Street art Sunday: raptors

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The most reliable place to see eagles in Brooklyn? The walls and shutters of Sunset Park.

There’s something special about urban raptors. To catch a glimpse of a soaring turkey vulture from the F train, to see a peregrine falcon in a high-speed dive, or to watch red-tailed hawks perch on a fire escape is to be reminded that there’s an older, fiercer, wilder city within the city. Continue reading

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Street art Sunday: corvids

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Crows, in Red Hook

For you non-birders, “corvids” refers to members of the family Corvidae, which includes jays, magpies, crows and ravens. They’re smart and playful, often raucous, and you can find them in the most urban of environments. Blue jays gather in scrawny street trees; crows patrol city streets; and ravens, the wildest of them all, are presumed to nest on the roofs of old warehouses and factories along the South Brooklyn waterfront. (As far as I know, no one has actually discovered our ravens’ nest location, which is probably for the best. Let the mystery be.)

Continue reading

From BKLYN to CDMX

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Just like Brooklyn!

Mexico City is sprawling and intimate. It smells of exhaust fumes and sewage and eucalyptus and cinnamon and masa and sizzling meat. It awakens to birdsong, sells itself in sing-song chants, and talks and shouts and eats and drinks and honks its horn late into the night. Oh, and the weather is perfect year-round.

I loved it.

What follow are some general impressions, beginning with this blog’s principal obsessions – food, birds and running, looking at stuff (often while birding and running) – and then offering some broader thoughts on the city. While I don’t pretend to know or understand it, I was struck by the way it manages, however improbably – built as it is on sinking ground, its population swollen to 20 million – to work. The contrasts between politics, national mythology and historical memory here and there provided plenty of food for thought. Continue reading

2018 in birds

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Spanish birds (photo credit: Eric Brooks)

Both my avocations, running and birding, lend themselves to obsessive tracking of numbers: weekly mileage, race times, average pace; life lists, year lists, country, state, county and patch lists. And in both cases, those numbers – while meaningful and maybe even (slightly) interesting to other aficionados – are a good way to drive away those who don’t share your passion.

Want to make someone’s eyes glaze over? Just start telling them your marathon splits, or your county year list. Continue reading

Dispatches from New Mexico

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Time to hit the open road and find some western birds

The top line results of my birding trip: 42 new birds, bringing my 2018 total to 399 species . . . meaning that unless I saw a burrowing owl on my way to the ABQ “Sunport” (I did not), bird number 400 would be in Brooklyn.

Which was as it should be.

I’ll have more to say about New Mexico birding, but there’s more I need to say about New Mexico first. Why do I love that state so much? There are the birds, of course, but also the light – blinding at midday, painting the landscape with color and shadow morning and evening, dazzling always. There’s the painful, complicated history as New Mexico passed from one empire to another, a history that includes conquest, the Inquisition, hidden Jews, indigenous revolts, revolutions, invading Texans, shifting borders, mushroom clouds. There’s the fascinating, syncretic culture this history created. There are the chiles.

And there’s the general weirdness of the place, always a plus in my book. Continue reading

400 birds

16B70747-7872-451F-A25B-3D70B710959EAh, the appeal of round numbers! Ah, the lure of arbitrary goals! Ah, the joy of obsessive pursuits!

I haven’t prattled on about birding on this blog of late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t continued to devise ornithological challenges for myself. Two years ago, I documented my quest to see 200 species in New York City . . . something that turned out to be ridiculously easy for anyone with a pair of binoculars, a Metrocard, and (most important) time on her hands. So I upped the goal to 200 birds just in Brooklyn, and managed that as well. (The final tally: 249 species in NYC, 225 in Brooklyn.) Continue reading

Early May birds, and a cancer look back

Today was a banner day for me in Prospect Park: six hours spent outside, six miles run, and 67 (count ’em!) species of birds seen. That total includes a gorgeous bay-breasted warbler (which should really be called the “red velvet bird,” because that’s what its head and throat appear to be fashioned from), rare cerulean and Kentucky warblers, a roosting nighthawk, and a cutie-pie Lincoln’s sparrow.

Ten years ago, in contrast, I was wondering when my hair would start falling out. Continue reading