Archive for the 'Backyard' Category

Acer Color

Is that spotting something amiss? (Well, not amiss if you’re a fungus.)

Trump’s corporate puppet on the FCC is trying to end net neutrality, a disaster for democracy. So it’s “break the internet” in protest in advance of Thursday’s vote. Once again, I’d rather join people in the streets, but until then…

Red Star

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) amid oaks and others.

Hannah Arendt, who died on November 4th, 1975 wrote this: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” (Alabama Republicans the latest marks of demagoguery.)

The Spider Who Stayed Out in the Cold

This large Araneus diadematus orb-weaver has been living outside a Bronx living room window for nearly three months now. That included the last of summer, when a large window fan blew out towards her, making the web bounce like a trampoline.

The web spans the breadth of the window. When she isn’t in its center, hanging face down, she-spider is tucked up into the top right of the storm window frame, with two legs on the web to keep in touch. She prefers the night, which of course is never that dark here in the city. We only once saw her wrapping some prey… or was it an egg case?

Bits of leaf and plumed seeds, however, were often seen stuck in the usually rather tatty web. The first big, but brief, freeze, didn’t seem to faze her. On the 16th, when the video below was shot, she was devouring the lower right quarter of the web, having taken out the lower left earlier that day. The silk proteins, crazy strong material as you probably know, can be recycled this way.

Then she disappeared. The web too. But then, last Tuesday, there she was again! A Thanksgiving miracle!

The Cross Orb-weaver, so named because some to them have a cross-shape on their abdomen, is a cosmopolitan species. They were evidently imported from across the Atlantic some time past.

Lifespan doesn’t jump out in online material about this species: six to twelve months, evidently, for orb-weavers. The male, by the way, is much smaller, and, when attempting to mate, approaches gingerly so he doesn’t get eaten.

Hmm, perhaps, given the times (well, all times) women should take a lesson from that.

And here’s another moving view on my Instagram.

Update: the spider is still going strong today, Tuesday 11/28/17.


Harmonia axyridisHarmonia axyridis on 5th Avenue. At this rate, why even bother taking shelter for the winter?Harmonia axyridisOn the contrary, let’s stay out all day and night…

In case you missed it in the hullabaloo over Hamilton, on Friday, the President Elect of the United States of American settled the fraud suit against him for his “university” scam. That will cost him $25 million, but I’m sure that means we’ll end up paying it, and so much more, because no greater con man has ever held such power in this land.

Sunset Park Elm

UlmusI’ve been photographing this big American Elm in Sunset Park for the last year.UlmusThe long shadows if not the temperature tell of the days drawing nearer. Today’s the first day of the end of daylight savings time, meaning an hour sooner sunset, and we’ve still a month and more to go to the shortest day. Let’s revel in the voluptuous dark of the night.shadowsAnd the calligraphy of sunlight and swooping branches…

City of Roosts

Rebecca Solnit is a writer I’ll follow anywhere. A few years ago, she produced an atlas of San Francisco that just called to my old geographer’s heart. Infinite City was followed by Unfathomable City, in which she teamed up with Rebecca Snedeker for an atlas of New Orleans. unknownNow she and the wonderfully named Joshua Jelly-Schapiro have produced Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. (Each of these volumes, on cities which are both quintessentially American and un-American, are ensemble works with many collaborators.)

In introducing the latest, Solnit writes “A city is a machine with innumerable parts made by the accumulation of human gestures, a colossal organism forever dying and being born, an ongoing conflict between memory and erasure, a center for capital and for attacks on capital, a rapture, a misery, a mystery, a conspiracy, a destination and point of origin, a labyrinth in which some are lost and some find what they’re looking for, and argument about how to live, and evidence that differences don’t always have to be resolved, though they may grate and grind against each other for centuries.”

And they do inspire you to do your own mapping, the streets you walk, the reach of your eyes from the moraine.

For instance, consider the city as an avian nesting, roosting, and perching space. House Sparrows in every stoplight cross-tube, Rock Doves under bridges, awnings, cornices. The human architecture of the city provides the necessary nooks and crannies. The decay of certain aspects fosters some species, for instance Kestrels, who nest in cavities. (Architects could incorporate even more such spaces intentionally in new buildings.)

The Peregrine scrapes on bridges and buildings, including Brooklyn’s House of Dentention. This year I heard about a Red-tailed Hawk nest on a fire-escape. Usually the Red-tails use trees, but Fifth Avenue apartment buildings of billionaires and university libraries of millionaires’ children are known to host them as well. And then there are the backyards.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been blessed to live in two different neighborhoods with tall church spires that are regular raptor perches. Peter & Paul in Cobble Hill was a very reliable place to see Peregrines, probably the ones from the nearby prison. St. Michael’s in my new neighborhood of Sunset Park has a flat topped cross that is a virtual butcher’s block for Peregrines.

St. Augustine in Park Slope: Kestrels. St. Agnes in Carroll Gardens: Red-tails. But also these massive antennas: the FDNY tower next to the BBG: Peregrines. Bishop Ford High School: Red-tails (a pair recently), Peregrines. You may have your favorites, too.

Brooklyn was once the “City of Churches” because there were so many of them and because they stood out of what was largely a low-rise place into the 20th century. The building boom of the last generation, which has thrown up so many generic glass towers, too many of shoddy quality, has done much to muddy the borough’s horizon. But there are still spires from which raptors can command all before them. Indeed, there are churches on which I’ve never seen a raptor, and that strikes me as positively weird.img_1153November 4, 7pm.

Twilight of the Gods



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