Posted tagged ‘urban wildlife contest’

Reader’s Tales of Urban Wildlife, Part 2

December 21, 2012

The sky over Manhattan looked oddly bruised and swollen this morning, a fitting sky for the end of the world.


You do know that the end of the world is happening (again) today, according to the latest in an endless stream of crackpot theories. Today’s prediction is brought to you by the ancient Mayans. Their calendar ends today, and apparently the world can’t go on without its Mayan datebook. At least, this is a rather more democratically wholesale approach to the end of the world than the Christian apocalypse. There’s no Rapture to whisk away believers before the apocalypse, just death and destruction for all.

Oh, wait, will you look at that? Here comes the sun.


Maybe today is just one more of earth’s four and a half billion-and-still-counting first days of winter. Happy winter solstice!

And anyway, end of the world or not, the dog still needs to be walked, and people, animals and the planet itself still need real help.


So in celebration of the on-going work of living together in the world, here is a beautiful story told by a reader who entered our recent Urban Wildlife Contest. (To read other reader entries, visit Readers’ Tales of Urban Wildlife.) Linda Ekstrand of New York City describes seeing a tiny bird stranded on the sidewalk. Unlike many of us in a similar situation, Linda picked up the “beguiling” bird, and carefully carried it across town to the Wild Bird Fund for rehabilitation.

On election day I went to my old neighborhood just twelve blocks away from my present apartment. I stopped in a hardware store on 78th and York and while I searched for a light bulb, I overheard someone say ” there is a cute little bird here.”  I assumed it was a toy, but I heard activity at the door and realized there was a small commotion. Then at the bus stop right outside the store I saw a  tiny little bundle of feathers being photographed by a young girl and her brother using an iPhone. They helped me look for a nest, but obviously that would have been difficult to see if it existed at all. I scooped up the bird and decided to take it to the Wild Bird Fund. Since I was holding it, I did not want to risk getting on a bus and losing it or, worse, being crushed, so I walked through the park with it cupped in my hand.

Golden-crowned kinglet by Dick Daniels

Golden-crowned kinglet by Dick Daniels

It was a delightful walk, but slightly uncomfortable as I was  holding it so carefully. I realized this was an adult bird because it had a long beak. When we arrived at the Wild Bird, they took it in and determined that it was a Kinglet, a migratory bird slightly larger than a hummingbird. The bird was totally unafraid of humans and jumped on me and curtains and anything it could find while we waited for it to be admitted. I was totally charmed by the bird and, truthfully, I wished I could have kept it.

I haven’t heard from the Wild Bird Fund about its fate and while this was not the first bird I ever rescued, it was the most beguiling. Gold and green coloring with an alertness that was remarkable and hopping about with the most winsome expression, he was a real bundle of joy. I hope he had a happy ending, and is winging south as I write this.
Check back soon for the final installment of Readers’ Tales of Urban Wildlife.

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.

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