Posts Tagged 'Sunset Park'

Raptor Wednesday

Sometimes all you get is the general shape of the critter. The big-headed American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), for instance. Other times, you take your best shot. I thought this might be a Kestrel, too. But it sure was spending a lot of time up there, a behavioral characteristic I haven’t seen so much with Kestrels. I hustled the half kilometer downhill to get a better view. (Still a crappy photograph, but better than nothing.) Much darker, more heavily streaked.Merlin (Falco columbarius)! So I’d been seeing this shape up there off and on from 2/20. Had it been a Merlin the whole time? The last time I definitely saw a Merlin was New Year’s Day. There have been a few ebirds sightings in the borough since then. And this past weekend there were two in Green-Wood!

Oak Galls

gall1The mighty oaks and their galls are an endless source of curiosity. This particular type, a hard, fruit-like structure, is created by a tiny wasp, which essentially irritated the tree into making them for their larva.
galls2Clever boots! The trees are Swamp White Oak (Q. bicolor), according to the Street Tree Map. (I’m waiting on some leaves to see if I can confirm that.)gall3The wasp’s exit hole. I think these are Disholcaspis genus gall wasps. D. quercusmamma perhaps? (Why, yes, a translation of that would be “oak breasts.”)

Thoreau Thursday

dipteraThe other day, when I noticed a host of gnat-like flies outside the kitchen window, it was 54 degrees F and overcast. matingNothing to see here, people, move along.

Well, actually, we can see an awful lot here. The top specimen is, I assume, male, because of those moth-like feathery antennae; the better to sense you with, my dear. You can just see, between his middle and hind legs, two barbell-like projections: these are the halteres. Flies are in the order Diptera, which means two-winged. Many insects have four wings; halteres are sort of vestigial hindwing stubs; they help with aerial maneuvering, evidently, like around your ears as they hunger for your blood stream. Yeah, mosquitos are Diptera.

Also, note out much larger the female is. She frankly looks like a member of another species entirely. Is this an egg-carrying adaptation?

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“It is discouraging to talk with men who will recognize no principles. How little use is made of reason in this world!” HDT, March 4, 1852.

You may have had the experience of attempting to argue with a person who believes, say, that the tiles are showering down in New York City tunnels, or that “welfare queens” use their paltry government checks to buy champagne and other aspects of the high life that good solid working folk do not enjoy. You used all the evidence you could muster to argue, actually, no, neither of these things are happening, or, if indeed there’s evidence of one such incident, it only means there’s one example of it, not the rule at all. But not only are you not believed, the person becomes more convinced that they’re right.

Indeed, limited-information people actually double-down in their belief in their fantasies when presented with evidence that they’re wrong. Social scientists call this the “backfire effect.” (No one, after all, likes discovering that they’re chumps played for suckers.) Blindly following Trump as they blindly believed Obama was a Muslim coming to take away their guns, such willful idiots are the foot-soldiers of Trumpism’s attack on democracy. They are their own willing executioners. To note that, at most, they’re 25% of the population is an understatement of the threat they pose to us all. And besides, there’s definitely some of this conspiratorial thinking across the spectrum.

“…but it sprang back to its former stubborn and unhandsome position like a bit of whalebone.”

Sturnus vulgaris

Sturnus vulgarisThe view from the moraine recently.

Here’s another view: ten things you can do to make Trump toast. (We can hardly wait for his resounding condemnation by history, after all.) Beyond the usual pressure, constant pressure on reps of all parties, I for one was intrigued by the notion of becoming involved at the county political level, a bit of a cesspool here in Brooklyn. The next elections for election district members (half of these are unfilled) of the party committee are in June 2018.

Raptor Wednesday

AccipiterIt sometimes seems like I have a raptor sighting every day. So, for the last month, I’ve been keeping tabs. My “daily raptor” is a good practice. In the political shitstorm, it is my daily rapture.

Over the 31 days of January I had 37 raptor sightings, the majority of them (21) from my windows. Others were seen around and about Brooklyn (Bush Terminal, Green-Wood, overhead here and there) and the Bronx (in and near NYBG). There have been four species: Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawk. Cooper’s and Red-tailed are the most frequent. Some of these sightings were undoubtedly the same bird, like that reliable male Kestrel on the antenna (who hasn’t been seen since the 16th). My protocol was loose; if I saw a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk circling the neighborhood ten minutes after seeing a juvenile RTH circling the neighborhood, I didn’t count it as another sighting. But if I saw a juvenile three hours later, I did.img_2241

So how about some eagles? I’m leading a Brooklyn Brainery excursion to Croton Point Park on Feb. 11th.

“I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here. Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.” Francine Prose.

Raptor Wednesday

Falco peregrinusHeads up! Peregrine on St. Michael’s, check. But what’s that on the left side? That little one was hassling the big falcon, or at least trying to. I think it was an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). Falco peregrinusThe little one did not stay, but I hustled down two long avenue blocks.Falco peregrinusFrom the other side of the stupa-like tower.Falco peregrinus

Rather less beautiful: how easily democracies can backslide into authoritarianism.

Raptor Week III

Falco sparveriusThis big antenna a long block away from my apartment is a regular perch for a male American Kestrel. (This is what it looks like without much optical enhancement, btw.) He’ll park on either the taller or the shorter portion (the shorter is bent back towards us), sometimes on the cross-bars. Sometimes just for a minute or two, sometimes a little longer. What is he hunting in the winter? And what kind of antenna is this (there are three more I know of in the ‘hood.)Falco sparveriusAnother time, another borough. I noticed something atop a watertower on West 18th Street in Manhattan. Luckily, I had my camera at hand. This is also a male — note the blue wing. He has caught a small bird. (Curse these overcast days, not to mention my less-than-long lens.)

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You can’t ever read Orwell on politics and language too much. Or his “Notes on Nationalism.”


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