In The Kingdom of Kinglets

Golden-crowned Kinglets were raining down on the city this week. This one got to within two feet of my shoes hopping and flitting and carrying on, while half a dozen others worked over the ground and branches of some ornamental cherries. Their calls are like whispers.Regulus satrapa, the little king ruler: a bit redundant? Not hardly at all. One of our smallest birds. (I couldn’t capture such busy-ness with my old camera. GoFundMe in action!) This one is showing some of the actual orange crown. Most of these little kings are passing through for points further south. In the Appalachia north, into Maine, they’ll stick around all year, but they generally don’t hang out in NYC for the winter.But they do pass through. Sadly, a new glass monster on the corner of 110 St (Central Park North) and Frederick Douglass Blvd is threshing these tiny migratory marvels out of the sky. They smash into the reflective glass. Down at Columbus Circle, another building on a corner of Central Park is taking a toll of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, also flowing through now. It’s 2018, and unconscionable that architects and developers around parks aren’t taking the lethality of some types of glass into account. New Yorkers can report window-strike birds here and find out more about NYC Audubon’s Project Safe Flight.


Tongue-of-a-skipper — my new all-purpose exclamation — but some of the Hesperiidae family of critters are hard to identify. The ones that perch with wings half-cocked, looking like jet fighters, are the folded-wing type in the Hesperiinae subfamily, the grass skippers.

Wings are more moth-like than butterfly-like; antennae are generally hooked. They just don’t really want to be in either camp. Here, by the way, the tongue is curled up and out of the way.


To be absolutely honest with you, I could follow the sounds of nuthatches all day long, from tree to tree. You won’t always see them as they scurry about pines and hardwoods searching nooks and crannies, but they pack a lot of voice in their small bodies. What they’re looking for in the crevices of bark and cones: larvae, spiders, nuts, seeds. The “hatching” part of their name comes from their tendency to take larger foodstuffs and chisel them open or into smaller pieces by wedging them into the bark and whacking away with their bills.This is an irruption year for Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), meaning they should be around all winter. Here’s what they sound like.The White-breasted (Sitta carolinensis) pictured here was patrolling the trunk of a large tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), which was also alight with warblers. This is one of those species that will join in mixed flocks, especially in winter. Here’s what they sound like.The Red-breasted is smaller than the White-breasted. This one is almost lost amid the walnuts. This one flew into a cherry tree I was standing under. It was no more than a foot from my face for a few seconds.They’re even smaller up close.

Both the Red and the White are found in most of the U.S. Two other species grace narrower ranges. The Pygmy Nuthatch is found in the coniferous forests of the west. The Brown-headed Nuthatch is found in the piney woods of the southeastern coastal plain, from the Delmarva peninsula south.


Same patch, same day.Crab spider lurking…

Another generation of something arthropod…

Mammal/Mushroom Combo Monday

A melanistic variation on the ubiquitous Eastern Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. These darker ones are said to tolerate colder weather better. Another notion has it that urban environments, with less predators, are also more likely to see greater numbers of both black and white variations of S. carolinensis. Our first example is digging up a nut or berry, but these squirrels are so successful because they’re practically omnivorous. The leftover-monger with snout in the hazelnut spread is from 2015 in Prospect Park. Besides scavenging our ample waste-food, gathering seeds, nuts, and fruits, and the occasional invertebrate and even vertebrate, they also eat mushrooms. Not sure if the small, tentative bite marks here, however, are squirrel. This mushroom was found in Green-Wood, which interestingly doesn’t have as high a density of squirrels as Prospect Park or the botanical garden in the Bronx (first picture).

The Overstory

“What use are we, to trees?”

Richard Powers’s novel begins with Roots, separate stories, capsule biographies. These are illustrated at chapter start with leaves of the trees prominent in each story. In one case the tree isn’t named, since the character is oblivious to this tree, but the description is more than suggestive and the unique leaves starting the chapter, as in some medieval tome, confirm it. Of course, this tree comes to play another role later.

While this reader was wondering how all these roots would all come together, on or about page 131, things start jumping. The next section “Trunk” is separated by the crosscut ornament illustrated on the title page. (Another dingbat! Shall we call this one a… dendron?) But this is fiction, and I will reveal no more than the question I came away with: what use are we to the trees, or the oceans, or the atmosphere? Some of the beginnings of answers in the book are profoundly thought-provoking.

So, what are we to do? Particularly in light of the latest UN climate report, which warns of dire consequences within two decades. Two decades! This is not climate change, it’s climate breakdown, and it’s already occurring. The IPCC report, remember, is by its very nature conservative, watered-down and consensus-driven: these are not radicals by any means.

I’ll be a septuagenarian if I make it to 2040. Most of the children of friends will only be in their twenties or early thirties. Damn, I’m so old I remember when we had centuries or at least a century, before really bad things were going to happen. When cautious scientists said such and such was of only of the extreme probability. Now some of those things –the end of Arctic ice, the death of coral reefs (among many other devastations to the sea), the undermining of West Antarctica– are virtually yesterday’s news. One of the best advocacy groups fighting against increasing CO2,, started in 2008. They named themselves after the goal of keeping CO2 in the atmosphere under 350 parts per million. It’s now 405 ppm.

Actually, I have to admit to being a worst-case scenario-ist from the get-go. I don’t think this is pessimism on my part.

“What is to be done?” The crises of the present, never mind the coming hellscape of geo-political draught/flooding/mass migration, seem to have already thrown us into the era of “Climate Behemoth.” Neo-fascist, demagogic, the last orgy of plutocracy as it holds democracy down and chokes it.

Bay Co. Florida, where Panama City is, voted 71% for Trump.

One Giant Spreadwing

The largest damselfly in the Northeast is a Southwestern species that has been expanding its range our way for the last century. The Giant Spreadwing Archilestes grandis can be up to 2.4″ long, as big as a medium-sized dragonfly. I spotted two males in the Bronx and had a very hard time getting a usable image. (Previous to getting my new camera: there’s always next year… one hopes.) Studied them intently through the binoculars, however: highlights include the bright blue eyes and wide yellow stripe on the thorax.

Someone posted a picture of a pair mating at this location on iNaturalist two days previous to my sighting. Let’s hope the pesticides spread in this wetlands and pond complex at the NY Botanical Garden don’t preclude a return of this impressive species next season.

For those keeping count, I’ve now seen 12 species of damselflies in NYC and all have lived to tell the tale! That includes two spreadwing species in the Bronx; I’ve yet to see any spreadwings in Brooklyn. Amongst the non-spreadwings, the Familiar Bluet and the Fragile Forktail are the most frequently spotted.


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