Posts Tagged 'Bronx'



Red What?

The red head of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a bold flag in winter. But it’s not the “Red-headed Woodpecker” because that name goes to another species, which has an entirely red head as an adult, not just this mohawk-like swath of color. This is a male, the color going from the nape to the bill. The female of Melanerpes carolinus doesn’t have red on the very top of the head. The nominal belly is rather more subtle. Here’s a glimpse.

By the way, that’s a sweetgum tree, a good place to look for birds in winter. Those death-star seed pods are loaded with small seeds.

Chickadee-dee-dee

An energetic Black-capped Chickadee barely pausing in action recently.Poecile atricapillus.One Christmas Bird Count a few years back, not a single one was sighted in Brooklyn. These birds are so familiar, especially at bird feeders, that their absence was disconcerting. Thirty-four were counted at this year’s Brooklyn (Kings Co.) CBC. (This one was, however, spotted in the Bronx.)

Date Plum

Diospyros lotus is in the ebony family of plants. The bark is very similar to its genus mate, Diospyros virginiana, the American persimmon. As are the calyces. The subject of today’s post is the date plum or Caucasian persimmon, which is native to a swath of territory from Spain to southwest Asia. Diospyros, the genus name, is Greek for god’s fruit.

“What journal do the persimmon and the buckeye keep, and the sharp-shinned hawk?” ~ Henry Thoreau

Beechdrops

Beechdrops or Epifagus virginiana is a parasitic herbaceous plant. It doesn’t have chlorophyll. The plant taps into the roots of a beech to siphon off sustenance.
Epifagus means “upon beech.” This is a winter view: these stalks will persist through the season. The small summer flowers are white and purple; they are evidently pollinated by ants. Although termed parasitic, the plants are not harmful to their beech tree hosts.

Colors of the Season

Blackgum.Sweetgum on a cloudy day. (At least three different trees.)Sweetgum, with late afternoon sun.A subtle meadow for the finish.

Catching Up

One post a day, occasionally two, is hardly enough to keep track. Here then is a miscellany of things I’ve seen in recent months which haven’t made it to these pages yet. Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar in the Bronx.American Bittern in Prospect Park, seen on the same day as that Purple Gallinule that made all the news.Others saw this one capture and devour a songbird. It pays to be still, at least if you’re a bittern.This wasp was cleaning out the inside of the exoskeleton of something.

A finale to milkweed…

This is fascinating: where does the Anthropocene start? 1610? 1964?

Mammal/Mushroom Combo Monday

A melanistic variation on the ubiquitous Eastern Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. These darker ones are said to tolerate colder weather better. Another notion has it that urban environments, with less predators, are also more likely to see greater numbers of both black and white variations of S. carolinensis. Our first example is digging up a nut or berry, but these squirrels are so successful because they’re practically omnivorous. The leftover-monger with snout in the hazelnut spread is from 2015 in Prospect Park. Besides scavenging our ample waste-food, gathering seeds, nuts, and fruits, and the occasional invertebrate and even vertebrate, they also eat mushrooms. Not sure if the small, tentative bite marks here, however, are squirrel. This mushroom was found in Green-Wood, which interestingly doesn’t have as high a density of squirrels as Prospect Park or the botanical garden in the Bronx (first picture).

One Giant Spreadwing

The largest damselfly in the Northeast is a Southwestern species that has been expanding its range our way for the last century. The Giant Spreadwing Archilestes grandis can be up to 2.4″ long, as big as a medium-sized dragonfly. I spotted two males in the Bronx and had a very hard time getting a usable image. (Previous to getting my new camera: there’s always next year… one hopes.) Studied them intently through the binoculars, however: highlights include the bright blue eyes and wide yellow stripe on the thorax.

Someone posted a picture of a pair mating at this location on iNaturalist two days previous to my sighting. Let’s hope the pesticides spread in this wetlands and pond complex at the NY Botanical Garden don’t preclude a return of this impressive species next season.

For those keeping count, I’ve now seen 12 species of damselflies in NYC and all have lived to tell the tale! That includes two spreadwing species in the Bronx; I’ve yet to see any spreadwings in Brooklyn. Amongst the non-spreadwings, the Familiar Bluet and the Fragile Forktail are the most frequently spotted.

Three Wasps Walk Into A Bar…

I. Probably Common Thread-waisted Wasp, Ammophila procera, although the whole Ammophila genus sounds confusing for IDing via camera. So let’s enjoy that orange midriff.Members of the genus parasitize caterpillars and sawfly larvae for their young. A big, bold creature, spotted late last week supping the nectar of seaside goldenrod. Have been seeing these for a few weeks but this was the first time I could get a lens on one.With a sweat bee (Agapostemon) in the mix.II. Gold-marked Thread-waisted Wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata) nectaring on white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). The gold marking, which is what “aureonotata,” means, seems to be the white gold on the sides of the thorax, seen below. I have a hard time picturing all the plumbing and wiring, as it were, going through that long narrow waist.The females make burrows that they provision with a single caterpillar. Like a lot of wasps, the adults are vegetarians. And note that there’s a dusting of pollen on underside of the body and legs.III. One of the Ichneumonidae family wasps. But which one? iNaturalist suggested a couple of Antipodian species, which was alarming… but a false alarming. Bugguide.net suggested Cryptanura septentrionalis, no common name, and this looks good for a match. That’s an ovipositor not a stinger. Since her antennae were moving so rapidly, it’s hard to see them, but they are very long, with some white in the middle of them. She was rapidly sense-feeling the oak bark’s crevasses, presumably for lunch or something to lay her eggs into. No luck in finding any natural history about this species, except that it’s one of two in the genus found north of Mexico. All of the bugguide.net examples are from southern states. On iNaturalist, my example is the furtherest north reported; next nearest is Washington DC.Though the holotype specimen, named in 1945, was collected in Cleveland in the 1930s, and Cleveland, to be fair, is slightly further north than the Bronx.

Autotomy

Lizards can shed their tails to escape predators, including the two-legged kind. This is called autotomy (“self-severing” or self amputation): reptiles, amphibians, spiders, mollusks, even some mammals have various forms of it. The lizard tail situation is probably the best known manifestation of this adaption.

There will be some regeneration, as you can see here, but not quite as perfect as the original.

When I was ten-ish, we lived north of Naples, Italy. The place, a Sixth Fleet suburb called Parco Azzuro, was terraced up a hillside. There was a tufa retaining wall on one side of the property dropping down to the road. This is where we saw most of the local lizards. Something about a wall doth a lizard love. (In fact, the NYC lizards pictured here, Podarcis sicula are also known as Italian Wall Lizards and originated in the Mediterranean region.) Trying to catch them meant I came away with still-twitching tails several times. One lives and learns. I suppose that is what is so wonderful about us a species. The countervailing tendency is to hunker down and endlessly repeat initial errors. That’s another human characteristic, rather less laudatory. And a good description of the bunkered politics of roughly a quarter of the population. Low-information partisans fortified by the conspiracies and bigotries of Fox and it’s even more grotesque familiars InfoWars, Limbaugh, and the like, are unquestionably the enemies of democracy.  These crazies have never been more powerful.

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