Friday, July 28, 2006

Red Squirrel info for the lovelorn

I've been getting a few responses to yesterday's Rodent Personals ad, none of them, unfortunately, from rodents.

Eleanor Tauber
, who took the photo above, sends in a crucial bit of information for future ad respondents:

I’ve been told by someone who visits the red squirrel almost every day that “he” is a “she”!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New mammal in Central Park

Photo by Bob Levy 7/23/06
The Eastern American Chipmunk is not a rare mammal in the Northeast. Indeed, chipmunks are commonly found in many other New York City parks as well as in the countryside surrounding the city. But for some mysterious reason these small members of the Squirrel family are extremely rare in Central Park. There have been no more than a handful of sightings here during the last century. That's why the discovery of a chipmunk near Turtle Pond last Sunday by Bob Levy was big news. Bob, the author of Club George: the Diary of a Central Park Bird-watcher and an occasional correspondent on these pages, not only caught sight of a chipmunk, but he also managed to get a reasonably good photo, leaving no room for doubt that it was really a chipmunk he saw. The mystery of how it got to Central Park and how it will fare there in the future is unresolved. Our other new mammal, the little Red Squirrel, has made it for his first year. Perhaps he and the chipmunk could pool resources and put a Personals ad in the Village Voice or the New York Review of Books:

Seeking mates: two lonely, unattached rodents.
Object: sex. Unfortunately we can't do it together. While we're both in the same family [Sciuridae] we're in different genera, the striped one of us being a Tamias, the red one a Sciurus.

PS I found the following, completely uncharacteristic comment in the Eastern American Chipmunk account of Walker's Mammals of the World- Sixth Edition -
Volume II , by Ronald M. Nowak, surely one of the driest of all scholarly works:

"[The eastern chipmunk] is an entertaining little animal and if encouraged with food and protection, it becomes tame. It makes a pleasing pet."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fall Migration begins

Yellow Warbler

Northern Waterthrush
Photos by Cal Vornberger
[both during Spring Migration}

I know, it's only July 26th, but the Fall migration has definitely begun. Last week Ben Cacace "spotted" a Spotted Sandpaper at the Reservoir, almost certainly an early migrant on the way south. And this morning the Early Birders saw two southbound warblers, a Northern Waterthrush near Hernshead and a Yellow Warbler on the south side of Turtle Pond. Both warblers are among the earliest arrivals in Central Park in the Spring. Not surprisingly they are in the vanguard for the Fall journey south.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Current Road Litter--next in a series

<>After quite a hiatus, suddenly there are flower petals littering streets and park drives throughout New York City. Most NYC trees send out flowers in May or June. <>What is this tree blooming at the end of July?

<>It is the Golden Rain Tree ( Koelreuteria paniculata)

Though the information sheet below says it blooms in late May or June, it is a July bloomer,hereabouts and surprises New Yorkers year after year. These are the only weeks people become aware of how many of these trees there are as they step on the carpet of small, whitish petals everywhere. By next week they'll be gone.

Why are there so many Golden Rain Trees in the city? The information below answers the question of why this is such a popular tree for urban plantings. It is tolerant of poor soil.

Golden Rain Tree

Classification: Deciduous USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9


  • 15' to 20' width X 25' to 30' height

Growth Habit:

  • Small, compact
  • Oval-crowned
  • Moderate growth rate

Golden Rain Tree
Furrowed Bark


  • Generally silver-gray to gray brown
  • Older bark becomes shallowly furrowed

dormant.jpg (335481 bytes)
Golden Rain Tree
Golden Rain Tree
Compound Leaf


  • Deciduous; full yellow to yellow-orange fall color
  • Compound leaves
  • Alternate leaf arrangement (leaflets are opposite)
  • Deep green to almost blue-green above, light green below
  • Fine to medium texture

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Golden Rain Tree Inflorescence
Terminal Clusters
Seed Capsules


  • Terminal clusters covering the tree
  • Each flower is about .5" diameter
  • Yellow with orange markings at the base
  • Blooms June or late May


  • Papery-walled, bladder like capsule
  • Light yellow to brown changing to light red brown
  • Persists into the winter


  • Small ornamental tree


  • Red Shoulder Bug (Jadera haematoloma)


  • Full sun
  • Grows almost anywhere
  • Tolerant of poor soils


  • Seed


  • Flower and fruit are quite showy

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pale Male the Mascot

Nina Gunther-Segal, with school librarian Kim Bader and the Principal Dan Feigelson a moment after the unveiling.

The plaque at PS 6, 81st St. between Park and Madison Aves.

In April, 2005, a 4th-grade class from a nearby public school, P.S. 6, came to the Model-boat Pond to talk to me about the Fifth Avenue hawks and to look at Pale Male's nest through Lincoln's telescope. I'd met one of the kids before, a girl named Nina Gunther-Segal. She and her mother, Molly Gunther, were frequent visitors to the Hawk Bench and big-time Pale Male fans. Nina mentioned that she had a dream -- to have Pale Male become her school's official mascot. She even gave me a petition to sign, drumming up support for her idea. Of course I signed, but I didn't suppose anything would come of it.

The photos above show what happens when a smart, charming, persuasive and very persistent kid [with a cooperative mother] pursues a dream. Just about a month ago, on June 20, 2006, to be exact, I attended a little ceremony on the steps of P.S. 6. It was to mark the unveiling of a plaque permanently affixed to the facade of the school building. Pale Male was now the official mascot of P.S. 6. As Nina's mother wrote me in an e-mail inviting me and Lincoln to the event, "Inspired by Lincoln's photography, the plaque depicts Pale Male with accompanying text by Nina -- a lasting testament to the importance and vitality of the Central Park "classroom."