Posts Tagged 'Brooklyn'

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisSee me?Buteo jamaicensisWell, I don’t want to be seen.

Speaking of being seen! There are lots of elections this year, and although the Republican anti-democracy campaign plows full speed ahead, their nasty little oligopoly isn’t here yet.


Melospiza georgianaWhat an unfortunate metaphor “draining the swamp” is. We need all the swamp we can get. Melospiza georgianaHere’s a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana). This species has longer legs than its cousins (the Song Sparrow is in the same genus), the better for wading. But this particular bird was tucked away in a bit of rather dry habitat in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Flushing the sewer is a more appropriate for our political situation.

Cling On

Procyon lotor
Procyon lotorIt was a very chilly day.
Procyon lotor

FYI: There was such a demand for my Brooklyn Brainery Where the Wild Things Are NYC class that we’re doing it again on February 28th at 6:30.

Barking Mad Monday

FagusThe distinctive bark of Beech (Fagus), its typical smoothness broken up by age.CeltisHackberry (Celtis). On the young trees especially, these nobby, layered, butte-like protuberances are characteristic. The red hairs of a Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vine find them a good place to anchor.HalesiaThis is a mature Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina).AesculusAnd this strange stuff is Fetid Buckeye (Aesculus glabra), better known as Ohio Buckeye. It does have a high odor. This beast was recently cut down in Prospect. Aesculus glabraSure looked fine inside. Unless this center of the bole means something…FagusAnd then there was this Beech, which toppled and took out some fencing and a swath of bamboo. The interior here is big enough for me with my arms akimbo. If not two of me, which, admittedly, might be a bit much.

Check out theorist of civil resistance Gene Sharp’s famous list of 198 nonviolent actions you can use/mix and match/collect ’em all.

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisIt is not easy being a large hawk. They’re slow, obvious, and nobody likes them. A case in point: this young Red-tail (Buteo jamaicensis) was being hassled by several Blue Jays, who screamed and shouted in alarm. They were pressing the advantages of the many smaller against the larger one. Buteo jamaicensisEven a bold Black-capped Chickadee got involved in the verbal melee.Buteo jamaicensisBut it wasn’t just verbal. My fellow-birder noticed this disturbance on the bird’s head. Then both of us saw one of the Jays slam into this spot, no doubt exacerbating the effects of the earlier blow(s).

Yes, it is not easy being an airborne hunter. Which helps to explain why most won’t make it to their first birthday.

FYI: it looks like there are still spots available for our Croton Point Bald Eagle expedition.

American Hazelnut, Sweet Yellow Buckeye

Corylus americanaCorylus americana, an unexpected discovery in Brooklyn. I didn’t know there was a native filbert. This is a shrubby, colonial plant of the understory. No leaves this time of year, of course, but behold the nut and those glorious dried bracts. I understand these were planted by staff.

I’ve been thinking about species lately. Life is more complicated than the systems we use to categorize lifeforms. Plant taxonomy, like animal taxonomy, has been turned over by genetics. Did you see that argument about the number of bird species being much larger than thought? In reading about trees, I see also sorts of debates about what is what. Aesculus flavaThe shield-shape beneath this bud is a leaf scar. In this case, the leaf once attached here was a big one, a compound leaf made up of 5-7 leaflets in palmate form. And those circles within it are bundle traces or scars, the now-sealed off plumbing, essentially, of the leaf. This is a case where the ID should be easy. Looking through Core and Ammons, we came to Aesculus octandra, Sweet Buckeye. Cool! But, uh, somewhere along the line, this was recategorized as A. flava, a.k.a. Yellow Buckeye. (A good taxonomy will list synonyms, other binomials used in the past.)

Using a dichotomous key to try to figure out identity of leafless trees via leaf scars, stipule scars, types of buds, etc., turns out to be quite difficult. These keys used to be standard in books to help identify plants. Core and Ammons’s Woody Plants in Winter was originally published in 1958; Harlow’s Fruit Key and Twig Key to Trees and Shrubs is from 1941. But a key is like computer programing, if a than b; yes or no; 1 or 2. Capable of remarkable things, yes, but not as sure pressed into service for the varieties of life. On the other leaf, both of these books are still available. We still want to know, and they can be useful tools.

It would be good, I think to remind ourselves that when the oligarchs say “regulations” what they mean are protections, however piecemeal and compromised. Protections of the land, air, and water so necessary to life. Protections against fraud and cheats (i.e campaign contributors). Protections, even, of basic human decency. I’m afraid you can’t argue that the epic mendacity of the Trump gang and his Republican enablers are capable of is good for anybody but themselves. The dupes who thought the swamp would be cleaned are discovering that the sewer is being emptied on them.


cocoonThe winter woods are quiet and relatively monotone in color. But look closer. (And listen!)

We were looking at tree buds. This big cocoon with remnants of leaf-covering was just hanging there. One of the giant moths of the family Saturniidae made this, I think. Will it make it? Has it already be taken over by parasitic wasps? Overhead, a trio of Red-tailed Hawks explored their own futures.

Ah, the future. There is a subset of Americans who seem pretty immune to reality. Perhaps it is a grounding in the fiction of religion, because if they believe that, they may well believe anything. Or perhaps it is the authoritarian personality that wants to be led.  Or maybe it’s the willful ignorance of the self-satisfied. All these could be in play. Don’t forget the power of conspiracy thinking, a strange urge to make everything seem rational, orderly, and controlled by somebody. And the windowless rooms of Fox and Facebook…

It’s really up to them in too many ways. They have to be convinced that lies, more lies, and damned lies are antithetical to democracy and civilization, not to mention their own damn-fool asses.


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