Painted Bunting


WatermarkPhotoSquare™2015-12-29 03:12:37 +0000This little fellow got sidetracked from his migration and ended up in Prospect Park in the native flora area. I finally got a chance to go see him today and he was as spectacular as anticipated. Right now he should be hanging out in southern Florida or Central America, not in Brooklyn. There have been as many as 100 people a day stopping by to gawk at his stunning coloration. This little guy seemed completely unfazed with all the attention he’s been garnering. He’s been sticking to a very small area and munching on the grass and pokeweed seeds.

He’s puffed up like a little ball in the picture because it was a little chilly today. Hopefully we’ll get some more seasonal temperatures here and that will kick his migration instinct back into gear. Cross your fingers for a good outcome for this beautiful creature!

Heron Watching

bbg-heron small-2This lovely great blue heron decided to stop for a rest on the railing in the Native Flora garden at the BBG today. He stayed for quite a while, which was fun to watch.

The pond doesn’t have fish or frogs in it, so he was just hanging out enjoying the warm sun we had today. Maybe he had just eaten a nice, juicy koi out of the Japanese Garden and was stopping to digest a bit.


sept 2014-2Today I was gardening at Brooklyn Bridge Park up by Jane’s carousel. There is a very tiny, but pretty garden there that is a rain garden. There is a lot of swamp milkweed in the garden, which is one of my favorite milkweeds. But in addition to being very pretty, it is also a host plant for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies.

sept 2014-3While I was weeding I noticed a monarch caterpillar. I was very excited because monarch butterflies are in decline. It was wonderful to see that the monarchs found a perfect spot filled with their favorite (and only) food. A minute later I noticed another one. sept 2014-4Aren’t they beautiful? And then I noticed that this garden was filled with these beauties. sept 2014-5There was a monarch butterfly flitting about as well. But it was teasing me and I never got a photo of it. I just enjoyed watching it dance happily over all the milkweed.

Don’t Pick Up That Baby Bird!

baby birdEvery Spring, I hear about people finding “abandoned” baby birds. They “rescue” them, bring them home and care for them until they inevitably die. Here’s the thing. Those birds aren’t abandoned! They are fledglings. They fly out of their nest and spend a few days on the ground learning how to forage. They haven’t been abandoned by their parents. Imagine the poor parents watching a giant human carrying their baby away!

The Wild Bird Fund in NYC gets inundated every Spring with these baby birds. Take a peek at their pdf below for what to do on this topic. In case you haven’t heard of the Wild Bird Fund, they are the first wildlife rehabilitation center in NYC. Take a peek at their website to see the cool things they are doing.

I had this post all ready to go out (minus this really helpful diagram from the Wild Bird Fund) and then I found my own fledgeling bird today. It was on the sidewalk calling to its parents. This sidewalk is extremely busy with foot traffic, dogs being walked, strollers, etc. The parents weren’t going to go down. They were calling to the baby, which was making the baby hop towards them. Unfortunately it was hopping into traffic on a very busy street. I scooped the little guy up and put it back on the sidewalk. It kept hopping into the street.

Now I was attracting passersby, who were adding their helpful comments. “It fell out of the nest and can’t fly”. Not true. It’s a fledgling. “Don’t touch it, the parents are going to smell you”. Also not true. Gah!

I knew I couldn’t stay there all night to keep scooping the baby out of the street. There weren’t any trees nearby to put it in. I noticed some starlings peeking out of a cornice *way* up in a building. I knew I could never get the baby back up there. There was an abandoned lot across the street, which had wooden boards all around it. It’s been neglected for so long that ailanthus trees are growing in it, and the wooden boards are sagging. I figured that if I could catch this baby, I could fit my hands through the boards and it would be in this lot and unable to hop back into the street.

It took a little bit, but I was able to catch the little guy. He was hunkered behind the tire of a parked car. Fledglings aren’t particularly afraid of people yet, so that made things much easier. I got him into the lot. He let out a big shriek, so his parents were able to hear him and see where he was going. I’m feeling very hopeful about his survival.

That’s him in the top photo. I love his grumpy, yellow mouth! And just for the record, I wouldn’t have touched him at all if he wasn’t in imminent danger of getting squashed by cars or strollers.


Mulchfest 2013

This weekend our parks department sponsored Mulchfest. Different parks in various neighborhoods across the city serve as drop off points for Christmas trees. They have a chipper on site and make short work of the trees.

We’ve done this for years. In fact, when Lindsay was small, she was so torn up over the loss of our Christmas tree, that we had to hide the fact that it was about to be shredded into a zillion pieces. She still didn’t want to stay for the chipping this year, but we didn’t have to watch her hug our tree with tears running down her face.

We try and pick up as many trees as our wonderful cart can carry. We were able to bring 3 additional trees to be mulched. I suggested making a second trip, but didn’t rally any interest with my family. Maybe next year…

The city makes mulch for their parks (or for pick up by the community), and there are fewer trees going to the landfill. I feel really good not to be one of the people who leaves their tree blowing around the street.

Mama Pigeon

Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? That is a question that I’ve heard New Yorkers ask. There is even some urban folklore that they don’t exist. That’s actually not true, they just grow very large, very quickly.

But I ask you…have you ever seen a chicken sitting on a stoop with the egg it’s just layed right next to it?? I feel like this gal is the pregnant teen of the pigeon world. Although she was scared of the people walking by, she didn’t seem to want to abandon her egg. But she certainly didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe her parents kicked her out of the nest.

What does one do in this situation?

