Posts Tagged 'Brooklyn'

Dogs of Prospect, Again

I used to spend so much time in Prospect Park! It’s farther away now, but that’s not the reason I’m there so infrequently now.

Half a dozen Red-winged Blackbirds were burbling with Spring there the other day. A Song Sparrow was singing, tree buds were clearly on the edge of bursting, mosses waved their tiny spore capsules, and was that a Brown Thrasher???Overhead, a Red-shouldered Hawk, an uncommon sight anywhere in the borough. So far, so good, right?

Turns out this was the first time I’d been to Prospect since October. Had to make way for two trucks, two carts, and a police car on the walking paths. Our friend, who had come from Manhattan to ice skate, decided that the hideous pop music blaring from the speakers at the rink was so horrible she would skip the ice entirely. Across the lake from the rink is the Peninsula. We watched as two professional dogwalkers unleashed their packs there. The tragedy of the commons in action. Of course, that historical lesson is usually misinterpreted: elites engineered the destruction of the commons because they enclosed and dispossessed everyone/everything else; it was the first great act of privatization.

So at least ten dogs proceeded to run riot in a woodland area where dogs are always supposed be leashed. These guys probably do this every day. I doubt they’re picking up every last pile of shit their charges deposit in the woods. Remember, it’s called canine distemper. Dogs can be vaccinated against it, but they can also all spread it.

Just the day before, a bird-watcher had seen an unleashed dog kill a squirrel in the Vale. There’s virtually no enforcement of city leash law by NYPD or Parks Enforcement Patrol. Yes, that’s a link to an eight-year-old post, but all that’s changed since is that now there are more dogs and the dog-owners are more entitled.

The Parks Department and the neoliberal Prospect Park Alliance consider dog-owners to be good “stakeholders,” who will advocate for parks, or, let’s be more specific, parks as dog runs. Those who can afford to hire dog walkers are also potential funders. Private money must be catered to and the PPA prioritizes funders. Is this why the leash laws are unenforced? Anyway, this wild west of unleashed dogs sure succeeds in pushing me away from this public park.

Pupa Knows Best

Revisiting this pupa of what I think is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in better light and because I find it fascinating. If you look closely, you can see breathing holes on the segments. And the support filament that secures the lower end (or right third in the horizontal view) of the structure to the rock. This filament actually goes around the body like a string belt so that it is attached to the rock on both sides. (So different from this Monarch chrysalis.)

(Anniversary bonus: a Red-spotted Purple, uncommon around here.)

I stumbled upon this extraordinary reminder that the winter landscape, so seemingly barren, is one of tremendous potential. It’s stuffed with larvae and eggs. And buds, leaves, flowers, seeds and bulbs. We don’t see much of it, but it’s all waiting for the heat and the long days. So much life on the cusp.

So many hazards, too.

A tanka I wrote for a friend:

The skunk cabbages
Are burning to live right now,
Hot spathes in the snow

While timberdoodles stay warm
Like other early spring hearts.

Mammal Monday

The raccoons have taken a walloping from canine distemper, but they aren’t finished yet.

In honor of the bloggiversary: all the mammals on the blog!

And a couple of personal favorites:
Eurasian Red in the ice-cream.
Muskrat at dusk.

Gymnocladus dioicus

The distinctive bark of a young Kentucky coffeetree.The branches look dead in winter, bare of twigs, the buds hidden away. The genus name translates as “naked branch.”The high top of this older male tree looked amazingly shrubby.A nearby female was festooned with seed pods.The bark of a mature specimen.

Of trees and their memories: there’s a lecture on dendrochronology on Sunday afternoon at the Torrey Botanical Society meeting. Which reminds me that I wrote a short piece for JSTOR on dendrochronology’s origins.

If you go to the lecture, keep an ear out for Ravens! A pair was working on a nest last week on the very library building the lecture hall is in, but since then they seem to have transferred their allegiance to a nest across the road at Fordham U.


