Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prospect Park 3/31

Three Ring-neck Ducks on the Upper Pool.
Tree Swallow skimming over the lake
FOY Golden Crown Kinglets.

Prospect Park
Observation date:     3/31/10
Number of species:     35
Canada Goose     100
Mute Swan     5
American Black Duck     4
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)     1
Mallard     75
Northern Shoveler     35
Ring-necked Duck     3     Hen & 2 drakes on Upper Pool
Ruddy Duck     30
Pied-billed Grebe     1     Lake
Double-crested Cormorant     1     Lake
Great Egret     1     Lullwater near rink
American Coot     10
Ring-billed Gull     1
Rock Pigeon     25
Mourning Dove     4
Red-bellied Woodpecker     1
Downy Woodpecker     2
Northern Flicker     2
Blue Jay     6
Tree Swallow     1
Black-capped Chickadee     3
Tufted Titmouse     1
Carolina Wren     1
Golden-crowned Kinglet     2     Rocky Pass
American Robin   150
European Starling     200
Cedar Waxwing     6     Vale Cashmere
Song Sparrow     8
Swamp Sparrow     2     Peninsula
White-throated Sparrow     15
Dark-eyed Junco     1     Lullwater trail
Northern Cardinal     10
Red-winged Blackbird     50
Common Grackle     30
American Goldfinch     1     Vale Cashmere
House Sparrow     25

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trivia & Travel

Things I don’t need to know
Places I’ve been
Places I won’t go.
On this shelf is a book with one of the 3 greatest, all-time titles: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It is the pause before "and" as well as the "and" itself that clinches the deal.
The other 2 books are:
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Baseball Library 2

The balance of my baseball library, containing some of the more obscure and whimsical volumes. A book on the only pennant ever won by the St. Louis Browns. Baseball in Japan. "Autobiographies." A biography of Bo Belinsky (whose name was rhymed by Allan Sherman with Igor Stravinsky).

I've had most of these books for a long time. The volume of  deathless "as told to" prose stylings of Gaylord Perry in The Spitter and Me I remember buying in a Woolworth's in Downtown Brooklyn, long gone. The black smudges on the Belinsky biography were the result of reading the book while also operating a printing press. I wasn't a very neat (or good, or attentive) printer. So some books function the way snapshots do--a way of holding on to the past.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Green-wood Cemetery 3/28

Hearing a Mourning Dove in Green-wood Cemetery today I suddenly thought, "How appropriate. They ought to import them to cemeteries, especially here to counter-balance the raucousness of the parakeets."

Green-wood Cemetery
Observation date:     3/28/10
Number of species:     21
Canada Goose     6
American Black Duck     2     Hen & drake, Sylvan Water
Mallard     2     Hen & drake, Valley Water
Double-crested Cormorant     4     flyover
Rock Pigeon     6
Mourning Dove     1
Monk Parakeet     20
Red-bellied Woodpecker     3
Northern Flicker     4
Eastern Phoebe     2
Blue Jay     2
American Crow     5
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
American Robin     200
Northern Mockingbird     5
European Starling     30
White-throated Sparrow     1
Northern Cardinal     6
Common Grackle     25
House Finch     3     Near Crescent Water
House Sparrow     X

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mount Loretto / Great Kills

The vernal ponds at Mount Loretto were much wider and deeper than a few weeks ago, yet the waterfowl on the ponds (and in the bay) weren't nearly as abundant.

However, the herons and egrets are starting to return.
Not that you can tell much from this photo, but that's a Great Egret stalking the edge of one of the ponds.

View from the highest point.
Later, we went to Great Kills. The highlight of the day, especially for Shari, were the American Oystercatchers--winners of the goofiest looking bird award. There was also a mixed flock of Common & Boat-tailed Grackles, giving us good contrast in size.  From a distance we thought the Boat-tails were crows.     Common Grackles are fairly big birds, but next to Boat-tails they practically look like sparrows. And both species are beautiful with their green, blue and violet iridescence. 
The Lists:
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Observation date:     3/27/10
Number of species:     26
Brant     150
Canada Goose     10
Gadwall     1
American Black Duck     6
Mallard     7
Northern Shoveler     9
Bufflehead     2
Hooded Merganser     1
Red-breasted Merganser     1
Common Loon     2
Horned Grebe     1
Double-crested Cormorant     3
Great Blue Heron     1
Great Egret     1
American Oystercatcher     2
Ring-billed Gull     25
Herring Gull     10
Mourning Dove     1
Red-bellied Woodpecker     1
Blue Jay     3
American Crow     1
Carolina Wren     5
American Robin     6
Song Sparrow     7
Northern Cardinal     1
Red-winged Blackbird     2

