Posted tagged ‘Riverside Park’

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.

NYC September Beauty: Who Needs … ?

September 28, 2013

All week, day after day, the city has sparkled under high blue skies. Today in Riverside Park, New Yorkers seemed to be asking who needs anything else, when you have this, this sun, this light, this beauty, this life?

Who needs the beach when you have Riverside Drive?

"Who needs the beach?"

“Who needs the beach?”

Who needs trendy yogurt shops when you have an ice-cream cart?

Who needs trendy ice cream shops?

“Who needs trendy ice cream shops?”

Who needs a private garden to tend when you have a park?

Who needs a private garden?

“Who needs a private garden?”

Who needs the library?

Who needs the library?

“Who needs the library?”

Who needs a bed to make?

Who needs a bed?

“Who needs beds?”

Who needs yoga class?

Who needs yoga class?

“Who needs yoga class?”

Who needs clothes?

Who needs clothes?

“Who needs clothes?”

Who needs a photography studio?

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“Who needs a studio?”

Even Esau wants to know: Who needs guard dogs?

Who needs guard dogs?

“Who needs guard dogs?”

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

I’m Loving Me Some River Views

January 11, 2011

One of the good things about winter is branches bare as bones.

Bare branches reveal the river's proper domination over its namesake park, Riverside.

Oh, I know: in mid-winter, when the pale sky presses down until it hovers barely an inch above your head, when the wind blows savagely off the Hudson like it’s hungry to tear your face off, when everyone you pass on the street has the pinched and pasty look of Dubliners in the 1970s before the Irish imported fresh fruit and vegetables, on days like those, a bit of spring foliage might warm the cockles and lift the spirits.

Spring comes to the secret garden at Saint John's Cathedral.

But the thing about leaves is, all that lush vibrant beauty masks and obscures wondrous things. Like the river.

What river?

From May to October, you can barely see the Hudson through the leaves, unless you head right down to its banks.  A glimpse here and there, sure, but not enough of a vista to appreciate the essential river-ness of the river, the way it moves and the power of its currents flowing north or south with the ocean tides.

The river as sculpture gallery

On calm, clear days, the smooth surface is a broad skein of blue silk. On windy days, it’s a chopped and pitted sheet of metal that Thor pounded with his hammer in a fit of rage. And however it appears, the sight of the river tells me there’s always a way out. Just follow the river to somewhere, anywhere, not here.

Looking north to the George Washington Bridge

By February, I’ll be craving buds and green leaves, but right now, in the middle of this snowy winter, I’m just loving me some river views.

NYC Snowtorious: after the blizzard

December 28, 2010

During the early hours of Monday’s snowfall, Esau and I walked in Riverside Park

Esau braves the wind and snow

Snow dusted the retaining wall.

Beautiful old Olmsted wall and young evergreen

Later we gazed out the window at Gotham transformed and almost invisible through the snow.

Guardian of Gotham

Tuesday morning the snow stopped. We made our way through the streets to visit family. We passed children scaling a mountain in front of the long-closed Metro Theater.

King and Queen of the Hill

 

We marveled at a buried car and rejoiced that it was not ours.

This is a car. Really.

We had our picture taken in Central Park.

Esau disguised as Henrik Ibsen in his later years

Today, Wednesday, in Riverside Park, children and adults slid down the slope at 108th Street on sleds, saucers, garbage can lids, cardboard boxes, trash bags and a variety of Unidentified Sliding Objects.

Swift down, slow up

A collection of rejected objects huddled at the base of the steps with a bottle of Bud.

Rejected objects seek consolation in alcohol.

Away from the sledding slope, the park was surprisingly quiet and almost empty. We spotted two or three dog walkers and five cross-country skiiers

Skiing the upper path

The snow is lovely, dark and deep,

Check out the salt-protecting booties

We saw no birds and only one squirrel.  But the snow, still largely undisturbed, told us the animals had been out

Kilroy was here

Squirrel marks went every which way

Crazy feet

Squirrels can also tunnel in the snow, although I didn’t see this myself.

As we left the park, we spotted elves among bare branches

Evidence of elves in Riverside Park

Tomorrow may bring sightings of members of the tribe of New York City snow beings. We’ll be watching.

Esau Among the Leaves … and a Nature Walk in Prospect Park

November 19, 2010

Last week in Riverside Park, a little dog sat under a flame tree in a halo of light.

Holy dog.

What, really, can you do this time of year but celebrate leaves in every possible way?

The Red Shoes, or Little Dog with Feet on Fire

Aerial View of Esau Among Leaves

Wall-Walking Among Fiery Trees

Four red-heads (one human, three canine) dissolving into light and leaves

Fallen Stars

One Dog, Many Leaves

Magic Carpet

Some of the leaves have wings.

Through the Leaves - the River!

“To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with fine art works, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall. Teach him something of natural history, and you place in his hands a catalogue of those which are worth turning around.”
– Thomas Henry Huxley, 1854

Little dog models big leaf cape.

I lifted Huxley’s  quote from Backyard and Beyond, the blog of Matthew Wills, a Brooklyn-based writer and amateur naturalist extraordinaire.  If you’d like to know more about nature in New York (like what the heck is that giant leaf on Esau’s back?), head over to Backyard and Beyond, where Matthew is offering a personalized tour of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. All you have to do is be the highest bidder for Matthew’s “Natural History Walking Tour of Prospect Park” at The Nation’s online fund-raising auction.

Good luck.

A Shadow Person walks a Real Dog on Fallen Leaves. Strange.

Cluster Walk in Riverside Park

October 6, 2010

 

Walking in Riverside Park, Esau and I sometimes see things in clusters.

Here, for example, is a fungi cluster:

Shroom Cluster

And here is an acorn cluster:

Squirrel's stash, exposed

And look out, Houston, here is the Mother of all Burrs:

Freaking scary cluster burr

Animals too come in clusters.

Cluster o' cats

These cats belong to Riverside Park’s tiny feral cat population. According to volunteers who care for them, they have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated.

Bowl cluster with cluster o' cats

The cats come and go freely through the bars that protect them from human intruders.  They share their shelter with a homeless woman.  I wonder if they share their food and water with Riverside’s raccoons.  (Yeah, let’s hope those pretty kitties got their rabies shots.)

Other species also gather in clusters, including sparrows …

Sparrows beneath Riverside Park bird feeders

squirrels

Members of large squirrel cluster

… and, up on Riverside Drive, humans.

A small cluster of street artists takes a break from their chalky labors.

Isaac Brune (above, in the red cap) and friends transformed a stretch of gray cobblestones into the Riverside Drive Sidewalk Gallery, where they displayed a cluster of chalk drawings:

Welcome by Isaac Brune

Chalk Faces

"Caution! might smell funny"

Caution: watch out for clusters.

NYC Parks Going to Seed

September 2, 2010

I should have warned you, dear Reader, that there would be no new blog posts in the month of August. But I didn’t plan to take a summer break from Out Walking the Dog. It just happened.

A mid-August deadline for the first draft of a new play gradually crowded out all other projects and pastimes. I’ve been living, breathing, dreaming and writing in another world.  Now the first draft is complete, and I’ve more or less returned to the so-called real world, a world that includes city parks and animals, blogs and dogs, and long walks with Esau.

I spent last week on the coast of British Columbia, about two or three hours north of Vancouver.

View from the deck

At night, the temperature dropped into the 50s and a hot day topped off somewhere in the 80s.  Glorious.  We were surrounded by water, both fresh and salt,  islands, Douglas firs, massive ferns and mostly unseen animal life.  A lone bald eagle soared overhead in the mornings, sometimes harassed and chased away by a gull. But more about B.C. in a future post.

What’s on my mind today is … seediness.

Seedy
sordid and disreputable: his seedy affair with a soft-porn starlet
shabby and squalid: an increasingly seedy and dilapidated property

As soon as I arrived back in New York, I headed out with Esau to my beloved parks. After the freshness of British Columbia, I faced a sordid reality:  my beloveds are looking downright seedy.  Yes, I know that the trees and flowers are literally going to seed, which is, I assume, where the word, “seedy,” originated.

