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Hammer and Tongs

In the depths of a Callery pear tree, whose fruit was simultaneously being ravaged by Monk Parakeets, this determined Red-breasted Nuthatch hammered away at nuts ferreted out of a neighboring arborvitae. From food tree to anvil tree, over and over again.While Green-Wood has been awash in White-breasted Nuthatches, a few Red-breasted have been present as well. You just have to ferret them out like a seed in a cone.

Raptor Wednesday

Plump silhouette, tail pumping up and down? Get some optics on that bird!And oh, those colors! A male American Kestrel. Note the tell-tale whitewash of a ready perch, no doubt used by any number of birds.Any height in a habitat is a perch for small falcons on the lookout for prey. Green-Wood is rather rich in obelisks, which is not atypical for a cemetery founded in the 1840s. The American nineteenth century had a mania for ancient Egypt. Obelisks, the Association for Gravestone Studies tells us, were considered classical, uplifting, tasteful, impressive for a small space, and cheaper than other elaborate sculptural elements.

Trees for Tuesday

I like the way this tuliptree bifurcates and bifurcates again.

Stripped of their greenery, the deciduous trees are especially beautifully revealed in winter.

Mammal Monday

The signs of raccoons are everywhere in Green-Wood, particularly at the base of trees where they leave their poop piles. They sometimes also leave an impression…. We were surprised to spot this one sleeping in the rough on a chilly day. You’d think it would be snug in some tree hole somewhere waiting for the night.

Festive Seasonal Things

If you must buy gifts, consider books, actual books, including the ones I’ve written about lately. What have you been reading? (Comments are open below…)

Here’s one more:Mark Frith’s graphite drawings of ancient English oaks, a majestic crew of survivors depicted in the winter of their dishabille. UChicago Press is distributing the book in the US, starting in February.

Aljos Farjon’s Ancient Oaks in the English Landscape gives much more detail on the aging and survival for these Quercus robur and Quercus petraea specimens. Most of these ancients date to the medieval period, a few may have a maximum age of 1000 years, but because they’re all hollowed out, you can’t age them by tree rings. Farjon cautions that many said to over a thousands years old probably aren’t.

At any rate, for centuries most of them survived by being in deer parks and royal forests (variations on hunting sanctuaries for the toff, where the prey [venison] was more important than the trees [vert]). Some have been pollarded (in some cases, “commoners” had rights to cutting above the deer’s browse height); they look like stumpy baobabs now, or as an 1827 chronicler snorted, “as curly, surly, knotty an old monster as can be conceived.” They are rich foci for invertebrates, fungi, and lichen; indeed, such ancient woods, particularly the oaks, “collectively support greater biodiversity than any other type of habit in Europe.” In Europe, only the Yew, Taxus baccata, can grow older than these two Quercus species.

And then there’s art:
This stunning print is for sale by my friend George Boorujy. It’s an edition of 200, so hurry up.

Not for sale, although the catalogue is:The Anna Atkins exhibit of cyanotypes of British algae at NYPL. Her three-volume work was the first book to be illustrated with photographs. The exhibit is small but gem-like. It ends 2/17/19. You’ll dream in Prussian Blue afterwards (oddly the tote bag they’re selling is black…?).

Slicing Up the Sky

On a clear day, we can see New Jersey. Straight across is Newark, over New York Bay and Bayonne and Newark Bay. Newark International is there too. Glancing northwards, as above, the twin cities of Jersey City and Manhattan finger the sky. This particularly clear morning was all sliced by condensation trails, better known as contrails, produced by water vapor freezing in the wake of high altitude jets. It’s pretty basic chemistry and a contributor to atmospheric warming.

However, in all too typical ignorance-paranoia-stupidity fashion, a whole industry of “chemtrail” conspiracies has arisen around them. We were once in Great Swamp NWR and a nice older couple started chatting with us. They’d been going there for decades and had noted a marked decline in bird life. The male half confided that it was all due to chemtrails, secret government emissions from airplanes. I could read about it on the internet if I wanted to know more, he suggested.

Not rampant suburbanization and other sprawling development surrounding the NWR and the destruction of habitat in wintering regions, not the pesticides and pollutants in the air, water, soil, working up the food chain, etc., no, no, nothing like that, folks. Just some sinister, decades-long experiment by the dang blad gummerment!Another cold day, ripe for more scarification of the sky.Every single cloud in these pictures originated from an airplane. No conspiracy necessary. It’s just what we do.

Spider Year

It’s the one year anniversary, more or less, of the spider who stayed out in the cold. This big Araneus diadematus orb-weaver had her web(s) outside one of our windows for three months last fall.We only saw her eating once in that time.

All B&B spider adventures can be seen here. The current indoor spider census, which is admittedly not thorough: two.


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