Archive for the ‘Summer’ category

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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Falcon Hunts Starling Murmuration (video)

October 4, 2013

I had a great time making this three-minute movie of a falcon hunting a spectacular starling murmuration right in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. A murmuration is a massive gathering of starlings.  There are so many birds flying they look sometimes like dark snow falling or a sky full of shooting stars. Other times the flock forms strange helix-like shapes, and it’s hard to believe it isn’t a giant organism with a single brain. One evening as I watched, a peregrine falcon swooped in, looking for dinner.

If you enjoy The Falcon’s Lament, please share it with others.

A peregrine is a usually an effective predator of birds on the wing. But in the on-going evolutionary offense-defense dance of predator and prey, the starling murmuration throws the falcon off and thwarts its ability to kill. Fascinating.

To see starlings as individuals rather than as members of a great, heaving cauldron of birds, you may enjoy:
Eating and Keeping Cool in NYC Heat Wave, Fledgling Style

And for some raw footage of the starlings gathering in downtown Kansas City, watch Murmuration of Starlings in Kansas City.

Eating and Keeping Cool in NYC Heat Wave, Fledgling Style

July 19, 2013

Baby birds hatch and fledge throughout the summer.  Yesterday morning, an adult European starling (on the right) and its two fledglings fed from an unidentifiable pile of garbage.

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“How do you do this feeding thing?”

Both youngsters seemed quite capable of feeding themselves, and did so, helping themselves to scraps from the ground. But just as some kids are more independent than others, one of the young birds seemed to prefer being fed by its parent. (Male and female starlings look the same. In the photo below, you can make out a couple of spots of iridescent feathers developing on the drab, easily-camouflaged baby.)

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Mom, I’m hungry.

It stayed close to the parent, and begged for food, cheeping loudly and insistently.

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Did you hear me? I’m hungry!

The parent fed it, then returned to feeding itself. When it flew up to the ledge of the retaining wall behind it, the baby immediately followed.

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HUNGRY.

Again, the parent fed it, then flew off, leaving the youngster momentarily alone.

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Hey…

The parent had flown half a block south to cool off in a clogged water fountain at the Tot Lot playground. Moments later the babies followed to see what was going on.

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Soon the parent was routed by another adult, who refused to share bathing rights, and battled another adult that attempted to step into the fountain. The victor took a long and lively bath, watched for a while by the vanquished and then by a youngster.

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When he flew off, the vanquished took a quick, restrained dip.

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And then it was kiddy time at the pool.

One.

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Two (with an observer).

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And three.

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Eventually the young starlings flew away, and a little sparrow moved in for a drink.

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Summer Saturday in Morningside Park

July 15, 2013

Morningside Park is lush and full of animal and human activity these days.

A goose family swims past the little island in Morningside Park.

A goose family swims past the little island in Morningside Park.

On Saturday, a small brigade of dedicated kids and volunteers cleaned the park and the pond.

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A turtle bobbed persistently for an elusive bite of apple.

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Scores of turtles swam and basked near the pond’s mallard ducks.

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The mallards are molting, which is why it looks at first glance as if there are nothing but females on the pond. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that some green is still visible on the heads of the birds in the photos, indicating that they are, in fact, males.  The bright yellow of the bills is also a good marker; the bills of females are orange and brown. After breeding season, mallards molt and become temporarily flightless.  The males lose their distinctive feathers and go into “eclipse plumage,” which resembles the mottled coloring of the female. I’m not sure whether these boys are on their way in to their molt or on their way out. But in any event, within a few weeks, dull feathers will be replaced yet again with recognizable, jaunty bright colors.

This turtle reminded me of the White Rock Soda girl. What do you think?

Two young men with baseball gloves were captivated by the turtle on the rock. “I haven’t seen a turtle in, like ten years,” said one. When he realized there were turtles everywhere, swimming just beneath the surface of the water, he couldn’t tear himself away from the pond.

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Soon a group of ducks swam over, hoping for a hand-out.

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An interesting new sign has appeared near the pond, in addition to the “Do Not Feed the Wildlife” notices that are often displayed.

Do not touch or remove wildlife from park.

Do not touch or remove wildlife from park.

Really, my fellow citizens, what have you been up to while I’ve been away?

