Journal archives for July 2021

02 July, 2021

Birds that visit my NYC bird feeder

I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at the back of a 12-story building on the third floor. A few months ago I bought a small plexiglass bird feeder which has suction cups that hold it onto the outside of your window. I also bought some fairly fancy bird seed.

I installed the feeder close to where I sit at the computer, near the window. At first no birds came at all, I think because the weather was still not warm then, and there were very few birds in the backyard.

Then when the weather warmed up, birds started to come, but our cat would sit nearby and try repeatedly to pounce on the visiting birds by trying to hurl herself through the glass of the living room window!

But then, sadly, we had to have our cat put down, because she was diagnosed with extreme chronic Kidney Failure. We miss her a lot because we loved her, but the cat being gone has made the birds' life considerably easier.

Since then, I have seen a lot more birds at the feeder. Having to take photos through the window glass and then through the plexiglass (sometimes two layers) does not give crisp image results, but the photos are better than nothing. I sometimes take bird photos morning and evening, but as yet I can't tell which individual birds are "repeats".

Here is a list of the species of birds that I have seen on the feeder so far. I will add others as I (hopefully) see more species:

Mourning Doves -- lots of them, and they sure eat a lot.
House Finches -- lots and lots of them, especially the females, but also the occasional very pretty male.
House Sparrows -- very few so far, surprisingly.
Cardinal -- Three males so far, just amazing when seen close-up. I did not get a photo of the second one. And on July 21st I got a photo of the female cardinal.
American Robin -- three so far, didn't get a photo in the feeder yet, but one on the tree near the feeder.
Black-capped Chickadee -- one so far (July 7th at 3:23 pm).

No Pigeons at at all as yet, and no Blue Jays either.

Our backyard has no garden in it, it's all concrete, but there is a big Ailanthus tree and a bit further east a White Mulberry, which is currently in fruit. The next yard over to the west has a lot of very tall bamboo, and the yards beyond that have several Ailanthus trees and a large-leafed Elm tree, also there is a young Princess Tree.

Posted on 02 July, 2021 21:18 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 20 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

03 July, 2021

Why am I interested in malacology and nature study?

I was born in 1948. I grew up 12 miles southeast of the center of London, England, in North Kent, where the suburbs ended and the countryside began. Each summer for two weeks my immediate family vacationed in Bideford, North Devon, where my mother was from and where my grandmother, and a vast number of other relatives lived. Devon was where I really got interested in shells, although I also studied all other aspects of nature back in Kent. I collected a lot of shells, but I am sorry to say that my mother threw away some of my boxes of shells over the years.

When I was 19, I was living in Cambridge, England, and I got married to a PhD student in Organic Chemistry. In 1970, when I was 22, we both moved to La Jolla in Southern California, where he had been awarded a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Salk Institute. In California I got a lot deeper into shells, and started writing papers about them. My first husband helped me learn more about fossils, and about how to research and write the papers we co-authored. In return I taught him a lot about shells.

After 14 months in California, I went back to Cambridge, England for 5 years. Ever since the late 1960s when we met, we had done a lot of mapping of the non-marine mollusks of the British Isles for the Conch Soc of GB and Northern Island. I got a job in the Histology Department of the Physiology Lab of Cambridge University for 5 years. Then we got separated, and I began the process of getting a divorce. I was then invited to move back to the US by an 18th century British historian, who had been offered a tenure-track position at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

After four years at Yale, my second husband-to-be and I moved to Harvard University, where he had been awarded a full professorship, the second youngest person ever to attain that. I went to work in the Malacology section of the Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. After a couple more years, we split up. I moved briefly to Ithaca, and then to New York City, where I lived at several different addresses downtown.

In 1988, I started a live-in relationship with Ed Subitzky, a cartoonist, humor writer and comedy performer, who had a day job in advertising. We soon started vacationing in the Caribbean. For about five years of visits we went to Mustique, a private island in the Grenadines, and then, after that, we started going to Nevis, Leeward Islands.

In the spring of 2000, after Hurricane Lenny, aka "Wrong-way Lenny", had brushed Nevis in November of 1999, I discovered that the island had developed a very small, but very rich, shell beach, and because of that I really got into Caribbean seashells in a major way. Over the following years Ed and I gradually started staying longer on Nevis, eventually for as long as four weeks on each visit. As well as visiting Nevis's sister island, St. Kitts fairly often, whenever I happened to be on Nevis for a public holiday, I was able to take a day trip on the "Sea Hustler" ferryboat, to either Montserrat or St. Eustatius, where I would search for shells. And, partly as a result of all that research, and the papers I published on it, in 2015 I was qualified to be accepted to take part in a Dutch scientific marine biological expedition to the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius.

For several years, starting in 1999, in order to help my research, I volunteered in the Malacology section of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, and when Malacology unfortunately shut up shop, I started volunteering in Invertebrate Paleontology.

Starting in the summer of 2007, for seven years I did a great deal of work on Wikipedia as "Invertzoo". The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, knew me quite well, and referred to me as "the Snail Lady".

In 2014, I shifted the online aspect of my volunteer work over to iNaturalist, and, as time went by, I was delighted to meet and become friends with several really terrific local naturalists and biologists here in NYC.

On this webpage you can find a complete list of my science-oriented publications; they are mainly malacological, but a few are more generally nature-related, including one on moths:


Posted on 03 July, 2021 14:48 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 2 comments | Leave a comment