Archive for the ‘Central Park’ category

White-Throated Sparrow Digs Up Central Park

April 25, 2014

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Rustle rustle rustle.

Who’s that walkin’ around here?
Sounds like baby patter.
Baby elephant patter, that’s what I calls it.
– Fats Waller, Your Feet’s Too Big

Ah, it’s a White-throated Sparrow, digging through the leaves for tasty morsels hidden below.

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Beautifully camouflaged in the ground litter, the sparrow nonetheless called attention to itself by kicking up an absolute ruckus. If you’ve never seen a little bird dig, it’s quite an impressive flurry of activity with wings, feet and beak all in motion at once.

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White-throated Sparrows have two color morphs, the striking white-striped bird above, and a subtler tan-striped variation.

Here’s what Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” website has to say about the color morphs:

The two forms are genetically determined, and they persist because individuals almost always mate with a bird of the opposite morph. Males of both color types prefer females with white stripes, but both kinds of females prefer tan-striped males. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and white-striped females may be able to outcompete their tan-striped sisters for tan-striped males.

Okay, got that?

Here, take a quick look at The Sordid Lives of the White-Throated Sparrow, Kelly Rypkema’s one-minute video:

After mating with whichever-striped chosen consort, White-throated Sparrows build their nests on or near the ground, which makes the eggs and nestlings easy prey for that most adorable of vicious predators, the Eastern chipmunk.

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Eastern chipmunk in Central Park.

Yes, these cute little rodents don’t confine themselves to nuts and seeds. In fact, they are notorious nest-raiders of ground-nesting birds, helping themselves to a quick blast of protein in the form of eggs and babies. Interestingly, a 2011 study indicates that some species of ground-nesting birds, notably oven-birds and veeries, pay attention to chipmunk calls and avoid nesting in chipmunk-rich areas.

I don’t know if the White-throated Sparrow eavesdrops on chipmunks. But watching them dig up the leaves, I’d think they could put up quite a defense with those wings and feet. And speaking of feet (hey, sometimes a good segue is elusive, okay?), here is Fats Waller singing “Your Feet’s Too Big.”

Listen up.

Central Park Chipmunk

April 23, 2014

 

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Chipmunk in Central Park. Photo: Melissa Cooper

A rustle in the leaves reveals a fat-cheeked, lovely chipmunk on a hillside near Central Park’s North Woods. Check out the large nut stowed on the side.

The Eastern chipmunk lives in many of the city’s larger forested parks, but until recently, Central Park was a chipmunk-free zone.

According to the Central Park Conservancy, the return of chipmunks can be traced to a decision in 2009 to remove trash cans from the Park’s woodland areas. The trash had served as a prime food source for the Park’s many rats. When the trash cans were removed, the trash diminished, and the rats left the Park in search of easier pickings. (Sadly, NYC’s system of leaving mountains of trash bags out on the sidewalk overnight means that pretty much any city street on trash night provides a self-service rat buffet.) Apparently, the rat exodus has created favorable conditions for chipmunks to move in and thrive. Whether the rats out-competed the chipmunks for food, preyed on them, or just generated general forest anxiety among smaller creatures, I don’t know. Anyone?

On Sunday, I was thrilled with my first sighting of a Central Park chipmunk.  Now that the little rodents have awakened from hibernation with the warming spring temperatures, I hope to see them more often.

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Eastern chipmunk gives me the hairy eyeball.

This little fellow ducked repeatedly in and out of its hiding place beneath the rock. Eventually, though, it rushed off, giving me a good look at its gorgeous back stripes and ruddy rear end before it disappeared into the leaves.

Eastern chipmunk, Central Park, NYC. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Eastern chipmunk, Central Park, NYC. Photo: Melissa Cooper

NYC, Again with the Snow

February 3, 2014

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Again this morning, snow.

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Here are a few images from our snows of the past month.

Esau waits for me in Riverside Park.

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Dog prints on the retaining wall high above the park.

Who's been walking on the wall?

Who’s been walking on the wall?

In Morningside Park, a feral cat makes its way along the cliff near the iced-over waterfall.

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The cat’s white legs look like little ice falls.

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The pond in Morningside Park is sometimes frozen.

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Other times, some kind of bubble machine prevents it from fully freezing.

Bubbling pools in Morningside Pond.

Bubbling pools in Morningside Pond.