Gone to seed

But I’m talking about something more than simple botanical imperatives here.  Blowzy and past their early summer prime, the parks exude a kind of over-ripe dissoluteness, a laxness that feels, well, moral. I’m not much of a puritan, but really, I think Webster’s has nailed it, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that both Morningside and Riverside are engaged in summer affairs with soft-porn stars or starlets.

Watch the tabloids. You heard it here first.

Riverside Park plants swallow a lamppost.

Lush life

Morningside, in particular, is looking down-at-heels, as if it has drunk a little too much of this summer’s endless heat, and can no longer muster the will to shave or brush its teeth. Forget picking up the trash.

The geese don’t help.

As Jerry Lee might say, there's a whole lot of preening goin' on

Earlier this summer, we worried about the sudden disappearance of the little Canada goose family that nested on Morningside’s island.  In July, new geese began congregating, and by the end of July, there were at least 14 that hung out in the pond and field.  This morning, 29 geese are preening, loafing, grazing and slathering the walkway around the pond with great green gobs of goose droppings. The water is a deep brown-green, thanks to the algae, and appears almost thick in consistency, like pureed lentil soup.  Despite the lovely sound of the man-made waterfall, the pond is less than inviting. To a human, that is.  The multitude of turtles seems quite happy, as do the geese, ducks and pigeons.

Inter-species harmony: Morningside's animals appear unbothered by the soupy water.

West at the Riverside Greenway, driftwood sculptures converse with boats and buildings.

And all I ask is a tall ship

Mutt and Jeff observe the river

Leaning

Reading

Gazing

Oh, and you can forget about the girls in their summer dresses. In Riverside, it’s the boys who shed clothes.

Heading home, we see a miniature fungi forest.

Many mushrooms

Thank you to my patient readers, wherever you are. I’m delighted to be back. More posts will follow soon.

Thank You, NYC Park Workers

May 15, 2010

On the occasion of “It’s My Park Day,” we thank everyone who contributes to the health and beauty of our parks, from city workers to volunteers to researchers on urban wildlife habitat.

Thank you, Riverside workers

Tagging trees to create a tree trail

Hosing down the steps at Riverside & 108th

Shoveling a path during one of 2010's Big Storms

Checking the health of Riverside's retaining wall

Thank you, volunteer workers, including sixth graders from the Fieldston School who spent hours planting beneath the retaining wall and cleaning along the Greenway.

Digging

Carrying in the river trash

One morning's river clean-up

Esau with composer Thomas Cabaniss, organizer of the clean-up (click on the image to visit Tom's website)

Thank you, Morningside Park workers

Clearing the way for native plantings

Replanting around the southwest steps

Hard hot work

Thank you, NYC researchers who evaluate the viability of urban habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife

Baltimore orioles ready for release after banding

Thank you, workers all, sung and unsung, willing and unwilling, paid and unpaid.

May the gods and demons of city budget cuts keep their itchy hands away from our essential, free, democratic institutions, places that are truly open to all – our parks, libraries, schools, and all culture houses that offer free, cheap or pay-what-you-can admission.

What would our city be, what would we be, without them?

Spring Fling in Morningside Park: Be Still, My Heart

April 24, 2010

I love Riverside Park. If you’ve been here before, you probably already know that.  I even wrote an ode to Riverside Park.

I love its Great Retaining Wall, full of raccoons and squirrels.

Riverside's retaining wall holds raccoons, squirrels and the occasional human.

I depend for my peace of mind on its sweeping views of the Hudson,

I love its – but this post is not about Riverside Park.

This post is about, well, there’s just no easy way to say this:

I’ve found a new love, and its name … is Morningside.

Maybe it’s just a springtime infatuation, fueled by the sight of nesting birds and soaring hawks, and the need to conduct a brief field study for my Ornithology class. Only time will tell if my love will endure.

But the fact is, I’ve tumbled hard for Morningside Park

I love the little pond where geese and ducks pal around with turtles and bullfrogs.

Goose and turtle

Big Daddy is easily eight inches long and very calm.

On one visit, I counted 40 basking turtles.

Heading for a drink

Grazing

Pigeons stroll along the path or forage on the grass with the geese.

Red-winged blackbirds perch on tall reeds in front of the little island, flashing their epaulets and calling like electrical wiring gone bad.

Egrets roost in the treetops

and hunt at the water’s edge

Morningside even has a magnificent Olmstead retaining walland mysterious old structures

It has beauty

It has danger

and it has mystery

O woe! Our feet have run away and left us.

Oh, I still love Riverside and in the evenings, I still watch the raccoons

(Yes, they’re fine, thank you for asking, and sporting silvery ear tags like pirate earrings that prove they’ve received their rabies vaccinations)

Riverside Baby Raccoon by Jae Bin Anh

But as long as the geese and blackbirds are nesting, these fresh April mornings belong …

to Morningside.

Lonely Shoes and Invasive Black Gloves

January 29, 2010

Abandoned in Riverside Park & Beyond

Lonely old shoe seeks companion

What happened to our feet?

Manhattan Boot Contemplates New Jersey

and some miles east …

Long Island boot dreams of the farther shore

On a more sinister note, black gloves invade Riverside Park

Big black glove creeps along Riverside Park retaining wall

and inside the park

Big black glove signals its cohorts: "A-OK"

Bench Plaques in Riverside Park

January 4, 2010

The mysterious lives of others

O Riverside Park, O Walks of 2009

December 31, 2009

O Riverside Park

O you long, slim, man-made beauty!

Accept this thank you letter for a year of walks with Esau.

Thank you, Riverside Park, for tepee builders and basket weavers  thank you for sculptors of driftwoodand balancers of stonethank you for cross-country skiers and crazy skateboard boys

Thank you for trees, tree holes and painters of trees

Thank you for fish on stonesfor dogs on hay bales for sports drinks on trees and conspiring red riding hoodsThank you for your long, narrow palm  that holds the living secrets of the Great Retaining Wall on your eastern side and, on the west, the fishy banks of the Hudson Most of all, thank you for holding safe the wild things so they can go about their eternal and mysterious animal business right under our city noses.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Squirrel Update: The Drey Report

December 8, 2009

Special Note: This post is now part of Scientia Pro Publica 21: Darwin’s 201st Birthday Edition. Scientia Pro Publica is a bi-monthly blog carnival dedicated to science writing that communicates to the public. Check it out! And now…The Drey Report:

Bare branches reveal dreys in Riverside Park. We counted five dreys in the Forever Wild stretch that runs between 119th Street and 116th, and six between 116th and 108th.

“That’s great,” you say. “But what’s a drey?”

See those brown blobs way up in the trees? Those are dreys. Squirrel nests.

“Huh. They don’t look like much.”

Maybe not, from the ground. But inside, inside, it’s a whole other story. At least, that’s what I hear. Lined with moss, lichen, fur and feathers, dreys are soft, inviting baskets for squirrels to spend cold winter days and nights. Some dreys even have separate compartments. At least, that’s what the Urban Park Rangers, Sunny and Sheridan, told me. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I’m guessing it’s something like a Manhattan studio apartment.

500 Square Feet of NYC Bliss

Anyway, summer dreys are loose collections of leaves and twigs, not built to last. But winter dreys, tucked securely into a fork in a tree, will withstand wind and weather.They’re high enough to be safe from ground predators, but not all the way at the top where a marauding hawk could swoop down.

Savvy squirrels maintain more than one home. That way, they can move when a nest gets wet or infested with parasites like ticks, fleas or mites. All the research says squirrels prefer tree hollows, especially in winter, but I have yet to see any tree hollow action.

The retaining wall, on the other hand, is like an animal apartment building.

No vacancy

Squirrel with entries to right and left.

Raccoon peeks out of hole at night.

Raccoons take the big apartments and squirrels squeeze into the studios.

The squirrels come and go all day, zipping in and out of holes, up and down the wall.

And at night, when the squirrels have finally gone to sleep, the raccoons emerge slowly, like jazz musicians, to start their day in the dark.


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