Posts Tagged 'Central Park'

Gallish

Went on a walk last weekend in Central Park in honor of Alexander Von Humboldt and the late mycologist Gary Lincoff. We met at the Explorer’s Gate, next to the Humboldt bust. The baby vomit stench of ginkgo fruits, rotting and crushed on the sidewalk, deterred us not.

The venerable American elm behind Alex reaches over the wall to the right and sends branches well below the street level down below to the park level. It’s cosseted by cables linking the outstretching limbs. It’s a good metaphor for the park itself: it takes a lot of support to keep this going, to handle the millions who pour into its bounds every year.

Seen amidst the conversations:
A very pale Mallard variation, presumably a feral domesticated bird.
New York City, baby! Big as a Sherman Tank and just a few feet away from the second most crowded bridge in the park.
Hackberry Star Gall, caused by a psyllid, Pachypsylla celtidisasterisca, a kind of true bug.

Hooded Mergansers

Shouldn’t be too long before these come into their breeding finery.

Bufflehead

The purples and greens in this male Bufflehead are pretty subtle, especially on an overcast day. But that bufflehead!So named because of the resemblance to a buffalo’s head. If you say so. Was Dewlapped Duck not considered?One of our winter visitors, they bred much further north. They’re cavity nesters, and small enough to use the old holes made by Northern Flickers or Pileated Woodpeckers.

Ruddy

A flotilla of resting Ruddy Ducks.
The bills on the males will turn even bluer before it’s all over.

Grebe

The water beading off this Pied-bill Grebe… You know, I think this plumage is more interesting than the breeding plumage. This cinnamon tinge to the neck is not, by the way, found in all non-breeding birds.

Cyanocitta cristata

Blue Jay. Called by Linnaeus Corvus cristatus. Still a Corvidae.

In his five volume Ornithological Biography,* written to accompany The Birds of America, Audubon begins the Blue Jay section with “Reader, look at the plate in which are presented three individuals of this beautiful species, — rogues though they be, and thieves, as I would call them, were it fit for me to pass judgement on their actions.” (Friends, Romans, countrymen…)

*Lucy Audubon helped with the editing (JJ’s Franco-American orthography was iffy; he thee’d and thou’d all his life after learning English surrounded by Quakers), and Scotsman William MacGillivray acted as ornithological editor. MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei), named in his honor, is a West Coast bird that resembles the Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia) found (with difficulty) on this end of the country.

Lucy’s Warbler (Oreothlypis luciae), a Sonoran Desert speciality, is not named after Mrs. Audubon, although the 13-year-old Lucy Hunter Baird who inspired the name was herself named after Lucy Audubon. Her father, Spencer Fullerton Baird, was a great friend of the Audubons (JJ named Baird’s Sparrow after him; Coues named Baird’s Sandpiper after him). Lucy’s, the smallest warbler species, was named by J.G. Cooper, son of the William Cooper who was honored with the hawk. Charles Bonaparte named the hawk after Cooper, but Audubon thought he had priority for the naming of this species, calling it after Lord Stanley, so there was some bad blood over this. None spilled, of course… except for the hawks’. This digression could go on…
*

Here’s a first draft of what articles of impeachment for Donald J. Trump could look like.

May Day

Some mammals for Monday and May Day.Did you ever wonder why they, and we, are called mammals? I have to admit I never did until last week.
Linnaeus came up with the term Mammalia in 1758, from the Latin mammae, meaning the breasts. This we all know. Yet everything else Linnaeus named is based on male characteristics. His botanical system, for instance, is based on the male sex parts of plants. So why not the hairy quadrupeds and bipeds with three ear bones, fur, four-chambered hearts, etc., too? Why not John Ray’s term Pilosa (hairy animals)? Or, sticking with the milk part, the Lactantia or Sugentia, both of which mean “the suckling ones”? Therein lies a tale which I’m writing for work. We shall return to this question.
*

I like the return of May Day as a radical holiday. Get out there and smell the flowers while you act up.


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