Saturday, August 22, 2009

More about the storm--from Regina and yesterday's N.Y. Times

Red Oak near 100th Street

Yesterday I sent a note to Regina Alvarez, the park's
Woodlands Manager, and the Conservancy's all-important liaison to the birdwatching and nature-loving community. I asked what we could do to help, in addition to making contributions. She answered:

Dear Marie

The damage is unbelievable, I have never seen anything like it. If you have not seen it yourself yet, be prepared to be shocked. The Great Hill was hit the hardest. We are trying to keep positive about it, recognizing that landscapes always change. This was not the work of vandals, it was a natural event and although it feels devastating, we will replant those areas and eventually we will have beautiful landscapes for us to enjoy and habitat for our wildlife.
Right now tree crews are still working to make the park safe. Cleaning up and chipping all the wood will take a long time to finish. Then we will think about how we will replant the affected areas. Donations are key, but volunteers are also going to be very important. We have diverted much of our staff to work in the North End these days, so we will be relying on our volunteers to help us clean and maintain the rest of the park. If anyone would like to volunteer they can go to our website, call 212-360-2751 or they can drop in on one of our visitor centers.
Thanks for your help Marie.


and from yesterday's New York Times:
August 21, 2009

As Wood Chippers Whine, Central Park’s Toll of Uprooted Trees Rises

They swept from patient to patient Thursday morning, like triage medics on the battlefield grappling with decisions of life and death: This one probably can’t be saved. That one might — with amputation.

Savagely shorn of its limbs, the giant pin oak anchoring a treehouse in Central Park’s newly renovated $2 million West 100th Street Playground received a grim diagnosis.

“It’s a close call, but it’ll probably have to come down,” said Neil Calvanese, vice president of the Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit agency that runs the park for New York City.

Thirty-six hours after a freak nighttime storm scythed through mid-Manhattan, felling an estimated 500 trees and snapping branches off thousands more, an arboreal trauma team fanned out through the hardest-hit sections of Central Park and Riverside Park, mapping the devastation for hard decisions ahead. The estimate of felled trees in Central Park, put at fewer than 100 on Wednesday, grew to several hundred on Thursday.

“This is the saddest part to me,” said Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, as experts gave little hope to two damaged yellow buckeyes, in the horse chestnut family, that still towered over thickets of downed foliage but seemed destined for the wood chipper.

He said they probably dated from the 1920s or ’30s, “but we won’t know until the ring count.”

The whine of the chippers filled the northern reaches of the park as 18 crews labored over the fallen lumber and greenery, mulching it into piles like giant anthills for moistening the soil throughout the park. The wood may not be sold for furniture or even firewood because of its infestation by the Asian longhorn beetle.

At the murky green lagoon known as the Pool, David Fuhrman, 48, standing out in a yellow T-shirt and orange hat, cast a worm for bass — just as he had been doing Tuesday night about 10 when the storm arrived.

“I ran into the tunnel,” he said, pointing out the vaulted grotto a few steps away.

There were no injuries reported as a result of the storm, Mr. Benepe said, perhaps because the tempest immediately sent everyone fleeing the park.

The storm wreaked havoc with park wildlife as well. A fledgling scampered near Mr. Benepe’s feet, apparently prematurely dislodged from its nest. “It’s not ready to fly,” the commissioner guessed. “The mother will come for it.” And the stripped chestnut trees, he said, had probably housed what he called “a raccoon hotel.”

He said that in addition to trees uprooted in Central Park and on city streets, Riverside Park lost 65, Randalls Island lost 35, Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem, 3. Officials called it the worst damage in decades.

Final tree-by-tree determinations would not come for several weeks, said Douglas Blonsky, president of the conservancy and the park’s administrator. But the mapping began Thursday with Bill Berliner, a conservancy arborist, and Anna Colletti, an administrator, identifying standing trees by their “d.b.h” — diameter at breast height — and noting their condition on a chart. The information would then be transferred to a computer database of the parks’ 24,130 trees with at least a six-inch base diameter.

Trees that lost a large limb were at grave risk of dying, Mr. Calvanese said. “Once you open up a wound like that, a column of decay sets in,” he said, adding that painting the gash with tar only sealed in the decay.

Tulip trees, the tallest-growing trees in the city — reaching heights of 150 feet and once favored by American Indians for canoes — had their branches “snapped off like a piece of dry spaghetti,” said Mr. Benepe, leaving their soaring trunks standing like toothpicks. Two hickory trees that had stood near the Conservatory Garden since the early 1900s lay uprooted, “irreplaceable,” Mr. Calvanese said.

Damaged American elms will be particularly hard to replace as a result of the onset of Dutch elm disease, he said. The ailment killed 28 of the city’s elms last year. Sweetgum trees lay stacked on the ground like cordwood, as did London plane trees, hybrid sycamores that were the trees of choice of the city’s master builder, Robert Moses. “It seems they just exploded,” Mr. Calvanese said.

The restoration work would probably cost the conservancy close to $500,000, which would have to be raised with the help of donors, Mr. Blonsky said. But the loss of trees would probably be valued in the millions.

