Panic Artists: The Snow Family of 106th Street

Posted March 4, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: In the City, Winter

Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a slow year for snowmen.

In years past, snowmen popped up all over Riverside Park after every big snow, like mushrooms after a rain. Here are a few examples.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few years ago, a snow person pushed a positively ecstatic snow baby in a swing in one of the Tot Lot playgrounds of Riverside Drive.


Despite the snowy winter of 2015, the population of snow people seems to have declined dramatically. Luckily for the snowman aficionado, the quality remains high.  Take a look at this wide-eyed family.


Every year, some version of the central figure presides over West 106th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.

This was the 2010 incarnation:


The current family triad began, as ever, with the behemoth at the center.


Photo by Maya Rajamani in the West Side Rag, my neighborhood paper. (Click photo for the Rag’s excellent analysis tracing the influences on this snowman. Hint: Think Gerard Depardieu.)

One day, in an interesting twist, the figure suddenly spawned a companion. Notice also the smile that appears on the behemoth’s face after the appearance of the little tyke.


And then, some days or weeks later, the behemoth spawned again. But now, sad to say, the behemoth’s expression has changed to dismay, and, oh dear, is that a look of panic in its now-yellow eyes?

IMG_0939(Thanks to Out Walking the Dog reader, Ken Hittel, for alerting me to the appearance of a third figure.)

All three beings are looking pretty wild-eyed. In fact, the more I look at them, the more worried I feel. I mean, these guys are clearly not sleeping, Take a look at those eyes. I’m pretty sure they’re all three lying awake at night, each in a separate, incommunicable state of high anxiety as they stare into the strange glow of New York City after dark.

Alas, poor snow creatures. Their days are numbered, and every hour brings them closer to the Great Thaw.

Let’s take a moment to look a little closer at each member of our goggle-eyed family of insomniacs, starting with the profoundly anxious little panic artist in the green hat.

The end is coming.

The end is coming.

I so wish I could blink.

I so wish I could blink.

Sure, I love you. But WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE.


On a gentler note, the dog posed beneath a sweet snowdog on the retaining wall of Riverside Park.


And back over at West Side Rag, Avi captured a rare snow cat scaling a tree.


I hear there’s more snow predicted this week. Let’s hope more snow creatures follow.

And it’s snowing! Again.

Posted March 1, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: Art and Literature, In the City, Winter

Tags: , , , ,

Down in the playground beneath my window, birds gather in the snow to peck and fuss.

So we begin March as we finished February – cold and snowy.


New York has just finished the coldest February in 80 years, and the third coldest on record.


I’ve become fascinated with ice on the Hudson River.


I especially love to watch the tide come in, and see the river flow north toward the great interior. Here is ice flowing north.

It’s easy to forget we live in an estuary, and our mighty river is tidal.


The waterways are filled with ice, ice, and more ice. A beautiful bird’s eye view from an NBC helicopter takes you down the Hudson River to New York Harbor and around the tip of the island to the East River. (It’s well worth waiting for the ad to finish.)

Later today, or tomorrow, I’ll check on my friendly neighborhood behemoth and its sidekick.


Dispatch from the Icebox: Wildlife Update

Posted February 17, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: Art and Literature, Birds, cats, dogs, February, Hawks, In the City, Morningside Park, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

Tags: , , , ,


It’s cold here in the Northeast. Today the dog and I went down to the river.

Looking south along the Hudson River Greenway.

Looking south along the Hudson River Greenway.

We were surprised to see the river flowing freely with just a few large ice chunks floating by the shore.

Looking north toward the George Washington Bridge.

Looking north toward the George Washington Bridge.

You can see ice over by the Jersey shore, but virtually none on our side. Yesterday, the river had an ice crust stretching out to the middle of the mighty waters.


(The images below are drawn from the past three weeks of wintry walks and window watching.)

Nothing stops the dogs or their walkers, not even the deep freeze machine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dogs gotta walk, and birds gotta eat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They also have to stay warm. Look at these mourning doves, puffed up like little Michelin men.

And this flock of starlings trying to catch some eastern roof rays on a morning when the temperature hovered in the teens.


The feral cats in Morningside Park are fed hearty meals year-round by well-meaning humans. Feeding cats also feeds rats, which contributes to a burgeoning rat population, which leads humans to set out poison for the rats that eat the cat food which leads to the death of the hawks that eat the rats that eat the trash that humans set out to feed the cats that live in the park. (Read that five times fast.)

