August 12, 2023

An iNat meet-up and outing in Southern California this November

Hello everyone,

Some of you will probably remember a similar message from me about an outing last year, a message which I sent out a few weeks earlier than this.
Here is last year's message and a thread of replies:

I (@susanhewitt) who normally lives in NYC, will again be staying at the Moonlight Beach Motel in Encinitas, San Diego North County, for 16 nights, this time from the evening of Sunday October 29th to the early afternoon of Tuesday November 14th.

I would love to be part of an iNat meetup and nature walk on at least one day during that time span, so some planning will be necessary. I am familiar with some of the more obvious aspects of the wild flora and fauna of coastal San Diego North County fairly well after many visits, and after having lived in La Jolla and Pacific Beach in 1970/71. My taxon of special expertise is mollusks -- I know the Southern California shelled marine mollusks quite well.

I am assuming that a Saturday or a Sunday would be the best day for most people to do a meet-up? There is the weekend of the 4th and 5th November, and the weekend of the 11th and 12th November. As for a destination, I was thinking maybe of the San Elijo Lagoon again, or maybe the Torrey Pines preserve, although I guess autumn is not the best season for iNatting at Torrey Pines.

For any other suggested destinations, I would be glad to listen to ideas from other people. I won't have a car, but I can get out somewhere using a taxi or a bus.

Last year the outing took place on Sunday Sept 18th 2022, starting at 9 am in the morning. It was at
the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center, accessed at 2710 Manchester Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007. Parking is limited in their lot, but there is also a separate lot across the street. The iNatters who attended last year were the following folks:

@susanhewitt -- Susan
@u_phantasticus -- Elena
@arboretum_amy -- Amy and her husband Joe
@juliabohemian -- Julia
@anewmark -- Andrew

Last year Vasily Reinkymov suggested that I might ask:


And James (@silversea_starsong) suggested I might ask:

So please, if you get this message, and are interested in any way, let me know. Other iNatters that I have not listed here or just anyone who loves nature, would be welcome to come along too.

Of course if you yourself would like to meet up with me on another day, or you want me to look at some shells for you, that could be done separately. I will be in the Moonlight Beach Motel for some hours on every single day of my trip.

Happy iNatting to all, and best wishes,


Posted on August 12, 2023 03:00 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 19 comments | Leave a comment

August 01, 2023

Visiting Governor's Island after the cold front came through

Ed and David Ringer and I decided to visit Governor's Island this Sunday, July 30th, the first cool day after an extended span of very hot weather.

We planned to catch the 11 am ferry. David found us already sitting inside the ferryboat as he had been running a bit late thanks to erratic subway timing on the weekends.

Once on the island, we walked up towards Fort Jay, looking at the wildflower plantings, and then climbed up onto the glacis -- the grassy slopes surrounding the Fort. This is where I have often found day-flying moths during some of my previous visits. We flushed out a few cool moths and then decided to descend the stone steps into the moat, where I could see that, in one section of the moat, the groundskeepers had left a fairly wide central strip of weeds unmown.

In the moat we found some campion leafminers, a number of different new-to-us good species of moths, as well as a couple of large black/blue wasps and a 3-lined beetle.

After climbing out of the moat we walked over to Castle Williams, where we ate lunch at a picnic table. David and I looked, but we could find no large clumps of Big-Bract Vervain, or any Slender Snake Cotton just south of the Castle, where I had found those unusual species of plants a few years ago.

We then walked over to Blazing Saddles. We had to rent a large surrey, as they were out of small ones. We peddled over to the Harbor School garden, where we found a lot of beautiful Harlequin Stink Bugs living on some sort of Kale. The cherry tomatoes were not being harvested there even though they were superbly sweet and delicious. I also found a climbing milkweed.

Then we peddled across the island and south to the Lavender Field. There were no butterflies, but there were a huge number of mixed dragonflies hunting over the strip of grass by the big ancient wall at the back.

Then we went to the Urban Farm. Ed stayed sitting in the surrey while David and I walked around the farm. We found galls, and some nice flying insects too, but no butterflies.

After that we peddled back to Blazing Saddles to return the surrey, and then walked over to the ferry terminal.

One of the ferries was out of service, so we had to wait for the other one.

Governors Island was the busiest I have ever seen it.

