Posts Tagged 'Four Sparrow Marsh'

7 Spotted, 13 Spotted

Pupating larva, I assume of the Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata), adults of which who were all around Four Sparrow Marsh: A species introduced from Europe to eat aphids.

Another commercially available aphid eater is the Convergent Lady Beetle (Hippodamia convergens), which is exported out of California:Like the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, this is also a variable looking species, but it usually has 13 spots and is not nearly as round as the MALB. Found this one on the sidewalk in the Gowanus. Commercially available lady bugs tend to fly out of your garden when released ’cause they ain’t working on Maggie’s farm no more….


In my experience, the internet shrinks the world, whittling our sense of scale. Everything is on a screen now, and so many of us have very small screens indeed in our hands. I’m curious to see where this leads us. I know that when I look at thumbnails on screen, I often don’t have any sense of the actual size. Art, in particular, is often absent internal/external cues or references as to size. Sure, I can sometimes look up the dimensions of the original, but numbers are not very sensational.

On this blog, I do a fair amount of marco-photography, making, essentially, small things bigger. This is partially technologically determined, since my camera doesn’t have a long lens, but also because I want to bring things like seeds, seedpods, feathers, arthropods, etc. into focus, by which I mean your consciousness, or at least your attention.

Above is a detail of a drawing by George Boorujy. You may recognize it as a close-up of a Blue Jay. You may also have some sense of the size of this relatively common bird (which is also highly vocal). It’s bigger than a House Sparrow, smaller than an American Crow. About this image, though, you may be hard-pressed to have a sense of the size of it. Because it does exist on paper, not just digitally. Is it field guide-sized, life-sized, poster-sized?

Here’s the artist and his work-in-progress in his studio.

I met George by way of this blog: he was researching Four Sparrow Marsh, which I’ve posted about several times, and which he has an intimate connection with. He did the original artwork for the plaques that detail the local habitat there. Those plaques are slowly being absorbed back into the marsh. He tells that story here, where you can also learn about his NYC Pelagic project.

We had a great visit to his studio, where he’s been working feverishly to prepare for his big show.

Blood Memory, work by George Boorujy, will be shown at P.P.O.W Gallery from March 15-April 14. Mark you calendars.


A praying mantis egg case, or ootheca, from the Greek for egg (oon) and container (theka). Thanks to Amy for spotting and IDing this for me while we were at Four Sparrow Marsh. These are collected and sold for science projects and pest control in gardens, since mantises devour whatever they can get their prayerful legs on. Up to two hundred baby mantises may be in this ootheca. These cases are formed in the fall of eggs and a foamy protein. The protein dries to protect the eggs. The young will emerge after several weeks of warm weather next year, the kind of weather that brings out their prey.

Four Sparrow Marsh in December

Four Sparrow Marsh.

Four Sparrow’s Pay-to-Play Played Out?

The plan to despoil Four Sparrow Marsh has been withdrawn. I’ve written a lot about this unique corner of the borough and why it’s so special, so I’m glad to hear this wretched idea has been shelved. (For how long, for what reason, I don’t know.)

While the wheels of environmental impact statements and economic development grind slowly, the real power behind “development” is rather more rarely revealed. But a lot of attention was paid to this plan, and once you start smacking the hardtack on the table, the maggots do come tumbling out.

One of the local powerbrokers was indicted: State Senator Carl Kruger’s croakings against big box stores were — allegedly — in the service of his own developer buddy (Kruger pled guilty). [UPDATE: Sheepshead Bay Bites is on the beat.] You see, developers are in competition, too, to own the most politicians. Or is it politicians in competition to own the most developers? This week’s detailing of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s modern slush fund, in which developers launder cash through his “charities,” has also opened a door to the behind-the-scenes ugliness of development — and goes a long way to explaining the shit that has been built in Brooklyn in recent years. (Boodle Hall, I call it — in honor of both Tammany and Borough Halls — the capitol of our shining city on a bill.)

Four Sparrow Marsh

Four Sparrow Marsh this early summer day, at low tide. While most everybody else in town was celebrating Gay Pride and the state’s passage of marriage equality (late Friday night, and about time, too), a few of us were being tormented by “mischievous and annoying insects.” I shouldn’t have loaned my head-covering mesh to friends visiting Alaska this weekend. An absolute gauntlet of the little bloodsuckers had to be run through to get to the marsh this morning. Through sedges, grasses, creepers, chest-high mugworts and higher phragmites, and much else ~ this was, after all, a New York City Wildflower Week [extended] walk, and I’m happy to report that there was a thriving mix of species of plants, shrubs, and trees. (See comments for Elizabeth’s list of things seen. See Marielle’s photos here.)