It’s a regular “This is the house that Jack built” scenario, except that the cats (indirectly) feed the rats instead of just eating them, as in the old nursery rhyme.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are a couple of our apex predators, viewed from my window, that do their best to keep our rat and pigeon population under control.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I haven’t seen a Riverside Park raccoon for some time. They must be laying low inside their snowy den.


There may even be babies snuggled up in there, or, if it’s still too early in the season, a pregnant female, waiting for spring. Come spring, I’ll hope to see the whole family out and about on the retaining wall and in the park.


Meanwhile, brrr.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Urban Coyotes in Art, Poetry and Music

Posted January 30, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: Art and Literature, coyotes

Tags: , , , ,

In honor of our recent coyote visitors in New York City, here are a few images and songs inspired by urban coyotes.

Coyote Under Moon.

By Atty Gell.

Beautiful, no? This print was made by Atty Gell, an artist who lives near Trout Lake Park in East Vancouver, Canada. Coyotes are not infrequently spotted passing through the park and the neighborhood.

When I was working on my play, NYC Coyote Existential, I asked Atty to create some coyote images for me to use for publicity purposes. She sent these lovelies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For poetry, listen to Tim Seibles read his poem: Midnight, the Coyote, Down at the Mouth.

For music, try this music video of Coyotes by Modest Mouse, inspired by an incident in 2002 when a coyote was spotted riding light rail in Portland, Oregon. Don’t know what well-trained coyote played the role, but here’s a photo of the actual wild coyote, looking no more harried than any other habitual commuter on a bad day.


The same Portland coyote inspired the Sleater-Kinney’s song, Light Rail Coyote:

And if you need to bang your head a bit (and as evidence that the urban coyote has been around and has legs, as it were), here is Coping with the Urban Coyote, Unida’s 1999 album. Love that cover art.

NYC: After the so-called Blizzard

Posted January 27, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: coyotes, dogs, Domestic animals, In the City, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

Tags: , , , , , ,

 Where the blizzard at?


Snow dogs.

Anybody seen my blizzard?


Dog with unfortunate sense of style.

I know how bad the storm is for people to our east, west and north. But if there was a blizzard here in Manhattan, I missed it.

Oh, it snowed, all right. Here’s what the city looked like yesterday, back when we still believed in unicorns, elves, and being buried beneath the “storm of the century.”

Disappearing city.

By 6 PM, all city parks were officially closed. The subways started shutting down at 7 PM.  At 11 PM, all mass transit and all roads were closed.

– Wait, did you say the parks closed at six?
– Uh-huh, that’s right.
– But at six, there was, like, hardly any snow, and no wind, and great visibility, and …
– Don’t worry about it.

Because this is New York, baby, and this is what a closed park looks like.

Night sledding! Woot woot!

Night sledding in Riverside Park! Woot woot!

You can’t tame the night sledders. Not in New York.



Only the wildlife took the closing seriously. The raccoons were nestled all snug in their snow-frosted den.

Raccoons are inside in fur slippers, drinking cocoa and watching the weatherman.

Raccoons who live in the wall were wearing fur slippers, drinking cocoa and watching the weather on NY1.

All night and this morning, the city was eerily, wonderfully quiet. And the streets remarkably clear, thanks to the snowplows that had free rein of the streets all night.


Broadway this morning, light snow coming down.

The ever-present city hum was almost imperceptible, and even now, late in the afternoon, it’s unusually quiet. Although not in the parks.

The parks, with their five or six inches of fresh snow (a bit short of the predicted two feet), are bustling.

Sledding in Riverside Park.

Sledding in Riverside Park – looks like a Currier & Ives.

Everywhere are walkers, sledders, little kids in snowsuits, dogs in boots, and parents hauling children in sleds.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last but definitely not least, here is an adorable little man in brand new boots, enjoying his first big snow.


Little man on a mission.

Coyote Caught in Manhattan’s Stuy Town

Posted January 26, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: coyotes

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Another coyote was caught in Manhattan, this time in Stuyvesant Town, just north of the East Village.

After being spotted near the Con Ed station on East 14th Street, the coyote was chased by police into Stuyvesant Town and  later released in the Bronx. A young female, she is the second coyote to make it into Manhattan this month. The first January coyote, also female, was captured in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, and released in what city officials straightfacedly refer to as “a wilderness area in the Bronx.”

Are other coyotes roaming Manhattan even as you read this? Hard to say. But if they’re not here now, they’ll be back.