Posted on August 01, 2023 01:57 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 24 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 08, 2023

My first visit to Cunningham Park in Queens

With tremendous thanks to Misha Zitser who accompanied me on this voyage of discovery, and who has been talking to me about this park for a couple of years at least.

I had a great time even though we ran out of usable daylight hours before the end of the visit.

I observed a lot of organisms that were new to me, (about 20 of them) including three new fern species, two new moths, two new frogs, several new fungi and a bunch of new plants.

The observations start here:

And here is the quilt of images from that day:

I also discovered that Oakland Gardens is a very pretty area -- extremely pretty suburbs.

Posted on July 08, 2023 02:23 AM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 13 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

June 07, 2023

The dates for the monthly fish count seining on Randall's island, NYC

Info for @zitserm , @steven-cyclist , @djringer , @catverde , and anyone else at all who might be interested.

"World Fish Migration Day
"June 10 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
"The Hudson River Estuary is home to more than 200 species of fish. Join our Natural Areas team as we wade into the river to survey the incredible underwater life along the shores of Randall’s Island. Participants can get up close and personal with some of the species found and watch as the seine nets come to shore and fish are safely handled, identified, and then released back into the river. Staff will enter the river with special nets while participants watch from the natural beach."

Who is planning to come to this Saturday's event starting at 10 am on the Wards Island beach on Randall's Island?

I will be there. Warning -- this one is a public event, so there may be quite a few families and kids as well as the usual RIPA staff.

Note the dates listed for the rest of the seining events later on in the summer and fall.



On Jun 7, 2023, at 9:35 AM, John Butler wrote:

Hi Susan,

Just following up with additional dates to our monthly seining here on Randall's Island. Listed below are our tentative dates for the summer and fall.

Saturday June 10 (with additional time in the Little Hellgate Saltmarsh during the afternoon of Monday June 12)
Monday July 10
Tuesday August 22
Wednesday September 20
Monday October 23

John Butler (he/him) | Natural Areas Manager
Randall's Island Park Alliance
Icahn Stadium
10 Central Road
New York, NY 10035
T: 212-860-1899 x 113 | F: 212-860-2486 | C: 610-457-2205 |
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |LinkedIn
From: John Butler
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2023 4:30 PM
To: Christopher Girgenti; Susan and Ed
Subject: Re: Monthly fish counts at RI ?
Hi Susan,

Yes, like Chris said we will be seining on Saturday, June 10 from 10am-12pm on the beach along the Water's Edge garden. On Monday, June 12th from 12:30pm-2:30pm we will be seining in the Little Hell Gate Salt Marsh.

We have not yet solidified July's seining date, but I will let you know when we do!

John Butler (he/him) | Natural Areas Manager

Posted on June 07, 2023 09:09 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 6 comments | Leave a comment

May 30, 2023

Roosevelt Island once again -- finding hundreds of weedy Orchids

Ed and I went over to Roosevelt Island again on Monday, 29th, Memorial Day. I wanted to try iNatting in the green and woodsy park which is opposite the Post Office on Main Street. I think it is called Manhattan Park. The last time we visited the island, the bus driver accidentally dropped us off at the northeast corner of that park, and I took the time to briefly photograph two examples of the weedy orchid, the Broad-leafed Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, as well as seeing another two examples of that species a bit further north on the wild edge of the soccer field that lies south of the Community Garden.

I started iNatting at the southwest corner of Manhattan Park, and I walked clockwise round the edge of the park, photographing weeds. Most of the weeds were quite ordinary and unsurprising. But I also found what looked like stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, and bracted sedge, Carex radiata. If I got the IDs right, both of these plant species I was seeing for the first time. However, I did not try to see if the nettles would sting, and so I can't really be sure they were Urtica dioica. There were large masses of the Meadow Anemone Anemonastrum canadense, and that species is native to the Northeastern States, but I believe it is also sold as a garden plant, so it may not have been wild in this park.

Once I got over to the northeast corner of the park, I started to see lots and lots of Epipactis helleborine. Some of the plants were still quite young and small. Others were larger and had a flowering spike tucked inside of the leaves, but I reckon it will be a minimum of two or three weeks before any actual flowering starts.

So many orchid plants! I reckon, if you could count all the youngest plants, there seemed to be at least three hundred orchid plants in total, all growing in the broad flower bed which forms the eastern edge of the park. But there were no orchid plants at all that I could see in the northern, southern or western flower beds of the park.