A large flock of pigeons lay about on the grass across the path.

Just a few of many resting pigeons.

Nap time for pigeons. These are just a few of a very large flock, almost all recumbent.

Nearby the turtle-watchers played catch.

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As we headed up the grand stone staircase, I spotted a feral cat mostly hidden in dense vegetation. Interestingly, the dog had no idea the cat was present until I stopped to take its picture.

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“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps (or sits) tonight.”

On the grassy slope just below Morningside Drive, a girl sat in quiet meditation.

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Just another summer Saturday in one of my favorite New York parks.

Raccoon Bonanza in Riverside Park (w video)

June 23, 2013

Last night at dusk, the great retaining wall of Riverside Park was crawling with raccoons.

Four raccoons on the retaining wall in NYC's Riverside Park.

A mother raccoon (right) and her babies on the retaining wall in NYC’s Riverside Park.

This is the same den I’ve been watching for years now. In 2009 or 2010, before the raccoon rabies epidemic hit, I once saw six raccoons emerge from this den, like clowns from a clown car. Last night, seven racoons climbed the wall.  Seven! Back in early April, I watched a mother raccoon carry a baby along the wall, clearly looking to move it into a new den. My guess would be that this is the same mother with her litter now old enough to be exploring the world under her supervision.

A small crowd had gathered to watch and photograph the raccoons.

"Excuse me, what kind of animals are those?"

“Excuse me, what kind of animals are those?”

Usually, the raccoons on the wall go unnoticed. But the sheer number of animals moving on the wall attracted attention. As they made their way along the stones, they popped in and out of various hidey-holes. Personality differences among the raccoons seemed evident. One, in particular, seemed reluctant to leave the safety of the den, peeping out and retreating several times even as the others had already moved out along the wall.

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Some observers reported that in addition to the mother and babies, there was a “medium-sized” raccoon. They wondered if they were looking at a mother and father with a litter. This is highly unlikely, as male racoons don’t stay around after mating to help raise the young. In fact, adult males will often harm young raccoons. It’s more likely that the medium-sized raccoon is a juvenile from last year’s litter that is still living with the mother. I’ve watched a mother care for, and wash, her slightly older babies here in August 2011.

Wall walker.

Wall walker.

If this is indeed the case, then there may be five babies, which fits the average raccoon litter size of 2-5 kits.

The little kittenish fellow in the picture below is following after its mother, but still uncertain of its footing on the wall.  Apologies for the blurry, grainy photos, but it was quite dark. I’ve enhanced most of these photos to make the images clearer.

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Baby raccoon trails mother back to den.

Below, two babies greet their mother as she returns to the den.

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Here a raccoon peeps out of a hole a little north of the main den. Could this be the same hole where I heard growling that night in April when the mother ducked inside with the baby in her mouth? Or is this another baby? Or another juvenile? Size is difficult to estimate from a distance, so … hard to say. In any event, this individual stayed put while the others were on the move.

IMG_2456Here is a video of the mother waiting with two babies while a third makes its way along the wall to join them.

 For much more on the raccoons of NYC, visit Out Walking the Dog’s Raccoon Archives.

Monarch Migration

September 14, 2012

Farewell to the monarchs, beautiful kings and queens of the insect world.  

Monarch butterfly stocks up on nectar for the long flight south.

Monarch butterflies are fluttering and feeding all over eastern Long Island right now. They’re in the garden, by the roadside, and over the fields, preparing for fall migration to Mexico.

Monarch Watch, a website devoted to monarch conservation, estimates the peak days in “monarch abundance” to be September 8-20, so we’re right on schedule.

The monarch life cycle is extraordinary, as it takes several generations to complete a year’s cycle. Every fall, eastern monarchs migrate thousands of miles to spend the winter in Mexico’s Sierra Nevada. In March or April the butterflies return to the southern United States, seeking milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.  The migrant generation will die before reaching the northern states.  Further colonization depends on the next generation.

After four days or so, the caterpillars hatch. They live on milkweed for about two weeks until fully grown.  Then they spin a chrysalis, inside which they metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly. They emerge after about 10 days, and continue their parents’ journey north, laying eggs as they go.  The next generation of eggs will hatch in May and June, the third in July or August.  These butterflies will live just two to six weeks.