Earth Day recap

Between being sick and working on a casting for a National Aids Fund video project, I have hardly had time to post.

Earth Day at Lindsay’s school went really well. I left Edie home because she was acting very sick that day. (Fortunately having a day to herself without her sisters seemed to do the trick and she’s all better) There were all kinds of interesting people and kid’s projects there. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens was there talking about vermicomposting, someone was talking about green roofs, there were earth boxes and the kids were able to make sculptures out of egg cartons and water bottles.

The hens were a big hit. I brought photos of my garden to “prove” to people that we have incorporated the chickens into our lifestyle rather than the other way around. I also brought a bag of ivy leaves that the kids could feed to the hens. That was a big hit. I love this photo because it looks as though Lulu is trying desperately to communicate to me that she wants to go home.

It was threatening to rain all day and at one point a dark cloud passed overhead and it started to sprinkle. And true to form (see my rant about new yorkers vs. nature here), someone claimed they saw lightning (there wasn’t any) and a general panic set in while all the kids were herded inside. Nothing like everyone running away from the first sign of a natural occurrence as a way to celebrate Earth Day. Sigh. But I think besides that utter silliness, it was a great event.

Don’t Be Afraid of Nature!

I am getting so sick and tired of the weird comments from New Yorkers about anything related to the natural world. Nature is seen as a nuisance or an obstacle. I wonder what the alternative is. Paving over everything? Actually, it’s surprising how many gardens are neglected when outdoor, natural space is so limited. Okay, so I’m about to go off on a rant, but I will try to organize my thoughts by using some examples.

The Daily News just ran a story about urban chicken keepers. Nothing groundbreaking about the article. You can see it here. It was mostly about how chicken keepers have networked here to share experiences and knowledge. What was so weird was the comment section. Some people *hate* the idea of chickens in the city. Here’s an example of one of the comments:

i would not be happy if i had to wake up to a rooster every morn at crack of dawn. also would not be happy about all the Extra rats these chickens would attract w/ their feces,eggs and feed. WTF! go move to the farm and do this, how on earth is it ok to inconvenience your neighbors like this for a 20 cent egg?

Besides the fact that most people were opposed to roosters, which aren’t even allowed in the city, they seemed opposed to the idea of farming. You know those evil places where they till the soil and grow (here’s the scary part) VEGETABLES. You know. That we eat. Horrors!

There was just an article in the New York Times called Allergy-Free New York. In it the writer talks about the bad allergy season and how cities are planting very highly allergenic trees. Male trees don’t produce pesky fruit, so they are usually the ones planted. Trouble is they produce pollen. New York City is working hard to plant One Million Trees, which is absolutely wonderful. But all I’m hearing lately is everyone complaining about how the city trees are making their allergies horrible. The people talking about that article seemed to be saying that the trees are responsible for the allergies, which is true in part. What the article went on to say was that we only plant about 10 varieties of trees, which can also aggravate allergies. Having a large variety is better. But the underlying feeling I get is that people are having fantasies of these city trees and chain saws.

I keep hearing people complaining about messy trees. And by messy I just mean pollen and leaves. Not the 2 weeks of horror dropped down on our yard by the giant mulberry tree behind our yard. I’ve gotten requests to chop down an “old” maple tree in the yard of my childhood home. 40 years in the life of a maple makes it about a teenager, sheesh.

Our neighbors are taking down all the ivy that covers the side of their building (that faces my garden). We’re sad to see it go because it is much prettier than looking at a building. But I was informed by one of the workers that the ivy harbored millipedes. “And you don’t want those around, especially if you have kids!” Huh?

People here complain if it’s cold, hot, rainy, too many mosquitoes, humid, there are ants, etc. What are they all saying?? NATURE = BAD!

Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

This weekend promises to be a dreary, rainy weekend here. The perfect weekend to curl up on the sofa with a book and a pot of tea. Should this sound inviting, I will go so far as to recommend a book to read. Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

Lyanda lives in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Her vast knowledge of birds stems from working at Seattle Audubon, the Fish and Wildlife Service (researching seabirds) and working in raptor rehabilitation (She identified the hawk in my backyard as an juvenile Coopers hawk). Somehow Lyanda (or maybe her husband) found my blog and asked if I would like a review copy of her book.

Have you ever had a friend invite you to hear his/her band, or go see their art exhibition? I felt the same way while waiting for Lyanda’s book to arrive. Nervous and thinking, “God I hope it’s good, because what will I say if it stinks?” I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the package and saw the beautiful cover art by Daniel Cautrell. A mix of the lovely and the slightly creepy that totally appeals to my aesthetic. I also thoroughly enjoyed the book. Lyanda takes her reader on her journey to study urban wildlife (the crow in particular) as her way to connect to “every day” nature. The mix of her personal explorations, scientific research and folklore meld beautifully together.

Along the way I learned a lot about crows. I won’t spoil the book, but I will share one piece of learned crow wisdom…Don’t piss a crow off. They recognize individual faces and hold a grudge!

Anyway, I recommend the book. It’s a really thought provoking read. I also recommend visiting Lyanda’s blog The Tangled Nest. I am ready to share my copy with a reader (in the US). Please write your favorite urban/suburban wildlife encounter in my comments section and I will randomly choose someone on Wed. 3/17 to receive the book. Right now my favorite encounter was the hawk munching on the pigeon in my backyard. One less pigeon in the world!!

If you want to read a much more in-depth review of Crow Planet, please click here to see the LA Times review.

Have a great weekend, drink some tea and stay dry!