Archive for the ‘deer’ category

Snow in Eastern Long Island

January 23, 2013

On Monday afternoon, snow began to fall on eastern Long Island.


Snow transformed the dog into an abominable snow creature.


Snow covered the sand that Sandy dumped into the passage beneath the little bridge.


Snow dusted Sleeping Beauty’s impassable tangle of branches.


Snow blanketed the beach.


On the walk home, deer had come into a neighbor’s yard and were browsing right by the house.


It snowed through the night. On Tuesday, the world was white.


Snow shadows spidered open spaces.


Deer stood alert in the snowy field.


When they turned to go, their small stampede kicked up a snow tempest.


Temperatures have plummeted to the teens, so for the time being, the snow remains. As I write, dawn is breaking on another frosty morning.


Readers’ Tales of Urban Wildlife, Part 1

December 20, 2012

Yesterday we announced the winner of our Urban Nature Contest: Megan Draheim of Washington, D.C.  We invited readers to enter the contest by submitting a description of an encounter with wildlife in the city.  Today and tomorrow I want to share a few of these stories.

Dillon de Give writes about a “modest little bird” in his Brooklyn backyard that transformed the way he sees and experiences birds in the city:

Dark-eyed Junco by Ken Thomas.

Dark-eyed Junco by Ken Thomas.

My First Bird Living in Brooklyn I was only aware of a couple of birds on city streets: pigeons, the shiny black ones, sea gulls, sparrows,and that was pretty much it. Back home in New Mexico I took a day trip to the Bosque del Apache, where Sandhill cranes were passing through. It was my first time being impressed with the experience of looking through binoculars, but it was a “special” excursion. When I got back to NYC I thought about what it would be like to birdwatch in the city, the place I actually lived and operated every day. What a novel experience that would be (little did I know how much of a culture around the activity existed already). But enough preamble, now for the encounter. With these thoughts somewhere in my mind, I noticed something out my apartment window in the inaccessible back yard. It was a sparrow, that looked a little different. It wasn’t brown. It was grey on top and white underneath. I had never seen the bird before, even though I had lived there for 4 years. I set to work finding out what it was. It took a while to figure it out, but as you may have guessed it was a dark-eyed junco. What a great name. And this modest little bird felt like my bird. I had seen plenty of birds, but this was the first that I went through the complete process of noticing, breaking down color and shape, identifying, and “knowing”. After that, I felt that I could be able to look at birds, and other natural things in a new way. Last week I saw a flock of juncos in the neighborhood park the other day, and I wonder if other people can see them.

Jake, in the only entry about plants, sent in a link to a one-sentence tweet that reads like a tiny poem:

In damp Atlanta, even street signs sprout lichens and moss, the tender vanguard of an encroaching horde that patiently stalks this city.

Melanie Hedlund of Lexington, Massachusetts was dive-bombed by an owl in the Boston Public Garden:

A lovely Friday night, the Boston Public Garden was looking festive with lights reflecting on the ponds, three foreign tourists asked me to take a photo of them with this Boston backdrop. There was laughter and nothing sinister.  I felt safe but did have a moment asking myself if walking down the less lit path alone was a good idea, when …WHUMP! I was hit on the head from above. It was a soft hard blow, one that took me a quick moment to recover from, and then I saw the beautiful big owl continue it’s swoop back up to a nearby willow tree. I googled owl-in-boston-public-garden and came up with some great shots of a barred owl, taken there a few weeks before. My head tingled for hours after.

Andrew at the University of Georgia’s Office of Sustainability was driving home one night last week when he encountered two deer in the middle of the road.

I approached slowly and stopped, waiting for them to finish crossing. As they start walking again, one looks at me and I swear he was thinking ‘get the heck off of my path.’

I’m sorry to say, Andrew, that I’ve seen just that look on a NYC street rat once or twice.

Check back tomorrow for another installment of Readers’ Tales of Urban Wildlife.

Deer and Cormorants in the Hamptons

October 28, 2012

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

deer near Flying Point Beach


Equally alert, Esau watches the deer.

gray dog, gray boardwalk

Also alert.

Suddenly, the deer bounds off into the brush.

white-tailed deer

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

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

through the moors

A path through the Hampton moors.

passing through tall reeds and small ponds.

Gorgeous habitat for birds, deer, foxes and more.

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

flock of cormorants

A collection of cormorants.

As we watched, more cormorants came flapping in.

flying cormorants

Cormorants fly over the reeds.

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

Cormorants coming in for a landing.

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

Cormorants, cormorants, cormorants.

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

juvenile cormorant

Dead cormorant by side of the road.

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

cormorant with one wing extended

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

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

cormorant in breeding plumage

Eyes like emeralds.

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

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

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

fishing cormorants 1936

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

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

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

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