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Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Spring Day

I saw this American robin with wings stretched out soaking up sun in the park. My camera click disturbed him  and he folded up and flew away. It was a great day to appreciate spring with blue sky, warm sunlight, and soft breezes reminding me of this poem by Billy Collins. (Click the photo to enlarge.) 
Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect, 
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw 
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, to rip the little door from its jamb, 

a day when the cool brick paths 
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants 
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

And here's a picture of my neighborhood to prove it! A path to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with the skyline of lower Manhattan across the East River. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bird Fight!

There's a bird in this photo. Look at the end of the horizontal pipe near the top. That pipe holds cables that suspend another traffic light over the roadway. Click to enlarge.
These are favorite spots for New York City's house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to build nests. I see birds coming and going from the ends of these pipes all over town. There is room for two nests, one on each end. The male sparrows fight to claim and keep them.
The urban bird house.
As I was passing this spot today, a pair of male sparrows fell onto the road -- fighting with wings, beaks, and claws. The next moment I realized a car was coming right at them. I had a second only to hope they would break off and fly away as city-birds-on-the-road usually do. But they didn't! The car ran right over them! Whatever I yelled was lost in New York's noise. Then the car passed and there the birds were on the road -- still fighting! It was their good luck to fall exactly in the center of the roadway so the car passed without hurting them. They did break off and fly away then, one doing evasive maneuvers and the other in pursuit. I have no pictures because it happened too fast, just a story. But geez birds. Don't fight in traffic!

Monday, March 27, 2017

March Wind

This immature peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) with feathers ruffled by the wind reminds me that I am cold, ruffled by wind, and increasingly impatient for warmer weather. We are in that time Charles Dickens described in Great Expectation as "those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Equinox Eve

Tonight is the last night of winter! Doubtless these two raccoons I saw sitting in a tree last week looking down on snow-covered Central Park in New York City, will welcome the warmer season. Here's my favorite welcome spring poem. Click to enlarge.
When the Hounds of Spring

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover, 
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remember'd is grief forgotten,

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, 

And in the green underwood and over 
          Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Almost Spring

This is how it was around here last week -- all insects in crocus blossoms and the tossing off of overcoats. Click to enlarge. 
The birds were singing and making plans. This robin looks particularly ready and eager. 
But instead of more of this...
This again!
On Tuesday Philadelphia and New York City are expecting as much as a foot of snow, and possibly more. This calls for a poem. 

While yet we wait for spring, And from the dry 

by Robert Seymour Bridges

While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry
And blackening east that so embitters March,
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch,
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly;
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch,
And where the coverts hazels interarch
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid
A million buds but stay their blossoming;
And trustful birds have built their nests amid
The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing 
Till one soft shower from the south shall bid,
And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring. 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Nest Shopping

Nesting season has begun in New York City. This picture of a pair of European house sparrows, Passer domesticus, shows off the adaptability that helps theses birds live among humans so successfully. They'll make nests in natural cavities like holes in tree trunks, but also will readily move into man-made spaces like the hollow pipe the female on the right is sitting inside. The pipe holds cables that suspend a traffic light over Broadway in Manhattan. All over the city, males like the one on the left are defending traffic light cavities just like this one, and fights among males often break out around the streetlights in early spring. Females sparrows visit while the male nest-owner chirps and hops nearby, hoping a female will move in. This female looks pretty comfortable and might be thinking of how to decorate the interior with grass and fluff to make it a perfect dream nest. Looks like a match has been made. Click to enlarge. 
Meanwhile, in Central Park, this European starling, Sterna vulgaris,  has found a very nice natural cavity. Before long all the nest-worthy spots in the city will be full of cheeping nestlings.