After the snow, the sky clears and a hawk flies over the snowy landscape of Central Park.

Red-tail after a snowfall.

New York Men, and Their Little Dogs, Too

November 17, 2013

New Yorkers, who come in all shapes and sizes, love their dogs, who also come in all shapes and sizes. Today we’re taking a look at city men who love – or, at any rate, walk – little city dogs.

Enjoy.

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Crossing Columbus Avenue and heading west.

Heading up from the Greenway in Riverside Park.

Near the 96th Street red clay tennis courts in Riverside Park.

On Central Park's Great Hill.

On Central Park’s Great Hill.

Riverside Park.

Riverside Park.

Riverside Park.

Riverside Park.

Walking west on W. 108th Street.

Walking west on W. 108th Street.

Riverside Park.

Riverside Park.

Hey, that's my dog.

Hey, Mister, that’s my dog. And he’s not that little.

And we’re back where we started.

Crossing Columbus avenue, heading west.

Crossing Columbus avenue, heading west.

A Dog in New York

November 10, 2013
My house is a very very very fine house.

My house is a very very very fine house.

Lately I’ve been feeling grateful to my walking companion.

Just over five years ago, my family and I left the horizontal landscape of Dallas, Texas for the vertical world of Manhattan. Since then, like old-fashioned postal workers, the dog and I can fairly say that “neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night” has stayed us from our daily exploration of our neighborhood’s streets and parks.  Walking with Esau has led me to discover things about my city and its inhabitants – human, domesticated and wild – that I might never have known if the dog didn’t need to go out, and then go out again.

So today I just want to take a minute to admire the dog who gets me up and out, who poses patiently whenever asked, and who valiantly represses his predatory instincts long enough to allow me to watch the hawks, raccoons, squirrels, egrets, sparrows, peacocks, woodpeckers, ducks, and other creatures that share the streets and parks with us.

(If you hover over the photos, arrows will appear so that you can click through the slide show)

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Thank you, Esau dear. You can take five now.

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Walking with Mary in Central Park: What is That Duck?

November 8, 2013

On Monday, the dog and I took a long walk in Central Park with my friend Mary, who is in town performing with Taylor Mac in a wonderful production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan at the Public Theater. Go see it, if you can.

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The Pool, a lovely little body of water near West 103rd Street, was painted with autumn colors.

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Mallards bobbed and dabbled everywhere.

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Wait a minute, those aren’t all mallards. Check out that duck on the left, below.

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That ain’t no mallard. Let’s take a closer look.

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A beautiful reddish head, but definitely not a Redhead. A white breast and clean white markings curving up either side of the back of the neck. Very handsome. What is he? No clue. Well, we’ll look it up when we get back to the apartment.

We wandered on along the Loch and through the North Woods to the Conservatory Garden, which stretches from 106th Street to 103rd along the eastern edge of the Park. It’s actually three distinct, beautifully maintained gardens, one French, one Italian, and one English.

In the French Garden, the dog took a breather in front of a huge mass of brilliant, yet touchingly fading mums.

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In the English Garden, beneath the “Secret Garden” statues of a Pan-like Dicken and a rather nymph-like Mary Lennox, a koi and a water lily entered into an inter-species communion of color.

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The dog (or is it the mop?) mused on late-season flowers and the passing of time.

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Later, we looked for our duck in the bird books. He looked unmistakeably like a Northen Pintail – except that he had no pintail.  A visit to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s  All About Birds reassured by saying that in eclipse (non-breeding) plumage the tail feathers are “much shorter and wider than in breeding plumage.”  That clinched it: a Northern Pintail.  A visit to a favorite site, Bruce Yolton’s Urban Hawks confirmed that on Sunday Bruce had photographed a Northern Pintail in the Pool, a sighting he called “unusual for the Park.”

Here is a last look at our handsome duck.

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To see more urban ducks, visit the archives of Out Walking the Dog. Better yet, try stopping by the Pool yourself. Or the Reservoir. Or the Harlem Meer. Or the Lake. Or the Pond. Or any body of water in any park anywhere near you.

Or hell, forget the ducks. Just go for a walk. It’s beautiful out there.

