Witch-hazel

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.

Trigger Warnings

“Other steps must be taken, both for the immediate security of the lives and property of the present generation, and for the prevention of yet greater and remoter evils which are inevitable unless means to obviate them are found before it is forever too late.” George Perkins Marsh, writing in Man and Nature, published in 1864. He refers specifically to flooding in France, but his words have resonance after the end of the 26th UN climate confidence this last week.

The 26th! After much hot air, leaders of the world are basically returning to the same old same old, with a little tinkering here and there. Big Carbon has nothing to fear. In the U.S., their Congressional representatives. like Manchin and Sinema, can stymie even modest efforts at reducing emissions and preparing for disaster. Biden’s campaign promise to freeze old and gas exploration on federal land came to naught. His promise to end fossil fuel subsidies likewise was so much gas. On Wednesday, the largest auction of offshore leases in American history began–the miserable corporate centrists insist they have no other option to follow through with the leasing. (Grand Old Putschist Republicans, having paid no price for working to exterminate more than 761,000 Americans via Covid, will nevertheless campaign on drill, baby, drill, and more lies).

It’s hard not to be pessimistic. Voting and marching are not working. Nonetheless, the fascists are making even these time-honored methods of peaceful change useless. Their systematic disenfranchisement/gerrymandering around the country proceeds apace. Soon, in many states, the votes of the majority simply will not matter. They’re building a contra-majoritarian, “authoritarian democracy.”

Meanwhile, don’t look to police forces for help. A law unto themselves, they’ll eagerly work with fascist paramilitaries; sometimes they’re the same damn people. (This was written the day the Rittenhouse case went to the jury, which returned with not guilty on all counts. I predicted this murderous guy would be holding office within a year; already the worst of the worst are competing to make him their Congressional intern). The reactionary SCOTUS majority’s coming decision on open-carry, along with their previous approval of Texas’s abortion vigilantism, means that armed vigilantism will become a major component of the right politics of terrorism. They’re militantly-ignorant tools are already threatening medical professionals, school boards, shop workers, etc. And, in case, you haven’t been paying attention, Republicans in several states have passed laws granting civil immunity to people who kill protestors by running over them in their monster pick-ups and suburban utility vehicles.

You’ve been paying attention to Senate candidates like JD Vance and Josh Mandel’s live-action fascism?

I suspect death squads will also become a tool of the right, as they have been in other countries with the U.S.’s blessing. It isn’t a stretch to imagine fascist-plutocrats in the vein of Thiel, Prince, Musk, et al., using their private security forces in this way. (A major U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, dismembers it enemies with impunity. Another, Israel, is an apartheid state, one that has taught American police its methods.)

As I said, it’s hard not to be pessimistic. Historically, fundamental change is usually accompanied by violence. Even getting an eight hour day was a fierce battle. In other contexts, they don’t call it revolution for nothing.

Wavy Mucksucker

A Wavy Mucksucker (Orthonevra nitida) spotted on Governors Island last week. Very distinctive eye-pattern. Not the wetlands habitat you’d expect this, by the way, but always expect the unexpected when it comes to insects.

Last Saturday, a cold front finally brought in day-time temperatures below 50F. The season of insects is passing.

Temperatures rose again on Thursday (before plunging Thursday night), and I spotted another of these wavy-eyed flies here in Brooklyn. This marks my 1,100 verified species on iNaturalist for Brooklyn (Kings Co., NY). 524 of these are insect species. Adding up all the arthropods, it’s 574 species (plus hundreds of observations that still need ID).

More Meadowhawks

Temperatures edged up to 70 last week and the Autumn Meadowhawks were out in force.

Yesterday, after several chilly days with no sign of these little red beasts, it got into the high 60s. One or two were spotted again.

Speaking of red beasts, here’s this morning’s lunar eclipse. A car alarm outside the apartment woke me at 2:50 a.m., so when the alarm I’d set for 3:30 went ring-a-ding, I was damn grumpy. The cloud cover was intense outside, so I said “argh” and went back to sleep. Dreaming of going outside to photograph the eclipse, I woke again at 4:11, almost a dozen minutes after peak. I peeked outside and saw the sky was completely clear except for the blood-beaver-harvest moon! So I hustled outside and took this at 4:20.

Paper Nests

In a Black Cherry.
In a Horsechestnut.
In a Sweetgum.
The biggest yet, in a linden.

Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) nests in Green-Wood are being revealed by the falling leaves. I’ve walked under these all summer without noticing them.

This is a fly, but it’s next to the marks of paper-making wasp.
This wooden slat-fence at Bush Terminal is all scrapped up by wasps who gnaw up wood fibers to make their paper.
Some of that paper. The nests will start coming down in bad weather. I found this scrap this weekend.
Bald-faced Hornet is most common here, but Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) can also be found. This is the only definite example of D. arenaria nest I’ve seen here in Brooklyn.


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