Archive for April 2020

Gone Fishin’: Great White Egret in Central Park

April 24, 2020

Walking the NYC pandemic

At the northeast corner of Central Park is the Meer, a small lake stocked with fish and home to birds.

At the edge of a small island, I saw bright movement: a great white egret.

A mighty hunter seeking prey.

It flew across the small expanse of water and landed on the pathway.

How still it holds itself and how extraordinarily flexible is its neck. We humans have seven cervical vertebrae while an egret has, count them. eighteen.

Solitary human and solitary egret.

After a few minutes, the big bird opened its wings and swooped low along the shoreline to try its luck a little further on.

Hunting, waiting, flying ..

Beautiful.

For more on bird necks, including photos of bird contortionists and a brief anatomy lesson, see Bird Neck Appreciation Day.

NYC’s Quiet Rush Hour (video)

April 22, 2020

Walking the Pandemic in NYC

The city is eerily quiet these days. Fewer cars and buses on the streets, no sidewalk disputes, no children squealing in the playground.

Empty playground.

Without the usual ambient noise, other sounds seem louder. The pigeon family that hangs out on our window ledges seems to coo more loudly.

Pigeon parent (red eyes).
Pigeon baby (brown eyes).

Even the wing claps of rising flocks seem louder.

Rising flock.

The mockingbird on the roof seems to sing more wildly than ever.

Mockingbird not singing, for the moment.

And from our own perch above 109th Street, we hear ambulance sirens as we’ve never heard them before. There have been days when the sound of sirens threatened to merge into one continuous urban wail. Or so it seemed.

Happily, in recent days, the sirens have diminished in number. Maybe this is only at our neighborhood hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside (formerly Saint Luke’s). The news this morning reports that the daily death toll in New York has dropped below 500 for the second day in a row. Hospitals remain overwhelmed, and hospital workers are drawing on extraordinary personal reserves each day. I hope fewer sirens equates to fewer hospital admissions and is a sign that NYC is entering the long slow movement away from our COVID peak.

Mount Sinai Morningside – Emergency.

It’s going to be a long quiet haul. Last Friday around 5:15 PM, I stood on the roof of our building and thought the street sounded just the tiniest bit busier than usual. A bus belching down Broadway, one horn honking, a sparrow cheeping relentlessly. And then I realized, So this is what passes for Friday rush hour in the middle of a pandemic.

Have a look.

Pink is the Color

April 20, 2020

Walking the pandemic in NYC

Spring is just another word for pink these days.

Wow.
Delicate.
Intense.
Pink with sculpture
Pink with bench watchers.
Not-fully-blossomed pink with Cathedral. See next photo for what’s coming…
We can look forward to this full-on pink with Cathedral. (Photo from early May last year.)
Pink again.
And again.

Stay safe, New York and world. One of these days, we’ll walk again without fear.

This photo is from last spring, but these undistanced, unmasked days of yore will eventually return.
Hudson River pinks.

Hang in there, stay safe and see you back here soon!

Peacock Boys at the Cathedral

April 17, 2020

Walking the pandemic

Peacocks have freely wandered the grounds at Saint John’s Cathedral in Morningside Heights since the 1980s.

The three peacocks currently in residence, Jim, Harry and Phil, are older gentlemen now, but age is no obstacle to the call of spring. There are no peahens on the premises, yet the three peacocks still rise to the season, displaying their gorgeous tails, squawking and strutting. I went seeking them on this beautiful chilly morning.

Someone peeks around the corner …

I see you.

And lets out a joyful sound. More like an ear-splitting honk to human ears, but presumably a romantic “come-hither” to available peafowl.

Glass-shattering squawk.

The other blue peacock was hidden behind a truck and I had almost given up on finding the third, when a flash of white drew my eye to a far corner of the extensive grounds.

It was Phil, the white peacock, flapping to the fence rail.

He landed awkwardly, then posed for a moment.

And launched himself down onto the other side.

He grazed a bit in the grass.

I left him there and walked away. Again, a flash of white caught my eye. In his quiet corner, just off Amsterdam Avenue, the peacock displayed his beauty for no one.

Thanks to Saint John’s Cathedral for keeping their grounds open to the public and providing the neighborhood with respite from its cares.

Baby Raccoons on the Move (video)

April 13, 2020

Walking the NYC Pandemic

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my obsession with a raccoon den on the huge retaining wall in NYC’s Riverside Park. Well, ten years on, the joint’s still jumpin’ at the Raccoon Lodge.

All year, a raccoon or two will quietly emerge as the sun gets low to loll about on the ledge, grooming and stretching. Eventually they’ll move out along the wall to begin their night of foraging.

But it’s spring, people. And springtime is a whole other thing, because … BABIES! This year seems to have yielded a bumper crop with little guys pouring out of the den like clowns from a clown car. I counted seven the other night, bumbling up and down the wall and bumping into each other like furry Keystone Kops.

Enjoy.

Hey, where’s Mom? Anyone seen Mom?

Cheers for NYC Essential Workers (video)

April 12, 2020

Walking the NYC Pandemic

Every night at 7 PM, our neighborhood explodes with sound. From inside our apartments, perched on fire escapes or up on our rooftops, New Yorkers explode in loud appreciation for all our essential workers and, incidentally, we let each other know that we’re still here, still neighbors, still in it together.

We cheer, whoop, holler, bang on pots and pans, we raise a joyful sound. The streets are empty and, aside from the occasional silhouette of a torso at a window, we are invisible to one another. The sound seems to rise from bricks and pavement and for these few minutes, it’s as if the streets and buildings themselves are cheering. Stay inside, people, they seem to say, but know you’re not alone.

Here is one particular night’s noise, looking north from a rooftop over 109th Street and beyond.

Walking in the Pandemic

April 10, 2020

Walking the Pandemic

I’m still out walking and though the dog no longer walks with me, I hope you’ll join me as I walk my way through the pandemic. I’m staying close to home, but there’s plenty to see. So put on your mask, maintain social distance and let’s head out into the New York City streets.

Flowering trees on quiet Broadway.

Spring has come this year as it does every year. Plants are flowering and the animals are going about their business in the parks. Baby raccoons, birds, humans and plants, we’ll keep an eye out for all of them in the coming weeks.

This morning, clouds and cold temperatures kept the city even quieter than usual. It actually snowed for a couple of minutes, about the length of time it took to walk two blocks. (In case you don’t know, blocks are how a New Yorker measures both time and space.)

Amsterdam Avenue looking north from around West 119th Street

Today I walked to Morningside Park. Here is just a little of what I saw:

Bright spots of color.

On a recent sunny day, turtles basked on the rocks of the little pond. Hey, what about social distancing?

Turtle cluster.

And a smaller group from the same warm day.

Four turtles.

But on this chilly morning, there’s not a reptile in sight. Just a single pair of mallards.

Mallard pair with tulips.
What is this plant? Anyone know?

The feral cat communities were out in force in two different areas of the park.

Solitary feline, looking pretty rough.

And amiable but socially oblivious park rangers filled the path.

Stay safe and stay tuned for more.


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