NYC Marathon Runners and Central Park in Autumn

November 6, 2013

Last Sunday, the day of the New York Marathon, autumn arrived in earnest. Temperatures dropped from the 60s to the 40s, and gloves were suddenly in order.  The dog and I walked across Central Park’s northernmost stretch to cheer on the amazing runners. Notice the bundled-up spectators and the bare limbs of the runners.

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We joined an enthusiastic crowd at Duke Ellington Circle at Fifth Avenue and 110th Street at the northeast corner of the park. Musicians were playing beneath the statue of the Duke, and the mood was happy.

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The super-elite leaders had already passed by, but the runners counted as among the swift. It would be hours yet before the rest of the pack reached Central Park.  When they crossed 110th Street, the marathoners had already run around 23 miles, passing through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. All they had to do was now was run the length and width of Central Park.

That’s all.

They came one by one, and in between each runner, Fifth Avenue was empty.

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Soon several powerful women ran past.

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Two wheelchair racers kept pace together, one bent completely forward over his legs.

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In East Harlem, north of 110th Street, there were just a few onlookers.

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Later in the day, there would be crowds of people to cheer on the huge mass of runners still to come.

The dog and I didn’t stick around to see it, though. We headed back toward the park. Children played, and rolled around, claiming the closed-off  part of 110th Street as their own.

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A colorful kite man got off his bike, and prepared to fly a celebratory kite or two.

We entered the astonishingly beautiful park and walked west along the Harlem Meer.

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Police helicopters kept watch overhead.

The dog posed among fallen leaves.

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Burnished autumn colors glowed.

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A feral cat crossed the path ahead of us as we neared Central Park West and 106th Street.

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The dog posed at Stranger’s Gate, although his attention remained riveted on the spot where he had seen the cat.

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One last look before we go.

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NYC’s Hawk-a-Day Club

March 18, 2013
Atop the head of Saint Andrew high on the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

Atop the head of Saint Andrew high on the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

I’m a charter member of NYC’s Hawk-a-Day Club. Anyone can join, and the entrance requirements are, well, not too tough. Basically, all you have to do is spend some time outside, preferably in or near a park, and look up. Because these days, the city’s raptors, particularly its burgeoning population of red-tailed hawks, are pretty easy to spot.

Over the course of the past six weeks or so, I’ve regularly – even, yes, daily – seen red-tails…

in Riverside Park.

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Red-tail in Riverside Park at dusk.

On the back of the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

Nesting on the shoulders of St Andrew.

Nesting on the shoulders of St Andrew.

In Central Park.

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Red-tail (Pale Male?) near Fifth Avenue.

On a high-rise near Morningside Park.

High above the city.

High above the city.

On another high rise on Broadway between 109th and 110th Streets – on the same spot where I recently watched a pair of hawks copulate.

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On a tree near the statue of General Franz Sigel at 106th and Riverside.

Hawk above 106th and Riverside.

Hawk above 106th and Riverside.

On a water tower, looking over 110th Street.

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Beautiful.

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Avian Red Wake-up

January 1, 2013

High in the tree branches in Riverside Park, a small, brilliant flash of red startled me. It soon revealed itself to be the head of a black-and-white woodpecker. The little fellow was very active, hopping from one branch to another with great rapidity, ducking behind branches and twigs, making it hard for me to get a good look at its entire form. And, of course, I had left behind both my binoculars and my camera.

Was the beautiful bird a Red-bellied woodpecker?

Red-bellied woodpecker by John James Audubon

Red-bellied woodpecker by John James Audubon

(Despite its name, the Red-bellied woodpecker is notably black and white with a red cap and nape.  The name derives from a reddish tinge on the belly that is really only visible when the bird is examined close up.)  I watched until the bird swooped off, scalloping the air, to another tree. But when I got home and opened a bird book, it was the the flash of a red cap that lit the image in my mind. A red cap, not a red cap and nape. So hmmm…

Could it have been a yellow-bellied sapsucker?

Yellow-bellied sapsucker by John James Audubon.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker by John James Audubon.

Both birds are seen in NYC parks, although the Yellow-bellied sapsucker is apparently less common.  But something about the coloring, and even the cap, just doesn’t seem quite right when compared with the bird in my mind’s eye. So I believe it was a Red-bellied. Next time I’ll know better how to look at a red-headed woodpecker to note its defining marks.

The unexpected flash of avian red has stayed with me, like a wake-up of some kind. “Sleeper, awake!” the little bird signaled to me.  A good jolt with which to start a new year.