Great Kills Park
Number of species:     21
Brant     250
Canada Goose     3
American Black Duck     6
Mallard     6
Red-breasted Merganser     11
Common Loon     2
Horned Grebe     5
Double-crested Cormorant     1
Killdeer     1
American Oystercatcher     5
Ring-billed Gull     X
Herring Gull     X
Great Black-backed Gull     1
Rock Pigeon     4
Blue Jay     1
American Crow     1
American Robin     15
Northern Mockingbird     2
European Starling     10
Common Grackle     10
Boat-tailed Grackle     3

Friday, March 26, 2010

The McPhee Shelf

I have read every book John McPhee has written. I just finished his latest collection, which you can see is holding up the previous 7 books, which are in front of the first 19.

I prefer his books that are on one subject rather than his collections of miscellany, which this latest one is, because he approaches his stories from so many different angles.  Although I must admit that after a while, his obsession with geology did seem to become the "History of Dirt." The shorter forms often feel half-hearted, flimsy.

That's especially true of this collection--in the piece on Lacrosse he fills pages with just the names of high schools, colleges, cities, and states that have taken up the game in the last century. Other pieces recycle text from earlier books.  It feels like he's running out of steam. I want him to go out and find another big subject.

And then I realize--the guy is 79 years old by my calculations. Of course he's running out of steam!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prospect Park 3/24

FOY birds are arriving at the park. There are reports of an Orange-crowned Warbler, but I haven't seen it, officially at least. Last week I saw a bird near the Boathouse that I was sure was an OCWA, but since they're listed as rare here for this time of year, and since I didn't get a perfect look at it, I didn't have the guts to call it or list it. And after someone else reported the bird near the same location as I'd seen it, I didn't want to seem like a "me-too" kind of guy and then report the bird.

Things like that motivate me to get better at identification so I'll have the confidence to call what I see.
Prospect Park
Observation date:     3/24/10
Number of species:     34
Canada Goose     75
Mute Swan     7
Mallard     50
Northern Shoveler     29
Ring-necked Duck     1   Drake, Upper Pool
Ruddy Duck     99
Great Egret     1  Duck Island
Black-crowned Night-Heron     1 Duck Island
Red-tailed Hawk     2
American Coot     8
Herring Gull     1
Rock Pigeon     10
Mourning Dove     3
Red-bellied Woodpecker     3
Downy Woodpecker     4 Lily Pond
Northern Flicker     3 --2 Nelly's Lawn, 1 Sparrow Bowl
Eastern Phoebe     3 --1 Midwood, 2 Nelly's Lawn
Blue Jay     1
Fish Crow     1  Flyover Lake
Black-capped Chickadee     4
Tufted Titmouse     4 --2 behind Music Pagoda, 2 Vale Cashmere
Carolina Wren     2
American Robin     150
Northern Mockingbird     2
European Starling     100
Cedar Waxwing     6    Vale Cashmere
Song Sparrow     6
White-throated Sparrow     13
Dark-eyed Junco     7 Midwood
Northern Cardinal     17
Red-winged Blackbird     35
Common Grackle     30
American Goldfinch     2 Midwood, Vale Cashmere
House Sparrow     7

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Green-wood Cemetery

We took a birding walk through Green-wood Cemetery today.
As soon as we saw the Monk Parakeets starting their nest at the entrance and grazing on the lawn, the day was a success. 

   With their incessant squawking and frenzied flying they're just comical. They're natural rebels, squatting in the steeple of the cemetery, or better yet, in the transformers of a Con Ed power station across the street. They set up these huge parakeet condos--they're the only parakeet or parrot to live communally. I saw one today flying toward its nest site with a stick that was twice as long as it was.
   I don't go looking for the famous dead while I'm there, but it is interesting to stumble upon them. Today we found:

I particularly like the plaque in front. Reminds me of my days in the printing biz. 

   Previously we found Boss Tweed's family plot:
Seemed like a good family man.
   Once we saw a car with U.S. Senate plates pull up before the grave site and a young guy who must have been some politician's aide, jumped out of the car, snapped a picture of the tombstone and drove away.
   We also came upon our all time favorite tombstone. If you're going to be dead, you may as well have a sense of humor about it. 
Besides the parakeets the highlights for the day were a Brown Creeper and our first Eastern Phoebes of the year. If the phoebes are back, it must be spring. 
Greenwood Cemetery
Observation date:     3/21/10
Number of species:     24
Double-crested Cormorant     1     flyover
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Rock Pigeon     15
Mourning Dove     1
Monk Parakeet     25
Red-bellied Woodpecker     2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     1     Battle Hill
Downy Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     3
American Crow     2
Black-capped Chickadee     4
Red-breasted Nuthatch     1
Brown Creeper     1     Sylvan Avenue
American Robin     75
Northern Mockingbird     4
European Starling     60
Yellow-rumped Warbler     1
Song Sparrow     3
White-throated Sparrow     1
Dark-eyed Junco     4
Northern Cardinal     7
Red-winged Blackbird     1
Common Grackle     10
House Sparrow     10

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baseball Library

When I was a kid, Lindsay Nelson, one of the Mets' original announcers, did a spot every game advertising the Mets Yearbook with its "many colorful photos" and a team picture "suitable for framing." He ended each commercial with the phrase, "and it'll make a great addition to your baseball library."