But the fourth generation of monarchs, emerging in late summer or early fall, will live as long as eight or nine months. These are the migrants that complete the cycle, flying south in early fall and returning in the spring.

They must survive wind, weather, and automobile windshields. Hungry birds are less of a threat since the caterpillar’s milkweed diet makes the monarchs poisonous to most birds or, at least, bad-tasting. The biggest threats to the monarch’s existence are climate change and illegal logging in Mexico, although recent reports from the World Wildlife Fund indicate that logging within the butterfly sanctuary has ceased.

To help scientists learn more about monarchs, you can participate in a citizen science project at Monarch Watch, tracking butterfly sightings and even tagging the insects with tiny tags.

Change in the Hamptons

September 12, 2012

Late last Thursday, as Esau and I walked toward the ocean, we spotted a herd of nine deer.

White-tailed deer

Almost fifty years ago, my family first started coming to this house on Flying Point Road.

Farmhouse in Water Mill, NY

House with new deck and sliding doors.

The house backed onto a large potato field that stretched low towards the ocean dunes.  After harvesting, we’d glean potatoes from the field, and delicious they were.  Flocks of migrating Canada geese grazed  and picked up insects in the fields, lured by hunters’ decoys of geese resting and eating.  Eastern Long Island then was a place of open vistas.  The front of the house faced little Mecox Bay, which was then sludgy and polluted from the waste of hundreds of Long Island ducklings reared at the duck farm on the other side of the bay. Long Island was famous for its Pekin ducklings until rising property values, anti-pollution regulations, and increased cost of grain shrank the industry.

The Big Duck, Riverhead, NY

Roadside architecture of the highest order: Riverhead’s Big Duck used to sell, what else, duck.

Families of pheasants came to call and foxes lived nearby in the low wild tangles of overgrown brush.  Deer, though? Not so much.

Well, times have changed.  Today, Long Island’s potato fields are largely gone, Mcmansions rule, and open spaces are few and far between.

Cottontail rabbit

A cottontail rabbit nibbles grass in a cleared space leading down to Mecox Bay.

The duck farms are also mostly gone, and the ones that remain are indoor operations now.  Mecox Bay is sparklingly clean,

Mecox Bay at sunset

Mecox Bay at sunset

and is home to herons and egrets,

snowy egret in Mecox Bay

Snowy egrets are regulars in this spot.

terns and gulls,

tern in Mecox Bay

Tern hovering and diving in Mecox Bay

ospreys, kingfishers, skimmers, and a changing host of waterfowl, including coots, grebes, sea ducks, Canada geese, and Mute swans.

Mute swan in Mecox Bay

A swan floats in Mecox Bay earlier this summer.

Wild turkeys have returned to the area, and despite the dwindling wild areas, my sister-in law recently saw a fox and her kits.

And white-tailed deer, after being driven nearly to extermination in New York State at the end of the nineteenth century, are back in force in Suffolk County, as throughout the state.

Deer formed one battalion of the Nature Army that my flower garden-loving father battled ceaselessly.  (Other enemy battalions were made up of digging creatures like voles and moles as well as invasive plants, like bittersweet and phragmites.)  Deer ate the tops off my father’s beloved day lilies, nibbled on his roses and helped themselves to my stepmother’s vegetable garden.  My father netted his gardens for a while, before deciding to put up deer fencing around virtually the entire property – which the deer simply leapt over.

Thus began a fierce, if one-sided, game of oneupmanship. My father raised the fence. The deer crashed right through it. My father strengthened the netting. The deer again leapt over. At its highest, the fence (mostly) worked, until a notice from the town informed us fences higher than 6 feet are not permitted; the fence has been cut back down.

I have mixed feelings about the fence. I’m happy to protect the flowers from deer depredation. I’m happy that Esau can run free, safe from the road.

Gray dog with flowers

Esau among the flowers.

But I’m sorry that any remaining pheasant families will no longer visit us, since pheasants do their visiting on foot. Turkeys, too, like to travel on foot. In fact, a couple of summers ago, my father and I watched one walk back and forth on the far side of the fence, gazing longingly through the mesh at our bird feeders. It didn’t seem to occur to the big bird that it had wings and could fly.