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.One of a quartet of eastern willets (Tringa semipalmata), this one loudly picketing our presence, perhaps because we were close to a nest (they are salt-marsh breeders), or maybe just on principal. After all, they don’t see too many humans there. On the adjacent upland area, which some people want to turn into yet another parking lot (may they be staked down for the mosquitos), we saw, in addition to the usual suspects, an unexpected male indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea). That was worth pausing for amidst the daredevil skeeters.
There are seven mosquito bites on my forehead. Which makes me seven-spotted, like this ladybug, Coccinella septempunctata.

All my Four Sparrow Marsh posts can be read here.

Old School

“The draining of the swamp lands is not a new idea. Such lands are not only unproductive of anything which can subserve any important purpose, but they are productive of numerous evils. Teeming with miasma, the home of mischievous and annoying insects they are blotches upon the otherwise fair face of nature. To tender them fruitful and productive of good rather than evil, is a problem for which a solution has been anxiously sought, but heretofore only partially obtained.” ~ Scientific American, 1868

This was thirty years before a definitive connection was made between mosquitoes and malaria. The word malaria means “bad air,” since it was early thought that the miasmas of swamps caused the disease.

Marsh Walk

Salt marshes are some of the most productive ecosystems we know of, but they have traditionally been treated as wastelands and dumping-grounds. On Sunday morning, I’ll be leading a tour of Four Sparrow Marsh, one of the last salt marshes remaining in New York City, for NYC Wildflower Week. If you’d like to come you can register here. Four Sparrow Marsh is the site of a proposed mall, although the developer’s principal political sponsor is under indictment (woo-woo!), and everybody (but for some developer-profiteers) is against the asinine idea.
Salt marsh vocabulary: ecdysis, the molting period of arthropods. Having a shell made of chitin (and some calcium, if you’ll recall my last post) means that growth is contained unless you bust out of the ol’ cage. During ecdysis, some of the calcium in the old shell is reabsorbed by the animal, to be re-used for the new shell. (“Softshell crabs” are those crabs — blue crabs are usually the ones on your plate — whose new shells haven’t yet hardened up). “Ecdysis” is from the Greek, meaning to molt or strip off. H.L. Mencken is credited with coining the term “ecdysiast” for Gypsy Rose Lee, who wanted a higher-toned term than “stripper.”Miss Lee in a publicity shot, between molts.


I found four dog ticks crawling up my legs yesterday. This was a first for me within the bounds of the city. I was at Four Sparrow Marsh on the edge of Brooklyn. (My companion, on the other ankle, found none; maybe because of her wellies or her press pass.)

As you can tell from these posts, I find animals fascinating. Slugs to seals. The creepy-crawlies included. While I could very much do without mosquitos, which bite the hell out of me, they don’t freak me out. But ticks really give me the heebie-jeebies. They’re are such excellent vectors, for viruses (Colorado tick fever, etc.), bacteria (Lyme, etc.), and protozoa (babesiosis, etc.). And unlike mosquitos, who quickly harpoon in for some blood, ticks burrow in and suck until they look like they are about to burst. Gross. My mother had Lyme Disease and I’ve pulled more than few blood-bloated ones out of pet dogs and myself; Nantucket, where I graduated from high school, is Tick Central, although the local Chamber of Commerce would rather you didn’t think about that.

As it develops, three species of ticks are known to be in the city.

Save the dates

May 1
The Listening Tour.
I will be leading a Proteus Gowanus event on May Day at 6:00 a.m., as part of the interdisciplinary gallery and reading room’s Paradise exhibition. We will meet at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park. Then we’ll SILENTLY walk through Prospect Park at the crack of dawn to listen to the sounds of spring: the dawn chorus (dozens of species of birds are passing through), the tumble of water, the beating of our own hearts, the hounds on the Long Meadow. This is a walking meditation, a sensory re-adjustment, and, yes, a god-awful early time to wake up. I, for one, will be joyously disoriented by time, ready for the crack of dawn in the urban maelstrom to tear me asunder, and open to the sounds of this tiny, tiny, tiny bit of the universe.

May 15
Botanical Walk.
I will lead a tour of Four Sparrow Marsh for NYC Wildflower Week, starting at 11:30 a.m. Wildflower Week (May 6-15) is a now annual series of events and tours throughout the five boroughs aimed at getting New Yorkers to become familiar with the nature in their backyard. (A mission after my heart, so you know we were destined to come together.) Check out the long week’s other events, too, because there’s a full slate of great things going on.

Four Sparrow Marsh, which I’ve written about before, is a little bit of wild Brooklyn under threat from developers and their politicians.


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