I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Speaking of the Wild Bird Fund

They had a fundraiser Thursday night, held at the Mount Vernon Hotel and Museum on East 61st Street.

I had never been there before (okay, never even realized it was there -- that's New York for you) but in the early 19th century this was a popular weekend getaway for city dwellers. The city only went up to 14th Street then, so this was miles out in the country.

It's still out of the way, practically on the East River, with the Roosevelt Island tram and the onramps to the 59th Street Bridge visible from the gardens, a small oasis carved out of the 21st century city surrounding it.

After cheese and crackers and wine in the garden, there was a screening of a new film A Birder's Guide to Everything, about a group of teenage birding enthusiasts hunting for a bird long believed extinct, and a Q&A with the director Rob Meyer afterwards.

Obviously this group was predisposed to like any movie with avian costars (one very cute owl in particular) but the film was sweet and sad and funny on its own terms. The Big Year, it was not.

Sunday bird blogging

Here I am with one of the baby jays at the Wild Bird Fund offices a few weeks ago.

I didn't post this picture originally because it was a hot humid day, and my splotchy skin and humidified hair showed it. So I played around with some of my software, hoping to darken and blur the background a bit. I ended up looking as though I've had a facelift and an airbrush, so I may have overdone it a little.

On the other hand, who's going to be looking at me?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday reflections

The mirrored doors on a hotel in Midtown on a busy Manhattan morning.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

For a sense of scale

...another look at the pipes I posted yesterday, before they're entombed beneath 46th Street.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Urban poetry

A set of huge sewer (water? gas?) pipes ready to be installed beneath West 46th Street.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I lost my keys on my way home from San Francisco -- long story, boring story, containing more tears than any adult who has not sustained a permanent injury should shed -- so yesterday I met my friend Jayne for a late brunch so I could collect the extra set she keeps for me.

I was very late. The crosstown traffic was at a crawl. There seemed to be an unusual amount of street repair for a Saturday, but it wasn't until I gave up and started walking that I found out the real issue: a movie crew had shut down Madison Avenue from 23rd Street to 34th, and they wouldn't let anyone cross, even on foot.

I wasn't very nice to the snotty girl with the walkie-talkie who acted as though I ought to be grateful to walk ten blocks out of my way so they could film their car chase, but at least the leisurely cab ride gave me an opportunity to take pictures of people without them knowing about it and getting pissed off.

Sunday bird blogging

A redwing blackbird pair by the Berkeley Marina.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday reflections

Something a little different.

I actually got in trouble for taking this picture -- the labyrinthine hallways under the office building where I work are apparently top secret.

And cropped, darkened, and desaturated, the hallway no longer looks all that innocent. Maybe I shouldn't have taken the picture? Maybe I should be running for that exit?

The original shot is below.

Friday, June 21, 2013


There is a typo on the front page of the New York Times today, referring to "protesers" in Brazil. I've been telling myself that maybe a proteser is a particular kind of Brazilian protester, but I might just have to accept that the old Gray Lady ain't what she used to be.

Adventures in spam

Not too many spam comments these days, but they are adopting similar "concern troll" approaches that are very amusing:

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I can't list any of the sites they are trying to lure the unwary to, or web filters will be blocking this (mostly) innocent blog. But let's just say that they all involved sex. And women who were the opposite of dowdy. And temperatures that were above room temperature.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Urban poetry

The underside of a portico on a West 46th Street brownstone, layers of paint and rust and wear over ornate carvings.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My city by the bay

San Francisco (with the evening fog coming in from the Pacific) from the Berkeley Marina.

One more

This time with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Wild grasses

Grasses growing by the water at the marina.

(Another way I know I'm in California.)

A little squirrelly

Although Cesar Chavez Park is a habitat for burrowing owls, my bad luck with owls persisted -- wrong time of day, wrong time of year.

However, I did get to see this ground squirrel stand on a rock and shriek. I'm not sure what was going on; the animal didn't appear to be in any distress. But every few minutes it emitted another unnerving high-pitched cry.

Kite runners

We spent the afternoon down by the bay, taking a leisurely walk through Cesar Chavez Park, followed by a late lunch. There was apparently an Under the Sea theme at the kite concession at the Berkeley Marina, as the sky was full of colorful fish, octopi and jellyfish, swimming through the clear blue air.

Sunday bird blogging

Later than usual. Here's a large scrub jay that lords it over the back yard here in Albany.

Some places just leave a chocolate on your pillow

Several friends came over for dinner last night, and after a long afternoon making the fixings for fajitas and perfecting our margarita recipe, followed by hours of good food and wine and talk, this is what I found when I finally staggered to bed at 11:30.

I had a difficult time explaining to Bella that, while she was welcome to remain, I did expect her to at least move over enough so I could actually get into the bed.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Another view from the bridge

Same bridge, different direction.

