My biggest week

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Trumpeter Swans at sunrise, Maumee Bay State Park

The Biggest Week in American Birding takes place each year in the flat, marshy expanses of northwest Ohio. That’s where I grew up, where I fell hard for a singing house wren, and where millions of birds and I return each May – the birds as a quick stop on the way to their summer breeding grounds, me for Mother’s Day.

Until very recently, I was unaware that the Biggest Week in American Birding was going on during those May visits. I’d bird from the back deck of my parents’ house, which was gradually falling apart around them, or in nearby parks. Occasionally I’d meet warbler aficionados who’d traveled long distances to look at birds in the Toledo area. That surprised me a little; it surprised my parents even more. “They must have meant Oregon, Ohio,” my mother stated decisively of the Oregon couple I’d met at Sidecut Metropark and was describing to her. “Not the state of Oregon. Why would anyone come here from there?” Continue reading

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Brooklyn vs Portland

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We surrender

Okay, Portland, Maine: you and your wood-roasted beans win the  hipster coffee throw-down.

You place well in the doughnut competition, too, with your potato-based Holy Donut (especially the maple-glazed ones, with or without bacon). Continue reading

Race report: the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half (May 18, 2019)

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The Brooklyn Half memorializes its entrants

Ah, the Brooklyn Half! This used to be my favorite race, an un-ironic celebration of all things Brooklyn. Then it became my favorite race as an ironic celebration of a very specific Brooklyn, the Brooklyn of curated food trucks, craft beer, and made-for-Instagram photo ops.

So what happened this year? My lack of excitement was matched only by my lack of preparation. I was running, because, well, that’s what I do – but honestly, I would really have rather spent the morning birding.

In the end, I did a bit of both. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: migrations

458ECDBE-EC23-4B77-9D3D-4735D6D62419I’m in northwest Ohio this week for the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” returning to the streets and landscapes of my childhood to watch thousands of birds make their own journey north. I’ll have more to say about my trip in a post-to-come.

In the meantime, here’s a series of poignant, hopeful murals that make the connection between the migrations of birds and people. They’ve adorned the exterior of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park for years now, and while time has worn and faded them, they’re still beautiful.

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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

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