Since I have no photo of my woodpecker, here is a different bit of vibrant wake-up-the-new-year red, photographed by a friend on his morning walk.

Cardinal in NYC. Photo: Rob Pavlin

Cardinal in NYC, plumped against the cold. Photo: Rob Pavlin

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Top Five Posts of 2012

December 30, 2012

Our end of year countdown continues with the top five stories, written in 2012, on Out Walking the Dog.  For the first half of the top ten stories, covering coyotes, red-tailed hawks, NYC dogs, and feral cats, visit Top Posts of 2012, Part One.)

Click on each title to go to the original post. Enjoy!

Delmarva Fox Squirrel, photo by Mary Shultz.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.

5. The Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel was inspired by my friend Mary’s sightings and photographs of an unusually big and beautiful squirrel on her property on the eastern shore of Maryland. I had never before heard of the species, which turns out to be the biggest tree squirrel in North America. Of course, I had barely heard of Delmarva, the long peninsula that belongs to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and includes the islands of Chincoteague and Assoteague, where the famous ponies run. Now I hope to travel down to Delmarva in 2013 to see its horses and squirrels for myself.

Photo: WCBV

Photo: WCBV

4. A Black Bear Comes to Provincetown! Black bears are increasingly seen all over the northeast, including New York and New Jersey. And bears, as some hairy, masculine gay men call themselves, are long-time regular visitors and residents in Provincetown, Massachusetts. But the sight of an actual 200-pound black bear wandering around the narrow tip of Cape Cod was a notable wildlife sighting. The annual summer gathering known as Provincetown Bear Week was just a few weeks off, prompting many jokes about the young male bear being so eager to participate in the festivities that he arrived early.

Boston Globe.

Boston Globe.

8.  Hurricane Sandy Update: New York and Long Island.  As I watched Hurricane Sandy make a blur of  the world outside my New York City window, my brother rode out the storm at our family house on Long Island, providing eyewitness accounts of the flooding of our road, and of the interesting behavior of birds and foxes as the storm began.

Photo courtesy of Gigi A.

Photo courtesy of Gigi A.

9. Hunting for Central Park’s Black Squirrels.  After hearing repeatedly from people who spotted beautiful black squirrels in parks around the city, I became overwhelmed with the desire to see one for myself.  One day, following tips from other squirrel watchers, I set out to find one in Central Park. Black squirrels are actually a melanistic phase of NYC’s ubiquitous Gray squirrel, so a brief discussion of the natural history of the Gray squirrel is in order. Do I ever actually find a black squirrel?  You’ll just have to read the post to find out.

And the most-read post written in 2012 is …

Flying Point Beach. Photo: Andrew Cooper

Flying Point Beach. Photo: Andrew Cooper

10. Hurricane Sandy: Flying Point Road, Long Island Update. Written in the immediate aftermath of the great storm, this post describes a small stretch of road in eastern Long Island on which sits a one-time farmhouse that has belonged to my family since the 1960s. The once rural area is now home to mega-mansions, and building continues apace on every inch of available land. Global warming is effecting changes all along this once-rural coastal area that is now home to McMansions by the score.  Even now, development continues to gobble up the few remaining fields and marshlands, and houses perch on precarious ocean dunes and along the shore of the easily flooded bay. Photographs and video show the area during peaceful summer scenes as well as in the fury of the storm.

Thank you for visiting Out Walking the Dog in 2012. Here’s to 2013!

 

Win a Prize in our Urban Nature Contest

December 7, 2012

Out Walking the Dog announces our first URBAN NATURE CONTEST!

Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York

THE PRIZE

Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York
edited by John Waldman, Fordham University Press

This newly published collection on a subject close to my heart features essays and articles that explore the relationship between nature and New York City. Writers include Robert Sullivan, Betsy McCully, Christopher Meier, Tony Hiss, Kelly McMasters, Dara Ross, William Kornblum, Phillip Lopate, David Rosane, Anne Matthews, Devin Zuber, and Frederick Buell.

Out Walking the Dog is proud to have a personal connection to the book through this painting by Charlotte Hildebrand.

Painting by Charlotte Hildebrand

Painting by Charlotte Hildebrand.