Saturday reflections

The Richmond-San Rafael bridge reflected in the side mirror on our way back from Muir Beach yesterday.

Friday, June 14, 2013

California hills

The hills of Marin behind the beach in the light of early evening.

Bella sur la plage

Bella loves the beach the way she loves everything: immediately, joyously, unreservedly. And why wouldn't she? She got to chase balls, play with children, and dig several very important holes.

We tried without success to get her to dig holes downwind of where we were sitting, but what's a little sand in our hair and pockets and wine glasses when she was having so much fun?

Muir Beach

While I'm on (a brief) vacation, the friends I'm staying with are not, but the combination of beautiful weather and the minimal crowds on weekdays persuaded them to play hooky with me this afternoon, and we went to Muir Beach.

I'm know I'm biased, but the Northern California coast on a beautiful day in June is as perfect as it gets. For the first few years after I moved east, my longing for this geography was sometimes a physical pain; I used to joke that I had the California coastline etched in acid on my bones. At the beach, my friends hiked and threw balls for Bella to fish out of the surf, but once I plopped down on the sand I didn't budge until it was time to leave. I'm not homesick any more; this isn't really home any more. But still I feel as though I have to soak it in and save it up: the smell of the salt air, the rhythm of the waves, the pelicans dive-bombing the fish, the chilly brown sand between my toes. I have to hang on to this. I might need it someday.

Made it

The lushness of morning in late spring, in Albany. The light shining through the petals and leaves of the flowers looks almost like a special effect, while the scrub jay in the tree looks deceptively songbirdish.

A cup of coffee, a cat purring on my lap - it doesn't get better than this.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The waiting is the hardest part

I wish that travel taught me more patience. Waiting is inevitable, and sometimes can be the opening to adventure.

Mostly though, it just sucks, even if you're one of the elites with access to an airline lounge. (Especially if someone nearby has his ringtone set to the theme from The Exorcist, and he gets a new phone call approximately every ninety seconds.)

I'm on my way to California, but weather delays have pushed my flight back several hours and my initial determination to eat fruit and carrot sticks while reading my history of the Panama Canal has devolved into eating handfuls of the free candy and reading People.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Urban poetry

West 46th Street.

It's off the twig, it's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-BICYCLE!!

Still securely chained to the railing though.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille

One jay, one robin. Just because.

And we have a winner

If there was a winner in the cuteness brigade, it would have to go to the bluejays.

These babies were nesting in a tree knocked over by a bulldozer, and police brought the entire nest into the Wild Bird Fund.

They were curious and adventurous as well as cute; they willingly perched on shoulders and hands, and one burrowed into the hair at the back of my neck when someone tried to remove him from my shoulder.


More adorableness, in the form of baby starlings (birds who are I think seldom referred to as "adorable" when they're adults.)

It does seem rude to shove something into another creature's mouth, but this is how mama bird does it with her beak, so the babies like it. Also, it keeps the mealworms from falling out of their mouths so you don't have to repeat the process.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

More babies

This pigeon is about nine weeks old. His feathers are almost all in, but you can still see tufts of baby down sticking out everywhere.

Feeding time

Seriously? You expect me to eat that?

A young robin looks at a proffered mealworm with mouth firmly closed. A blueberry (right) met with more success.

We got to feed young starlings, bluejays, and robins, and one fledgling pigeon. The pigeon was easy -- you just had to grab a piece of Puppy Chow and shove it in his mouth -- but the songbirds were much less cooperative, even though they were hungry. It took me ten tries to get a starling to eat a mealworm; basically you have to wait until the birds open their mouths and then shove your fingers, with the food, all the way in. Otherwise the poor worm falls to the towel and lies there writhing, while the bird hops away looking for a more experienced pair of hands.

Free at last, free at last!

Bonus bird blogging.

I was lucky to attend a baby bird feeding at the Wild Bird Fund offices this afternoon (more pictures to follow). First though, we got to take one of their recovered patients to Central Park for release. This poor ovenbird had an unfortunate meeting with a glass window on Park Avenue, and broke a leg.

They used to have to euthanize birds with similar injuries, but now they use a bowl of seeds to support the bird's weight while the bone knits. And if his friskiness and apparent eagerness to be out of the carrier is any indication, the treatment is quite successful.

Once freed, he flew to a low branch about ten feet away and stayed there for several minutes, just looking around, before finally flying away.

Sunday bird blogging

A gray catbird ruffled by an early morning breeze a few weeks ago.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

01001011 is for Kathleen

For our summer party this year, everyone was asked to create a piece of art (or a poem or a photo or a saying) that said I am here.

This was my entry -- I took photos that spelled out my name in the 0's and 1's of ASCII, where every letter of the alphabet is actually a byte made up of a unique pattern of eight zeroes and ones. I took almost all of the pictures, but have to admit that when I was running out of time and needed a lot more zeroes I went looking for pictures of Tootsie Pops online.

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