Posts Tagged 'Bronx'


This is the first printed image of a lichen. 1542: Leonhart Fuchs’s De historia stirpium commentarii insignes… (and the title keeps going, as they were wont to). This copy is from the special collections department at the LuEster T. Mertz Library at the NYBG. This book and several others were on display during a recent lecture.

Here’s the thing: today, the pictured lifeform would be called a liverwort. Liverworts are pretty cool, too, being nonvascular plants, but they aren’t lichens. Lichens are symbiotic composites of fungi and algae (or cyanobacteria).

And lichens are everywhere. There may be some on the nearest concrete: a particularly calcium-loving (from the limestone component of concrete) one is called Sidewalk Firedot. Gotta be on your hands and knees to see it, though.
You’re probably more used to these splotchy lichens on rocks and bark.

Your intrepid blogger’s partner Molly is really getting into lichens lately. I’m a little taller than she is, so I spotted this tiny Usnea beard lichen in Green-Wood before she did.

But she’s the one who suspected what it was. It’s small but significant. The first recorded Usnea in New York City in nearly two hundred years was spotted in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx and written up this year. Urban pollution has reduced lichen diversity. Clearer air since the 1970s means some species have made a come-back.

We’ve contacted the proper authorities at Lichen Central at the NYBG and they will be figuring out what Usnea species this Green-Wood specimen is. Evidently they will require a sample for DNA testing. Stay tuned.

Recently also I spotted some tiny black filament-like structures coming off some mushrooms from a fallen branch. I only noticed these when looking at the photos I’d taken of the mushrooms; these pin lichens are too small for the naked eye.

Spotting them, I handed the pictures over to Molly. Once again, she came to the rescue: these seem to be specimens of Phaeocalicium polyporaeum. The tiny tinies grow on a couple kinds of shelf fungi.

Pin lichens are supposed to be indicative of healthy habitat. Which, two blocks from the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot, is pretty good, right? (No, I’m not sure why an actor who merely played a bus driver on TV got the recognition here; the vast majority of our bus depots are named for their location.)


Lichens, like other lifeforms, are sensitive to air pollution. So the relative scrubbing of the air in the last few generations — before the Republican counter-revolution — has brought back lichen communities to NYC. Cemeteries are the one of best places to see lichens because they don’t have the road traffic of the streets and have both trees and stones, the substrates lichens thrive on.These pictures were taken last month at a Torrey Botanical Society walk in Woodlawn Cemetery. The tour leader was one of the authors of a paper in the Society’s Journal about the discovery of a Usnea lichen species that hadn’t been seen here in two centuries.

Darning (?)

Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius).
This is a migratory species, one of the first seen in the spring and one of the last seen in the fall as they move up and down North America. Male is grasping the female as she oviposits, laying her eggs in the lake in Woodlawn Cemetery. Not all Odonata do it this way: in some species, the female will be on her own; in some, the male will be patrolling nearby; and, in some species, as these, the male will continue to stay attached after fertilization.

So far, the only other Odonata action I’ve seen in NYC this season have been a couple of big blue darners of some kind patrolling a sunny path filled with Diptera at Jamaica Bay. They did not pause for photographs. Word on the street is that there are an extraordinary number of dragonflies around the NYC metropolitan area; evidently northwest winds created an unusual fallout situation yesterday. I’ll to keep my eyes open today.

Going to use my pulpit here to print this NYC City Council Resolution (No. 864). Wordy, aspirational (what the last sentence actually means isn’t addressed), but this gives a good sense of the interconnected challenges largely going unmet here in the wealthiest city in the country, not to mention the rest of the nation. Contact your council member to get it passed.

Resolution declaring a climate emergency and calling for an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate.

By Council Members Kallos and Constantinides

Whereas, On April 22, 2016, world leaders from 174 countries and the European Union recognized the threat of climate change and the urgent need to combat it by signing the Paris Agreement, agreeing to keep warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C; and

Whereas, On October 8, 2018, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) released a special report, which projected that limiting warming to the 1.5°C target this century will require an unprecedented transformation of every sector of the global economy over the next 12 years; and

Whereas, On November 23, 2018, the United States Fourth National Climate Assessment (“NCA4”) was released and details the massive threat that climate change poses to the American economy, our environment and climate stability, and underscores the need for immediate climate emergency action at all levels of government; and

Whereas, According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), global temperatures in 2018 were .83°C (1.5°F) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, and the past five years are collectively the warmest in modern history; and

The death and destruction already wrought by climate change demonstrates that the Earth is already too hot for safety, as attested by increased and intensifying wildfires, floods, rising seas, diseases, droughts and extreme weather; and
Whereas, World Wildlife Fund’s 2018 Living Planet report finds that there has been 60% decline in global wildlife populations between 1970 and 2014, with causes including overfishing, pollution and climate change;

Whereas, According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, human activity has already severely altered 40% of the marine environment, 50% of inland waterways, and 75% of the planet’s land, and it is projected that half-to-one million species are threatened with extinction, many within the next few decades; and

