Posted tagged ‘nature’

Disappearing Animals: 50 Shades of Brown

December 2, 2012

A thick fog enveloped Manhattan this morning, rolling over Broadway and wrapping the water towers in a ghostly shroud.

Water tower in the mist.

Water towers in the mist.

By late morning, when the dog and I descended the steps into Riverside Park, the fog had lifted.

Brown was the color of the day. Or rather 50 shades of brown.

50 shades of brown.

50 shades of brown.

The park was full of beautifully camouflaged small animals. These trees, for example, were full of unseen birds. I know, because I heard them.

Invisible birds fill the air with song.

Invisible birds fill the air with song.

And this tree, too, received a sudden gust of sparrows that disappeared swiftly into its branches.

Sparrows disappear into the branches.

Sparrows disappear into the branches.

Here is one, now.

Sparrow like a flying leaf.

Sparrow like a chirping leaf.

Squirrels, too, disappear amid dead leaves, bare branches, and gray retaining wall.

The white of the tail gives this squirrel away.

The white of the tail gives this squirrel away.

From a small ledge high on the mossy retaining wall, a squirrel looks out over Riverside Park.

From a distance, he disappears.

From a distance, he almost disappears.

Zooming in, he looks like a tiny fat potentate surveying his kingdom.

Rodentine potentate.

Rodentine potentate.

Perhaps he is gazing out at the river. As I discover anew each fall, bare branches make for fine river views.

Sunset over the Hudson

Sunset over the Hudson

Deer and Cormorants in the Hamptons

October 28, 2012

One day in mid-October, coming over the dunes on a boardwalked path, Esau the dog and I encountered a single white-tailed deer. Alert, the deer watches us.

deer near Flying Point Beach

Alert.

Equally alert, Esau watches the deer.

gray dog, gray boardwalk

Also alert.

Suddenly, the deer bounds off into the brush.

white-tailed deer

In case you were wondering why it’s called a white-tailed deer…

Esau and I continue our walk through the moors beyond Channel Pond,

through the moors

A path through the Hampton moors.

passing through tall reeds and small ponds.

Gorgeous habitat for birds, deer, foxes and more.

Double-crested cormorants gathered in one of the ponds, possibly Jule Pond or Phillips Pond.

flock of cormorants

A collection of cormorants.

As we watched, more cormorants came flapping in.

flying cormorants

Cormorants fly over the reeds.

I’m guessing that these birds are migrants gathering in a resting spot before they continue southward.

Cormorants coming in for a landing.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many cormorants at once.

Cormorants, cormorants, cormorants.

I don’t have my binoculars with me, but I can see that many of the birds are juveniles, not yet in their full black plumage. Below is a juvenile cormorant I found dead by the side of the road in 2010.

juvenile cormorant

Dead cormorant by side of the road.

And here, by way of contrast, is an adult cormorant drying its wings in NYC’s Morningside Park in spring 2011.

cormorant with one wing extended

An adult cormorant dries its wings after fishing in Morningside Park’s tiny pond.

And lest you imagine the cormorant is all monochromatic black, take a look at this close-up of its brilliant green eyes and orange facial skin.

cormorant in breeding plumage

Eyes like emeralds.

Note also the sharply hooked bill of this voracious fish-eater. And in case you’re wondering about the mysterious eponymous double crests, they are visible only during breeding season.

Double-crested cormorant during breeding season by Mike Baird, Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.

To my mind, the so-called crests resemble more the horns of an aging devil or Grandpa’s unruly eyebrows than the more familiar peaked crests of a bluejay, say, or a cardinal.  But other cormorants apparently find them attractive. The cormorant population, once in serious decline from DDT poisoning, has bounced back strongly since the pesticide was banned in the United States in 1972. Some fishermen consider cormorants a threat to fishing stocks, and advocate for a hunting season. In Japan, fishermen once used cormorants as a kind of living fishing rod.

fishing cormorants 1936

Photograph by W. Robert Moore, 1936. From the National Geographic book, Through the Lens: National Geographic’s Greatest Photographs, 2003

The fisherman has tied ropes around the necks of the cormorants. When one of the birds catches a fish, the rope is tightened to prevent them from swallowing the fish, which is collected by the fisherman.

The lives of wild animals can be quite bizarre, when they intersect with the lives of humans.

NYC October Animal Round-up

October 27, 2012

In early October, a cat and a man dressed in shades of green emerged out of the still-green leaves along Riverside Park.

walking the cat

Just out walking the cat.

The cat was completely calm and walked well on its long leash, unfazed by Esau the dog and other fascinated canines.

cat on leash

Walking the wall with kitty.

The man said he had started leash-training when the cat was still a kitten. He would head to Riverside Drive at 3 in the morning when the streets were quiet. Days passed, and they stayed out later and later into the morning as the city woke up, until the cat gradually became accustomed to the hustle and bustle of traffic, dogs, people and the rest of the urban hubbub. They are an impressive pair.

The man tries to get the cat to pose for a picture, but it has other plans.

Also on Riverside Drive, well-camouflaged sparrows filled the branches of a baby tree.

sparrows nyc

A sparrow tree.

Here’s a closer look.

A gathering of sparrows.

We paid a quick visit to the “Forever Wild” section of the park, where migrating warblers and nuthatches abounded.

dog and forever wild sign

Esau is forever wild.

Leaving the park, we crossed one of the islands, or medians, of Broadway, where we discovered a tiny corpse.

monarch butterfly corpse

A tiny corpse on Broadway

We bent to take a closer look. It was a monarch butterfly, looking as beautiful as ever, but with a strange yellow substance coming out of its underside. Are monarch guts bright yellow? I was not able to find any answers to this question, so, my trusty reader, please tell me, if you know.

monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly on Broadway.

Further down Broadway, a man sat on a barbershop pony, while talking with a friend.

NYC barbershop

Just another bit of Broadway.

Over at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, a squirrel hung upside down to gorge on berries.

squirrel hanging upside down

Upside down at the Cathedral.

We watched the little animal for at least five minutes, during which it remained upside down, calmly reaching for berries with its paws and nibbling away, as if this was its usual position in the world.

Eating berries behind the Cathedral.

  Two brightly colored animals walked the grounds of the Cathedral.

pink and blue

Two lovely creatures (well, four, counting the pigeons at the left).

We went back to Riverside Park at dusk, this time descending the steps into the park.  A raccoon lounged in the mouth of its den high in the retaining wall.

raccoon at its den

Raccoon gets ready to start its day at dusk.

A mother gazed at the raccoon, while her child gazed at Esau, tied to the chain link fence.

Raccoons high on the wall; mother and child below.

The sun went down, and the raccoon began its nocturnal prowl with a walk on the wall. Raccoons sometimes walk the wall on all fours.

Riverside Park raccoon

A walk on the wild side of the wall.

At other times they stand erect, looking like bulky little mannikins edging along a high ledge.

Raccoon does its “man on a ledge” impression.

When it got too dark to follow the raccoon’s progress easily, we went home where Esau took his stuffed dog to bed.

dog and his toy

Good-night.


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