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Gall Update

Zopheroteras guttatum on Quercus texana. Nutall oak has a common name, but the tiny wasp that commandeered the tree’s chemistry to induce this structure doesn’t.
Under 2mm in size, but flamboyantly patterned. Inside is the larval wasp.
Here’s another species on the same tree: Furry Oak Leaf Gall Wasp (Callirhytis furva)..
And another: Oak Leaf Gall Midge (Polystepha pilulae). This one is induced by a midge, not a wasp.
Lobed Oak Gall Wasp (Andricus quercusstrobilanus) on swamp white oak (Q. bicolor). One of the biggest of the 39 species of Cynipid gall wasps seen within 2.5 miles of my Brooklyn home. (Although these can be much smaller on other swamp whites here.) This one is a stem gall; the others here are leaf galls.
Many of these galls are detachable; they fall of their own accord. With autumn approaching, others will come down the ground as the whole leaf falls.
The larval wasp, or midge or mite, gets protection and food from these structures. What, one wonders, does the tree get out of this? Well, they do contain and isolate the pest away from the main body of the plant. Is that so galling?

Cherry Tree Cut

Raptor Wednesday

A trio of American Kestrels in September.


A soft rain of pieces of cucumber magnolia fruit reveals a tree, thickly cloaked in big, thick leaves, busy with Red-eyed Vireos, Catbirds, four different species of thrush. Across the road, the noisier fall of hickory husks point to squirrels at work.

Monarchy Monday


Just a couple of Red-eared Sliders.
A Common Slider.
Another Common Slider, in a different borough.
Eastern Painted.

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20 Years

I abandoned the absurdly high-salaried and beyond-bullshit dot-com world just weeks before the attack on the World Trade Center in September, 2001. The cafeteria in our office building, Cross & Cross’s magnificent Deco-fantasy Twenty Exchange, was on the top floor, so those who went in early for breakfast saw it from on high.

I saw, felt, and smelled it from Brooklyn, from my old subway stop, from my roof. 

It has been estimated that at least 22,000 and as many as 48,000 civilians have been killed by the U.S. in the “war on terror” since then. The cost to democracy here has been devastating. The damage done by the reactionary incompetents of the Bush regime, only in power because of a partisan Supreme Court, was a greater blow to the nation than the terror attack.

That Fall was long and lingering. In another time, it would have been called glorious. I spent a lot of time in Prospect Park, just a couple avenues up the moraine from where I lived. A Great Blue Heron was in the area of the Pools, just beyond some fencing. I mean, just beyond. The gigantic bird was almost within hand’s reach. It was an extraordinary opportunity to study it up close.

As winter stretched into the new year, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks courtshipped and mated in front of everybody. That spring they would nest just over the circling Drive. In summer, their two young would fly right past you, past startled nannies, excited dogs.. I reported my sightings to my mother, the bird-watcher in the family. She was dying of pancreatic cancer. She gave me a pair of binoculars. Swift 8x20s. This is when I became a bird-watcher


A more recent Great Blue. Literally: a juvenile seen in the past week.
The death beam, destroyer of birds and insects. American martyrology is a ghastly business.

New Species

New, that is, to me. White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album).
Double-banded Scoliid Wasp (Scolia bicincta).
This is the first iNaturalist record for Brooklyn, Kings Co., and Long Island as a whole. Interestingly, the common Two-Spotted Scoliid Wasp (Scolia dubia dubia) was NOT happy to see this genus-mate. The Two-spotteded went after the Doble-banded several times. Both Scolia wasps lay their eggs on scarab beetle larvae, so this may be competition.
Sweetheart Underwing (Catocala amatrix).
Spotted Grass Moth (Rivula propinqualis).

For those keeping count, I now have 1055 verified species recorded in Kings County on iNaturalist. “Verified” meaning they aren’t casual observations, which are reserved for cultivated or captive life-forms. Many of our urban plants were planted, meaning they’re casual observations by iNaturalist’s standards. Even a tree planted a century ago is still considered a casual observation, but of course the lifeforms on it aren’t!.

Sap Lick

A lot of small-scale drama on this venerable willow oak. I first noticed the Bald-faced Hornets at two different spots on the trunk.

At this spot, they were actually going underneath the bark. I suspect they were after leaking sap. But it wasn’t just wasps.

There were also flies, all rather smaller than the wasps. But just as interested in the tree’s juices. This was a classic case of noticing something, the big, bold white-highlighted black wasps, and then seeing a lot more.

Raptor Wednesday

Red-tail with a rat. Was up here for a while in the rain.
This bird has a full crop from a recent meal.
A couple days later, possibly the same bird.
A pair frolicking.


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