Out Walking the Dog originally commissioned the painting to illustrate Urban Hawk Snatches Chihuahua?  In that post, we pondered the line humans like to draw between meat animals and pet animals, and the reactions of city dwellers when one of our more revered wild animals, a red-tailed hawk, ignores our distinction. The illustration was spotted on Out Walking the Dog by the editors of Still the Same Hawk, and appears (in black-and-white, but still looking fine) as an illustration to Robert Sullivan’s essay, My Time Spent in the Nature that People Would Rather Not Think About.

THE RULES: HOW TO ENTER

Send me a description of an encounter you’ve had with urban wildlife. This may be as simple or elaborate as you like. You may write a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a poem, a dialogue, a haiku, whatever strikes your fancy.  Be sure to include your name and mailing address, so that, should you be the lucky winner, I can mail you your prize without delay. Send via email to: Outwalkingthedognyc@gmail.com.

THE SELECTION

One winning entry will be selected at random.  All entries will be read with interest, but interest will have no bearing on your chances.

THE DEADLINE

Entries must be received by Tuesday, December 18th at 7 PM.

The drawing will take place later that night or the following morning. The prize will be mailed via Priority Mail on December 19th. This means that, if the United States Post Office does its part and if you reside in North America, you’ll probably receive the book in time for Christmas.  (I will send the book anywhere in the world, but no guarantees of when it will arrive.)

AN EXHORTATION

December 18th is around the corner, folks. So get those entries in, and please help me spread the word.

Good luck!

(Did you know you can follow Out Walking the Dog on Twitter and Facebook?)

Cleaning Up After Sandy: A Tree Crew

November 2, 2012

Walking just got easier along Riverside Park’s upper promenade on Riverside Drive.

On Wednesday, it looked like this at 107th Street and Riverside Drive.

But yesterday, all that was left of the tree was sawdust and a pathetic bit of stump.

Gazing south to 105th Street, we spied the heroes of the scene toiling away on yet another downed tree.

The tree crew from East Greenwich Tree Service has been working in Manhattan since Sunday.

Yes, Sunday. The city hired them to cut down potentially hazardous trees before Sandy reached its peak.

This gentleman told me of working up in the bucket on Sunday in 50-mile an hour gusts.

He also showed me impressive photos on his iPhone of cars smashed by trees.  He said he likes to take the photos before they clear the trees, and he remembers exactly where each car was located. The job now is to clear streets and sidewalks.

After that, they’ll move into the parks. And in fact, directly below the team inside Riverside Park, a large tree with a huge root ball was blocking the upper path. To get a sense of just how huge, look at the little pedestrian coming along the path on the left.

A man from the Parks Department conferred with the team.

I asked him how much damage Riverside Park had sustained.  He said he didn’t know exactly, since his priority has been to clear the streets for emergency vehicles and to keep people safe.

The tree at 105th Street took part of the playground fencing with it.

I told him I had heard that Morningside Park had lost a lot of trees, which he confirmed.  (Scroll down for information on volunteering tomorrow in Morningside Park or your local park.)  We talked about the storms over the past couple of years that have caused our parks to lose a substantial number of trees in the parks, including last October’s freak snow storm that took down 1,000 trees in Central Park.

“You know how they talk about a once-in-a-hundred years storm, well, we’ve had four of them in the past few years,” said the man from Parks. “Well, they’re gonna have to think of a new way to describe these storms.”

And they – I mean, we – are going to have to face the facts about climate change, and come up with new ways of living and working to protect our city and our planet.

Meanwhile, thanks to the tree guys for their hard, necessary work.

Post Sandy Volunteer Cleanup in Morningside Park
  • Saturday, Nov. 3rd from 10am – 12 pm
    116th Street and Morningside Drive
  • Dress for outdoor work. Equipment will be provided.
  • Email info@morningsidepark.org to let the Friends know how many people you will be bringing.
To find out about other volunteer opportunities, check NYC Services or your local park, shelter or ASPCA. I just received emails from Kicy Motley at kmotley@pubadvocate.nyc.gov that there are clean-ups going on tomorrow in Staten Island and several locations in Riverside Park. email for info.
I’ll post more volunteer links soon.

Hot Town, NYC

September 4, 2012

Minnie Mouse sells flavored ices on 109th Street.

It’s the day after Labor Day, and even this hot summer is drawing to a close.  The air is thick and heavy today as what’s left of Hurricane Isaac passes us.  And I’m thinking about summer in the city.

