Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘alley pond’

Mallard struggling with plastic trash in Oakland Lake, Queens. Photo by Cathy St. Pierre.

Environmentalists are now aware of Earth’s oceanic gyres of garbage, most famously the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Locally, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has warned us through subway ad campaigns that trash we toss on the street will wait for us at the beach. But for many people the ways in which plastics cause suffering and ecological damage (including wreaking havoc with hormones in many species) remain abstract.

Queens resident Cathy St. Pierre recently photographed this afflicted mallard in Oakland Lake. Being so encumbered endangers the bird, physically hurts it, interferes with mating and feeding, and leaves it more vulnerable to dangers by inhibiting escape. Cathy told the Bayside, NY Patch (unrelated to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) that she couldn’t get near enough to the shy bird to free it. One of the most energetic Queens blogs subsequently picked the story up, so perhaps there will be more sitings and, we hope, a possible rescue.

Animals who aren’t able to free themselves can often be killed or maimed by plastic trash.

If you find wildlife in trouble, please contact your local Wildlife Rehabilitator in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

If you’d like to help remove plastic trash from habitats with beach and trail cleanups, please volunteer with the American Littoral Society or the American Hiking Society.

Of course, the best approach is prevention. Use much less plastic, reuse or recycle what you must (or opt for biodegradable plastics when that’s not greenwashing), demand that your favorite manufacturers use less plastic, lobby elected officials and government agencies to restrict plastic use, and have the courage to confront litterbugs (or the charity to clean up after them).  It’s also vital that New York City and other municipalities upgrade sewer systems to handle storm runoffs (also kn0wn in New York City as “combined sewage overflows“) so that street litter, let alone untreated waste, isn’t washed into our waterways.

Read Full Post »

Bumblebee on an eggplant flower East Harlem. Photo by Kevin Matteson. 

 

by Erik Baard

 

There can be no local foods, community garden, and green spaces movement in New York City without a healthy bee population, and that’s a resource we could lose. Our first defense is simply to look a little more carefully at our backyards and gardens.

 

Bee Watchers 2008 wants to train you to observe bees with free sessions in all five boroughs: at Alley Pond Environmental Center (May 19, 6PM), Central Park’s North Meadow Recreation Center (May 21, 6PM), the Greenbelt Nature Center (6PM, May 20), Prospect Park Audubon Center (May 21, 6PM), and Ranaqua, the Bronx headquarters of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (May 22, 6PM). You’ll also be equipped with five native New York flowering plants and a sunflower.

 

For an informative flyer and contact information, click here:

bee-flyer-may-9

 

Being a Bee Watcher is fun, but this is also an urgent mission that has the backing of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, New York City Urban Park Rangers, and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

“We’ve already lost some species. At least two bumble bee species that used to be quite abundant haven’t been seen in years,” said Elizabeth Johnson, manager of the Metropolitan Biodiversity Program at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

“At this point we’re trying to drum up business for bee watching,” added Kevin Matteson, a Fordham University biologist conducting the program.

 

A third of human food stocks depend directly on the services of pollinators, which include insects, birds, and mammals. In the northeast, we rely on bees most (like the bumblebee pollinating an East Harlem eggplant in the photo by Matteson above – click to enlarge). New York State boasts about 423 species. 

 

“Most people have no idea that we have so many local species. They’re amazed at the metallic shiny green ones, the blueish ones. It gets people excited,” Johnson said. (If you happen to spot a bee or other insect that fascinates you, drop a note to wildeyed@naturecalendar.com and we’ll share your observations with readers.)

 

While 219 species have been spotted living in NYC (54 in East Harlem and the South Bronx alone), nearly a fifth of those aren’t native, according to Matteson.

 

The mysterious population collapse of the honeybee, a species imported from Europe aboard sailing ships, has gotten considerable media attention, and rightfully so. But habitat destruction and exotic diseases could pose a great threat to our indigenous partners in sustaining edible and flowering local plants.

 

“We don’t know a lot about most of our native bees. Where do they live? What kinds of habitat needs do they have? We have a lot to figure out about pollinator service and it would help to know how quickly bees show up at their plants in the Spring, and how often, and then correlate that with surrounding land use,” Johnson explained.

