200 Bird Thursday – Week 4 (blizzard edition)


Birding conditions this weekend were less than ideal.

Saturday’s blizzard pretty much precluded birding over the weekend, and a blizzard-induced food and TV coma (not to mention an aversion to ankle-deep slush and torrents of slush-melt) wiped out Monday as well. I did manage a loop of Prospect Park on Tuesday, binoculars in hand. I was hoping the winds might have blown in some new birds, and that the snow might have pushed them to the Breeze Hill feeders, but no such luck. It was the same familiar crowd of downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice and goldfinches. Continue reading


200 Bird Thursday – Week 3


If you were a horned lark, you’d look at this scene and sigh at its beauty.

From now until the beginning of spring migration, this is how it will be: new birds added in dribs and drabs (and then just in dribs), a measly return on hours invested tromping through cold and desolate landscapes.

But, you know, it’s at least as fun (and far less painful) than marathon training. And just as long training runs became a way to explore my new city, this year’s bird quest is taking me to parts of Brooklyn I’d barely heard of, much less set foot in, before. (On a related note, look for a new food series on the cuisines of Avenue U to start soon.) Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 2

After ticking off dozens of common winter birds in week 1, I knew this week’s total would be much lower – and, of course, it was. But it includes three (count ’em) “life” birds, a few birds I’ve seen before that still take my breath away, and a grand finale.

Here they are, all seen within the five boroughs of New York City, listed in the order in which I saw them: Continue reading

There goes the neighborhood


Really rich people make really bad neighbors.

The process of gentrification is pretty far along in Park Slope, but the above-pictured sign on 1st street between 4th and 5th avenues still stopped me in my tracks. The block is divided between commercial spaces and condos at the 4th avenue end, and nice (but modest) brownstones closer to 5th avenue. It’s not, in other words, the kind of block you’d normally associate with house-hunting oligarchs.

And therein lies a tale. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 1

long-tailed duck

I’ve wanted to see one of these for ages. This week, I finally did. (Many thanks to Rob Jett at citybirder.blogspot.com for permission to use this image.)

Thursday is now “Bird Day” around here. That’s when I’ll report on new birds seen in the previous seven days, my total count for the year, and any particularly noteworthy birding adventures (or misadventures). As a special bonus feature, I’ll also profile a “bird of the week.” Continue reading

A Mexican epiphany

All along 5th Avenue in Sunset Park this week, bakeries and grocery stores are advertising “Rosca de Reyes.” Peek through a steamy bakery window, and you’ll see giant pastry wreaths bedecked with unnaturally bright candied fruits and sparkly, multi-colored sugar stripes.

It’s part of the celebration of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Tomorrow night, families and friends will eat rosca, drink hot chocolate, and try not to ingest or break a tooth on the tiny baby Jesus figure baked inside each ring. Continue reading

A walk on the beach


Somewhere out there, there are long-tailed ducks.

Here is what I put on yesterday morning for my excursion to Brighton, Manhattan and Plumb Beaches (aka the Brooklyn Riviera):

  • Long underwear
  • Pants made from a miracle fiber created by Canadian scientists to withstand arctic conditions
  • SmartWool® socks (over DumbBlend undersocks)
  • Undershirt
  • Shirt made from a miracle fiber created by Japanese scientists to heat up as you move
  • Fleece
  • Fleece-lined parka
  • Fleece neck gaiter
  • Scotland Run hat
  • Mittens and gloves
  • Hiking boots

I felt slightly overdressed as I lurched toward the train station – until I turned the corner and the wind slapped me in the face, forcing me to wonder if I couldn’t perhaps have managed a few more layers. Continue reading

The 200 bird challenge

Just as I was contemplating a year without a marathon, the woman sitting opposite me at the potluck dinner after the Kings County Christmas Bird Count mentioned the “200 bird challenge.”

The basic idea is to see 200 species of birds in New York state over the course of a year.

The beauty of the challenge, as she explained it, is that 200 birds is more than the casual New York birder can expect to see in one or two favored birding destinations. It’s a big enough number that you’re going to have to venture out to a variety of different habitats. And yet, it’s not such a crazy big number that getting there means putting the rest of your life on hold while you chase after every rare bird report from Montauk to the Quebec border to the shores of Lake Erie. (One birding friend has already told me that I should be able to surpass 200 birds in NYC alone.) Continue reading