The way the colors are brighter than at any other time of year.

Remember when manikins (and womanikins) faced front, even in tight pants?

The way Amsterdam Avenue comes alive in the heat.

Caribbean blues on Amsterdam Avenue.

Girls in bright colors pass in front of a meat market on Amsterdam and 107th Street.

Another block, another meat market, this one on Amsterdam between 108th and 109th.

On 108th Street, a prayer meeting closes the street.

Hold hands or raise them high, bodies swaying.

Over on Broadway, too, August colors shimmer.

Famous Famiglia offers Italian ices in the summer.

On 59th Street, a plumed carriage horse was working hard, maybe too hard.

Carriage horse passes children on their way into Central Park.

Animals of all species need to slow down, cool down, and take it easy.

Dogs.

Esau rests by tiny blue flowers.

Squirrels.

Lazy Boy squirrel.

Birds.

Through gular fluttering, a form of panting, birds can cool their bodies.

Humans.

Beneath the parasol, amid an array of stuff, a person dozes.

And cats.

Why we have benches.

The cat pictured in the above photo isn’t just any tabby.  It’s the (locally) famous Samad’s Gourmet cat,

Samad’s Gourmet on Broadway.

a very cool kitty, well known on the street, who is not above moonlighting in record sales.

Would you buy a used record from this cat?

But the photo just above was taken in cooler days, in the middle of winter, when a working cat doesn’t mind a little extra responsibility.  Mid-summer is a whole other story.

“So chill in the heat I can barely breathe.”

But perhaps the cat comes alive on a summer night, as the Lovin’Spoonful classic has it:

Cool cat lookin’ for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city,

Ah, let’s just let the Spoonful tell it:

Home From Dallas, Celebrating NYC

August 4, 2012

I’m home!  After a wonderful month in Dallas, rehearsing and performing my play, NYC Coyote Existential (more on coyotes in Dallas in a future post), New York’s parks seem impossibly green. As I wrote in the play, the summer green of the Northeast can seem “almost hallucinogenic, layer upon layer of vertigo-inducing green, like something out of Apocalypse Now or H.P. Lovecraft, the color alive and sentient.”

Of course, everyone here in NYC is busy complaining about the heat. But hey, after a month in Dallas with one day after another of three-digit temperatures, well, I’m just not buying all the moaning. Sure it’s hot, and yes, it’s soupy.  NYC heat is like going a few rounds in a clothes dryer with a wet towel. Hot. But Dallas at 108 degrees is like walking straight into a giant pizza oven.

The biggest difference is that here in NYC, we walk everywhere, to the subway, to the supermarket, to the hardware store, so we’re actually out in the heat. Pretty much wherever you need to go, you walk to get there.

In Dallas, not so much.

Dallas is a quintessential American car city, where many people walk only from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned store to … well, you get the idea. So as long as the air-conditioning is working, you can avoid the full impact of that mind-boggling heat. The animals, of course, seek natural cooling sources, which means, first and foremost, water. Here, a mixed group of waterbirds cools off and feeds at the White Rock Lake spillway in East Dallas.

I’ll write more about Dallas and its animals soon. Right now, though, I’m celebrating NYC in the dog days of August.

On Thursday evening, as we drank margaritas on the roof of our apartment building, a fat, phenomenally red moon – the Sturgeon Moon – rose in the east, and a red-tailed hawk landed atop the school next door. The hawk perched in the deepening shadows so long that I wondered if it was going to stay all night. When it finally flew off, its wide wings caught the light of the moon and lit up for a split second like the wings of a predatory angel.

No, I don’t have pictures. You’ll just have to take my word.

Down in the apartment, a tiny green inchworm – more like a quarter-inchworm, really – clung doughtily to the kitchen faucet.

Tiny worm

It reared its unimaginably small head and seemed to be trying to figure out where to go. I put it on a nearby jade plant, where it will probably either die or gobble up my only plant before transforming into a moth ready to gobble up my winter clothes. But how did it get onto the faucet in the first place?

And on Friday, six flights down and one block east, a small but mighty ant carried a huge, winged, red-headed carcass (identification, anyone?) up and down a fence railing, the iron so beautifully rusted that it resembled wood.

In Central Park, the water has turned completely green with algae, and the willows appear to be melting in the midsummer heat.

