Good at spotting balls of fluff (commonly known as raccoons)

Ball of fluff – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Isn’t this the cutest face you’ve ever seen?!

I always keep an eye out for raccoons whenever I am walking through Central Park in New York. I have become very adept in spotting them after I learned a few simple things. They are mostly in the trees and not on the ground. I had no idea that raccoons slept in trees, so look for round bundles of fur tucked into the fork of trees where the large branches leave the trunk. The hour before sunset is when these little fuzz balls are waking up and they start moving which makes them easier to see. You will find them stretching, grooming and coming down from the trees to rummage through the parks trash cans. This little youngster was quite unsure of me and so had all of its fur on end – clearly a grumpy morning person (or evening raccoon).

Hawk eating pigeon for lunch

Hawk eating pigeon for lunch - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Hawk eating pigeon for lunch – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Living in Manhattan, Central Park is my wilderness. I often see squirrels, ducks, geese, raccoons and turtles, but this weekend I was treated to something extra special. This stunning hawk who at first I thought was injured or had been in a fight (due to the bunch of feathers all over the ground around him), had in fact caught a pigeon for lunch and was in the process of shredding it. This red-tailed hawk, along with a few others often hunt in central park, but this is the first time I got to see this magnificent bird at  close range. Female red-tailed hawks grow larger than their male companions, and both are known to be monogamous in their relationship. Eggs and chicks are primarily looked after by the female hawk while her male partner provides them with food. It sounds like she has him well trained.

Survival against all odds

Survival against all odds - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Survival against all odds – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I came across this tiny Autumn colored tree growing in Central Park and it reminded me of a bonsai. I’ve read that the purpose of a bonsai is to evoke contemplation in the viewer. Looking at this tree, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that a seed managed to grow in such an unlikely place. This tree will forever have to grow against the odds, fight for the chance to survive, and I will wholeheartedly cheer it on. Why? Because I always fight for the underdog, I lend my strength to those who are overlooked, I protect people from bullies….. That is who I am!

Autumn Colors

Autumn Colors - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Autumn Colors – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The Autumn season is upon us, and many trees in Manhattan are showing signs of changing color. Have you ever wondered how the trees know what season it is? Many trees and plants are photoperiodic, meaning they can detect the hours of darkness in a 24 hour period. In this way, trees and plants can detect the lengthening of nights into winter or shortening of nights heading into summer. This clever ability is achieved through pigments within the leaves called phytochromes, which can trigger a cascade of specific hormones and growth factors which regulate growth, flowering, and changes in leaf color during autumn. Leaves produce chlorophyll throughout most of the year, a green pigment critical for photosynthesis which allows trees and plants to absorb energy from light. Chlorophyll masks other pigments present within the leaf such as carotenes and xanthophyll, which are responsible for orange and yellow coloring, respectively. As the length of night increases during autumn, it triggers a cork-like membrane to form around the base of the leaf stalk called an abscission. The abscission slowly cuts off the supply of nutrients to the leaf, thus limiting the production of chlorophyll and allowing the orange and yellow colors to be visible. Anthocyanin is also produced in autumn, which gives leaves a red and purple coloring. Eventually nutrients to the leaves are completely halted causing the leaves to fall off. After accumulating a certain amount of time in the cold during winter months, which is referred to as the number of chill hours, trees can then respond to the increasingly warmer temperatures and shorter nights of Spring. During this time there is an upregulation of genes responsible for producing antioxidants and vitamin C to rid the tree of hydrogen peroxide which has built up during the winter dormancy. Trees are now able to produce the hormones and growth factors necessary to begin flowering and making new leaves again. Happy Autumn Everyone!

To see my other post on Autumn in New York, please click here.

Flower Friday – Magnolia

Imperfect Magnolia - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Imperfect Magnolia – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I have to premise this post with the confession that I don’t really like magnolia flowers. I love seeing the trees in full bloom, like a giant cloud of pink color as in the photo below. New York springtime is at its prime at the moment, and the magnolia trees in central park really make a stunning statement.

Magnolia Tree in Full Bloom - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Magnolia Tree in Full Bloom – Photograph by Laura Lecce

However, when you get closer, there is something imperfect about each flower that disappoints me every time. Maybe its that they have no obvious order, or symmetry about them. Or that by the time the innermost petals open the others look close to dropping off. They are pretty mostly because of the color, but far from making my favorites list. Still very worthy of a photo though, happy weekend everyone!

Magnolia Flower - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Magnolia Flower – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Better With A Bit Of Snow

New York Winter in Cloud - Photograph by Laura Lecce
New York Winter in Cloud – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This current winter season in New York has been quite a mixed bag. It began with one of the warmest Christmas days on record (although, being used to Christmas in Australian summer, it was still too cold for me). By mid January we were all lulled into a false sense of security, I was almost believing it might be a winter with no snow, and I was even a little disappointed (even I found that surprising about myself!). Well, the snow came, and it was a massive amount of snow in one day. Central Park was transformed from gloomy brown and barren to pristine and picturesque white. My two photographs were taken only a week apart, and I have to say that the white snow landscape makes for a prettier picture. So I guess if it has to be winter, then it is better with a bit of snow.

New York Winter in Snow - Photograph by Laura Lecce
New York Winter in Snow – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Autumn Colors of Central Park

Autumn in Central Park – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Central Park in Autumn provides a photograph with stunning colors. A photograph made even more beautiful with the reflection of colors in the tranquil water of The Lake. After moving from Sydney, Australia to New York over a year ago, I have now witnessed each of the changing seasons. Such a stark contrast in seasonal colors is something Sydney dwellers cannot appreciate in such a temperate climate. In summer this lake is filled with so many tourists, they cannot paddle their boats without knocking into each other. Autumn colors however are short lived, and very soon this image will be replaced by naked trees and gloomy winter days. We spend these days dreaming of the blossoming Spring to come.