As for the deer, they may be spotted nightly in one of the two open spaces that still remain between our house and the ocean.

Long Island deer

A young grayish buck on the right with a fawn to the left.

The deer field is actually a large lot and is for sale.  Some time ago a tower was built in the middle of the field to show prospective buyers what an incredible view their new house could command from its second floor.

I’m happy to report that the field has grown up around the tower, and the animals have moved in.  It even seems to me that the deer are leaving our flowers alone, now that they have a beautiful yard of their own.

Yellowjackets in a Frog

September 6, 2012

In mid-August, we visited a friend’s house in Sag Harbor.  A lovely bronze frog held court on the deck railing.

Open and say, “Ah.”

But wait. What’s inside the frog? What the …?

Yellowjackets had colonized the interior of the frog, moving in and out of its mouth.

The poor creatures were waterlogged from recent downpours. Rather than trying to fly, they just crawled out and sat on the railing. I’m guessing they were trying to dry themselves out in the still-moist air.

The next day, the life-and-death insect drama continued.

Esau didn’t notice.

Nor did the dog of the house.

And I never did find out what happened to the yellowjackets. Life-and-death insect dramas go on all around us, all the time.  This one just happened to be more picturesque than most.

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:

Dallas: City of Egrets, City of Herons

August 8, 2012

Dallas is, for me, the City of Egrets.

Snowy egret

And herons. Let’s just say, City of Wading Birds.

I realize this may surprise readers who don’t know Dallas. But during the month I recently spent there, I could almost count on seeing a heron or egret a day – and more, if I went looking for them.  Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, you name the wader and there’s a good chance Dallas has it. Even, to my own surprise, Wood Storks, Ibises and Roseate Spoonbills, none of which have I seen, but all of which have been beautifully photographed and documented in the Great Trinity Forest, within city limits, by DFW Urban Wildlife and Dallas Trinity Trails, two amazing websites.

Today, though, I’m talking about egrets and herons.

A lone Snowy Egret fishes here in White Rock Lake with the Dallas skyline as a backdrop.

This is where I would come to perform. Well, not right here, but inside the Bath House Cultural Center, just yards from the shore. Can you imagine a finer location to perform a play that explores urban wildlife?

Snowy egret hunkers down on a piling.

A Great Blue Heron stands on the dock with its wings spread.

Great blue heron pretends to be a cormorant.

 The big bird stays in this posture, wings spread, barely moving, for at least 30 minutes. Cormorants sit with their wings spread to dry them, but I’ve never seen a heron in this position. A quick trip down Google Alley reveals that many bird species spread their wings as a way of   gathering heat. Birders call it “sunning” or “sunbathing.”  I find it hard – No, let me be honest. I find it, impossible to believe that any creature would need to warm itself up on a hot July afternoon in Dallas. It seems more plausible to me that it is drying its wings or even, somehow, using the posture to cool off by releasing heat.  Any of my  more knowledgeable birding friends care to weigh in?

Over by the spillway on the other side of the lake is another good spot for wader watching.  A few Great Blue Herons fished among smaller birds.

Great Blue Heron with ducks

Great Blues are North America’s largest herons. They stand almost 4 feet tall with a wingspan of up to 6 feet.  I’ve seen them in many places from Long Island to Portland, Oregon, and in habitats from freshwater rivers to salt marshes, and the sight is always thrilling.

Another Great Blue Heron.

And here is a Great Egret, another stunning creature.

Great Egret on the ledge.

Smaller and more delicate in build than a Great Blue, the Great Egret is still a big bird at over 3 feet tall with a 4-foot wingspan.

Let’s leave the spillway, shall we, and head into the park.

Step this way.

Ah, look! Something is coming in for a landing near the concrete edge of the manmade lake.

A blurry far-away photo, but it tells the story.

Oh, what is that? Some kind of heron. Way too small for a Great Blue, but not quite like any of the other herons I’ve encountered. Later, when I get home to my bird books, I’ll discover that this beauty is a Tricolored Heron, which is not very common around Dallas.

What a beauty.

Its landing zone turns out to be quite close to a Snowy Egret.

An intruder in Snowy territory

The Snowy, which had first dibs on this fishing spot, continues to hunt.

Look at that foot!

