Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category

Something to Wash Out The Hate

IMG_9037If you’re still recovering from the shameless exhibition of fear and loathing that was the finale of washed-out TV personality Donald Trump’s grotesque career — that tirade in search of a balcony, that harangue for a meaner, nastier America — then this one’s for you.

Two species of bees, two species of wasps, one skipper… but of course it was impossible to get more than a semblance of all the activity in one frame.

For Natives, Against Nativism

There’s a perspective that says that native plant advocates mimic the rhetoric and (consciously or unconsciously) the beliefs of the politics of nativism, paralleling the hateful and ugly resurgence of some of America’s most shameful traditions manifested in the disgusting Trump phenomenon. Calling a plant or animal an alien or an invasive is, in this thesis, said to be the same as using the term “illegals” and the like about people.

While there may be some native plant fans who are political nativists, the argument doesn’t actually work. Because the end results are opposite. People coming to the U.S., by whatever means, diversify society. That’s a good thing. But invasive plant and animal species do precisely the opposite; they create monocultures. That’s a bad thing. Garlic Mustard, Japanese Knotweed, Phragmites, for some plant examples, are highly successful at blanketing landscapes and drowning out biodiversity. Starlings, Zebra Mussels, House Sparrows, are animal examples; the most horrendous example has got to be the domestic cat. Both feral and let-out-of-the-house cats slaughter reptiles, birds, and mammals by the hundreds of millions.

Meanwhile, biodiversity and human diversity are both markers of healthy ecosystems and societies, from the fundamental level of a more expansive gene pool to a habitat-wide richness of species, which in the human context we might call… multiculturalism.

Pet-trade Refugee

Trachemys scripta elegansOne of the many surplus Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) dumped into local waterways. Idiots buy them and tire of them and let them loose. The red “ear” is actually just a mark; on this specimen it’s rather pale; sometimes it doesn’t show at all. I once counted 70 RESs, which are native to the southeast and the Mississippi Valley, along the Lullwater from bridge to bridge. Releasing pet turtles is illegal because of the risk of disease, but that stops nobody.

Why do people insist on taking animals from the wild for their own, all-too-often ephemeral, entertainment? I suppose if they see it in a store or bucket on the street — it’s actually illegal to sell turtles smaller than 4″ because of the risk of salmonella — they don’t think it’s a wild animal to begin with. Or one that will grow out of a toy aquarium before too long; these animals can live for decades. Or after Junior’s attention has moved on to other whims, and that cute lil’ turtle is no longer so.

There’s a subculture of fancy turtle and tortoise fans that make much of their fetish here in the city and elsewhere, pleased how their pet, for instance, spends the winter in the freezer to mimic the amazing down-cycling some of these animals use to get through the frozen months. Really? You’re proud of having de-natured a wild creature for your own vanity and ego? And spare me the argument of breeders, who are doing it for profit.

There’s a now-famous tortoise that is walked in Central Park to much social media hoopla. But the poor creature belongs in habitat on another continent, not Central Park. Such attention, like dumb kids’ movies, has probably amped-up the demand, unleashing the cruel and destructive pet-hunting industry — for where there are warped desires, the profiteers will leap in to provide and crush everything else beneath their feet.

Marine Park Heaven and Hell

Rallus crepitansRails are elusive, secretive, reed-habitat specialists, blending in quite nicely in their saltwater and brackish marshes in their thin-as-a-rail way. Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) less so than the others. For one thing, they can be quite vocal: their namesake “clap” is more of a “kek.” Recently, we heard several at Marine Park and saw three individuals.

Here’s a previous encounter out there: note that I used the old binomial. The Atlantic and California/Arizona subspecies were split in 2014.

IMG_8118Here’s the hell. Across the tidal inlet from the restored portion of Marine Park Nature Center is the wild west of the park, a strip bordering the neighborhood of Gerritsen Beach. Last year, the last time we ventured over there, we just missed a brush fire, probably caused by the addled dopeheads we’d passed, and dodged brats and their parents playing paintball. The dogs are always unleashed, and sometimes these ATVs, also illegal in the city, rip the shit out of the fragile sandy terrain. (Note that the first vehicle has a kid aboard, being poisoned early.)  There’s no enforcement over there and never has been as far as I can tell. Rumors that these trolls are all related to  cops — Gerritsen Beach is one of those segregated parts of the city where the adults all seem to be in the uniformed branches of city services — may suggest why Parks Enforcement and rangers do nothing about the unceasing trashing of the place.

Peregrine Top

breuklin with birdMy friend Marion has had fun with the #ViewFromTheMoraine. That’s Mike’s Spike there, a notorious Peregrine perch this past winter. I’ve seen less activity there this spring, which could be accounted for by the fact that up to half of all peregrines at any given time now are currently sitting on eggs or feeding their young ones.


Photo by Nate ArnzenThis is the way to enter Prospect Park: start at Grand Army Plaza and enter on the left, past the statue of James S.T. Stranahan. He was never a military man, so saluting wouldn’t be appropriate, but you should tip your top hat* in his memory. Follow the curving path around the corner of the berm. On your right, rather suddenly, is the Endale Arch**, with it’s emphatic gothic point. It is like a tunnel into another world, just a block away from the traffic of Union Street, Flatbush Avenue, and Eastern Parkway. The long prospect of the meadow stretches out before you on the other side. Enter!

*A top hat is preferred for the grandest entries.

**It was indeed originally called Enterdale. You’re entering the dale.

Photo by a friend who wishes to remain internet-anonymous.

A Man, A Plan, Stranahan!

StranahanWhere are my manners? I’m only just getting to letting you know that I’ll be doing a Jane’s Walk tomorrow, starting at 11 a.m. at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park. We meet at the feet of the statue of James S.T. Stranahan, tucked in just to the left of the drive.

A Man, A Plan, Stranahan! should run about two hours, from the statue through the park into Green-Wood Cemetery, where the Stranahan family plot is located. It is not predominately a natural history excursion, but rather a political and cultural exploration of the genius behind the park itself. So appreciated by Brooklyn was he that they rushed to complete this bronze before he shucked off his moral coil. And yet, today, he is barely known. We’ll explore his life and work along the walk.



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