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.

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 – Jade Vine

Jade Vine - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Jade Vine – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The Jade Vine (not to be confused with the jade plant also known as money tree) is an unusual plant native to the Philippines and is closely related to beans and peas. It grows into a monstrous vine with stems of up to 60 feet (18 meters) and once mature will hang hundreds of cascading flowers, dangling from stems as long as 10 feet (3 meters). These flowers range from a lovely turquoise color to a mint green. The flowers above were photographed from a mighty vine growing inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (photo below) at the New York Botanical Gardens. It is a temperature controlled glass house that contains many tropical plants, which like myself, are most intolerant of New York winters. Happy weekend everyone!

New York Botanical Gardens - Photograph by Laura Lecce
New York Botanical Gardens – Photograph by Laura Lecce

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

The Year Ahead

The Year Ahead - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The Year Ahead – Photograph by Laura Lecce

As yet another year is coming to an end tonight, it is nice to reflect on all the new things this year has brought with it. For me, starting this blog has been a big part of it, and a nice way to end it. It has truly been a pleasure discovering the wonderful people that are out there blogging, and being welcomed to observe all your wonderful talents. I look forward to sharing so much more with the world in 2016, and hopefully continue to add beauty and positivity into the world. Happy New Year everyone!

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays - photograph by Laura Lecce
Happy Holidays – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This will be my second Christmas away from home, and it still seems weird not to be having a hot and sunny Aussie BBQ Christmas. This photo is of some of the decorations that light up New York at this time of year. The original photo has white Reindeer and red trees on a black background. However, to satisfy the expectations of Australians that believe the other side of the world has snowy Christmases, this photo is for you. A very merry Christmas to all, (or as is said over here), HAPPY HOLIDAYS!