol’ Henry. March sees Thoreau’s Animals, by another friend, Geoff Wisner. In April: Thoreau and the Language of Trees, by Richard Higgins is being published. In July: Laura Dassow Walls’ Henry David Thoreau: A Life. I’m sure there are others….

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A reminder, as if you needed it, by Michael Tomasky, of just how bad Trump’s gang of bigots, kleptocrats, and authoritarians promise to be.

Taking a lesson from the McCarthy era, this historian of that lamentable period surveys the future. The fiercely reactionary politics of Trumpism may try to resurrect “many of [McCarthyism’s] techniques and objectives. After all, the new regime relies on the same kind of right-wing forces.” In the case of the Koch brothers, a direct line to their father, who was one of the founders of the lunatic fringe John Birch Society.

Yikes!

caterpillarAnother detail from Audubon’s BoA. I’ve read that JJA had help with the plants in some of his paintings. But what about insects like this one?

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Gosh, this is rude. But bracing: the Rude Pundit begs to differ with this notion that we should respect the half-assed, conspiracy-addled, anti-intellectual ignorance of GOP-voting fools.

Raptor Wednesday

Accipiter cooperiiA Cooper’s Hawk on a winter’s day. JJAudubonHere’s Audubon’s rendition. Normally, I find JJ’s birds on the strangely attenuated side, longer and skinnier than they are, probably a result in his pinning up their dead bodies to illustrate them. But I like his capturing of the patterning on the back here very much.

Another thing I like is Mike Davis, a great American radical. LA has always been his beat, but he has much else to say. This interview in retirement gives a flavor.

Last call: my illustrated lecture at the fantastic Brooklyn Brainery is tonight at 8:30.

Rotten Wood

img_2117Here’s a guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up. Those Augean Stables need a power-cleaning.


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