Monday, September 19, 2016

A Woodpecker Visit

Look what landed in the boxelder tree outside my window! It's a woodpecker called a northern flicker, Colaptes auratus. Although flickers are common in New York and across the country this is the first time I've seen one in my very urban Brooklyn garden.
This birds was too big and noisy to miss -- about a foot long, and announcing its presence with repeated loud calls of kyeer as it eyeballed a little pile of raisins and peanut bits I had left on a fence post for the cardinals and robins. Although flickers eat mainly insects, they also take fruit and seeds, especially in winter.

The northern flicker is mainly brown and tan. Click to enlarge the photo and you will see the pretty pattern of bars, crescents and spots in its plumage. Note the red crescent on its nape. This one's black mustache, or malar stripe, indicates that it is a male; females have plain tan faces. See those yellow lines on the closed wing? The undersides of the wings are the same bright yellow and make a pretty flash of color when the bird flies; the bird is sometimes called a yellow-shafted flicker because of it.

Here he is in a typical woodpecker pose -- stiff tail feathers used like a prop for support.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11

September 11 is a sad day in my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights as we remember 9/11 2001. We are within sight and walking distance of the World Trade Center. Last night's Tribute in Light reminded me of 2010, pictured here, when the lights attracted migrating birds. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will be able to make out the sparkling specks in the columns of light. I wrote a blog about it then which you can read by clicking on this sentence. 
I watched much of the aftermath from this spot and I (and lots of New Yorkers) are still likely to burst into tears about it without much provocation. It hardly seems like it has been 15 years. But there's the New World Trade Center in the skyline across the East River, seen from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with one of the day's many spontaneous memorials in the foreground.  

Here's another memorial.
And another. 
And another. They are everywhere. 
These trucks from our local firehouse, Hook and Ladder Company 118 and Engine Company 205, were parked on the street today to make space in the station for the annual ceremony. The FDNY's motto is New York's Bravest. Six firefighters from this station died responding to the attack. Click on this sentence to read more about them. 
I took this picture at the Saint Patrick's Day parade this year. It is FDNY members carrying flags -- 343 flags -- one for every member of the New York City Fire Department who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Such a sad day today in Brooklyn Heights and everywhere. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day!

Monarch butterflies at Cape May Point, NJ. Their work is never done! If you would like to read what the United States Department of Labor has to say about the history and meaning of Labor Day -- click here. And click on the photo to enlarge. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

I Love Pier 6

A wildflower meadow fills much of Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. 
It is equally tempting there to wander the flower-lined paths or sit among the blossoms. 
Insects and flowers go together. There is so much activity. Right now there are lots of monarch butterflies gathering nectar from milkweeds. 
And so many kinds of ladybugs you can hardly keep track. The ladybugs are feasting on aphids. The aphids are feasting on plants. 
There are thousands of bees of all kinds collecting nectar and pollen like this honeybee.  
A few mockingbirds are always there making a racket and sometimes swooping into the flowers to catch tasty insects. 
If you follow your curiosity you can have adventures and discover things. I stopped to look at the fruit on this tree. 
I think it's a kind of magnolia that will ripen to look like this one nearby. 
But see that smudge that looks like a bird dropping on the low left leaf? 
Close up it looks like this. 
It's a tiger swallowtail caterpillar! Click to enlarge. 
I find amazing things in the urban wildflower meadow at Pier 6! 
Iris Murdoch wrote in A Fairly Honourable Defeat: People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cardinals Doing Fine

Northern cardinals nest in the garden behind my condo every year; it's a good spot for them with trees, water, and food. They stop by my porch occasionally and I give them snacks of raisins and peanuts.  For the past few days the female pictured above has been going out of her way to make sure I see her when she visits; she flutters in front of the window or lands on the sill and looks in while chipping loudly. Click to enlarge. 
Not coincidentally, a male cardinal has been stopping by the porch with two big babies in tow. He feeds them mouth-to-mouth or flits around nervously while they feed themselves. The male and female haven't come to the porch together for a while. Maybe they are working different shifts. 
The male is easily spooked when the youngsters are with him and they all fly away when I try to photograph them so a don't have a 2016 family photo yet. But here is a picture of one of the baby porch cardinals from a previous year. 
Any questions? 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Butterfly Dream

Today was too hot for human comfort in New York, but the butterflies seemed undaunted. There were several monarchs like the one above in the wildflower meadow on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. They reminded me of the famous butterfly dream of the Chinese philosopher Chuang-Tzu, which I've quoted below. 

"Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man." 

 -Zhuangzi (c.3rd century B.C.): The Butterfly as Companion: Meditations on the first three chapters of the Chuang-Tzu, by Kuang-Ming Wu (1990).




Click on the photos to enlarge. 



Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Day Off

I'm taking a break from blogging today to relax and celebrate my upcoming birthday. My relaxation plan so far is to drift from meal to meal like a jellyfish. I saw the one pictured here from the Brooklyn Shore of the East River. I think it is what they call a Lion's Mane jellyfish but I am too languid to find out more right now. Click on the picture to enlarge. I'll be back next Sunday.