Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring, have you sprung?

I sure hope so! Feeling cautiously optimistic that Spring might finally be here in earnest after that crazy yo-yo start the season had here in the Northeast, I decided to break with tradition today. It was opening day at Sebago, and that usually means a pre-potluck paddle, but nobody really instigated anything. I could easily have taken on the instigator role myself (and I felt a little guilty that I didn't), but it just seemed like today would be a very convenient day to get my garden plot at the club ready to go for the season. My first stop of the day in Canarsie was therefore at Dragonetti's Florist and Garden Center, over on the other side of the Paerdegat Basin, to pick up some compost; I walked that over to the club on a luggage cart. How's that for urban gardening for you?

I used to clear out the bed in the fall, at the end of the growing season, but a couple of years ago some of my ecologically-minded friends were sharing an article recommending leaving things more or less alone until spring, to provide shelter for beneficial insects like native bees and ladybugs and food for birds. It made enough sense that I've now adopted that practice for my garden. So the above is pretty much the shaggy dried remnants of last year's plants. 

Mostly cleared out

I was so happy to find new growth on the lavender, thyme, and rosemary. We had some harsh weather and also some very up-and-down swings this winter, and although all of these had made it through last winter, they were looking pretty dry the last time I'd looked at them. I was afraid it had all been too much for them, but look at the fresh new growth here on the lavender! Thyme and rosemary are also coming back. 

Compost added, onions and daffodils thinned, and that was it for today - by now the meeting had started, I'd just wanted to finish this up. I forgot to put out the cat discourager sticks, but we don't have as many stray cats as we used to (there used to be a guy that was feeding them in the parking lot of the gym next door, and I think that the gym got new owners a few years back, and they may have asked the guy to cease and desist) so I'll keep my fingers crossed that this doesn't get used as a litter box. 

I actually got seeds during one of the snowstorms we had over the winter. I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and they had these pretty seed packets on display in their gift shop. I just couldn't resist making a nod to warmer weather there in the middle of the snow. I was going to plant the beets and chard today but there was suddenly an opportunity to go out for a boat ride so I did that instead - so even though I wasn't expecting to, I still got to get out on the water on Opening Day. 

And here's the first garden-aided dish of the year - onion soup with the thinned onions, plus white wine and some broth I'd made a couple of weeks ago. In addition to a dinner tonight, this will make a good lunch or two during the week, which is likely to be hectic .

Great start to Earth Day weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Early Bird? Nope. On-Time Bird. Late Snow.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, or if we're Facebook friends, you've probably seen this guy before. This is The Early Bird, and I was inspired to paint him a few years back when I'd seen my first oystercatcher of the spring a good bit earlier than I ever had before - mid-March or so - and then a couple of days after that, it snowed, and I just couldn't stop thinking of the poor bird out there in the sloppy wet snow, wishing he hadn't been such an early bird. He now reappears on my social media every time I see a spring bird and then it snows.

Snow in mid-March isn't that unusual, but this year spring keeps giving us false starts and then winter comes back for another encore, even though the folks in the northeast and midwest are all yelling "GO HOME, WINTER, YOU'RE DRUNK!"

So we had a bit of a snowstorm in early April and our Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe totally outdid my bummed-out oystercatcher with this magnificent photo of an osprey wondering what is this white stuff doing all over the nest.

Actually the osprey doesn't look nearly as put out as my oystercatcher does, but seriously, this poor guy just flew a very long way starting from someplace warm and sunny only to be greeted with a snowstorm - well, wild animals are tough, but I still can't help feeling a little sorry for them when this happens!

Click here to read a great NY Times article about an osprey tracking project that Don was involved in a few years back. They actually had a blog while it was running, and I absolutely loved following the sea eagle's journey from his wintering grounds in South America back to the nest platform in Jamaica Bay. I was so sorry when it ended!  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Floral Filler #3 - Forsythia

Blooming quite beautifully at the Sebago Canoe Club.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fish on Friday!

h/t to Joe at The Horse's Mouth for my stealing of his Friday theme since time immemorial, plus my Hawaiian friend K., whose FB page was where I first saw this and loved it more than I can say. Had to share this for all my mainland friends who are curious about how that neighborhood McPokebowl (possibly spelled with an é) joint stacks up against the real thing. Now you know. Perhaps I owe an apology?