 

The honeybee is an exceptional species not only for its production of the syrupy sweets, but for its large colony combs, which are occupied for years. They even huddle for warmth in winter. Most bees live in less enduring groups, or even in relatively solitary fashion: a queen might never see her offspring, laying eggs and sealing them off with provisions before moving on. Many burrow underground or bore into wood, crawl into hollow twigs, or even take over abandoned mouse holes.

 

Development often wipes out bee food sources like wildflowers or even invasive flowers. Paving also eliminates burrowing species from an area.

 

Your community garden or backyard is an oasis in the asphalt desert, but you might see fewer flowers, fruits, and vegetables because a building has gone up on what was a weed-strewn lot a block or two away. A green roof with plants that support bees and butterflies might compensate for that loss, but you won’t get it unless you’re armed with data supporting your case.

 

For the sake of your community’s green spaces, join Bee Watchers 2008 by calling Kevin Matteson at 646-3730250 or emailing him at kevmatteson (at) gmail.com.

 

Read Full Post »

by Erik Baard

  

 

Flip Victorian and Edwardian snobbishness on its head with a wild and spicy forager’s. answer to the British cucumber sandwich! With its peppery and garlicky kick, call it a Cattail-on-a-Hot-Tin-Roof sandwich.

 

This recipe isn’t likely to show up on the next International Debutante Ball menu, but it might be perfect for the livelier Billionaires for Bush set.

 

Some culinary historians believe that upper-class Britons chose the blandly delicate cucumber sandwich specifically because it demonstrated that they could afford to spend money on empty calories. The poor put their shillings down for protein and nutrients. We’ll enjoy our version as a little reward for adventurous field work and creativity in the kitchen.

 

Last weekend I joined Wildman Steve Brill for a tasting tour of Central Park (photographed above by Heather Sweeney, getting an early start on his cattail feast). Nature offered up a suite of delicious choices. One highlight was cattails, a freshwater plant with a soft stalk core that tastes very much like cucumber, with what a member of Fuji television crew noted was a hint of celery. It can be found by the Central Park Lake and many other sites, including Inwood Hill Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Udalls Park Preserve, Eibs Pond Park, Clay Pit Ponds Preserve, Kissena Park, Prospect Park, and Alley Pond Park

 

 

(Photo of cattails in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

Having sampled garlic mustard (“The garlic taste is the plant’s defense against insects, unless they are Italian insects, in which case it will go extinct,” Steve joked) and lemony sheep sorrel, it occurred to me that we might have the makings to liberate a traditional cucumber sandwich recipe.

 

I strongly recommend that you join Steve or another experienced botanist or naturalist on your early foraging outings. Plant misidentification can bring illness or death.

 

Slice your cattails near the base, but DO NOT uproot them. The roots are edible (and be made into a flour for baking bread), but in fairness to others and local wildlife, grow your own. A cattail corner to a community garden, perhaps fed by roof-collected rainwater, might be a wonderful signature. Check with the Green Guerillas, New York Restoration Project, or Green Thumb to investigate this tantalizing possibility.

 

Bunches of sheep sorrel (named for the sheep’s head look of their leaves) are easily had in moist meadows and grass hillsides, especially near the kinds of ponds where you’ll find cattails. It’s an invasive and common plant, so feel completely guiltless in munching it down.

 

 

(Photo of sheep sorrel in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

Ditto for garlic mustard, which has swept aggressively through woodlands and floodplains.  

 

 

(Photo of garlic mustard in Central Park by Heather Sweeney) 

 

Another key ingredient is wild onion, which has scallion-like tubular shoots.

 

 

(Photo of wild onion and fellow-forager Alex in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

 

Now blend the yummy invaders in the sheep sorrel  spread recipe on Steve’s website (scroll down for recipes).

 

And given that Steve and I are both vegans, please forgive me if I suggest you try a nondairy butter substitute, for the sake of the environment, your health, and a more humane culture. And if you’re a crust-trimmer, earthworms will appreciate your noblesse oblige in tossing them in compost bin. 

Read Full Post »