Another plant which was present in a few spots, and which I think may be wild, was "Green-and-Gold" - Chrysogonum virginianum - that species is native to New York State.

At the edge of the soccer field a bit further north there was another colony of the weedy orchids, but only very few of them compared with the huge numbers in Manhattan Park.

Ed and I also walked north to the Community Garden and to the vacant lot too. We looked to see if the tuxedo cat was there, but we did not find her/him.

As for the Weedy Orchid, I have previously found it a few times in NYC -- on Randall's Island, and several times in Central Park around the Reservoir, and I once found one plant of that species in Carl Schurz Park.

Posted on May 30, 2023 12:23 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 56 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 27, 2023

iNatting on Roosevelt Island -- lots of introduced species and invasive species!

Six days after my last visit, I went to Roosevelt island again. In my neighborhood before I left, I saw Sibthorp's Pennywort introduced from Southeast Asia, and the pretty Thyme-leaved Speedwell, which is introduced from Europe, and which today was all in flower.

Then on Roosevelt island I had to get off the Red Bus a bit further south than I had planned to, and as a result, I happened to notice examples of the Broad-leaved Helleborine, an invasive orchid species from Europe and Asia, in two different places: a flower bed in "Manhattan Park", and also in a wild patch by the roadside a bit further north than that.

In the Community Garden I was happy that I got to photograph lots of Miquel's Mazus, native to Japan and China, an invasive plant that I saw on my last visit here, but which I had not photographed until now.

I need to tell the community gardeners that they have the Red Lily Leaf Beetle, native to parts of Europe and Asia. It is an invasive pest that the gardeners should try to control as best as they can, as it absolutely devours all species of Lilium, and unfortunately the beetleis spreading like crazy in our part of the northeast.

I also took more images of the Bukhara fleeceflower, an introduction from Asia. In one of the small ponds in the community garden was the Water Foreget-me-not, which is an introduction from Europe.

The Barley Powdery Mildew fungus was a new-to-me species.

I got to see the Tuxedo cat again in the exact same place that it was in last Sunday.
If I see it a third time I may try to give it a kitty treat and also try to pet it. It looks friendly.

On this visit however, we did not see the Groundhog or the Fowlers Toad.

Posted on May 27, 2023 10:41 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2023

iNatting on Roosevelt Island

I had a great time yesterday, May 21st, iNatting on my 75th birthday. Ed and I went to Roosevelt Island so that I could have what was only my third exploratory visit there, and my very good iNat friend Misha came too.

I wanted to visit the Roosevelt Island Community Garden. We took the free red bus to the Octagon stop which is the last stop not very far from the north end of the island. For the Community Garden stop you stay on that bus, because the stop you need is the first one on the way back, opposite the fire station.

Once we got to the main entrance of the Community Garden, I noticed there was a big, mostly empty, vacant lot at the dead end of that small street. We asked the young man who was presumably guarding the lot if we could go in to see if there were any interesting plants there, and he said yes.

It turned out to be a pretty good location with a lot of cool wild plants and some nice birds singing. The most exciting organisms we saw were a groundhog running across the gravel-covered center of the lot, and a very cute little Fowlers toad that Misha spotted sitting on the ground at the northeast end of the lot. We also saw four cats, some of which I suppose may have been feral.

After we had spent quite some time in the vacant lot, we went next door to the Community Garden. It is a very pretty garden, but I was surprised that there were not more insects there. The most interesting insect I saw was a Narcissus Bulb Fly. The only butterflies were two or three Cabbage Whites. As for mollusks, there were Physa acuta freshwater snails in the nice little ponds there and two Cepaea nemoralis land snails in the cuttings basket. There were lots of gorgeous fragrant roses and peonies in full flower in the garden plots.

As for plants, the best thing I found was a really huge Bukhara Fleeceflower creeper growing wild at the entrance to the vacant lot and completely covering a young American Elm Tree. I had never seen Bukhara Fleeceflower before, and indeed, it is somewhat rare in NYC. I also saw, but did not photograph, Miguel's Mazus (very pretty and new-to-me) growing rampant in some of the garden lots, and it turns out that is invasive here in the northeast, so I need to go back soon and photograph that, as I assume it counts as wild in NYC.

