Sunday, January 31, 2016

Last Day of January


I've been at home, inside, nursing an illness for two weeks. As I've watched from the window, the snow has been melting slowly but the ground is still mostly covered. The birds have kept close to my feeder, at times filling the boxelder tree beside it, chirping away. Here are some of the ever present house sparrows. It looks so colorless and bleak that I'm glad for their cheerful sounds.

The bare tree reminded me of this poem by D.H. Lawrence, written in 1916 (p.s. welkin = sky or heaven): 

         Winter in the Boulevard                          

The frost has settled down upon the trees
And ruthlessly strangled off the fantasies
Of leaves that have gone unnoticed, swept like old
Romantic stories now no more to be told.
  
The trees down the boulevard stand naked in thought,        
Their abundant summery wordage silenced, caught
In the grim undertow; naked the trees confront
Implacable winter’s long, cross-questioning brunt.
  
Has some hand balanced more leaves in the depths of the twigs?
Some dim little efforts placed in the threads of the birch?— 
It is only the sparrows, like dead black leaves on the sprigs,
Sitting huddled against the cerulean, one flesh with their perch.
  
The clear, cold sky coldly bethinks itself.
Like vivid thought the air spins bright, and all
Trees, birds, and earth, arrested in the after-thought 
Awaiting the sentence out from the welkin brought.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Winter Robin is Back!

On Friday afternoon, before the big snowstorm started, a robin showed up at my window. When I opened it to throw a few raisins on the porch for him, he swiftly flew to the work surface on the side of the barbecue grill that's right next to the window.

That's where I fed a winter robin last year and the year before. (I can reach out the window and sweep the snow away to make a landing place. That's important when it's snowing a few inches an hour.) This bird already knew the ropes and did not hesitate to land there, even though it's as close as it looks, about two feet from me. I think it's the same bird I've seen on snowy days in past years -- click here to see him posing for a snow photo in a previous blog. I haven't seen a robin on my porch during 2015's entire warm December. I'm glad he remembered he can always get a meal here when the pickings are slim elsewhere.

He came back several times during Saturday's storm, always with his feathers puffed up for warmth, and sometimes standing on one foot. He was waiting at the window for breakfast when I woke up this morning.

Click to enlarge. Click here for a little more about winter robins.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Neighborhood Hawk

This young red-tailed hawk visited Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn Heights on Saturday. 
It got this head forward alert look whenever a squirrel or dog came near. I've seen red-tailed hawks eating squirrels in New York trees before, but not this day. Note the brown striped tail, indicating that it is immature. The famous red tail develops in a red-tailed hawk's second year. Click the photos to enlarge. 
Here it is showing off an impressive Exorcist style head rotation. No sneaking up behind this bird! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Click to enlarge. 
I saw this ring-billed gull at the East River today during a break in the rain. That's the Brooklyn Bridge in soft focus in the background. As I stood there, Walt Whitman came into my mind and I pictured him, as he had written, watching the gulls and the river 150 years ago. When I got home I reread the poem he wrote about it: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. The ferry used to cross where the Brooklyn Bridge now stands.

Here are two excerpts and a link to Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman,

"I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refreshed…"

'I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south…'

Click here to read the entire poem on the Poetry Foundation's website.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

It's 2016!


"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 
'it will be happier.'"  Alfred Lord Tennyson


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy New Year!

Click to enlarge. 
My creature of the year award for 2015 goes to the neighborhood favorites -- Brooklyn's monk parakeets!

The monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus, is also called Quaker parrot or parakeet and a few other names. (Click here to read a previous blog about the birds). There are colonies of them in Queens and Manhattan and elsewhere in New York City, but my favorite flock lives in the gothic revival spires of the gatehouse at Brooklyn's famous Green-Wood Cemetery.

No one expects these birds: they're noisy, they're flashy, they're big and green. Congratulations to Green-Wood's monk parakeets for being among the coolest wildlife in the city.

The gatehouse at Green-Wood. 
Twig nests and parrots. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grackle Pros and Cons

The common grackle, Quiscalus quiscula, is about a foot long, appears uniformly dark from a distance, and has bright yellow eyes. Up close it is all glossy iridescent purples and blues, and very pretty. Click to enlarge. 
Common grackles stay in New York year round. I saw one the other day, striding around on its long legs and looking cocky. Whenever I see one I take a moment to admire its glossy colors. I usually see a single bird in a park, or just a few at a time -- they look innocent and pretty.

But I hear that they get up to no good outside the city limits. They descend on corn and rice fields every year in huge flocks, eating everything in sight, and collectively causing millions of dollars worth of crop damage. And in winter, they sometimes join other birds (starlings, brown-headed cowbirds, and red-winged blackbirds) to forage and roost in noisy flocks that can include thousands of birds. That's usually very unpopular with the humans they sometimes settle near.

Grackles are also seen by many as bullies at bird feeders, driving other birds away and quickly eating every last scrap of food. That does sound rude.

 I think I prefer my polite New York City grackles.