The destruction seemed to be unintentionally selective. A deciduous conifer kept a stately vigil by the Pool. “This looked like it came through unscathed,” Mr. Benepe marveled.

“Not a branch touched,” Mr. Calvanese agreed. “I mean, look at it.”

A faint consolation, they said, was the unexpected vistas of city skyline that might now poke though gaps in the greenery. But they said they hoped that would not be the case for too long. To forestall a threat from black cherry and other fast-growing invasive species, new trees are to be planted soon to replace those that were lost.

“Our grandchildren will get to see them,” Mr. Benepe said.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


A plea from Doug Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy and Central Park Administrator:

The storm that ripped through sections of Central Park Tuesday night may have lasted mere moments, but it has left a trail of damage that will take months for the Central Park Conservancy to repair, and hundreds of thousands dollars to clean-up and restore the affected landscapes.

More than 200 trees have been uprooted or destroyed, and the storm’s impact on the precious landscapes and the ecosystems they support will be felt for years. More than 60 Conservancy operation staff, 17 contractor crews, and Conservancy volunteers are engaged in the difficult mission of repairing the Park.

From an economic standpoint, this devastating event could not have come at a worse time for the Park. Since January, the Conservancy has been operating on a reduced budget. We need your support now more than ever. Please act today!

Click on the link below to make a donation to the Central Park Conservancy’s clean-up efforts,

or call 212-310-6607.

We will continue to update you on a regular basis. Thank you for your support.


Douglas Blonsky

Douglas Blonsky

The latest information about our clean-up efforts can be accessed online at

Marianne and Tom report on the storm damages

Photo [and three below] by Marianne Girards, taken on 8/19/09

As the world now knows, New York City was visited by a most destructive storm two days ago. Our beloved Central Park was not spared the storm's fury. Here is a link to yesterday's New York Times detailed report:

Yesterday, Marianne Girards, a Central Park Mother [rhymes with author] and birdwatcher, spent the afternoon with her camera at the Loch in the north part of the park, the North Woods, which bore the brunt of the storm, Here are some of the photos she took of the major area of devastation, followed by a report e-mailed to me by Tom Fiore:

Hi Marie,

I spent a good while in the northern third of Central Park, and particularly the areas north of 100 Street, and then visited Riverside Drive & Park from 90 Street to 120 Street. The damage to Central Park is even worse than I had expected, easily surpassing the 100 larger trees felled, uprooted, or with very substantial damage that probably will require removal. On the other hand, the damage from Riverside Drive & Park appears to have been exaggerated a bit, and I found less than 10 larger trees felled, uprooted or severely damaged. I looked there both along the Drive itself, just inside the park perimeter, and inside to the river's edge in several stretches. While I don't dismiss Riverside's storm damage as minimal, by comparison to Central it is a small fraction, perhaps 10% or so. Central Park will likely be cleaning up for a week or more and some areas familiar to park regulars will have a different look with the loss. At the same time, we are fortunate the damage was not worse and many trees were spared. The parks and many of their trees will live on. Also, fortunately the northernmost part of Riverside including the sanctuary was for the most part spared, with only one fairly large oak at the south end of the grove an obvious storm casualty. The trees surrounding the "drip" all appear to be intact, as do most of those in the grove.

I took hundreds of photos, but will look thru them another time.


P.S. from Marie: As some of you know, I've been temporarily grounded by a leg injury. It will be another week or so before I get to the park to see some of this myself.
Many thanks are due to Marianne and Tom for their eye-witness reports

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A daytime moth

Lloyd writes:

I took this photo in Shakespeare Garden 8/6/09. It was found by Nick Wagerik, who else? With the help of Steve Walter, Hugh McGuinness and indirectly Harry Zirlin (through Steve Walter) we've come to an ID of Synanthedon pyri or Apple Bark Borer Moth. Thought you'd like to know.
See you soon,
Lloyd Spitalnik's Wildlife Galleries

PS from Marie
This moth is not included in Covell's "Moths of Eastern North America," the only field guide to moths available. Consequently, I would have identified it as a Peachtree Borer Moth, Synanthedon exsitiosa, a similar looking clearwing in the same family.

PPS To my happy surprise, Central Park in the Dark was featured in the column called "Paperback Row" in last Sunday's NY Times Book Review. [p.20 - next to the paperback bestseller list] I would have missed it if a reader hadn't e-mailed about it yesterday. And by the way, I write quite a lot about Covell's field guide, and the maddeningly frustrating way it's organized, in the book.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mothers [ rhymes with authors] on a quest

Left to right: Davie, Nick, Noreen, me, Lee, and Jimmy
photo by Julia

Mothers [rhymes with etc.] in front of a Columbus Ave. pizza parlor, just before setting out for the park to hunt for a new moth tree. There must be one somewhere!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cicadas: in the beginning

cicada nymph
photo by M. Winn

This is what to look for if you want to see the spectacle of an emerging cicada: the brown nymph slowly crawling up a tree trunk. At some point the homely creature comes to a stop -- at eye level if you're lucky. Be patient. The show is about to begin. Just keep watching.

PS Cicada transformation from nymph to adult only happens at night. That's why so few people have witnessed it.