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.

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.


A lovely birthday


Yesterday Neil pulled out the stops to celebrate my birthday. We had brunch together, played hooky at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, celebrated with Lindsay by eating sundaes, had a great dinner and then had drinks with friends.

One of the many highlights was this dapper blue heron walking around the koi ponds at the botanic gardens looking for lunch. Blue herons are my favorite bird, so this was an especially nice treat. He wasn’t bothered by all of us gawking at him. Herons have clued into the “fish in a barrel” aspect of these ponds. One of our friends saw a black crowned night heron swoop down and grab a fish.

Apple Tree Massacre

Today I was dealt a crushing blow to my apple harvest. I had noticed that squirrels were slowly stripping my puny dwarf apple trees of apples, but today they totally cleaned one tree off. What’s so maddening is that they pick the fruit, take a few bites, and then leave it on the ground ruined. I feel like they are flipping their little furry finger at me when they do this.

I was able to find 2 apples that didn’t have rodent teeth marks in them. Hopefully they are ripe enough that I can taste them. I don’t know what to put around my second tree to prevent this from happening. Thoughts?

Sunday in the park with Ruth

Although it was raining on and off today, my friend Ruth and I decided to take a walk through Central Park. We spent most of our time on the Northern end, which has fewer people and feels a bit wilder. There were signs of spring, such as snowdrops and robins and almost blooming daffodils. We saw quite a few different birds: pairs of bufflehead ducks, swans, a robin, bluejay, common grackles, downy woodpecker, canada geese, mallard ducks, starlings and 2 domestic white ducks. What?? I have an Audubon bird guide application for my iphone, so I was sure they weren’t wild ducks. I came home and searched online and found out that it is pretty common for people to get pet ducks (bunnies, turtles, etc.) and then abandon them in a local park. I thought the woman feeding the mallards bread was bad enough. Come on people! It should be a big decision as to whether or not you get a pet. And then once the decision is made, it is a big commitment to that animal. Domestic ducks don’t have flight feathers like wild ducks and cannot survive in the wild. Even the wild of NYC. The international bird rescue research center has a great site which goes into further detail. Now that I’m on my soap box, let me also mention that should you find some “abandoned” baby animals/birds this spring, please continue walking. The parents that you think have abandoned their babies are too terrified to come back while you are standing there.

When I returned home I let the hens out to peck around my back yard. I noticed that the few garlic cloves I planted in the fall are starting to sprout up. I eagerly looked for signs of my asparagus sprouting and when I went to that bed, the hens eagerly followed me. As I was pawing through the layer of leaves and mulch, the girls decided to do the same. Much to our mutual satisfaction, they found and ate about a dozen baby slugs. It was pretty gross to watch, but very gratifying. My future basil and I thank them.

Brooklyn Hawk

Over the weekend, Neil looked out our kitchen window and spotted this beautiful hawk. It has visited our backyard before and it is always very special to see such a glorious bird here in the city. It generally sits in this tree, which grows above our chicken coop. Fortunately this time the hawk was too engrossed with the pigeon it was eating to notice the chickens. Conversely, the chickens were still in their covered run, so they didn’t see the predator sitting right over them. You can see what’s left of the pigeon on the branch the hawk is sitting on.

We have friends who live right around the corner from us who have seen and named this hawk (Hank). They have a view of our yard from their apartment, so I called them and helped them to spot the hawk. We live along a street that became a restaurant row about 10 years ago. It’s been interesting to see how the abundance of food has affected the natural world in our neighborhood. We first started noticing rodents. Sigh. Then we got raccoons. And now we have hawks feasting on the vermin that’s been attracted to the area. I was very happy to see the hawk eating a pigeon. Hopefully our friend decides to hang around.

Unseasonably Warm

Almost every year we can expect our first frost by the end of October and by the end of November the ground is pretty well frozen. It is now December and not only have we not had one single frost yet, it is over 60 degrees fahrenheit this morning. I am definitely not a fan of the cold, but this doesn’t seem right.

When I went out to let the chickens out this  morning, even the worms felt that spring was in the air. In case you’ve never seen it, here is some worm lovin’. Don’t you just love their lack of commitment as they keep their heads (?) in their respective holes?

worm sex

Native Plant Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo

In case you haven’t noticed, I am very interested in native plants as an (easy) way to help out wildlife. There’s a really nice article in Oregon Live by Ruth Mullen about an exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. They have a “before” section which looks like the typical suburban lawn right next to an “after” section. The “after” section has native plants, a birdbath, a bugbath (itty bitty water source in a concave rock) and less lawn. The native section is teeming with wildlife compared to the sterile suburban lawn. Take a peek at the whole article here.

Here are some great links to give you tips on creating backyard habitats and landscaping to attract birds, butterflies, frogs (less mosquitoes!) and other animals.

Make a bird bath


The temperature outside is unbearable, and I can’t remember the last time we had a decent rain. Besides watering your plants (sparingly!) put some water out for the thirsty birds. You can put together a simple birdbath for not a lot of money. Don’t worry about having mosquitoes breed in your birdbath. Mosquitoes need water that hangs around for at least 10 days. You will dump out the old water and add fresh water more often, so you won’t have that problem.

I had been looking around for a nice birdbath for my small Brooklyn garden without much luck. They were too expensive, too ornate or too big. Mostly it was the cost that deterred me. I was in a garden shop this Spring with Neil when we put together the idea for our birdbath. We have a large terra cotta flower pot that we turned upside down. On top of that we put a glazed dish. The dish is actually what you put under a flower pot to catch the water that flows out of the bottom. Nice garden supply centers can carry these in pretty large sizes for a decent price. I think this one was $20 or less. The terra cotta pot is fairly big, so the dish is stable on top of it. I like that it isn’t too high or large and fits into the garden in a very low-key, organic way. We have robins and catbirds coming into the yard to drink and bathe, which is a nice change from the sparrows that usually hang out with us.