PS - Leonard's...ahhh...SWOON!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Floral Filler #2 - Incandescent Daffodil

Same day as the cherry blossoms, in front of my building. I got home from the club potluck just when this daffodil was still illuminated by the sun but the shadow of the building had fallen on everything behind. I will admit to upping the contrast but not by a whole lot, the daffodil was shining out like neon! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Woodcock Encounter in Manhattan

American Woodcock Scolopax minor
By guizmo_68 [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
American Woodcock in a happier environment.

Well, I had a different sort of night on Friday. I worked late wrapping up one of the 7 licensor forecasts that are due next week and was finally on my way home when I found an exhausted woodcock hunkered down in the middle of the sidewalk on Broadway near Canal Street. I watched it for a while and it didn't budge as people walked by. I didn't want to just leave it there, somebody was eventually going to kick the poor thing. I didn't have a towel but I had a plastic bag which I wrapped very loosely around its body, leaving its head sticking out, and then I just picked it up.

My first thought had been to walk it over to the Hudson River Park and find it a safer-looking spot in the plantings for it to spend the night, but when it just let me pick it up without any objections at all, settling down in the crook of my arm like a tame pet chicken, I got to thinking maybe I should take it to one of those 24-hour emergency vets and see if they could help it. I haven't got a smartphone but I stopped a couple of young ladies who were passing by and they kindly looked up a vet. The nearest one was at 15th street and 5th avenue, so me and the bird got in a cab and went there.

Unfortunately they only take dogs and cats there (she said the only thing they would do with a bird there was euthanize it if it was badly injured, and my little bird didn't have anything obviously wrong with it except for maybe being exhausted). The receptionist was able to give me the name of a 24 hour vet that did take birds up at 62nd street, and also the name of a wild bird rescue that would open at 8 am. Only hitch is that TQ and I had a family gathering in CT in the morning and we were supposed to be up there at 10. I tried to call him to see what he would think of me skipping the gathering and take care of the bird, maybe taking the train up once I'd gotten the bird squared away (his family is all fond of animals so I think that would have been ok), but he must have turned the ringer off to sleep, so no dice.

So I left the vet and stopped outside trying to decide whether I wanted to try taking the bird up to 62nd street, or take it home and explain the situation to TQ in the morning, or possibly go back to Plan A and take it to the Hudson River Park and try to find a safe spot in the plantings to tuck it in for the night, leaving it there and hoping for the best.

Now, as I'd been carrying it around, it had seemed like it was perking up a little bit, opening its eyes more (lovely dark eyes), picking up its head, and beginning to move a little bit more. I'd been holding it very gently and it really hadn't been trying to get away through any of this. Well, as I was standing there trying to decide what to do the bird took matters into its own hands, suddenly gave a much more energetic wiggle and then jumped right out of my arms and flew away!

I wish I'd been able to get it to a park but maybe warming it up helped. I hope it was able to find someplace better than the middle of a sidewalk to spend the rest of the night.

BTW I originally posted this on Facebook and specifically shared it with a couple of friends who know a lot more than I do about birds. One of them I would have called for advice before I even picked up the bird except that I lost my cell phone earlier this year and haven't re-built my contact list yet. They agreed that the bird I found had probably flown into a window and stunned itself - this is a big hazard for birds in NYC, and keeping it warm and safe while it recovered turns out to have been the right thing to do. The first to give advice also recommended the Wild Bird Fund (same place as the receptionist at the vet had recommended) as the very best place to take a bird in need of help - click here for a success story involving a woodcock found much the same way I found mine, only a little more banged up so in clearer need of help). She also mentioned that the best way to transport an injured wild bird is in a paper bag, she said they stay calmer that way, which makes a lot of sense. Good to have knowledgeable friends - thanks all!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gowanus Tour Snippet - the Carroll Street Bridge

I've been meaning to post about the excellent and informative tour of the Gowanus neighborhood, led by urban planner and Gowanus Dredgers co-founder Owen Foote, that I joined earlier in March, but haven't had much time. I thought I would get a little bit of a start tonight with a few photos of the Carroll Street Bridge. I found this to be really interesting, I'm always kind of intrigued by machinery where you can actually see things working (I got such a kick out of the locking-through process on both my solo trip down the Hudson and the Erie Canal trip TQ and I took a couple of years back, and friends who've been reading this for a long time may remember me geeking out over actually getting to see a tugboat's rudder quadrant in action in Rudder Post).

