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

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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

The way it should be

imageThese are scary times. But even as the rhetoric from the White House gets falser and crazier, I’m hopeful. I was moved to tears by the enormous gathering that filled Central Park West from Columbus Circle to 67th street the night before the Fake President’s underwhelming inauguration. And I was beyond moved – stunned, really – by the mass movement of cars and buses down I-95 early Saturday morning; by the commandeering of half the men’s room at the Maryland House rest stop by women in pink pussy hats, aided and abetted by a middle-aged, white, male security guard; by the lines that snaked around the parking structures at the Shady Grove metro station; by the spirit of cheerful cooperation as we made our slow way through the outside line, then the inside line, then onto the train; and, of course, by the Women’s March itself.

I’m also finding hope in small acts of decency that show how different we are from the Fake President’s dystopian vision. Continue reading

2016 in birds: the final tally

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So long, 2016

249.

That’s my final count of bird species seen in the five boroughs of New York City over the course of the last year. Number 1 was monk parakeet, a flock of which were squawking in the tree across the street when I opened the front door last New Year’s Day and officially launched my biggish year. Number 249 was white-winged scoter, seen from the beach at Fort Tilden, Queens, yesterday morning. Continue reading

Eating Nostrand Avenue: Ital Fusion

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Food for the long haul

With each desperate dispatch from Aleppo; with each revelation about Russian interference in November’s election; with each ethical breach by the Grifter-in-Chief and his progeny; with each horrifying cabinet appointment – the temptation to curl up in a ball grows. Some days, it’s overwhelming.

What helps?

Activism, I would say. Coming together as a community. Supporting one another. Fighting back. (And, for Syria, checks to Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee and the UNRWA.)

I list those things first, because I honestly believe them to be the most important . . . but also, if I’m to be even more honest, because they sound like the sort of thing one should believe to be most important.

Here, at the risk of sounding trivial, are other things that help:

Running.

Looking at birds.

Eating soulful, home-style cooking.

Which brings us to Ital Fusion. Continue reading