Posts Tagged 'Green-Wood'

The Fields of Sweetgum

Just a part of one of the large spreads of fallen Sweetgum balls I’ve ever come across recently.
Not pictured here are the Dark-eyed Juncos that were taking advantage of the windfall. The tiny Liquidambar styraciflua seeds are a big source of winter food for birds.

Mimus polyglottos

And who hasn’t felt the side-eye of a Northern Mockingbird greedily claiming all the little pears of winter?

Different day, same patch. A different tree this time: those red linden branchlets! Same bird? In this case, it was much colder so there some puffed-up feather action here. Great insulation, feathers. I wore down myself yesterday.

Snow Hat

Within a short distance of the 25th St. entrance to Green-Wood, there are five of these big Bald-faced Hornet nests.A pair in neighboring trees.
And yesterday, I found some of the paper of one of them strewn about.
Now that’s what I call wrapping paper!

Raptor Wednesday

Local falcons:American Kestrel. This one was a long avenue block from the Green-Wood linden. The same male, I think, perched atop Sunset Park High School.Another day. Just a few blocks away, atop the tall antenna at 5th/40th. A different male, I think, because of the much greater amount of russet on the breast (not just the play of light). A long-unseen sight! Coming out of Green-Wood’s obscure 4th Avenue entrance, we noticed something atop St. Michael’s nine blocks away. A bit of telephoto on the anomaly revealed the silhouette of a Peregrine, which we haven’t spotted up there since spring. The bird flew towards us before angling towards the northwest. Note what sure looks like a wing of some prey up there. Almost a week later, same situation: walk out of Green-Wood, notice something odd in the distance, apply telephoto. This time, the falcon perchedperched, perched until I got to 42nd St., the location of Mike’s Spike. I was aiming to get out front, that is, with the sun behind me. But the bird flew off as I made my way to 43rd St. Later in the day, however, the bird was back, as witnessed from the apartment. And has been spotted, if it’s the same one, thrice since that day.

I get pretty excited when I see a raptor. The city is surprisingly rich with them, as I aim to document with these Raptor Wednesday posts. So far this year I’ve had 312 raptor sightings within NYC limits.

But the city is also full of deadly hazards for raptors. A big one is that private citizens AND the Parks Department continue to use rat poison. Rats are prey for Red-tailed Hawks, Snowy Owls, and others. The poison moves up the foodchain: last week a Red-tailed Hawk was killed in Prospect Park. The Park suspended the use of poison, but only after the bird was dead. A friend tells me a Snowy Owl on Governor’s Island met the same grim fate last year. Poisoned birds are constantly being delivered to local bird rehab facilities; most of the dead ones are never found. The stuff needs to be banned.

More about rat poison and predators who eat rats. And here is something about alternatives to poisons.

The Tall One

The tallest trees here in the east are usually Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera), sometimes also called Yellow Populars. The tallest tree in Green-Wood Cemetery is one. According to their new map, “Alive at Green-Wood,” it’s 110 feet tall. This is the “toy camera” setting of my camera, for a change of pace. Samuel Morse’s remains are found nearby. Even closer is a Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) nest, hung with as much care as a Christmas stocking in a poem.
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FYI: Should special counsel Robert Mueller be purged, there are rallies planned around the nation.

Water, Water Everywhere

A toponym is a place name, a notion of maps, signs, and our heads but rarely actually written onto the land itself. These names are packed with the histories of the peoples who did the naming. Rivers in particular hold onto ancient names, however filtered by later folk, as this nation so amply demonstrates. George R. Stewart’s classic Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States, originally published in 1945 and back in print, is a good place to start on this topic. Kill brook creek run, if you know what I mean.

Here in the city, many of the old names have been paved over, like the topography itself. We live atop the Harbor Hill Moraine, but I know very few people who have ever heard of it. Yet its path is marked by the names of Brooklyn neighborhoods: Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills… you’re sensing a pattern: the moraine stretches all the way out to the far eastern end of Long Island. It’s why the mere 4th floor here gives us such an expansive view, from Staten Island to Midtown Manhattan with the long smudge of the Watchung range in New Jersey in-between. Walking up and down the hill everyday reminds us of all this glacial rubble, a feeling a car can not provide.

Another thing we’ve covered over is most of the water bodies of the city. But you can’t keep a good water down. Sergey Kadinsky’s Hidden Waters of New York City (2016) explores the waterways visible and invisible in guide-book form (but unaccountably without maps!). The most famous example is the Minetta in the West Village. This stream is completely covered over, and gives its name to a lane and street, but it still moves towards the river and the occasional basement. The big apartment complex at 2 Fifth Avenue has a glass pipe in its lobby where the water can sometimes be seen bubbling up.

You’ll learn much in these pages. But a caveat: I spotted some errors in places I know best. Green-Wood’s Dell Water has not been filled in; I think he means Dale Water. And he gets the cemetery’s Sylvan Water and Valley Water confused. That’s easy to do because Sylvan Water, the largest pond, is actually in a valley. (Green-Wood reeks of Victorianisms.) Also, no explanation for why Whale Creek, an offshoot of the Newtown Creek, is so named…

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You may have noticed that when I link to books discussed in these pages, I do not link to Amazon. There are other ways to get your hands on books, not least libraries. Yet Jeff Bezos is now the richest dick in the world. I’m glad to say I’ve had very little to do with that. (I stopped using the company many years ago when learning of their labor practices.)

The price of convenience, so called, has turned out to be oligarchy and a ruling 1% smashing the shit out the rest of us. No one with a critical take on history — consider slavery, the Money Power, the Gilded Age, fascism, contemporary China — should be shocked by this. Yet Americans are indoctrinated with the fantasy that democracy and capitalism are entwined, that one equals the other, that a “free market” leads to liberty. This is bullshit piled so high people are drowning in it. No actual capitalist has ever believed it. Why should you?

Raptor Wednesday

In winter, my eyes are always looking for the anomalies in trees. There are plastic bags and balloons, unfortunately, as well as the more welcome clumps of leaves from old squirrel dreys, and sagging Baltimore Oriole nests persisting past their usefulness (at least to birds), and big footballs of paper made by wasps. And then, sometimes, there are the silhouettes of raptors. This Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), for instance. Most of the Coops I see are juveniles, browner with lots of white flecking on the back and having vertical markings on the front, not this red. This is an adult, or sub-adult. The eyes, for instance, aren’t quite the red of an adult (juveniles will have yellow eyes). A second year bird, perhaps? 

From May through September, I didn’t see an Accipiter (baring Sparrowhawks in Sweden). Do they nest in the city at all? Yes: Staten Island and the Bronx have records for Cooper’s. Sharp-shinned were recorded breeding a little farther out, on Long Island, in the first state breeding bird atlas 1980-1985, but not the second, 2000-2005.

I thought I saw a Sharpie the other day, flying, but I didn’t have binoculars. I was reminded that my sightings of perched Sharpie’s are quite limited. The male is about the size of a Blue Jay, the female a little bigger, so this is one little hawk. My one excellent view, through a window in Massachusetts, stays with me because I couldn’t believe that that hawk shape could get so petit.


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