Journal archives for May 2023

May 03, 2023

City Nature Challenge 2023: New York City, the observation days

Most years here in New York City, the weather during the annual global City Nature Challenge is considerably less than ideal! Spring in New York City is unfortunately not like fall in New York City, which generally has nice sunny warm dry weather lasting for several weeks.

I always say that April here is often cold and rainy, and this year that has been totally true. When Ed and I came back from Nevis, West Indies in late March, at first we had a bunch of nice warm sunny weather, including three days of 90º, but more recently that changed over to chilly wet weather. Recently we have had weather in the low to mid 50s instead of what the average daily high temperature is supposed to be at this time of year here in NYC, which is 66º

The observation part of the City Nature Challenge lasts four days, a four-day weekend from Friday 28th through Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th, to Monday May 1st. The Friday was completely overcast with no rain, but chilly. The Saturday it poured with rain all day and was cold too. The Sunday was also heavily rainy and cold all day. There were big puddles everywhere. On the Monday we got to see the sun on and off, but it was still quite cold, although it did not rain at all, thank goodness.
The first day of the Challenge, on Friday morning, I walked the Esplanade in my neighborhood from the Con Edison building up to the beginning of John Finlay Walk at Carl Schurz Park. Then at 1:30 pm I went over to the Little Hellgate Salt Marsh at Randall's Island, where I met up with Sara Rall from New Jersey, and we iNatted there for almost 2 hours. I have wanted to meet Sara for several years. Then I went home because my feet were hurting. Total of observations I made on Friday: 407.
The second day of the Challenge, on the Saturday morning I went to Carl Schurz Park and walked around in a lot of that park except for the inland areas. Near the 90th Street Ferry stop I saw a couple of policemen, and a vast amount of fire department folks with all kinds of rescue gear including one guy in a red scuba suit. They were all at the edge of the East River looking over and down onto the rocks there. I went home early with wet shoes, wet socks, and feeling cold from not wearing enough layers, otherwise I would have stayed out longer and made more observations. Total of observations I made on Saturday: a measly 162.
On the third day of the challenge, Sunday, I dressed warmly using many layers including several tops and leggings made of wool, and of cashmere, topped with waterproof jacket and pants and rain boots. I walked all the way round the Reservoir in Central Park. Then I went over to the Cherry Allée area of Carl Schurz Park. Total of observations I made on Sunday: 402.
On Monday, the fourth day, the last day of the Challenge, Ed and I went to Randall's Island, starting at the eastern end of the turquoise 103rd Street footbridge, then walking up to the little Ward's Island beach, which I searched, then through the woodland area near there, and up the footpath on the south side of the Salt Marsh. Then Ed and I walked through the freshwater wetland woodland area till we came out on Central Road where the bus stops opposite the main Icahn Stadium entrance. Then we took the bus back to 125th street in Manhattan, and managed to get a taxi. On 77th Street I climbed into the flower beds in our building's front garden, where I turned over wood pieces and rat traps in order to see and record all the garlic snails, the striped greenhouse slugs, and some millipedes and earthworms. Total of observations I made on Monday: 303.
My overall total number of observations in New York City during City Nature Challenge was 1,327. My overall total number of species I found during those 4 days in NYC was 294.

The following statistics could change, as people are still both uploading and ID-ing their observations and will be until 9 am on Monday 8th May, but right now I am ranked at number 2 in total number of observations in New York City during City Nature Challenge 2023, and also ranked at number 3 in total number of species found during City Nature Challenge 2023: New York City. As far as the Battle of the Boroughs goes, Manhattan is leading. I currently rank as number 1 in Manhattan with 1,273 observations of 293 species.

Posted on May 03, 2023 05:00 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 45 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2023

iNatting on Roosevelt Island

I had a great time yesterday, May 21st, iNatting on my 75th birthday. Ed and I went to Roosevelt Island so that I could have what was only my third exploratory visit there, and my very good iNat friend Misha came too.

I wanted to visit the Roosevelt Island Community Garden. We took the free red bus to the Octagon stop which is the last stop not very far from the north end of the island. For the Community Garden stop you stay on that bus, because the stop you need is the first one on the way back, opposite the fire station.

Once we got to the main entrance of the Community Garden, I noticed there was a big, mostly empty, vacant lot at the dead end of that small street. We asked the young man who was presumably guarding the lot if we could go in to see if there were any interesting plants there, and he said yes.

It turned out to be a pretty good location with a lot of cool wild plants and some nice birds singing. The most exciting organisms we saw were a groundhog running across the gravel-covered center of the lot, and a very cute little Fowlers toad that Misha spotted sitting on the ground at the northeast end of the lot. We also saw four cats, all of which I think were feral.

After we had spent quite some time in the vacant lot, we went next door to the Community Garden. It is a very pretty garden, but I was surprised that there were not more insects there. The most interesting insect I saw was a Narcissus Bulb Fly. The only butterflies were two or three Cabbage Whites. As for mollusks, there were Physa acuta freshwater snails in the nice little ponds there and two Cepaea nemoralis land snails in the cuttings basket. There were lots of gorgeous fragrant roses and peonies in full flower in the garden plots.

