tileI kid you not, this building is at the end of the block of Degraw Street where my no-frills European-style hotel was located.

As evidenced by the newly-established hotel, Park Slope and Boerum Hill are encroaching on this industrial neighborhood of Gowanus. We passed a shiny new condo block on the west side of 4th Avenue. Degraw and Sackett Streets are painted with bike lanes.

Roosevelt Island and nearby

almost from QueensI took a vacation day Monday, before my training classes midweek, to explore some offbeat places in New York. I’d never been to Roosevelt Island before, so I got that tram ticket punched. The park at the southern tip of the island was closed, but the views across the East River from just outside are just as good.

northern lightAt the northern point is a lovely, tiny lighthouse, dwarfing the Triborough Bridge in this perspective.

still a few aroundBack on the “mainland” of Manhattan, a painted advertising sign persists on 2nd Avenue. I look at the sloped lettering of PORTOVAULT and now I understand where Ben Katchor’s signs come from

American Chestnut Land Trust

easy swervesSunday was a near-perfect day for a field trip to the Parkers Creek section of the American Chestnut Land Trust property in Calvert County on the western shore of the bay, led by Stephanie Mason. Chesapeake Bay’s not really visible from trails on this property, but you can sense it from the end of the Turkey Spur Trail.

up that hillWe had the place nearly to ourselves. For a Coastal Plain site, the walking is remarkably hilly.

It was a middling day for birds. We watched a Green Heron stalking its lunch on Parkers Creek; had good looks at Prothonotary Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Northern Parula; heard Ovenbird (frequently), Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, White-eyed Vireo.

not a logAt the lunch break, a skink mistook Ethan’s trousers for an extension of the log he was sitting on.

Some nice butterflies: Spicebush Swallowtail, several Zebra Swallowtails, and two Vanessa species, an American Lady and numerous Red Admirals.

watermarkSome good flowering plants to look at: the place is covered with Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum). Stephanie explained an concept that I hadn’t latched onto before, the difference between a determinate inflorescence (the plant decides how many florets to make and it’s done) and an indeterminate inflorescence (flower ’til you drop, like we saw with Mysotis).

brown rachisit makes a lovely lightAnd some great ferns. The image of Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron) at the left is an attempt to show the dark brown rachis. New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), at the right, tapers to a point at both ends, like a New Yorker burning his candle. Hay-scented Fern is the other species in our area that forms large clonal colonies like New York Fern.

chain chain chainStephanie made the call on this Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata), which is very similar in appearance to Senstive Fern. I need to learn to look for fertile fronds when I’m looking at ferns.

At the park: 50

a smaller, muddier oneTwo trips to the park not to check nest boxes (though we did check a couple), but rather to assist Kat, who is surveying crayfish activity. We went 0-18 on the smokestack traps, but negative data is still data. And the reptiles and amphibians provided some alternative entertainment.

hoistShe has been using submerged basket traps like this one, baited with an opened can of sardines. But she was interested in finding other species, ones that don’t spend all their time in the water.

tulle tooltrap setThis weekend’s project was to trap crayfish in their burrows. The plan was to use a bit of fine mesh, attached with string to a bit of dowelling. Insert the mesh into the burrow, wait overnight, and pull up a critter in the morning. Unfortunately, this morning we found no crayfish entangled in the mesh. Instead, we found a couple of our traps pulled completely into a burrow and out another entrance. And one trap went missing altogether. Maybe one day it will turn up incorporated into an Osprey’s nest.

Meanwhile, songbirds are actively nesting. Great-crested Flycatchers and Red-eyed Vireos were audible; a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is nesting in full view of the boardwalk, at the first wide spot. And Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) are active! Nests (probably dummies) are being constructed to the right of the trail, just after the fork and before it enters the wetland.

The beavers continue to work on dams at the upper end of the wetland. The past month’s dry conditions have dropped the downstream water level; the gauge reads only 0.28 m.

Snead & Co.

cornercreditI finally had a few minutes’ opportunity to pause at the old Woodies building for the beautiful ironwork that’s been recently repainted. As can be clearly read now, the manufacturer was the Snead & Co. Iron Works of Jersey City, N.J.

Snead also held several library shelving system patents. I distinctly remember what must have been their skeleton shelves (with a clever twist-lock bookend) in the stacks of Deering Library, the old library at Northwestern.

August: Osage County: an update: 1

I do expect that this will be the only series of posts with three colons in the title.

at home with the Westons We are running big chunks of the show, generally off book and off prompt. This afternoon we did a full run, which means I get to relax and watch the stunning act 2 dinner scene.

Leta is in the show, but I have zero shared stage time with her. Rather, much of my scene work is with Lee; we have a once-in-a-while shared history that goes back to a silly hotel room farce called Birthday Suite that we did for the Players in 1994.

