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Petiole Junction

The petiole of the compound leaf of Yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea, also known as Kentucky or American Yellowwood.

As all the leaflets had already fallen off the leaf and the petiole’s days were numbered, I detached it to see the fresh leaf scar. The bud was waiting within. In many trees species, buds will be next to the leaf scar.

Here’s another, on another Yellowwood.

Back tomorrow with more Yellowwood and the Downy Woodpecker drilling away at it…

Raptor Wednesday

Under a European Beech.

A Cooper’s Hawk on the ground surrounded by Northern Flicker feathers. This tree also sheltered two American Woodcocks, unseen by me until they bolted one after the other as I sidled up behind the great bulk of the tree to take these photos.

Probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to one of these skittish raptors. The pale yellow eyes and vertical streaking on the front here tell us this is a young bird. I see such youngsters more than I see mature ones, which have orange-red eyes and reddish horizontal barring across the front.

I left the bird to eat as I looked around, fruitlessly, for the American Woodcock. Ten minutes later I came back and the bird flew up into the beech before carrying this prey to a nearby tree.

Buckeyes & Conkers

Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava). This may be the first one I’ve ever seen sprouting.

Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). Looks delicious, doesn’t it? But don’t eat ’em, they’re toxic. Don’t confuse them with the sweet chestnut, e.g. marrons glacés.  The Horse-chestnut is a non-native tree planted everywhere as an ornamental. These big seeds are the originals used in conkers in Great Britain and Ireland.

Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). Like the Yellow and the (see below) Ohio Buckeye (A. glabra). these are native to the U.S. Unlike the other Aesculus around here, this one is a bush. They have long upright panicles of flowers that attract a lot of pollinators.

Another Horse-chestnut. This plump glossiness fades and withers quickly.

These Ohio Buckeyes have shrunk to about 2/3rds their original size since I picked them up on 16 October. Yes, my pockets are stuffed this time of year.

Some More Birds

House Finch male in an exotic Sweetgum.

Purple Finch female in the White Ash samaras. She has to bill-worry the seed out of the wing.

Flatbread and Starling.

And House Sparrows.

The obscure red belly of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Yellow-rumped Warblers with prey.

It’s the season of periodic flocks of Robins.

A hollow in this beech is almost always filled with water.

Gall of the Ant

Oak Rough Bulletgall, made by the wasp Disholcaspis quercusmamma on Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor; although this tree is actually a Swamp White cross with another oak species, as engineered by Cornell U.) That’s the critter’s exit hole.

And an entrance hole for other critters. I watched this ant, identified on iNaturalist as a subgenus Myrmentoma carpenter ant, go in and out one and a half times; that is, she didn’t exit a second time while I was there. Now, as we know, this kind of gall is an extrafloral nectary, producing food for ants and other insects. By this late stage of the gall’s existence, I don’t think it’s doing that any more. The ant didn’t seem to be carrying anything either way. These galls have the old pupal case and frass inside them. Plus the occasional spider: I mean, what a great place to cache some spider eggs.


With the recent influx of Tufted Titmice, including on my block, I thought to myself, so where are the Black-capped Chickadees?


Saw a few on Governor’s Island recently.

And in Green-Wood.

I have a new Medium piece up, on discovering Balzac, nought, however, about natural history.

White-breasted, red-vented

And the nuthatch-blue of the lower bill.


A couple of Northern Italian Wall Lizards from November 7th, when it got into the mid 70s F. These rest of these pictures are from earlier this fall:

This one lost a good bit of tail somewhere along the way.

This one was keeping an eye on me and the two American Kestrels atop the nearby chapel. I first became aware of these exotic lizards via a photo making the birding community rounds: a Kestrel was carrying one. Since then, I’ve seen the local Kestrels dining on them. A Red-tail too.

Raptor Wednesday

Nuthatches are noisy foragers to begin with, but they turn it on it up to 11 when they’re on the alert. I’ve found some spectacular predators lurking in the canopies (Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl…) because of the continuous alarm calls of White- and Red-breasted Nutters.

Most recently, I heard the call and looked fruitlessly before this small hawk zipped out from inside a Beech to land on a bare branch of the same tree.

Then, in flight. Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Twenty minutes later, the bigger cousin: Cooper’s Hawk.

One More Last Hurrah?

Temperatures plunged Sunday night. This morning it is supposed to be just above freezing when this is published at 7 a.m. EST. The long, lingering autumn is shutting down. These dandelion pictures are from Saturday. At least three species of flies are hard at work here. All the big ones are Margined Calligrapher flies, regulars for most of the year.

But those long antennae point to something else: a small parasitic wasp. (Note that the little fly has virtually no antenna at all in the lower right; antennae are a big marker between Hymenoptera and Diptera.)

I didn’t except to see many invertebrates yesterday. There were a few larger flies, pretty hardy creatures as long as the sun is out, but that was it until I spotted this two-inch wingspan Lunate Zale Moth (ID tentative). It was a surprise. Nestled on the shady underside of a branch, it blended in well, but I happened to be looking at the tree intently because of some Dark-eyed Juncos in it.


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