With an established breeding population in the Bronx and Westchester, there will always be young dogs in search of territory to call their own. If they head south, probably late at night, they’ll find their way over a bridge into Manhattan. Others have found their way east into Queens. From Queens, where are you going to go but east, young dog, to colonize Long Island? And, in fact, the Hamptons reported their first officially confirmed coyote sighting in 2013.  Rick Wesnofske, a potato farmer in the town of Water Mill who photographed the animal in his fields, said the coyote was “… just walking around, looking at the potatoes.”

Photo: Rick Wesnofske

Photo: Rick Wesnofske

Long Island potato fields, Bronx wilderness areas, Staten Island garbage dumps, and the endless graveyards of Queens are one thing. Manhattan is another. I mean, let’s face it, the city’s unlikely to let a wild dog run free all over our nice street grid. I’m skeptical that coyotes will be able to establish themselves in Manhattan, unless they were to stay within the boundaries of a large park, say, Inwood Park up at the tip of the island. They’ve already tried Central Park in 1999, 2006 and 2010.

I was lucky enough to spend some time watching the 2010 coyote. She – yes, it was yet another young female – camped out in Hallett Nature Sanctuary at the base of Central Park for a month or so,. During that time, I entertained fantasies that she just might be able to make a go of it here in the city. Unfortunately, she started venturing outside the park, and was ultimately captured in a Tribeca parking garage. (She was released in an undisclosed location.)

Watching her in the night park as she stepped out onto the ice of the frozen Pond, or trotted up an empty path was a thrilling experience. It inspired me to write a play, NYC Coyote Existential.

NYC Coyote Existential by Melissa Cooper

NYC Coyote Existential, staged reading at Proteus Gowanus Gallery in Brooklyn, April, 2012..

Could be it’s time to mount a production right here in the city.

Coyote Captured on Upper West Side

Posted January 11, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: coyotes, In the City, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

Tags: , , , , , ,
Photo by Christopher Sadowski as seen in The New York Post

Photo by Christopher Sadowski. Visit The New York Post for more of Mr. Sadowski’s photos.

Last night in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, a coyote was captured by the police. As far as I can tell, this is the first coyote sighting in Manhattan since March 2010 when a beautiful young coyote spent about a month in the city. She quickly found her way to Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary and made her base in that protected acre in the shadow of the Plaza Hotel before being captured down in Tribeca. In 2012, coyote tracks were found in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights in northern Manhattan, but I can find no report of a sighting.

Coyotes have been resident in the Bronx for some time now. More recently, they seem to have taken up residence in Queens, and in 2012, a coyote was spotted in Staten Island. Manhattan’s coyotes probably come down from the Bronx over one of the bridges at the northern tip of the island or, possibly, by swimming.

Wildlife biologists at the Gotham Coyote Project are currently studying our coyote population, using camera traps to answer the question: “Where in NYC and its surrounding suburbs can you find coyotes?” The Munshi-South Lab is also involved with monitoring the establishment and dispersal of coyotes in NYC. A camera trap captured this gorgeous image.

Camera Trap image from the Munshi-South Lab website.

Camera Trap image of coyote and pups from the Munshi-South Lab website.

Last night’s coyote, a female, resisted arrest, as one hopes any healthy wild animal would do, and led the police on a chase through Riverside Park before being tranquilized and captured in a basketball court. According to the Twitter account of the 24th Precinct, the police had the coyote “corralled inside fenced-in BB court, but so cold out, the tranquilizer in the darts kept freezing!” They had to wait for a second Emergency Services Truck to arrive with “warm darts” as they “wanted to stun it as humanely as possble.”

Police report the animal was unharmed and was taken to Animal Care and Control where it will be examined before being released somewhere outside the city.

Red Fox: Cape Cod in Winter

Posted January 4, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: foxes

Tags: , , , ,


When we awoke this morning, we found we had been magically transported to an unfamiliar aerie overlooking Cape Cod Bay.


That’s what it felt like, anyway. The dog tried to figure out where he was.


Outside, strangely silent bluejays hopped about in the brush.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Walking down Franklin Street toward the water, a flash of red streaked across the sidewalk and onto the front lawn of a house.

Our hearts beat fast.

We investigated, and found – be still, my heart –


a magnificent red fox.

Just hanging out in the driveway in the middle of Provincetown, like it owned the joint. The fox watched us, and we watched the fox for five or ten minutes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve never seen such a tail. And such eyes. And such handsome black stockings.