Since I have little text to work with, I can do some micro-level dialect work, aided by the audio archive of Oklahoma speakers developed by Paul Meier and the University of Kansas. Matt shared this link with the cast; I was more or less aware of the archive but I didn’t realize that the corpus was categorized by state. The unscripted samples are the best part; the researchers found ordinary people with some really interesting stories to tell ex tempore. The standard passage, “Comma Gets a Cure,” is sometimes distracting to the subjects, especially those who have actually taken a goose to the vet.

At the park: 49

playing with contrastOn this morning’s nest box walk, we noticed a big patch of freshwater snails in the shallows off the boardwalk on the way to the observation tower, snails that we hadn’t seen even last week. I blasted the contrast in this image so that the snails are visible through the murky water.

new invasive?in the handUnfortunately, they appear to be Chinese Mystery Snails (Cipangopaludina chinensis), an invasive that is often introduced by aquarium dumping. This large snail species features an operculum, a trap door that the snail can close up to ward off drought and predators. Notice that there’s no snail sticking out of the shell in the image at the right.

Recent posts like this one from Brendan Fitzgerald suggest that this pesty algae-eating mollusk is a recent arrival in Virginia.

Some people consider the best way to deal with these intruders it to eat them.

At the park: 48

Both of the new boxes that we mounted in mid-February are home to clutches of Hooded Merganser eggs. The crew of wildlife photographers were very grateful for the activity at new box #10, which is quite visible from the boardwalk. They tried to convince us to set up even more boxes, in racks condo-style; we politely thanked them for the suggestion.

reddeninggreeningDownstream of the observation tower along Barnyard Run, it still looks pretty brown, although the flush of maple flowers is apparent in the treetops. At the water level, duckweed is starting to green up.

I stuck around until the afternoon to join a different volunteer team, this one organized to whack away at some of the invasive alien Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and Asiatic Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) that threatened to make a play for a sunny clearing. We worked in a section along the pond trail in the northwest section of the park, not accessible from the boardwalk trails but rather from the hike-bike trail with its trailhead on South Kings Highway.

statelyWe cleaned up vines in the vicinity of a stately Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera). I spent a good chunk of my time working over a patch of bittersweet that was more tenacious than Audrey II, all the while leaving the native Poison Ivy and Virginia Grape alone.

At the park: 47

Monitoring season began this morning, and we were rewarded with 4 Hooded Merganser eggs in box #13, while another merg was stationed in the entrance hole to brand-new box #4 (which we installed just two weekends ago!). She sat there for a couple of minutes, so we didn’t approach that box.

new beaver damTwo articles of new construction are visible in the image: the new weather-resistant, recycled-materials boardwalk, and the beaver dam. Our castorine friends have enlarged the pond around the first observation area, where the boardwalk enters the wetland. The gradient between the water levels I judge to be about 20 cm.

Per the Friends newsletter, the latest word on (man-made) dam construction for the wetland restoration project calls for ground-breaking in summer/fall of next year. The Park Authority has contracted with Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. to provide final designs, acquire permits, and oversee construction.

Great Backyard Bird Count 2012

rip and rapRepair work has begun on reach 6 of the Glade, to fix 2010’s restoration work that was undone by the flood of September 2011. There’s some heavy gear scattered about. Nevertheless, 17 species of our mid-Atlantic winter suburbans were represented on my mid-day count. Mostly cloudy, but with the sun overhead, viewing conditions seemed to be both too dark and too glaring. No real surprises on the bird list, though the briefly heard starling was a little unusual for this patch.

cruel to be kindI was taken aback by the stumps of half a dozen large trees that were sacrificed, but perhaps the undercut stream bank that you can see here is the explanation. Stream restoration is a little like sausage-making.

looking for some friends to make a thickethanging outA little farther upstream, near the footbridge, a Smooth Alder (Alnus serrulata) was proudly displaying its male catkins.

At the park: 46

some assembly requiredM.K., Steve, and I got a head start on nesting season by installing two new boxes along Barnyard Run near its outlet into the main wetland. Steve, whom I haven’t worked with before, turns out to be a dab hand at steering the runabout ATV (which we used to carry our gear) down the trails and across the brush and Smilax.

field modifiableFrom a ladder, I worked the tubular, double-handled mallet (we all call it “the pounder,” but there must be a more precise name for it) in order to seat the support pole in the mud. I stayed up there while Steve redrilled one of the mounting holes in the back of the box.

still kind of bleakready to goIt’s still plenty wintry at the park, as a passing snow shower reminded us. But the new boxes are nice and dry, and ready for this year’s ducks. About ten days ago, M.K. watched a group of about 20 Hooded Mergansers going through pair formation behaviors.

On deck: 9

and one not picturedWell, I knew that Kent Minichiello’s Conservation Philosophy class would have a lot of reading, but I’m not sure that I planned for quite this much. This is the reading list, including my two book report books, but missing Santos’ prohibitively priced Managing Planet Earth (loaner copies will circulate) and various offprints.

My presentation on the Cooper is in two weeks. Too bad I don’t have a long commute to carve out reading time for me.