Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: new york

The Ramble

It was a sunnycool autumn day when I wandered
the Ramble in October of 2010. I wound up in
the 80s, planned to hit the Guggenheim, which I’d
wanted to visit ever since I took that art history
class my senior year when I sat between Emily
and sad Maria. But everything in the museum was
dead, just a bunch of paintings and tourists and
a couple of potheads giggling at these famous
pieces by Kandinsky and Pollock and Picasso
and other celebrity artists. But I wanted a hot dog
and to get back to that perfect day where I could
shoot birds with my Nikon, and the leaves all
changing colors in a way they never do in Austin.
I said it was a cool day and I suppose it was, but
I’m not from New York, so what do I know? Maybe
it was hot. And so out onto 5th and back across the
park to the Upper West Side. I hoofed it to Columbus,
loving the city, loving the day, the weather, the birds,
loving you, travelworking in some cubefarm in Midtown
on this beautiful day. I skipped the Natural History
Museum since you’d want to do that and someday
I bet we will, and we’ll bring our son who was with you
that day too even if we didn’t know it. Didn’t know it
at the time, it wasn’t just the two of us anymore.

PAD 2014 #23: Location | NaPoWriMo #21: “New York School

My attempt at a “New York School” poem using many of the “ingredients” listed here. I decided to set it in in my last trip to NYC back in 2010, tagging along with my wife on one of her work trips.

Detail in the Shadows

I shot this walking back from my day in Central Park when we were in New York back in October. I was looking through the pictures with my wife the other night, skimming through them, and this one caught her eye. I’d glanced at it quickly before, but the more I looked, the more I liked it, probably because of the detail hiding in the shadows. Hidden details. We don’t always see them in our own work, do we? There’s a good reminder, I thought, of how valuable it is to have others checking out your work, seeing it differently and sometimes more clearly than we might ourselves.

Click the picture for a higher-res image.

New York Hipstamatic Scenes

Last summer while walking around San Francisco, I took a few random snaps with my iphone using the Hipstamatic ap. I liked the way they came out and so while we were in New York earlier this week, I made it a point to get some Hipstamatic shots from my walks around Manhattan. My favorite though is one R. shot of the Thelonious Monk car we rode up to Beacon near Poughkeepsie to visit some friends.

I think I should take a walk around downtown Austin one of these days and try to do some Hipstamatic Austin scenes.

I like this Flickr slideshow embed thingy. I’ve had a Flickr account for several years now, but I’ve never done anything with it. I think I may try hosting photos there instead of here, though I haven’t quite thought out the pros and cons of doing so.

Birding Central Park

We spent a few days in New York City last weekend and early this week, and I spent Monday exploring and birding Central Park. I’d read that the park is a major stopover point for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and since this is migration season, I figured it would make for a good day.

A guidebook in the hotel suggested that The Ramble would be a good place for birding since it’s the wildest corner of Central Park, featuring landscapes similar to what might have existed in Manhattan before Europeans came. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the area certainly was wilder than the rest of the park and to my surprise the birds most common in the rest of the city—pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows—were virtually absent in The Ramble.

The weather was beautiful, a cool and crisp autumn day, of the kind I especially love and haven’t seen since leaving Rhode Island 22 years ago. I’ve been back up to the northeast several times since then, but never in the fall. Unfortunately, the leaves were only just starting to change, but some of the trees had come into their fall reds, oranges and yellows and after all these years in Texas, that was a real treat.

We were staying in Midtown so I came up Park and entered the park at 59th, bought a map and headed toward The Ramble to lose myself. I’ve been in Central Park before, but this was the first time I’ve been able to spend time slowly exploring it, and discovering for myself what a treasure it is.

Once I got to The Ramble, I immediately noticed that the pigeons were gone. You can hurry through those looping and winding trails and probably not see much more than the ubiquitous gray squirrels, but when you stop for a few minutes, quiet and patient, the ground comes alive with white-throated sparrows digging in the leaf litter or jumping onto weed stalks to shake some seed loose as they ride the stalks to the ground. At first, I saw only the occasional weed dipping and then popping back up, but on closer inspection, I realized that it was the sparrows doing this.

White-throated Sparrow

It wasn’t long before I forgot the city all around me; I suppose that’s part of the point of Central Park, creating an illusion of wilderness and a connection with nature that I think would seem pretty dear to me if I lived in a place like New York. Occasionally I would notice the tops of the big apartment buildings of the Upper West Side and feel almost surprised by the sight… oh, yeah, that’s there. I’m in the middle of this giant city.