After a while, the fox lost interest in us and resumed its morning business.  The dog and I, too, resumed our morning business, heading to the wharf.

But that’s a story for another post.


Happy New Year (We’re Back)

Posted January 1, 2015 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: In the City

Happy New Year, dear much-missed readers!

We’re posting again for the first time since last spring when we watched a White-throated sparrow dig up the park. Eight months is a long time to go dark, but we needed to focus on other work.

A hidden nest from last spring is easily spotted through winter's bare branches.

A hidden nest from last spring is easily spotted through winter’s bare branches.

We missed our readers, and we want to thank all of you for supporting Out Walking the Dog. We especially want to thank those of you, friends and strangers alike, who got in touch over the past months to say, “What’s going on? Where’s Out Walking the Dog?”

Well, we’re back!

The dog is looking a little rumpled after his New Year's Eve dissipations.

The dog looks a little rumpled after the dissipations of New Year’s Eve.

Actually, we’ve been here all along, the dog and I, smack dab in the middle of the city surrounded by the usual urban wildlife suspects. We just haven’t been able to write to you about it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 2015, you can expect more tales of hawks, kestrels, raccoons, chipmunks, turtles, squirrels, coyotes, and so much more. Including rats, of course. More about those little urban devils soon, after I attend a local session of NYC’s “Rat Academy.”

On New Year’s Eve, the dog and I went looking for raccoons in Riverside Park. No creatures revealed themselves, although they were there unseen, sleeping, hunting, eating, grooming, and watching. The empty park was strangely quiet and the great stone stairs mysterious.


Out of one world and into the next.

Later we walked to Central Park to watch fireworks and cheer the runners of the annual midnight race.

Moving forward into a new year.

May the year bring peace and fulfillment, creativity and joy.

White-Throated Sparrow Digs Up Central Park

Posted April 25, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, Birds, Central Park, chipmunks, In the City, NYC Parks, Seasons, Spring, Wildlife/Natural History

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


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.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


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

Posted April 23, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, Central Park, In the City, NYC Parks, Rodents (other than squirrels), Seasons, Spring, Wildlife/Natural History

Tags: , , , , , , ,



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.


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

Guess Who’s Coming to Lunch, Kestrel Edition

Posted March 25, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, Birds, Hawks, In the City, Seasons, Spring

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

My neighbor Janet had an astonishingly beautiful, if rather ferocious visitor for lunch yesterday.

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

She was working in her kitchen at midday, when she heard a strange repetitive banging sound coming from the living room. She moved to the doorway, and saw a bird on her air conditioner. This is nothing unusual in itself. Pigeons and mourning doves often perch there.

But this little bird was no dove.

photo 1

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

It was a tiny male hawk, or rather a falcon, no bigger than a blue jay, called the American Kestrel.

Kestrels are the smallest raptor in North America with a range from Mexico to Canada. Their populations are in decline in many parts of the continent due to habitat loss and pesticides that kill off the insects they feed upon. Yet the little raptors seem to be thriving in New York City.  Like other hawks and falcons that have adapted to urban life, they find that man-made structures serve their needs quite well. While their big cousins, the peregrine falcons, nest high on skyscrapers and bridges, the little kestrel prefers to raise its young in the broken cornices of old brownstones and mid-rise apartment buildings. Their prey includes insects, small mammals and birds, like the sparrow Janet’s visitor brought for lunch.

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

The banging Janet heard was the sparrow’s head flopping up and down on the metal air conditioner as the kestrel pulled with its beak while holding the body down with its feet. (To move more quickly through the slideshow below, hover over the image, then click on the arrows that appear.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When the bird had had enough, it flew off with the body in its talons, leaving behind only the beak and part of the head.

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

Photo: Janet Rassweiler

 I couldn’t tell if the brain had been eaten or not, although I rather guess it had, since brains are apparently chock full of nutrients. Perhaps the kestrel ate a quick blast of brain food before carrying off the rest of the sparrow to feed a nesting mate.

The abandoned head reminded me of another dramatic wildlife story that unfolded on my block. One day a few years ago, I noticed a fledgling sparrow hopping about inside the large planter of a nearby building. The little bird was clearly not yet able to fly, and was probably being fed by a parent hiding in a street tree. I made the decision not to intervene, since the planter seemed as safe a spot as any on a city street for a still earth-bound baby bird. Early the next morning, the decapitated dead body of the baby sparrow lay on the sidewalk. The head was nowhere to be found. (I wrote about the fledgling’s predicament, and my own, in Baby Birds and Animals: To Help or Not to Help.)

