Coney Island in winter

IMG_7920 (2)50 Favorite Places #9 (special Leap Year photo edition)

It has a mostly empty boardwalk to run on. It has Russian ladies in fur and Russian men in Speedos. It has birds: loons and gannets and Long-tailed Ducks, the occasional Razorbill, great flocks of gulls. It has a terrific aquarium. It has the ocean. It has palm trees, even if they’re fake. It has Nathan’s, open for business, and the silhouettes of amusement park rides padlocked for the season.

It even has a song by the great Garland Jeffreys. You might want to cue that up right now before taking a look at the photo gallery that follows. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 8 (alcid beach)

murre

The bird of the week . . . and possibly of the year. (Photo credit: Joshua Malbin)

(WARNING: this post contains explicit language.)

The family alcidae of the order charadriiformes includes puffins, murres and razorbills, along with their diminutives – auklets, murrelets and dovekies.  Birders refer to this group in our familiar, corrupted Latin, as “alcids.” Alcids are unrelated to penguins, but share some of their features: black and white coloration, disproportionately short wings (though alcids, unlike penguins, can fly), strong diving and underwater swimming abilities and, in the case of puffins, a certain clownish aspect. These are ocean-loving birds that breed in colonies on remote cliffs and winter far out to sea.  Your best shot at seeing them is to hire a boat. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 7 (frostbite and monsoons)

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Extreme birding (photo credit: Chris Laskowski)

After putting my quest on hold last week, I was determined to make up for lost time. So what if Saturday’s windchill hovered around zero degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, folks)!  A group bird walk to Bush Terminal Park was on the schedule, and if the leader was tough enough not to cancel it, then I was tough enough to join it.

My expectations were modest. I figured we had a good shot at a Bonaparte’s gull (since everyone who is not me has been seeing them in recent weeks). If we were lucky, we might see one of the uncommon white-winged gulls (glaucous or Iceland) that have been hanging around. Maybe we’d catch a red-necked grebe.

So when did I give up even these modest expectations? Was it when we noticed the striking absence of common ducks (scaup evidently having more sense than we did)? Was in when the snow started blowing sideways? Was it when the wind knocked down one of our scopes? Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 5 (Coney Island Winter edition)

imageThe two feet of snow dropped by the Historic Blizzard of 2016 had mostly melted by last weekend. Nonetheless, you’ll find no snark here on the Brooklyn Bird Club’s decision to cancel a planned Sunday excursion to “Brooklyn’s southwest coast” (starring the back of the BJ’s Wholesale Club) because of “unsafe conditions” . . . other than to say that I managed a solo trip to Coney Island that day without incident. Continue reading

A walk on the beach

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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