Whereas, The United States of America has disproportionately contributed to the climate and extinction emergencies and has repeatedly obstructed global efforts to transition toward a green economy, and thus bears an extraordinary responsibility to rapidly address these existential threats; and

Whereas, Restoring a safe and stable climate requires transformative societal and economic change on a scale not seen since World War II to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, to rapidly and safely drawdown or remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere, to end the 6th mass extinction of species, and to implement measures to protect all people and species from the increasingly severe consequences of climate change; and
Whereas, A sweeping overhaul of the economy that centers on equity and justice in its solutions is vital to our future and must include the following goals: dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources; build a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid; upgrade every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety; eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country; repair and improve transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrade water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water; fund massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases; make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the international leader in helping other countries become greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global transition; and

Whereas, Marginalized populations in New York City and worldwide, including people of color, immigrants, indigenous communities, low-income individuals, people with disabilities, and the unhoused are already disproportionately affected by climate change, and will continue to bear an excess burden as temperatures increase, oceans rise, and disasters worsen; and
Whereas, Addressing climate change fairly requires a “Just Transition” from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy that is ecologically sustainable and equitable for all people, especially those most impacted by climate change already and those who will be most impacted in the future; and

Whereas, Core to a Just Transition is equity, self-determination, culture, tradition, deep democracy, and the belief that people around the world have a fundamental human right to clean, healthy and adequate air, water, land, food, education, healthcare, and shelter; and
Whereas, Just Transition strategies were first forged by a “blue-green” alliance of labor unions and environmental justice groups who saw the need to phase out the industries that were harming workers, community health, and the planet, while also providing just pathways for workers into new livelihoods; and

Whereas, Just Transition initiatives shift the economy from dirty energy that benefits fossil fuel companies to energy democracy that benefits our people, environment and a clean, renewable energy economy, from funding new highways to expanding public transit, from incinerators and landfills to zero waste products, from industrial food systems to food sovereignty, from car-dependent sprawl and destructive unbridled growth to smart urban development without displacement, and from destructive over-development to habitat and ecosystem restoration; and

Whereas, Building a society that is resilient to the current, expected, and potential effects of climate change will protect health, lives, ecosystems, and economies, and such resilience efforts will have the greatest positive impact if the most dramatic potential consequences of climate change are taken into account; and

Whereas, Climate justice calls for climate resilience planning that addresses the specific experiences, vulnerabilities, and needs of marginalized communities within our jurisdiction, who must be included and supported in actively engaging in climate resilience planning, policy, and actions; and

Whereas, Actions to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and/or drawdown greenhouse gases may be taken in ways that also improve resilience to the effects of climate change, and vice versa; and

Whereas, Climate justice requires that frontline communities, which have historically borne the brunt of the extractive fossil-fuel economy, participate actively in the planning and implementation of this mobilization effort at all levels of government and that they benefit first from the transition to a renewable energy economy; and

Whereas, Fairness demands the protection and expansion of workers’ right to organize as well as a guarantee of high-paying, high-quality jobs with comprehensive benefits for all as the mobilization to restore a safe climate is launched; and

Whereas, Common sense demands that this unprecedented mobilization effort address the full suite of existential ecological threats facing humanity in a comprehensive, integrated and timely fashion; and

Whereas, Nearly 400 cities, districts and counties across the world representing over 34 million people collectively have recently declared or officially acknowledged the existence of a global climate emergency, including Hoboken, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Montgomery County, Oakland, Richmond, and Santa Cruz in the United States, Bristol and London in the United Kingdom and many cities in Australia, Canada, and Switzerland; and

Whereas, New York City, as the largest city in the United States, can act as a global leader by both converting to an ecologically, socially, and economically regenerative economy at emergency speed, and by rapidly organizing a regional just transition and climate emergency mobilization effort; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, The City Council declares a climate emergency and calls for an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate.

Raptor Wednesday

The #BrooklynKestrels female having a sip of roof water.They will bathe in such puddles as well. These were taken April 20th. May 2nd found them both in a London plane one block from the nest site. Spotted the female yesterday. A Common Grackle was buzzing her.Now that the trees have come out, it’s harder to see birds.Woodlawn Cemetery doesn’t have all that many squirrels. And one less, now.On our trip to Virginia, we saw about twenty Osprey. There were three or four Bald Eagles. This is one of them.From the road: a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks across a long southeastern Virginia farm field. One of these had flown across our bow with prey in talons towards this tree, and when I got the camera on the scene, there were two!

Mammal Monday

If it’s quiet enough, not generally a condition found within the bounds of NYC, a squirrel gnawing on a walnut will ring throughout the area.The eating of buds, on the other paw, is much more subtle. You may only notice when things start falling on your head.

Mammal Monday

Usually raccoons sleep off the night’s revels in a conifer, as here in Green-Wood, but when in Rome….Someplace, for instance, where the evergreens are in short supply, as in this section of Pelham Bay. A sharper eye than mine pointed out that this hammock is fundamentally made up of poison ivy vine.

In the news: canine distemper virus is sweeping through the city’s raccoon population. Since the infected raccoons can infect dogs, perhaps this will get people to leash their dogs in the woods? The NYCParks website warns about it for Pelham Bay Park. The Prospect Park Alliance has had an advisory up since October. Green-Wood, of course, isn’t a park: no dogs allowed, although it does have feral cats.

I’ve come across five dead or dying raccoons in Green-Wood in the last month.Here’s a sad trio of them. Point of argument, there are probably too many raccoons in Green-Wood. Many of the big trees there have their bases ringed with raccoon turds. The animals are nurtured by the garbage accessible on the bordering streets, the rich takings of fruit and nuts within, and, of course, no predators. Not to be vulgarly Malthusian, but viruses love large populations.

Oh, Schist!

The eastern edge of Twin Island, facing Long Island Sound just north of Orchard Beach in the Bronx, is an outcropping of the Hartland Formation schist.And does it ever outcrop!Quoting the geological argot of the USGS “The rock consists of granitic and garnetiferous amphibolite gneiss with numerous quartz veins and migmatite dikes. Migmatite is an type igneous rock that forms when metamorphic rocks begin to melt under high temperature. Felsic minerals melt and are injected into the surrounding rock along joints, faults, and other zones of weakness in the rock. As the igneous material gradually cools, bands of feldspar and quartz crystals form along the edges of the intrusion. The center of the migmatite veins typically consist of larger crystals of feldspar and quartz. The migmatite stands out in outcrops as light-colored bands in contrast to the darker amphibolite gneiss host rock. In some cases, the dikes cut across older dikes and quartz-filled veins; many are folded or display offset by faulting.” It’s an open-air classroom, so here’s Hunter College on the spot: “The site contains the following rock types: gneiss, amphibolite, migmatite, pegmatite, quartz veins, marble, ptygmatic folds, pearl gneiss, and boudines. The following minerals can be found here: K-feldspar, quartz, biotite, muscovite, hornblende, garnet, pyrite, limonite, kaolinite, calcite, tourmaline, plagioclase, and chlorite.” .I’ll say that again!

Raptor Wednesday

A Red-tail miscellany.On this day, there were three at the same time; a pair of perched adults and an airborne yearling.Here’s a pair on an overcast day. Note that fist.When the light is right, and the bird is over a year old, then there’s no mistaking a Red-tailed Hawk on the east coast even at some distance. That’s some red tail.January, by the way, is not too early for these big birds to be courting.

While we’re on the subject of small birds

This Golden-crowned Kinglet, spotted just over a month ago in the Bronx, seems to have escaped notice in the photo file until now. So, have at it! And this. Same day, same place. I think it’s a “wild” House Sparrow nest, but will certainly entertain alternative theories. When they do nest out in the open, House Sparrows weave great, confused balls of material. If you examine the nooks and crannies they usually colonize, you’ll find them stuffed with nesting material a la a hoarder. When we had a sidewalk shed up around the two sides of our corner building for most of last year, there were at least three H.S. nests in-between the I-beams holding up the elevated platform.Slate-colored Dark-eyed Juncos: female in foreground focus, male in background blur.

A noteworthy examination of how historic populism has been perverted into an excuse for Trumpism.

Raptor Us

As I turned the corner onto 41st Street across from the park, preparing for the hike up the moraine, I noticed a big bird take off from the slope above the park’s retaining wall. It was a Red-tailed Hawk, of course, and it landed in a London plane tree anchored in the sidewalk. Crossing the street to stand beside the tree’s bole was but a moment’s work for me. The hawk paid no heed to my efforts, nor to three other bipeds passing below. Instead, it swallowed some food in just a few bites. No feathers flew, so perhaps it was a small mammal. The bird was about 15 feet away from me. That’s some FID — flight initiation distance to the ornithologists, a mark of habituation to humans. In fact, the bird hopped down to a lower branch that was even closer to me. It was one of my closest encounters ever with these big raptors, an almost daily sight here in Brooklyn. I’ve been reading Urban Raptors: Ecology and Conservation of Birds of Prey in Cities (edited by Boal & Dykstra). Neither Red-tailed Hawks nor American Kestrels, the most common nesting raptors in NYC, rate their own chapter, but there are lessons to be extrapolated. Adaptability, dietary catholicism, ability to withstand human presence (now, that’s an achievement).

Like for instances:
Last weekend, a young Bald Eagle sailed over the block and down towards the avenue. It was below eye-level for us here on the 4th floor atop the Harbor Hill Moraine. What a thrill! Yesterday, an adult was high overhead Green-Wood. That’s three sightings of at least two different eagles this month within a mile of home.Here’s a shot for ID purposes only, taken through a moon roof. This is a Merlin atop this regular American Kestrel perch one avenue (long) block from home.This antenna, five blocks away, is a more infrequent American Kestrel perch, but only because I don’t pass it all that frequently.A pair of Peregrines. They’ve been seen up here almost every day for months now. This morning: one was there when I first looked at 7:09am;  both there at 7:18am. Only crappy weather keeps them elsewhere. Another Peregrine, in the Bronx this time.And another Red-tailed Hawk, also in the Bronx.

Stay tuned for more raptors in the New Year. I already have the whole month planned for “Raptor Wednesdays.”


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