Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category


The tropical storm with all the vowels in its name brought down a lots of branches in the city last week. Green-Wood Cemetery was closed for two days for clean up. Some whole trees were uprooted as well, and some weakened ones snapped.

One was this butternut, Juglans cinerea. Already a shadow of its former self — that’s the pre-storm stump there on the right — it’s definitely taken a powder now.
Just look at this leaf! My boot is about a foot long.
Elsewhere in the cemetery: this sapling, which looks like hell.
I don’t know what this crud is. Let me know if you know. The butternut canker fungal disease, which has killed approximately 80% of the butternuts in their native range (eastern North America) doesn’t, as far, as I can tell, hit the leaves. Again, correct me if I’m wrong.
Here, at least, is one fine specimen.
The nuts, which which are supposed to be delicious, mature earlier than our native black walnuts (Juglans nigra).
These aren’t very oblong, are they? The fruits are supposed to ridged, too. So could this tree mislabeled? Or is it some kind of hybrid with black walnut? (The husks have a wonderful lemony odor, btw; but watch out: it has been used as a dye and can stain your skin.)
The sound of gnawing and husk-fall could be heard before I spotted a couple of squirrels up in the branches munching away.

Book and Flowers and Bugs

A month of summer yet, at least as the calendar goes. But Carol Gracie’s Summer Wildflowers is good the whole year through. You’ll love opening this in early January!

I can’t better the foreword by NYBG’s Robert Naczi: “Gracie seamlessly integrates diverse facets about these plants—history, geography, habitats, human uses, morphology, classification, pollination, conservation, and more. Truly, this book has something for everyone, whether beginner or expert,hikeror gardener, entomologist or etymologist.”

In honor of Carol, who reads this blog (!), here are some interactions with common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. (If you’ve ever wondered why the species epithet means, essentially, “of Syria,” she explains the chain of errors that resulted in that.)
A tiny bee. Perhaps a sweat bee.
Nomada genus bee.
Scirtes orbiculatus, a marsh beetle.
Monarch egg.
That’s a honeybee on the left. I was trying to capture in pixels the pale ant here, but this is a bonus since it shows a yellow pollinarium, the two connected pollen sacs, or pollinia, that milkweed sticks to you in exchange for giving up its nectar.
Bembix genus sand wasp.
Great Golden Digger wasp.
And right next to this patch of milkweed in Green-Wood, a Great Golden Digger digs her nest site. While she sups on nectar, she provisions her young with crickets and katydids.

Mourning Dove

Blue-winged Ones

Zethus spinipes, I think. One of the potter and mason wasps. Note all the parts of the mouth, like little tendrils.
Isodontia philadelphica, a grass-carving wasps, also sans a common name.
Female and, with the face dot, male Four-toothed Mason Wasps (Monobia quadridens).
Nearctic Blue Mud-dauber (Chalybion californicum), presumably. Very similar looking to the Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp (Chlorion aerarium).


A nymph Broad-headed Sharpshooter.

The adult form is amazing, so I’ll keep my eye out for them now. A lot of people resist the appeal of insects, but this one might break down some barriers.

In unmown meadow, here’s a Draeculacephala genus sharpshooter. Couldn’t get another photo because it shot off at the slightest provocation.

Sharpshooters are true bugs, in the leafhopper family family (Cicadellidae). I’m used to much smaller leafhoppers, just 3-4mm, and a struggle to photograph alive. These two sharpshooters were closer to a centimeter long.

Raptor Wednesday With Gliders

Two American Kestrel males in Green-Wood.

Hunting must be good here, because I’ve seen kestrels in this area for years. There are some great perches, with meadow below. When I was there Saturday, both Spot-winged and Wandering Gliders, the orange-y dragonflies that seem to be constantly in the air, were flying at eye-level. Kestrels eat dragonflies. Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside — one supposes.

Rare to see a Wandering Glider perched. They’re on the wing most of the time. The Flying Dutchman of dragonflies.
Spot-winged Glider. They don’t perch much either, but perhaps a little bit more than the Wandering. Fairly similar, but with small dark patches at the hindwing base.
These smudges can be seen in flight…


It’s time to suck the lilac sap again.
How does one tell individual insects apart? Well, look at the abdomen patterns on these Cicada Killer Wasps. There are subtle distinctions between individual females as well as between individual males.
And then there’s sexual dimorphism. The male is rather smaller.
Females are big and burly for a reason: they need to fly while holding paralyzed cicadas for their young. Dog day cicadas run close to 2″ long including their wings.
Here’s a female emerging from her burrow of a nest, amidst the freshly excavated dirt.


Heard under a conifer.
A baby Northern Cardinal. Clammed up upon seeing me.
The bird could scurry and even hop-fly about a foot at a time.
There was a parent with a large moth, which she tried to stick in the baby’s mouth several times.
Before finally succeeding on the third try. Even all muppet-mouthed, the youngster sill had a hard time getting this food deposited.

Every spring bird rescue places are inundated with nestlings/fledglings like this because well-meaning folks think they’re in trouble. They’re not, really, unless there’s a cat about. It’s actually normal for them to be out of the nest at this stage. As witnessed here, the parents are still feeding them.

Considering this was August 1st, probably a second brood.


The caterpillar of the Wavy-lined Emerald Moth (Synchlora aerata) sticks bits of plant material to itself.
I’ve seen this before, but only on instars half this size. Nice to be able to get some feet in these shots.

FYI: some green lacewings stick clumps of lichen to their backs. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t get any photographs of two recent sightings.

Sunset Park

Different views from the roof. Jersey City, Manhattan to Midtown, and Downtown Brooklyn making a continuous urban skyline. And Green-Wood Cemetery.
Went up when I heard an American Kestrel calling. A female.
A Laughing Gull passed, silently.
Three-four-five Chitterwizzles, or Chimney Swifts, were overhead, too.


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