Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Lunar New Year!

New York City is full of special urban wildlife this week for the Lunar New Year.  There are lions and roosters all over town, and drums and cymbals, confetti and sparklers. The lions above are toys, but large versions are dancing in the streets of the New York Chinatowns. 
Here's a pair of lion dancers crouching in the crowded street. 
Here's a scary one. 
This one was tame enough that when he got close I was able to pet him. 
And I saw a couple of cubs! 
And then there were the roosters. Goodbye Year of the Monkey,  hello 2017 -- Year of the Rooster! Click on the photos to enlarge. 
Roosters everywhere you look. 
Here's one with his own bucket of rice. Happy New Year! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Winter Flowers

Flowers are blooming right now in a park near my home in Brooklyn. These winter and early spring bloomers are called Lenten Roses, Winter Roses, Hellebores (for their scientific genus Helleborus), and more. They are not really roses, but rather evergreen perennial plants cold tolerant enough to pop up from under the snow like the one in the photo above. Click to enlarge. 
The flowers start cup-shaped and nodding like this. They also come in green, purple, yellow, and pink. 
Except for one Chinese species, the hellebores are native to Europe. They are toxic and have been used medicinally since ancient times -- but please don't try that. They also have been used for some eyebrow raising things by the magically inclined -- for instance, in potions that help witches fly and powders that promote invisibility.
It's nice to see them on this grey weekend -- 56 days from the start of spring. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January Sun

I saw this pigeon napping in the sun today on a south facing lawn protected from the wind. It was still pretty cold in Brooklyn, about 34 degrees F (that's 1 degree C), but yesterday's snow was melting fast and the little bit of warmth felt good.  
These two robins were part of a winter flock of about a dozen down by the East River, all puffed up and facing south -- soaking up the rays. Click to enlarge. 
And this ring-billed gull stood still on a post. No wind. No snow. Warm sun.  
Manhattan across the river -- undoubtably full, too, of creatures appreciating the warm winter sun. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Where are they now?

Everyone seems to be pretty well informed about the migrations of monarch butterflies in North America. Long distance southbound fliers end up in southern states in the east and in refuges in California and Mexico in the west. In spring, northbound females lay eggs that hatch into butterflies that fly north and lay eggs, reaching further north with each generation until the far reaches of monarch territory are repopulated for the year. So their current whereabouts are accounted for.  But what about other kinds of butterflies?                     
The common cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, for instance. Cabbage whites are still here. They are hunkered down for the winter in the chrysalis stage. Click to enlarge.
Red-spotted purple butterflies, Limenitis arthemis, spend the winter in the caterpillar stage. The caterpillar makes a little shelter called a hibernaculum from a leaf and attaches it with silk to one of its food plants. When it wakes up in spring it is close to a food source and ready to start eating. 
Question mark butterflies, Polygonia interrogationis, like this one hibernate as adults in sheltered spots like hollow trees or crevices and in human built structures. 
There are even some butterflies that overwinter as eggs. So for every stage of the butterfly life cycle, there are species that spend the winter that way -- as an egg, larva, pupa (chrysalis), or adult. You can find them on plants, in leaf litter, under tree bark, in your garage, and wherever they decide to shelter. They're out there in the cold right now, under the snow, and on branches bending in the winter wind. On this 20 degree day in New York City it is reassuring to be reminded that spring is coming.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

             "And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been."                   
Rainer Maria Rilke