The three of us walked back to the tram along the western coast of the island, and Misha rode with us on the tram to the Upper East Side. Having had a very late night the day before, Misha was tired and went home, but Ed and I went up to Hummus Kitchen (2nd Ave between 83rd and 84th) for dinner with our friend Tom Kleh to celebrate both Ed's birthday (which took place while we were on Nevis in March) and my birthday too.

Posted on May 22, 2023 01:42 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 30 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

May 03, 2023

City Nature Challenge 2023: New York City, the observation days

Most years here in New York City, the weather during the annual global City Nature Challenge is considerably less than ideal! Spring in New York City is unfortunately not like fall in New York City, which generally has nice sunny warm dry weather lasting for several weeks.

I always say that April here is often cold and rainy, and this year that has been totally true. When Ed and I came back from Nevis, West Indies in late March, at first we had a bunch of nice warm sunny weather, including three days of 90º, but more recently that changed over to chilly wet weather. Recently we have had weather in the low to mid 50s instead of what the average daily high temperature is supposed to be at this time of year here in NYC, which is 66º

The observation part of the City Nature Challenge lasts four days, a four-day weekend from Friday 28th through Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th, to Monday May 1st. The Friday was completely overcast with no rain, but chilly. The Saturday it poured with rain all day and was cold too. The Sunday was also heavily rainy and cold all day. There were big puddles everywhere. On the Monday we got to see the sun on and off, but it was still quite cold, although it did not rain at all, thank goodness.
The first day of the Challenge, on Friday morning, I walked the Esplanade in my neighborhood from the Con Edison building up to the beginning of John Finlay Walk at Carl Schurz Park. Then at 1:30 pm I went over to the Little Hellgate Salt Marsh at Randall's Island, where I met up with Sara Rall from New Jersey, and we iNatted there for almost 2 hours. I have wanted to meet Sara for several years. Then I went home because my feet were hurting. Total of observations I made on Friday: 407.
The second day of the Challenge, on the Saturday morning I went to Carl Schurz Park and walked around in a lot of that park except for the inland areas. Near the 90th Street Ferry stop I saw a couple of policemen, and a vast amount of fire department folks with all kinds of rescue gear including one guy in a red scuba suit. They were all at the edge of the East River looking over and down onto the rocks there. I went home early with wet shoes, wet socks, and feeling cold from not wearing enough layers, otherwise I would have stayed out longer and made more observations. Total of observations I made on Saturday: a measly 162.
On the third day of the challenge, Sunday, I dressed warmly using many layers including several tops and leggings made of wool, and of cashmere, topped with waterproof jacket and pants and rain boots. I walked all the way round the Reservoir in Central Park. Then I went over to the Cherry Allée area of Carl Schurz Park. Total of observations I made on Sunday: 402.
On Monday, the fourth day, the last day of the Challenge, Ed and I went to Randall's Island, starting at the eastern end of the turquoise 103rd Street footbridge, then walking up to the little Ward's Island beach, which I searched, then through the woodland area near there, and up the footpath on the south side of the Salt Marsh. Then Ed and I walked through the freshwater wetland woodland area till we came out on Central Road where the bus stops opposite the main Icahn Stadium entrance. Then we took the bus back to 125th street in Manhattan, and managed to get a taxi. On 77th Street I climbed into the flower beds in our building's front garden, where I turned over wood pieces and rat traps in order to see and record all the garlic snails, the striped greenhouse slugs, and some millipedes and earthworms. Total of observations I made on Monday: 303.
My overall total number of observations in New York City during City Nature Challenge was 1,327. My overall total number of species I found during those 4 days in NYC was 294.

The following statistics could change, as people are still both uploading and ID-ing their observations and will be until 9 am on Monday 8th May, but right now I am ranked at number 2 in total number of observations in New York City during City Nature Challenge 2023, and also ranked at number 3 in total number of species found during City Nature Challenge 2023: New York City. As far as the Battle of the Boroughs goes, Manhattan is leading. I currently rank as number 1 in Manhattan with 1,273 observations of 293 species.