And every game I'd think, "That's gotta be the dumbest idea...who has a 'baseball library?'"

Well, it's around 45 years later and the answer is, uh, me.
Here's part of it, wedged between Feynmann and Plimpton's Paper Lion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Parking Spaces

When I look out the window and see lots of parking spaces, as I often do on a Sunday, my first instinct is to run downstairs, get in the car, and grab one of them, even though I have a perfectly good, legal parking space just across the street. My second instinct is to wish I owned more cars so I could fill up all those empty spaces that are just going to waste.

People who do not parallel park at least once a week will, I'm certain, find these urges incomprehensible. People who do parallel park at least once a week will probably think I'm only slightly crazy.

Irony, Stupidity, or Dyslexia?

Red Hook, Brooklyn 

Saturday, March 13, 2010


In the past, when I looked at my books, especially the rare or unusual editions, I would think that one day they would be really be interesting and even more rare or unusual then they were. A few of them might even be worth some serious money, although I’d never sell them.

Now when I look at them I think that soon they’ll seem quaint and they’ll be looked upon like 8-track cassettes, reel-to-reel tape, movie film, snapshots, or piano rolls—primitive information delivery devices.

Except no one ever admired an 8-track or skein of movie film for itself, no one ever thought a reel-to-reel tape had any aesthetic appeal, while these books are beautiful in themselves, they could all say “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” and I’d still want them for their typography, binding, paper, even just for their heft.

So instead of a library perhaps books will end up in museums as objects of design like the radio, vacuum cleaner, or waffle iron I saw today at the Brooklyn Museum in their open storage where they show a selection of the stuff they’ve got squirreled away.

Or they’ll be admired the way the tools and personal objects of ancient civilizations are appreciated by us—that mallet or comb didn’t have to decorated, it would work as well plain. But that’s still not quite it because the typography of a book, while often beautiful, is designed foremost to convey the message, the stock is chosen to facilitate reading, the binding is designed to make the book easy to read so a book isn’t decorated so much as it is designed to be read and when you think of it, the Kindles and iPads which threaten to make books qua books obsolete are simply imitating how a book works: The books is broken up into pages, which you turn, the length of the line is about the same as it is on paper because the eye can only scan so many characters before it loses track and so on.  The book page is imitated because no one wants to do serious reading off a computer monitor or watch it scroll down a television screen—yet.

But I don’t really care about any of that—I have no intention to buy an iPad, though I’m glad I own Apple stock. When I look at my books I’m happy to have read them all and reread a lot of them (Nabokov said you can never read a book, only reread it) but I also know that books are more than words.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sloppy Writing/Lazy Thinking--But Amusing!

Tinguely and Saint Phalle were married in 1971 and separated only two short years later in 1973.
(found on a web page) 

Q: were the years shorter in the 70s?

Oh, I know what the writer means, except the writer can’t know how long or short the years were. The person experiencing those years can know subjectively, but to use this cliché in the 3rd person is just sloppy writing born from lazy thinking

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Prospect Park 3/10

It felt like a spring day in the park and this Great Blue Heron was the happy surprise of the day. Nothing new has flown in yet, but there is a Ring-necked Duck on the Upper Pool and I'm wondering if it is the same one that took up residence there all last summer. Doubtful, but it will be interesting to see how long this one sticks around.   There were quite a few Ring-necks on the lake a couple of days ago, passing through on their way up north.

