Saturday, July 26, 2008

Head's insects and one other

Hi Marie,

I've just read some chapters about insects in your book...they are indeed fascinating, and the metamorphosis process is really beyond words.

I was at Turtle Pond yesterday and photographed what appear to be wasps... and an escaped convict.

The Cardinal was photographed at the Maintenance Field...I've tossed him in for good measure as this one seem to have seen more than his share of insects.


Great Golden Digger Wasp on Swamp Milkweed

Great Black Wasp

Great Black Wasp with closed wings
a leaf-cutter bee [I guess this is Murray's convict]

All photos by MURRAY HEAD

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The last word and then a PS

Just to dot the last i of the swimming raccoons, here's a note I received this morning from Regina Alvarez, head of horticulture and woodlands management for Central Park:
 I just saw the fabulous photo on your website of the three raccoons swimming.  They do in fact swim, I have seen it plenty of times.  The heron is sitting on the edge of one of the planting shelves that is around the island.  The water where the raccoons are, is at least 2 feet deep near the shelf and drops sharply to about 10 feet.

PS My first answers to readers questions were posted yesterday on the NY Times City Room blog. The second set comes out today and the third [I'm still working on] will be published tomorrow. Thanks to those of you who wrote in! I recognize some names. Here, again is a link to City Room:

Bruce saw it before

Bruce Yolton ( writes:
Swimming Turtle Pond Raccoons are nothing new. This is a picture from 2005

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Swimming or wading?

Below, the photo that started it off. The photographer, Murray Head, captioned it The Amphibians

Reactions to the swimming raccoons photo:
1. Not so fast - Judging from the way the black crowned night heron is standing, the water is very shallow - those raccoons could actually be walking (unless you think it is considerably deeper where they are.)Allan Miller
Shallow Water? The water looks mighty shallow there. Mr. Black crowned night heron still has some legs showing. Can those racoons be really said to be swimming? Not to nit pick, but my friend Alimatou noticed this. She is very observant, being a detailed report proofer for us here at the office. Hmmmmmmmm. Nan Holmes

I wrote each of them and said:
The thought crossed my mind too. I'll check with the photographer and see if he has any more evidence one way or another.

Murray Head answered and set up his defense:

First image shows the Heron to be a little further from the shore where the water appears to be deeper.

Second image: the kits which were following the the mother were naturally smaller and had shorter legs.

From the pictures we cannot really ascertain how deep the water is and how long the legs of the kits are.What I believe to be compelling evidence that they are swimming was how they were moving... an absolutely smooth, constant forward motion that would be indicative of paw-padding. If they were walking that would that not be so, in my estimation.


As final proof for his swimming hypothesis, Head sent in a hilarious YouTube video. I laughed out loud when I watched it and I think you will too.

Murray Head's final words:
If Nan and Alimatou would like to have a look at this additional visual information on aquatic raccoons...perhaps it will help and the humming will stop.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Raccoon Crossing at Turtle Pond

The photographer Murray Head took this remarkable picture on Saturday, 7/19/08. I've always heard that raccoons are fine swimmers. This is the first piece of tangible evidence that this is so.

[I wish I knew what that Black-crowned Night-heron in the background is thinking.]

PS The green stuff covering the surface of Turtle Pond is Duckweed, a fine, native plant and a good food source for many water fowl.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Where it all begins...or ends

Photo by Peter Post
Peter Post, a great Central Park birder and butterfly lover sent me the photo above and wrote:


Yesterday, I found a Black Swallowtail laying eggs near the Maintenance Meadow. I went home, got my specialized close-up camera equipment, and returned to photograph the eggs. I thought you might be interested in seeing it.
By the way the life size of the egg is about one millimeter.


PS from Marie:One millimeter is less than four hundredths of an inch

PPS- And here's the butterfly:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Questions on City Room

For those of you who haven't hooked up to the new page on this website, a page devoted to stuff about my new book -
this is a reminder that next week I'll be the designated question-answerer on the New York Times blog City Room. On the left of this blog are articles by Times city desk reporters. On the right is an item called Taking Questions. Those questions, next week, will be for me. Readers can write them in on Monday and Tuesday, and my answers will appear on Wednesday, Thursday and maybe Friday [if there are enough questions, I guess.]

Here's a link to the blog. I'll look forward to your questions!