Posted on May 03, 2023 05:00 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 45 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

March 10, 2023

Visit to Nevis and St. Kitts, February and March of 2023

This year we went to Nevis quite early in the year because I really wanted to take a non-stop flight not only traveling to Nevis via St. Kitts, but also coming back home again to NYC. If we could get a non-stop for our return to NYC, we would not have to change planes in Miami, which is unpleasant, difficult, and time-consuming. When you go home from Nevis via Miami, the trip from St. Kitts to JFK takes 8 hours, as compared to 4 hours if you are fortunate enough to be on a non-stop flight. For the end of this trip I booked us onto the last possible non-stop return flight back to NYC, which occurred on Saturday March 25th (presumably this counts as the last day of the winter tourism season) and because we wanted to stay on Nevis for 4 weeks, that meant we needed to start our vacation on Feb 25th.

I expected Nevis to be all dried out, as the winter drought is usually still going on at this time of year. However, we were fortunate that Nevis had had a lot of rain over the course of about 3 weeks before we arrived, so everything, including the wild hillsides, looked quite lush and green, and there were a lot of weeds and wildflowers in bloom. There were several that I had not seen before, including the Yellow-flowered Waterhyssop shown further down this page.

The Oualie Bay Area, where we stay, had seen some changes since last year's visit: the very large rough pasture between the hotel and the main road was completely and thoroughly fenced off with barbed wire, except for one entrance near what I call "the laundry barns" of the Oualie Beach Hotel. However, a few feral donkeys and a flock of local sheep were able to find their way into and out of the pasture using that one entrance.

Major road work was being carried out on this part of the main road (the main road is the road which encircles the island). In the Oualie area, the road is being widened, in most places it is being raised, although where it goes over a steep hill with poor visibility it is being lowered, and also it is being resurfaced. This process has temporarily made the road very unpleasant to walk along. The workers seemed to be using a mixture of crushed rock and concrete mix, which was dumped on the surface, steam-rollered in place, then watered, and allowed to sun dry, and set. Then about 4 inches of asphalt was laid down on top of the crushed rock mixture. When the work is completely finished, I hope there will be somewhere on both sides of the road for pedestrians to walk, because currently the edges of the the new road are just like small messy cliffs. If you accidentally drove off the road, you car would roll for sure.

There is a small herd of beautiful and friendly brown cows which are are usually to be seen wandering around next to and in around the hotel. The cattle are owned by John Yearwood, who also half-owns the hotel, but during this visit they were not around at all. Because the roadwork would have been dangerous and unpleasant for the cattle, John currently has had the herd pastured in a field some distance away, to the east of Lovers Beach.

The two kitchen cats that usually grace the hotel with their presence had been cut down to one by a sad accident. I was told by one of the staff that Bandit got run over when he was crossing the road, but another staff person said the cat was accidentally poisoned. The one surviving cat, Smokey, was impossible to find most of the time, so unfortunately we had very little cat contact until quite late in the trip, when Smokey realized that we were an asset because we had brought with us a bag of delicious kitty treats with catnip in them.

The local wildlife, such as the insects, including the butterflies and moths, was interesting because it seemed to be a somewhat different line-up of species to what is here when we are on Nevis in April or May. For example. I twice saw a Zebra Longwing near the hotel.

I managed to find a few new species of plants, as well as several new Lepidoptera, and plus, searching for new-to-the-list shells on St Kitts produced a decent number of positive results for me.

It is too early for the Neem trees to be fully in flower, and the beach morning glories only have very few flowers out this early. The Flame Trees have no sign of flowers yet at all at this time of year.

Posted on March 10, 2023 11:46 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 19 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 14, 2023

Birds in and near South Padre Island, Texas

In January we spent a week on South Padre Island, Texas, and in the Rio Grande Valley nearby. I saw a lot of birds, especially water birds. Although everywhere I went I saw Great-tailed Grackles -- lots of them!

Here is a list of the water birds I saw on January 24th in the SPI Birding and Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary:

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks
Blue-winged Teals
Northern Pintails
Great Blue Herons
Roseate Spoonbills
Mottled Ducks
American Coots
Mallard hybridized with Mottled Duck
Tricolored Herons
Common Gallinules
American Widgeons
Great Egrets

Elsewhere by Laguna Madre I saw:

Brown Pelican
Snowy Egret
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Common Loon
Laughing Gull
Forster's Tern

Birds I saw on Jan 23rd in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary were:

Green Jay
Audubon's Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Common Nighthawk -- so many scattered feathers -- one must have gotten preyed upon.
Northern Shoveler
Greater Kiscadee
Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture

Posted on February 14, 2023 10:48 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 3 comments | Leave a comment