It appears willing to share its watery turf.

Sun-kissed Snowy.

But it keeps a beady eye on the whereabouts of the intruder.

If this bird had visible ears, they would be pricked.

And whenever the Tricolored Heron comes too close, the Snowy moves swiftly and aggressively toward it.

Hoofing it. As it were.

Several times, it moves directly at the Tricolored Heron.

Snowy on the move

And each time, the Tricolored seems to quickly read a warning in the Snowy’s movements, and retreats.

“Back off, buster.”

A rower glides past in one direction as a few ducks glide past in the other.

Gliding on the water.

Nearby, an enormous turtle hangs in the water like an ungainly ornament.

Largest turtle

It is easily the size of a huge platter. Not a dinner plate, a platter.  Or perhaps a hubcap. Look at the circle below the water to see the edge of its shell.  Turtles are common in all the streams, lakes and creeks in Dallas, but this is far and away the biggest I’ve ever seen.

Not as big as these feral hogs traipsing through the Great Trinity Forest with a flock of over 100 Wood Storks, courtesy of Dallas Trinity Trails.

Check back soon for more on the beautiful and charming Tricolored Heron, including video.

Damn, it’s hot!

August 6, 2012

 I over-walked the dog yesterday. Can you tell?

“Damn, woman, it’s hot. Have mercy and get a guy a drink.”

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.

Hudson River Dolphin

June 20, 2012

A dolphin was spotted on Sunday afternoon (June 17th) in the Hudson River.

Photo from DNAInfo.com (click to go to article)

Lucky people out for a Sunday stroll saw the animal heading south from Harlem to Chelsea, with sightings reported from 120th Street to 14th Street.  According to DNAInfo.com, which has been a terrific source for wildlife sightings in the city, a woman reported seeing the animal (probably a bottlenose dolphin) swim in circles for about half an hour near the pier at 14th Street.

Dolphins have been seen on other occasions in both the Hudson and the East River. The lower Hudson is, after all, a saltwater estuary, a body of water where salt water and fresh waters mix daily with the tides.

Waterways of New York City by Julius Schorzman; Wikimedia Commons

In addition to the whales of New York Harbor, marine mammals that have occasionally made their way into the lower Hudson include harbor seals, gray seals, a harp seal near Haverstraw, and, I kid you not, a 1000-pound manatee.

Still while the sight of a dolphin is not all that rare, the sight of a bottlenose dolphin swimming solo is apparently quite unusual.  Fortunately, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which I first encountered after finding an adorable gray seal pup on Flying Point Beach on Long Island’s south fork, is on the job.

If you are lucky enough to spot the dolphin, please call  the Riverhead Foundation right away at (631) 369-9829 to report the time, location and behavior of the animal.  Assuming the dolphin is still around, the marine wildlife experts of the Riverhead Foundation will try to ascertain whether it is healthy or in need of assistance.  Should the animal show signs of distress, the Foundation is well equipped to care for it with the goal of releasing it back into the wild.

As always, knowledgeable wildlife experts urge people to leave the animal alone, and NOT FEED IT, advice which seems to be surprisingly difficult for our species to heed.

Oh, and once you’ve contacted the Riverside Foundation, don’t forget to contact me!  I’m guessing the dolphin has returned to the harbor, since I haven’t heard of any sightings since Sunday. But I’d love to know more about the NYC dolphin – or any other interesting wildlife encounters you may have.  You can always reach me by leaving a comment on Out Walking the Dog or you can email me at outwalkingthedognyc@gmail.com.

And remember: keep your eyes peeled as you walk the city. You never know what you might see out there.

6/21: Sad Update on the Hudson River Dolphin:
The dolphin was found dead this morning near Pier 59 in Chelsea.

Provincetown Bear Captured

June 13, 2012

The black bear that spent several weeks this spring wandering the forests, yards, beaches and roadways of Cape Cod has been captured.  Just last weekend, plans to trap and relocate the bear had been scrapped by state wildlife officials in favor of simply monitoring the 180-pound male bear.  The traps, baited with doughnuts, were taken away.