Had Janet not witnessed the kestrel eating the sparrow, she would be left puzzling over the mysterious appearance of a bird head on her air conditioner.

What a city we live in, my friends. What a city.

What a world.

All photos in this post courtesy of Janet Rassweiler.

NYC Wildlife After Hours

Posted March 23, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, In the City, NYC Parks, raccoons, Riverside Park, Seasons, Spring, Wildlife/Natural History

Tags: , , , ,


Two nights ago, around nine o’clock, I leaned over the retaining wall at Riverside Park to look for raccoons, and found a raccoon looking right back at me. It was perched, as it were, on the broad stone ledge outside its den. We stared at each other, each apparently curious what the other might do. Neither one of us did much of anything.


Just looking.

This raccoon and its family members have an ideal den spot with a broad ledge outside that makes it easy for them to loll and relax at the mouth of the hole.


I’m looking at you.

When a man and two off-leash dogs came into view on the path below, the raccoon turned its attention away from me to watch the newcomers.


The man was talking on his cell phone and kicking a ball for his rambunctious long-legged black mutt to chase, while a slow, imperturbable pug brought up the rear.  Neither man nor dogs noticed the raccoon high above their heads, watching their every move. Nor did they notice this human, even higher above their heads, also watching every move.

As it watched, the raccoon curled partway into its hole.


We left it there, the dog and I, and continued our walk along the Riverside Drive promenade. On our way back, I again leaned over the wall.

But the raccoon was gone.

It had probably ducked back into its den. In my admittedly limited and unscientific observations, the Riverside raccoons are slow to actually leave the den for their evening forays into the park. They tend to hang out on the ledge for quite some time, singly or in twos, threes or even fours. They look around and sniff the air, occasionally ducking back into the den as if suddenly remembering they’d left the stove on.  Sometimes, when the weather is pleasant, a raccoon will groom itself or a mother will groom a kit, although I haven’t seen any grooming behaviors yet this season.  I can’t even say how many raccoons are living in the den this year. Eventually, though, one or another of the raccoons will leave the ledge and start making its way north along the wall. Only rarely do I see one heading south from the den, probably because the grand stone staircase quickly breaks up the wall, so that the raccoon would have to come down to the ground right at a spot that is well traveled by humans and dogs.

Here is the view from just above the den of Riverside Park, the Hudson River and New Jersey.


Not bad. You might linger at the mouth of your den, too, if you had this view to look at.

Urban Wild and Feral Life in Spring

Posted March 21, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, Birds, cats, Domestic animals, Hawks, In the City, Morningside Park, NYC Parks, Peacocks, Seasons, Spring, Wildlife/Natural History

Tags: , , ,

Spring is officially here. Red-tails are nesting, peacocks are showing, and male mallards are acting downright crazy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trees are still mostly bare, which means you can more easily spot wildlife.

And feral life. The feral cat colony in Morningside Park seems out of control this spring. The cats are everywhere around the pond, stalking  ducks and other birds.


But that’s a topic for another post.

For now, let’s put away the ice rescue ladder, and celebrate the arrival of another spring.


Below are links to a few of Out Walking the Dog’s odes to springs past:

Two-Eyed Prophecy of Spring

It’s Spring; Everybody Sing!

Spring Fling in Morningside Park: Be Still, My Heart

Spring in Three Cities

NYC Signs of Spring: Red-tails Nest and Mr Softee Sings

How to Tell a Hawk from a Handsaw

Posted March 17, 2014 by Out Walking the Dog
Categories: 2014, Art and Literature, Birds, Hawks, In the City, Wildlife/Natural History

Tags: , ,

I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Hamlet, Act II, scene ii

But Hamlet, dear, this is easy.



Hawk with squirrel, Riverside Park, NYC.




More difficult in low light and at a distance is to know a hawk from a handbag, or more specifically, a plastic grocery bag.

Many is the perched hawk I’ve seen that, upon closer approach, has resolved itself not into a dew, but into plastic caught in a branch. (Click each photo to enlarge.)

More rarely the process reverses, and a plastic bag metamorphoses into a hawk, and flies.

These metamorphoses from animate to inanimate, from hawk to handbag, and back again, are among the peculiar pleasures of watching urban birds.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,455 other followers

%d bloggers like this: