Sunday, July 27, 2008

Old and new mothers (authors) convene

7/26/08 -- about 10:30 p.m.
Old and new Mothers (authors) at Cedar Hill, watching Cicada-Killer Wasps emerge
from L to R Jim Lewis, Nick Wagerik, Julia Rolnick, Aaron Kaplan [shuttling back and forth between two Cicada-killer nests].

"Came from CA to see the Moth Tree." That was the subject line of an e-mail that arrived in my website mailbox yesterday. The message read:

I am a mother (other) who has been absolutely enraptured with your book, Central Park in the Dark. We have brought our family to NYC for the first time and are seeing all the “sights.” After reading on the Internet that the Moth Tree was flowing again, we (husband, myself and two eager kids) went to find the Moth Tree last night (Friday, 7/25) at around 9pm, thinking you’d all be there... After roaming around for over an hour with the book and flashlights (fun anyway!), we decided you all were not there, and we couldn’t find the tree on our own. This is our last night in New York, and we'd love to tag along on any nature walk you and your mother (author) group are planning, especially if it includes the moth tree.

Tracy Kaplan
from Davis CA (near Sacramento)

Well, what author [rhymes with Moth-er] could resist such a letter?Tracy included a cell phone number and I called her back to arrange a date for that evening.

The Mothers (authors) were in especially high spirits that night , since Julia and Davie Rolnick were in town and had joined us. Charter Central Park Mothers who had moved to Vermont six years ago, Julia and Davie had never lost touch with their Central Park friends. We all talk by phone, and e-mail (and exchange Moth lists) many times a year.

Last night we met the very delightful California family and saw some exciting sights. Only ordinary moths at the Moth Tree -- none of our favorite group, the Underwings. Alas, it seems to be drying up again. But we found cicadas in the most exciting (for us) stage of metamorphosis, and many other nocturnal insects .

Since there were many cicadas, we wondered if the cicadas' primary enemies, the Cicada Killer Wasps, might not have begun making their underground nests in the usual area, a rock outcropping on Cedar Hill. Yes!

It was a thrilling sight. We saw at least three of these huge insects emerging from their mounds. They were bringing up dirt as they constructed their underground tunnels and cells. Before long the wasps would be bringing in live but paralyzed cicadas as food for their newly hatched larvae.

The Kaplans had just read the sections of Central Park in the Dark about cicadas and cicada-killer wasps. In fact, Tracy had read these parts aloud to 9-year-old Aaron and 11- year- old Grace earlier that day. As you may imagine, it was a tremendous pleasure for the book's author to witness this famiy's excitement as they watched the dramas described in the book unfolding before their very eyes, in real life.

Below are some of the photos I took in the dark last night with my small digital camera.

At the Moth Tree - in foreground, Julia and Davie

At the Moth Tree, from l. to R: Stuart Kaplan, Aaron and Nick Wagerik

from L to R: an unknown arm, Aaron [in white shirt] , Stuart, Davie, Tracy, a small part of Grace, and the Moth Tree

A Cicada just beginning to emerge on Beech Tree north of Model-boat Pond, in area just west of Fifth Avenue wall.

A Crab Spider on a fence along path between 75th and 77 Street

A Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar crawling up plastic baggie {NB:There are many of these caterpillars around just now. If you come across one, don't touch it! A certain percentage of the population is highly allergic to something they exude.]