Posts Tagged 'Central Park'

Spiny Gall

gall2Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a good gall-tree. One species of aphid, Hormaphis hamamelidis, forces the tree to make cone-shaped galls on the leaves. The young aphid grows up inside this, protected from its enemies. Another species of aphid, the Spiny Witch Hazel Gall maker, Hamamelistes spinosus, makes the tree make these hard, spiny galls that come off of the twigs.gall1Ken Chaya, who identified these for us, cut a couple of them in half. A spider had taken up residence in one. Another had the white filaments of a cocoon within.

Have to admit missing most of the White-tailed-Deer-in-Harlem story, for I have no interest in television news ratings-fodder. In response, Jason Munshi-South had a good editorial in the Daily News on the need for a sane policy on urban wild animals.

Central Park Flora

img_1757Recently, we got to join Regina Alvarez, Daniel Atha, and Ken Chaya for one of their Central Park flora expeditions. For three years, the trio have been searching for wild — that is, not planted by the park — plants in Central Park.img_1760Atha, who has travelled the world over collecting plants, uses an elegantly simple set-up for his plant press. Two boards, some newspaper sheets, and adjustable straps. The Waldo Tribune fits perfectly.img_1762This is a Rosa: full identification would come later. img_1763The trio have doubled the number of known grass species in the park, found some very rare Pumpkin Ashes, and cataloged a lot of exotica. The links above will give you more details of their adventures in wild and perhaps not so wild sown plants that make Central Park their home.
For instance: Groundcherry (Physalis) or Tomatillo. In bloom in December. groundc1.jpg

A 20 Point Guide for Defending Democracy. (So many points, four long years.)

For Want of a Tail

Geothlypis trichasA female Common Yellowthroat warbler (Geothlypis trichas) absent all her tail feathers. A small bird made even smaller. She may have lost them all at molt, although that’s usually a progression not a sudden loss. Or maybe a cat got her? Geothlypis trichasWhatever the case, she was doing fantastic work grabbing larvae and adult bugs, even a moth. Managed to fly out of the way of a yoga dude so in tune with the universe that he didn’t notice.

Great Horned

Bubo virginianusBubo virginianus, bold as daylight.

The Acrobat’s Red Belly

Melanerpes carolinusA Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) showing his generally covert namesake, the kinda-reddish belly, while going for the triple roll. What looks like sweet potato is a peanut butter concoction stuffed into a coconut shell at the feeders in the Ramble.

Squirrel Downtime

Sciurus carolinensisTwo Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in curious resting positions on branches.Sciurus carolinensis

One-eyed Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalisWith a peanut.Cardinalis cardinalis


Quiscalus quisculaOne of a quarrel of Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) in the Ramble in Central Park.Quiscalus quisculaA nice illustration of the way feathers on the head can be manipulated. Puffed up above. Sleeked down below.Quiscalus quisculaThe purple-blue sheen isn’t registering as iridescently as it did to the naked eye, but it’s getting there.

More Springtime

CrocusLeuconotopicus villosusCardinalis cardinalisAgelaius phoeniceus


The RambleThis is American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) country. Actually, this time of year, practically anywhere is American Woodcock country: backyards, bars, porches, Park Avenue medians, DUMBO parking garages. Yes, I’ve heard cases of them appearing in all these places. I’ve written a poem in which I refer to them bombarding us during the migration seasons; I’d link to the poem if only the swines would publish it already.Scolopax minorKen Chaya spotted this bird in the shade of a tree. Scolopax minorThe two of us circled along the path to try to get a better view, this time with the sun behind us. Success.IMG_1276Soon enough, the Central Park Effect — I believe they use small goat-skin drums to signal the news — had the bird bookended.Scolopax minorBut, considering all the human attention, it was actually a couple of squabbling squirrels that made this bird jump into a better position for our eyeballs and lenses.Scolopax minorThis enormous beak is used to probe in soft damp earth for worms and other delights. Technically shorebirds, they prefer woods and adjacent meadows as their habitat.

The night before, a few of us had gone out to Floyd Bennett Field to witness the courtship ritual of these birds, also known as Timberdoodles. After sunset, the males come out into open meadows and start to vocalize a sound described as “peent” or “beent,” but with more of a wet buzziness to it. Then they fly around twittering, both vocalizing some more and creating sounds with their wings. This is said to really impress the ladies. You can barely see because it’s become so dark, but the sounds are, on a good night, all around. Note the huge eyes on these birds; they do their best work at night.

My friend Gabriel Willow will be doing a field trip for this “sky-dance” on April 18th for NYC Audubon. I’m doing one of my Listening Tours for Brooklyn Brainery this weekend, when we also hope to hear spring peepers (it’s sold out — but check out their other classes and always keep a weather eye out here for other field trips).


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