But when the bear wandered into the heart of Provincetown – he was seen at the Provincetown Monument – officials decided it was time to act to protect the safety of the bear and the Cape’s humans.  According to MassWildlife and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, “people were actively seeking the animal in a narrow geographic area (severely limiting the bear’s options for movement).”  While the Cape Cod bear had shown no aggression toward humans, any animal that is unable to escape imposed contact may react by attacking. (Humans, too!)

On Monday, June 11th, the bear had left Provincetown and headed back to Truro.  “Sure as you were born,” said a Truro resident of an encounter with the bear, “there was the most beautiful big black bear coming up the side of the hill.” Later, the bear was seen on Gull Pond Road in Wellfleet, where members of the Large Animal Unit of the Environmental Police shot him with a tranquilizer dart and carried him off.

Tranquilized Cape Cod bear

The bear was given an ear tag for monitoring purposes, weighed and examined. Officials say he appears to be a healthy young male under two years of age.  He was transported to an undisclosed location in Central Massachusetts and released in an area where he may be able to find a mate.

The bear population of Massachusetts has risen from a low of around 100 in the 1970s to around 3,000 today, and sightings are on the rise.

“If you see one, enjoy the fact that you’ve seen a black bear. As with any wildlife, enjoy them from a distance, and if in your house, make noise. As big as bears are, they are typically scared of people.”
Laura Hadjuk, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Metro West Daily News, 2010

For more on the peregrinations of the Cape Cod bear, watch this CapeCast video:

A Black Bear Comes To Provincetown!

June 9, 2012

A handsome young male black bear has turned up in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula, 30 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Uncredited photo of Cape Cod bear on WCBV website.

The bear probably swam across the Cape Cod Canal, which separates the peninsula from the mainland, in his search for a mate.  Since Memorial Day, he has been spotted all over the Cape, making his way from Sandwich to Barnstable, Orleans, Wellfleet, Truro and, finally, Provincetown, the end of the road.

The bear, whose age is estimated at two or three, may be the first bear ever on Cape Cod and is certainly the first in several hundred years.  He has been spotted in the National Seashore that stretches up the narrow neck of the Cape as well as trotting along by the side of Route 6.

Photo: Provincetown Police on Wicked Local Provincetown (click for article)

Authorities have been watching his progress, and trying to figure out what to do about his presence in the small, densely populated area of Provincetown. Traps were set in hopes of capturing and relocating him off-Cape in an area where he might find the love he’s looking for.

Yesterday, the Cape Cod Times reported the traps were being removed and attempts to capture the bear were being suspended.  State wildlife officials, who will be monitoring the bear’s presence closely, seem to be hoping he will head back the way he came from, staying out of trouble with humans.

Oddly enough, Provincetown is accustomed to bears, but bears of a very different kind.

Gay Bear Pride.

The term “bear” is used for a member of a gay subculture that, according to the Beltway Bears, “don’t feel comfortable with the prevailing standard defining stereotypes of what a gay man should be or look like,” and instead “prefer men who act masculine, are physically affectionate (Bear hugs!) and who are low/no attitude.”  Or as a colleague, a proud bear, recently put it, bears are typically “big, hairy guys who like other big, hairy guys.”

Every summer, the Provincetown Bears host Bear Week, when human bears from around the world gather to meet and celebrate.  A joke running around Provincetown is that the Black bear is just a few weeks early; Bear Week doesn’t start until July 7th.

But back to wildlife. Black bears are shy and rarely aggressive toward humans. To minimize contact, humans in bear country should secure all trash in bear-proof containers and take down bird feeders. Here are guidelines from the American Bear Association in case you do encounter a bear:

  • Stay calm. DO NOT RUN (running may elicit a chase response by the bear)
  • Pick up children so they don’t run or scream.
  • RESTRAIN YOUR DOG.
  • Avoid eye contact and talk in a soothing voice.
  • If the bear stands up, he is NOT going to attack but is curious and wants a better sniff or view
  • Back away slowly. If the bear chomps their jaw, lunges or slaps the ground or brush with paw he feels threatened.
  • Slowly retreat from the area or make a wide detour around the bear. DO NOT block or crowd the bear’s escape route.

Please let me know if you hear more about Cape Cod’s roaming Black bear.

Liam Crivellaro, 13, of West Barnstable shot video of the black bear climbing down a tree on Memorial Day. South Coast Today (click for article)


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