A fat freckled fish lurks near the shore.

And this morning in Riverside Park, the wall leaners and sitters are out in force.

A dryad with her cat sips a cold drink and gazes at the passing world.

After a while, the nymph hoists the gigantic cat onto her shoulder

and heads up the hillside.

I am so lucky to be back in Manhattan, where dryads carry giant cats through the streets and parks.

NYC Coyote Round-up: Walking the Talk, Talking the Walk

March 24, 2012

Ever since 2010, when I came face to face with a young female coyote in Central Park, I’ve had coyotes on the brain. As my regular readers know, I’m fascinated by (some might say, obsessed with) the urban coyote phenomenon and bowled over by the extraordinary story of migration as these highly adaptable wild dogs have spread out of their native home in the Great Plains, across the continent and into every imaginable habitat, including our suburbs and cities.

Coyotes in an unidentified NYC park. Photo: Mark Weckel. Click image to go to New York Times Green Blog.

Another winter has come and gone with no new coyote sightings in Manhattan. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going about their business nearby.  For years, coyotes have been quietly living and breeding in the Bronx (where I suspect the photo above was taken). Recent coyote sightings in Queens induced the usual breathless, frothing-at-the-mouth coverage by local media.

A coyote in Queens, nicknamed Frank by researchers, photographed by a trail camera. Click image to go to article by Mark Weckel and Chris Nagy.

Today I have five happy bits of New York City coyote news:

1. A recent article by  Sindya N. Bhanoo in the New York Times Green Blog looked at New York’s urban coyotes with refreshing calm and genuine curiosity. Bhanoo uses well-chosen quotes – from a researcher, the head of the urban park rangers and even a high school student involved in a coyote study – to educate readers about urban coyotes, reassuring the frightened (simply seeing a coyote is not cause for alarm), cautioning the foolish and/or sentimental (don’t feed, don’t approach, etc.), and even pointing out the possible benefits of having a top predator in the hood (rodent and deer control).

2. Today, Proteus Gowanus, Brooklyn’s interdisciplinary art gallery and reading room, was the starting point for a coyote walk.

Led by artist Dillon de Give, the walk was intended not to look for coyotes, but as a way to imagine how a coyote might travel through Brooklyn. Sticking to green spaces whenever possible, Dillon led walkers into  Manhattan and north to Hallett Nature Sanctuary at the south end of Central Park. Hallett, a one-acre area that is off-limit to both dogs and humans, was used as a resting spot Manhattan’s coyote visitors in 2006 and 2010.

3. Next weekend, de Give will embark on his annual Lah walk.

Image by Dillon de Give. Click image to visit Dillon’s website.

According to Dillon’s website:

“Lah” is an annual project that commemorates the spirit of Hal, a coyote who appeared in Central Park in 2006 and died shortly after being captured by authorities.

Lah illustrates how a coyote might find its way into Manhattan with a reverse human journey out of the city: a hike retracing a potential coyote-like path through greenspaces. Citing examples of juvenile coyotes that have made long dispersal trips, the walk averages around 50-60 miles.

The walk has been performed solo, in a group, and in a pair.

In 2010, I joined Dillon and his fellow Lah walkers on the first leg of their journey from Hallett to the north end of Central Park, leaving them at Frederick Douglass Circle to continue their way north for several days.

4. On Saturday afternoon, March 31st, Frank Vincenti, Director of The Wild Dog Foundation, will lead a Coyote Lecture in Forest Park in Queens. Frank is a passionate advocate for co-existing with coyotes, and will be talking about coyote natural history. I’m guessing he will also talk about the growing population of NYC coyotes, and the latest DNA research showing that many Eastern coyotes carry wolf genes, acquired during their long migration by inter-breeding with a remnant population of Red wolves. For more information, visit the NYC Parks Department or call (718) 846-2731.

5. And last, an invitation for NYC readers to join me for a staged reading of my hot-off-the-presses new play:

New York City Coyote Existential
(a short play with science & songs)

Apologies for the blurry screen shot. Some day, I’ll learn to scan.

This is a bare bones reading in a small gallery space at Proteus Gowanus. It will feature the wonderful actress Mary Shultz as The Coyote with music by Thomas Cabaniss. Please be aware that seating is very limited, and is first come, first served.

Check back soon for updates on New York’s coyote news.


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