I saw this and the shape and size instantly put me in mind of a pupa. Then I had doubts. It is so incredibly twig-like! Yet the concentric rings, the firm binding at the top to the stone, and the secondary binding on the side, just a thin, flexible thread, were all there to convince me. Some searching on the internet revealed that it was probably a Tiger Swallowtail chrysalis. I submitted the pics to & iNaturalist for confirmation, but both have been non-committal as to species level.

I’ve never seen one of these pupa before. And, if I’m right on the butterfly, this an animal that is hard to miss in its adult stage. The big yellow and black butterfly is one of our largest and most prominent.

Some pictures of the imago or adult flying stage.

More pictures of this very photogenic creature.

Here is the last stage of the larval form.

Now all I need are the early (bird-dropping) and middle (lime green) stages for a complete set!

Nature is a calling that never runs out. Sure, there’s repetition and seasonal cycling, with variations of course. Yet I’m constantly delighted by new discoveries.

Raptor Notes

From all over, but mostly from the window. Here’s a Cooper.Kestrel on the same fire escape, with prey.Cooper again, another day.A Kestrel several blocks away, atop Sunset Park HS. I always glance up here when entering or exiting the 36th Street subway station.Red-tailed Hawk with full crop.

In #BrooklynKestrel news, a male was seen regularly from the window for most of January. A female has been seen locally too, perching on favored spots used by last year’s couple: TV antenna, chimney pot, roof pipe. While on the antenna, she called several times. Another day, from her perch on the solar building, she went after what I assumed must have been a Cooper perched on the other side of the building. From a hover, she plummeted down, swooping back up, and dive again, three times in total. Further down in the flatlands, I watched a Kestrel go after a Red-tailed. Fierce little birds.

The second half of February has been sparser for local Kestrel sightings. A male occasionally on the big antenna at 40th St.

Ripped from the headlines:yesterday, we saw a pair of Bald Eagles mating on Staten Island. It was at some distance so we couldn’t hear them, but we could see their big bills open and knew it was noisy.

Back to that article I think folks should be talking about:

“Drawing reasonable inferences from current patterns, we can predict that a hundred years from now, the Earth may be inhabited by between 6 and 8 billion people, very few of whom live in extreme poverty, 70%–90% of whom live in towns and cities, and nearly all of whom participate in a globalized, market-based economy. It is not inconceivable that two centuries from now, the population could be half what it is today and the long-cherished goals of a world where people respect and care for nature may be realized, especially if we act now to foster this eventuality. We argue that these gains might be accomplished not through draconian population policies or ongoing perpetuation of poverty, but rather through the social dynamics of cities. Success is by no means inevitable, but as others have observed (e.g., Ausubel 2000), acting to accelerate these dynamics now offers the best opportunity humanity will ever have to recover nature on a global scale.”

Red-tailed Hawk…

Continuing from yesterday… This yearling Red-tailed Hawk, which I’m pretty sure is the same one I’ve seen in this area of Green-Wood repeatedly, had recently eaten something.Swallowed the portion stored in the crop,and excreted.Then it started looking around the neighborhood.Next to this tombstone was an evergreen bush.Hawk just waded into it.And pulled out a dead squirrel stashed in there.

Is it, Earth-wise, all bad? Here’s a trio of WCS scientists who argue that if we can get through the present bottleneck… humanity, and our planet, can breakthrough to something better than the doom and gloom so many indicators point to. They’re optimistic…

“We suggest that lasting conservation success can best be realized when (a) the human population stabilizes and begins to decrease, (b) extreme poverty is alleviated, and (c) the majority of the world’s people and institutions act on a shared belief that it is in their best interest to care for—rather than destroy—the natural bases of life on Earth.”

…if we can just managed to hold on now. Keep conserving, keep fighting for our fellow species, keep fighting against the all-too-human enemies of life.


Bookmark and Share

Join 569 other followers

Nature Blog Network