American Robin

I saw several birds that were new to me: hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow, winter wren, golden-crowned kinglet, black-capped chickadee, and (I think) rusty blackbird. I also saw a couple of species I have only seen once or twice before:  dark-eyed junco and white-breasted nuthatch. I spent a lot of time focusing on and trying to watch these new birds that are rarely, if ever, seen in Texas.

Hermit Thrush

At one point, I heard what I think was a red-shouldered hawk. The gray squirrels bolted for the trees and the birds froze when the hawk flew over. The hawk’s voice was similar to what I’m used to hearing from the red-shoulders down here, but there was a slight difference in accent. I only got a quick glimpse through the trees as he soared overhead, but size and shape were about right for a red-shoulder.

Northern Cardinal

Coming out of The Ramble, I came to a meadow filled with dark-eyed juncos. I watched them for a while, trying not to appear too interested in the scene in the middle of the meadow where a guy on his knees was clearly proposing to a woman. It was a beautiful scene with the light slanting through the trees and golden leaves drifting down all around them. I wanted to try for some shots of the juncos, but the couple would have been in the background, and I didn’t want to appear to intrude on their moment, so silently wishing them all happiness, I moved on.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

After The Ramble, I headed back toward the east side again to go to the Guggenheim Museum, one of the New York things I’d never done in all the times I’ve been up there and so I left the park at 90th and went to the museum. It was interesting, but my heart wasn’t in it. I walked quickly through the exhibits, stopping to study a few of the pieces here and there, but after a morning among changing trees, migrating birds, and foraging squirrels, the art in the museum seemed somehow empty to me and so I left the museum and headed back to the park. Perhaps I’ll give it a closer look if I ever find myself up there on an inside kind of day.

I walked around the reservoir back toward the west side. I considered, briefly, walking all the way to the northern end of the park, but I was starting to get tired and the hike back to Midtown already seemed like it would be long enough so I saved that part of the park as something to look forward to for next time.

After a tasty dog at a Shake Shack on the Upper West Side, I headed back for The Ramble, quickly losing myself in its meandering trails. This is where I found the golden-crowned kinglet and a blackbird that I think is a rusty. I got this picture and some good looks, long enough to tell he wasn’t a red-wing or a grackle. I’ve heard rusties are getting scarce, and I hoped that that wasn’t why he was alone.

Common Grackle or perhaps a Rusty Blackbird?

Eventually, it was time to go and so I left The Ramble and walked through The Mall and out of the park at Fifth and 59th back into the bustle of Midtown where I saw the damndest thing: a line of people waiting to get into Abercrombie & Fitch, which really surprised me since I can’t imagine waiting in line to get into a store that has a website especially when something as magnificent and lovely as Central Park is only a couple of blocks away and the day was so autumn perfect.

Here’s my list with stars by the ones that were lifers for me:

  1. Winter wren *
  2. White-throated sparrow *
  3. Red-shouldered hawk
  4. American crow
  5. European Starling
  6. Rock dove (pigeon)
  7. House sparrow
  8. Downy woodpecker
  9. Black-capped chickadee *
  10. Tufted titmouse
  11. Mallard
  12. Ruby-crowned kinglet
  13. Hermit thrush *
  14. Blue jay
  15. American robin
  16. White-breasted nuthatch
  17. Golden-crowned kinglet *
  18. Red-bellied woodpecker
  19. Canada goose
  20. Northern cardinal
  21. Mourning dove
  22. Common grackle or perhaps a Rusty (?) blackbird *

Here’s a link to a .pdf checklist of the Birds of Central Park.

Old Photo Friday

With the fifth anniversary of September 11th so close, it seemed fitting for today’s Old Photo Friday to go back to June of 2001.

I took this picture from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Earlier that day we had discussed whether we wanted to view the skyline from there or from the World Trade Center. I’d been to both on previous trips, but my wife and our friends (who live in New York!) had never been up the Empire State Building so we decided to go there since it’s more iconic.

We figured we’d catch the World Trade Center another time.

I have clearer shots of the WTC, some quite good, but I think this one fits especially well today considering that as we get farther away from that awful day, our view is getting blurrier, more obscured. Thanks for that, Disney and ABC.

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