As for plants, the best thing I found was a really huge Bukhara Fleeceflower creeper growing wild at the entrance to the vacant lot and completely covering a young American Elm Tree. I had never seen Bukhara Fleeceflower before, and indeed, it is somewhat rare in NYC. I also saw, but did not photograph, Miguel's Mazus (very pretty and new-to-me) growing rampant in some of the garden lots, and it turns out that is invasive here in the northeast, so I need to go back soon and photograph that, as I assume it counts as wild in NYC.

The three of us walked back to the tram along the western coast of the island, and Misha rode with us on the tram to the Upper East Side. Having had a very late night the day before, Misha was tired and went home, but Ed and I went up to Hummus Kitchen (2nd Ave between 83rd and 84th) for dinner with our friend Tom Kleh to celebrate both Ed's birthday (which took place while we were on Nevis in March) and my birthday too.

Posted on May 22, 2023 01:42 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 30 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

May 27, 2023

iNatting on Roosevelt Island -- lots of introduced species and invasive species!

Six days after my last visit, I went to Roosevelt island again. In my neighborhood before I left, I saw Sibthorp's Pennywort introduced from Southeast Asia, and the pretty Thyme-leaved Speedwell, which is introduced from Europe, and which today was all in flower.

Then on Roosevelt island I had to get off the Red Bus a bit further south than I had planned to, and as a result, I happened to notice examples of the Broad-leaved Helleborine, an invasive orchid species from Europe and Asia, in two different places: a flower bed in "Manhattan Park", and also in a wild patch by the roadside a bit further north than that.

In the Community Garden I was happy that I got to photograph lots of Miquel's Mazus, native to Japan and China, an invasive plant that I saw on my last visit here, but which I had not photographed until now.

I need to tell the community gardeners that they have the Red Lily Leaf Beetle, native to parts of Europe and Asia. It is an invasive pest that the gardeners should try to control as best as they can, as it absolutely devours all species of Lilium, and unfortunately the species is spreading like crazy in our part of the northeast.

I also took more images of the Bukhara fleeceflower, an introduction from Asia.

In one of the small ponds in the community garden was the Water Foreget-me-not, which is an introduction from Europe.

The Barley Powdery Mildew fungus was a new-to-me species.

I got to see the Tuxedo cat again in the exact same place that it was in last Sunday.
If I see it a third time I may try to give it a kitty treat and also try to pet it. It looks friendly.

On this visit however, we did not see the Groundhog or the Fowlers Toad.

Posted on May 27, 2023 10:41 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 30, 2023

Roosevelt Island once again -- finding hundreds of weedy Orchids

Ed and I went over to Roosevelt Island again on Monday, 29th, Memorial Day. I wanted to try iNatting in the green and woodsy park which is opposite the Post Office on Main Street. I think it is called Manhattan Park. The last time we visited the island, the bus driver accidentally dropped us off at the northeast corner of that park, and I took the time to briefly photograph two examples of the weedy orchid, the Broad-leafed Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, as well as seeing another two examples of that species a bit further north on the wild edge of the soccer field that lies south of the Community Garden.

I started iNatting at the southwest corner of Manhattan Park, and I walked clockwise round the edge of the park, photographing weeds. Most of the weeds were quite ordinary and unsurprising. But I also found what looked like stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, and bracted sedge, Carex radiata. If I got the IDs right, both of these plant species I was seeing for the first time. However, I did not try to see if the nettles would sting, and so I can't really be sure they were Urtica dioica. There were large masses of the Meadow Anemone Anemonastrum canadense, and that species is native to the Northeastern States, but I believe it is also sold as a garden plant, so it may not have been wild in this park.

Once I got over to the northeast corner of the park, I started to see lots and lots of Epipactis helleborine. Some of the plants were still quite young and small. Others were larger and had a flowering spike tucked inside of the leaves, but I reckon it will be a minimum of two or three weeks before any actual flowering starts.

So many orchid plants! I reckon, if you could count all the youngest plants, there seemed to be at least three hundred orchid plants in total, all growing in the broad flower bed which forms the eastern edge of the park. But there were no orchid plants at all that I could see in the northern, southern or western flower beds of the park.

Another plant which was present in a few spots, and which I think may be wild, was "Green-and-Gold" - Chrysogonum virginianum - that species is native to New York State.

At the edge of the soccer field a bit further north there was another colony of the weedy orchids, but only very few of them compared with the huge numbers in Manhattan Park.

Ed and I also walked north to the Community Garden and to the vacant lot too. We looked to see if the tuxedo cat was there, but we did not find her/him.

As for the Weedy Orchid, I have previously found it a few times in NYC -- on Randall's Island, and several times in Central Park around the Reservoir, and I once found one plant of that species in Carl Schurz Park.

Posted on May 30, 2023 12:23 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 56 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment