Posts Tagged 'Woodlawn'


Lichens, like other lifeforms, are sensitive to air pollution. So the relative scrubbing of the air in the last few generations — before the Republican counter-revolution — has brought back lichen communities to NYC. Cemeteries are the one of best places to see lichens because they don’t have the road traffic of the streets and have both trees and stones, the substrates lichens thrive on.These pictures were taken last month at a Torrey Botanical Society walk in Woodlawn Cemetery. The tour leader was one of the authors of a paper in the Society’s Journal about the discovery of a Usnea lichen species that hadn’t been seen here in two centuries.

Mammal Monday: Whistlepig

I’d just passed two woodchuck-sized holes under a tree when the lumbering run of a groundhog-in-the-fur caught my eye. The animal stood up for the best view in front of its burrow. Marmota monax, mammal of many names. Slightly easier to see if you click on this image to make it larger.

The children’s gulag is concentrating.

The lying jurist (I’m pretty sure the FBI thing is just a cover for Flake, Collins, and Murkowski: they’ll ultimately vote yes ~ the whole party is Trump’s now.)

Raptor Wednesday

Old faithful: Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). You will see these all over the city, as often perched upon a human edifice as in tree.

The guard at Woodlawn Cemetery’s Jerome/Bainbridge Avenue gate said there’s frequently a Red-tail atop this chapel’s steeple. Further into the grounds, I heard a Common Raven making that distinctive knocking sound they sometimes favor in their repertoire. I started moving towards the sound even though it was obviously distant. Just as I heard the last of it, I saw two more Red-tails in a conifer. After something more than an hour’s exploration, I exited by the same way I’d come in, and there was the steeple hawk, still in the sun.

So, three RTHs on Thursday.

On Friday, a pair were wafting around in the wind swooshing up the moraine at Sunset Park. I watched them in the cold park for perhaps 15 minutes, and then saw them a few times from the windows of the View From The Moraine the next hour. When they face the wind and seem to hang still in the sky, their tail and wings are constantly adjusting to the force of the wind.

On Saturday, there were three individual hawks over Green-Wood. The first of the day was one of this year’s fledglings; they won’t get their eponymous red tail feathers until they’re a year old or so. The other two were both adults.

A pair of Common Ravens were heard and seen as well. That was my first definite sighting of a Brooklyn Raven pair in a while.

On Sunday, a large flock of pigeons erupted into the air above a crowded Washington Square Park and then a RTH floated mid-tree height to a perch. I was watching it as three youngsters with a camera seemingly named after Richard Leacock approached. They wanted to ask me some questions about art for a School of Visual Arts project. What kind of questions about art? Well, for starters, what is art?

Sceliphron caementarium

What the well-dressed mud-daubing wasp is wearing: black and yellow.The Black and Yellow Mud Dauber builds a mud nest. Trypoxylon politum, the Pipe Organ Mud Dauber, is almost all black and builds pipe organ-like nests.Here’s another gathering mud. Her left antenna is broken off. She does not seem to get much mud per trip. This must make for a lot of back and forth! It helps if the nest is nearby. This particular wasp flew off faster than I could follow. But another nearby (this is damn good mud!) flew fifteen feet away from the murky pond. The rusting iron cap on the urn on the left shelters her nest. The metal juts out on this side, making for a wasp-sized passage. She’ll seal up her eggs in mud cells in there, along with the entombed paralyzed spiders she has provisioned the larval wasps with. The specific epithet caementarium means mason, or builder of mud walls. Some years back, I had one of their nests in my old Cobble Hill backyard.

Pale Beauty

Subtly tinged with green, Campaea perlata is known as the Pale Beauty moth. The caterpillars, also known as Fringed Loopers, enjoy munching away on the leaves of a broad range of deciduous trees and plants (65 species!). Like most moths, it’s nocturnal, hiding away from predators during the day.  This particular day was quite overcast, so there it was, the pale greenish beauty.

Charismatic Megaflora

Fagus sylvatica.Quercus alba.I came across this play on “charismatic megafauna” here, which explores the fact that bigger is not necessarily oldest.


The neo-confederate Jeff Sessions is the knife at the throat of our basic liberties, and the point man for the Republican dream of a Potemkin democracy overlaying a practical autocracy.

George Bird Grinnell and Others

gbgI went up to Woodlawn Cemetery to visit the grave of Herman Melville, and I stumbled upon George Bird Grinnell. Grinnell was born in Brooklyn and tutored by Lucy Bakewell Audubon, widow of John James, at the Audubon home in upper Manhattan. He started the first Audubon organization, believing the name should live on. Bird Grinnell, who was born with that name, was an influential editor of the magazine Forest & Stream, campaigning for national parks, respect for Native Americans, saving the bison, and protecting birds from the slaughter of the millenary trade (one of fashion’s many dark hours). This headstone is modest, by the way, but the family obelisk is pretty imposing (it is a competitive neighborhood; the robber barons flocked to Woodlawn in their effort to perpetuate their names after death).Patricia CroninPatricia Cronin’s stunning “Memorial to a Marriage.” Stunning because this is rather good, and because it depicts two women, Cronin and her wife (a little disconcertingly, they’re both still alive), and you know how often you see sculptures of actual women (non-symbolic), and how often you see sculptures of women lovers. Also, chipmunks, who are all over the cemetery, have burrowed underneath it, which means it has natural history value, too. It’s not as shiny as certain parts of Victor Noir, but give it time… Quercus albaA sprawling old White Oak (Quercus alba), one of the city’s Great Trees, said to be the oldest in the cemetery, but I couldn’t find any dates associated with it. Woodlawn opened in 1863.Procyon lotorA scratchy clambering sound on a tree turned out to be this youngish Raccoon (Procyon lotor) who had clearly just been in the lake. The last time I was in Woodlawn, some 19 years ago (!), I saw a Coyote. QuercusAnd Melville? I’m planning a group walk from his birthplace in lower Manhattan to his death place (26th St.) to his final “resting” place here, c. 17 miles, and wanted to be sure of the destination. The whole unhappy gang is there, with a cenotaph (marker without a body) for Stanwix, who was buried in California. Next to the family plot is a fine oak, Black, I think (Q. velutina), with huge leaves.Gleditsia triacanthosSpine of a Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos); postulated as defense against now-extinct giant herbivores. Sure could do a number on a mammal. Speaking of which:furIt was darker than it looks here, with some white, so I thought skunk.


heronsGreat Egret (Ardea alba) and Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) aligned in Woodlawn. The Great Egret was quite vocal when it flew: a guttural barking. No songbirds these. Note that these two birds are in the same genus: “egret” and “heron” are basically synonyms; the Latin “ardea” means “heron.”Ardea albaIn Green-Wood. The correspondence between the white feathers and white petals of the water lilies, the yellow bill of the bird and the yellow centers of the flowers, gave me much to contemplate. gbhThe Great Blue a little later, when I turned around and saw its silhouette away up there.

Dragonfly Days of Summer

Plathemis lydiaMale Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Very distinctive. Here’s another view of another:Plathemis lydiaThe tail is slightly bluish, actually. Great example of pruinosity, the waxy bloom (can be blue, gray, or white) on mature odonates, especially males.

Dragonfly season is upon us. During this weekend wanderings in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Woodlawn Cemetery, I saw Blue Dashers, Eastern Amberwings, Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, Carolina Saddlebags, and the three species pictured here.Libellula pulchellaTwelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) male.Arigomphus villosipesAlways exciting to see something I don’t recognize. A male Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes). Check out those cerci at the end of the tail. “Typically mud-bottomed lakes and ponds” says Paulson on this species’ habitat, which is right on: various carp were splashing in the murk of Woodlawn Lake.


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