There were also 2 Buffleheads, a hen & a drake on the Upper Pool. I didn't think to try to take a picture of them. Even when I have the camera I usually don't think to use it. You can either look at birds or you can take pictures of birds and unless you have a very good camera (& I don't) it isn't worth the bother unless there's something really unusual, or something really big (like the heron).
This duck isn't really swimming through oil; it's only the reflection of the lowering March sky on the Boathouse Pool.
Prospect Park
Observation date:     3/10/10
Number of species:     37
 Canada Goose     110
Mute Swan     7
Wood Duck     1     Boathouse pond
American Black Duck     7
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)     2
Mallard     145
Northern Shoveler     6     Lullwater
Ring-necked Duck     1     Drake on Upper Pool
Bufflehead     2     Hen & Drake, Upper Pool
Hooded Merganser     2     Drakes on the lake
Ruddy Duck     26
Great Blue Heron     1     Near West Island
American Coot     10
Ring-billed Gull     50
Herring Gull     20
Great Black-backed Gull     2
Rock Pigeon     20
Mourning Dove     6
Red-bellied Woodpecker     1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     1     Vale Cashmere
Downy Woodpecker     5
Blue Jay     7
American Crow     4
Black-capped Chickadee     4
Tufted Titmouse     3
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
American Robin     49
Northern Mockingbird     1     Lullwater Trail
European Starling     32
Song Sparrow     7
White-throated Sparrow     19
Dark-eyed Junco     12
Northern Cardinal     11
Red-winged Blackbird     10     Feeders
Common Grackle     20
House Finch     5     Feeders
American Goldfinch     6
House Sparrow     25

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You'd Call It A Flood

But it's actually a "vernal pool" at Mount Loretto Unique Area on Staten Island.

It isn't a park, it isn't a refuge, it's a "unique area." Basically, the state saved it from development because of the extensive prairie-like grasslands and now doesn't know what to do with the land. It is my favorite place to look for birds on SI. There are a variety of habitats (ponds, grasslands, trees, and frontage onto the beach of Raritan Bay) so you're likely to find a lot of different birds there.

In the spring the vernal pools form on the grasslands.

I took about a 3 1/2 mile walk there today: walked through the grasslands to a couple of ponds that had a lot of ducks on them including 1 Blue-winged Teal, then up a hill to the bluffs over Raritan Bay and down a trail onto the beach itself where there were Brant, Buffleheads, American Wigeons, and 1 hen Red-breasted Merganser, then back up another trail where I climbed to the top of the hill, walked along a grove of trees and back through the grasslands again. 23 species on the walk:
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Observation date:     3/6/10
Number of species:     23
 Brant     70
Canada Goose     100
Gadwall     25
American Wigeon     10
American Black Duck     30
Mallard     50
Blue-winged Teal     1
Northern Shoveler     20
Bufflehead     11
Hooded Merganser     20
Red-breasted Merganser     1
Double-crested Cormorant     2
Ring-billed Gull     10
Herring Gull     2
Belted Kingfisher     1
Black-capped Chickadee     1
Carolina Wren     2
Northern Mockingbird     1
White-throated Sparrow     3
Northern Cardinal     2
Red-winged Blackbird     2
Common Grackle     2
Boat-tailed Grackle     1

Look Up! Again

Flying over the Costco parking lot (across the street from the, ahem, former dump) in the company of 3 Turkey Vultures was a Black Vulture. It was flying low enough to easily identify it by wing pattern. The Turkey Vultures flew toward the direction of the Field of Dreams Greenbelt, while the Black Vulture flew north (toward Fort Wadsworth? where a nest has been reported).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ring-necked Ducks

I saw two drake Ring-necked Ducks today on the peninsula side of the lake at Prospect Park.  Ring-necks, at first glance look very similar to scaup (Lesser & Greater), but where Lesser Scaup & Greater Scaup are sometimes impossible to separate one from the other, with Ring-necks, all you do is look for a white "spur" on their body and you know what they are. And that's why I like them--they're a good looking duck that you usually only see in the winter and they're easy to identify. No worrying about the amount of barring on the body or the shape of the head as with scaup. White spur=Ring-neck Duck. Next bird please!

Prospect Park
Observation date:     3/3/10
Number of species:     36
Canada Goose     105
Mute Swan     7     Two on Lullwater, five on lake
American Black Duck     6
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)     1
Mallard     160
Northern Shoveler     4
Ring-necked Duck     2     Peninsula side of lake
Hooded Merganser     3     Peninsula side of lake
Ruddy Duck     42
Double-crested Cormorant     1     Standing on west lake shore
American Coot     14
Ring-billed Gull     160
Herring Gull     27
Great Black-backed Gull     1
Rock Pigeon     25
Mourning Dove     8
Red-bellied Woodpecker     4
Downy Woodpecker     3
Blue Jay     5
American Crow     2
Black-capped Chickadee     6
Tufted Titmouse     1     Feeders
Red-breasted Nuthatch     1     Feeders
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
American Robin     22
Northern Mockingbird     2
European Starling     7
Fox Sparrow     1     Lullwater trail
Swamp Sparrow     1     West lake shore
White-throated Sparrow     16
Dark-eyed Junco     19
Northern Cardinal     11
Red-winged Blackbird     2
Common Grackle     1
House Finch     6     Feeders
American Goldfinch     1     Feeders
House Sparrow     6