Monthly Archives: March 2017

Urban Jungle

I was the star producer in my own NatGeo special today – except my camera was an iPhone and my quarry was in a park.

I was walking around a neighborhood park with a co-worker and discussing the buffleheads and cormorant we’d already seen amidst floating plastic, when a flapping figure went past my vision and landed on an electric pole. I saw something bird-shaped in its talons, and yelled out in excitement, “It has a bird! And I think it’s a kestrel!” (Given its relatively small size.)

In full nerd mode, I scrambled for the binoculars by throwing my bag on the ground, ripping them from their case, and hurling the eye covers away. I was so thrilled to see a flash of blue wings and red breast that I didn’t care about the squirming prey flapping its wings in vain. I shoved the binoculars at my colleague and basically shouted, “Oh shit! It’s a kestrel!” She noted what a beautiful bird it was before politely handing back the binoculars and saying she couldn’t watch it if it was starting to eat. Fair enough, watching a flapping bird (probably a starling) having chunks torn out of it is not pleasant and elicits feelings of sympathy.


I saw a kestrel make a kill and eat it! While on top of a light pole and in New Jersey’s largest city. So starling aside, it was a top 10 wildlife experience.


Kestrel, Newark, 2017. Eating unidentified prey, best guess is a starling.

The cherry on top was when I heard two kestrels calling back and forth and freakin’ knew that was a kestrel call. I have been relentlessly learning birdcalls via a phone app and am therefore slightly above the level where you are unable to distinguish a bird call from airplane engine noise.

I spent the rest of the day gleefully showing colleagues pictures of kestrels and buffleheads like they were my own children who had just learned to sit up or roll over or walk.

And I will continue to keep my eyes and ears on high alert in urban settings.



Days of Birds

When I first moved to New York City, fresh from the open air and mountain views of Colorado, the best part of my week was grocery shopping. First thing Saturday morning, exhausted from a week of crying during and after work, I would head to the Union Square Farmers’ Market or Trader Joe’s and relish the feeling of coming home with a full hiking backpack of groceries. Then, it was back to work.

If only I’d had a bird feeder near a park during that time, I would have had a more consistent source of joy, at least on the weekends.

I could have tapped away diligently at my computer and been able to look up and see flashes of red house finches, goldfinches transitioning into their namesake color, bluejays screeching their superiority, the splashy mohawk of a red-bellied woodpecker, and upside-down nuthatches snagging a seed and heading to safer perches to feast.

It’s unlikely I would have seen the orange streak of a fox unsuccessfully hunting squirrels, though stranger things have happened in Manhattan.

The snowstorm has brought a plethora of hungry birds to my backyard feeder, and a lot more joy to my daily tasks than I would have thought. Washing dishes, filing papers, and folding laundry is much more interesting, not with YouTube in the background, but with squabbling and tumbling birds going about getting a meal.


Blue Jay, 2017