The bridges on the Gowanus are all built to open so that boats can pass through. This one is not your usual drawbridge, though - this one, the entire bridge is mounted on rails. A stout cable is attached to the bridge, passing around a set of pulleys and into the structure that houses the machinery. When activated, the cables drag the entire bridge down the tracks into this clear space on the shore, then back into place once the boat's gone through. I'd never seen a bridge like this before, and it turns out that this one's one of only four left in the country (that detail courtesy of Forgotten NY, which also shares a funny movie clip featuring the bridge in action). It would be fun to see it happen, and it seems that schoolkids in the area sometimes actually get to go for a ride!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Happy Spring 3

That's more like it!
"Just plain silly" label ends here.
New Yorky/real politics. Splendid day for a March for our Lives. Central Park and 81st Street. For more photos from the marchon Flickr - click here. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Happy Spring 2

Same daffodil, 12 hours later:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happy Spring

Technically, at least. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gowanus Graffiti and Street Art Flickr Album

Poor TQ came down with a bug, so our plans for tomorrow are off, but I ended up going to the walking tour of the Gowanus Canal anyways, and it was great!

I was very interested in going on the tour because Owen Foote, the co-founder of the Gowanus Dredgers who was our guide today, is an architect and urban planner who's been involved in water use and ecological awareness in the Gowanus area for years. He's incredibly knowledgeable and as I expected, he gave an amazingly informative talk about the history and present time of the area as he led us on a walk that wound through the neighborhood, starting at the Smith and 9th street subway station and finishing at the northern end of the canal, where the water swirls and foams as the pumping station pours in water from the East River.

It was such a good tour, and I took so many pictures that I'm not even sure where to start, so I decided to start with the same thing Owen started us off with - street art! There's an amazing variety in the area, and our first stop on the tour was at the GOWANUS street mural. I've put together a flickr album of the art that particularly caught my eye today -- click here to visit. I hope you enjoy it! BTW, if you liked this post and you live in the area, keep an eye on the Dredgers website, they're going to start offering monthly art walks led by a local artist as one of their things to do once the weather warms up a bit. I will definitely be joining in on one of those!  

Friday, March 09, 2018

Choices Choices -

What a decision to make on Saturday! The Gowanus Dredgers are hosting a guided shorewalk along the Gowanus Canal, which is an area I've really never explored but find interesting. I shared that on Facebook, and moments later one of my Coney Island swimming friends said, "But wouldn't you rather come join us planting beach grass on Coney Island?"

Tough call! At this point I'm leaning towards the shorewalk just because it's shorter, I have some other things to do this weekend, and TQ and I are going to CT for a small family gathering on Sunday, so it's Saturday or bust. I can't remember the last time I've wished as hard that I could be in two places at the same time (or that one event was sure to happen again). Ah well! 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Annual Admission That Mom Was Right

Kids hate to admit that their parents are right, but almost every winter since I moved to New York City, I have to admit that my mom was right about the snow.

My sister and I were lucky little Navy brats who got to grow up in Hawaii. Hawaii is an absolutely spectacular place to be a kid, and I loved it, but every year when Christmas rolled around and we'd put up the ersatz icicles and snowflakes and decorate the plastic tree (you could buy a real one but they were shipped over on a Matson container ship, cost a zillion dollars, and were well into dropping their needles by the time they made it to the supermarket parking lot), my sister and I would start to get wistful about white Christmases. We'd watch the Christmas movies, and the TV specials, and we'd see the beautiful snow scenes on the Christmas cards we'd get. Wouldn't it be neat, we would think, if it could just magically snow, just for the holiday? Snowball fights! Snow angels! Snow forts and igloos! Snowmen! Sledding! So many wonderful things!

My mom grew up in New Jersey (not Joisey, please, New Jersey, properly enunciated, she's from the areas that gave the Garden State its name). She grew up with snow, lots of it, every winter.

And when she would catch us mooning about the white stuff, she would try to explain the different between Hallmark-card snow and real snow. Real snow, she said, isn't all that neat. She would grant that it was pretty when it first fell - but then, she would continue, it doesn't go away. It hangs out, getting plowed and walked on and driven on, and it goes from beautiful white to dirty gray, and you're oh so ready for it to all be over.

My sister and I were skeptical back then - but now?

Yep, Mom was right. And this storm didn't even manage the new-fallen-snow prettiness part. Straight to frozen muck.

Come on, Spring! 

Monday, March 05, 2018


No, not the weird marshmallow candy. "Peeps" is the blanket term that birders use to describe the smaller members of the sandpiper family. Saw some on Saturday!

It was too windy for kayaking this weekend, but Saturday morning was beautiful and it looked like a good day for a shorewalk. I decided to repeat a walk I'd done in March 2016. That had been started out as my "annual winter duck walk", when I go to Sheepshead Bay and see if I can get any nice shots of the winter ducks that like to hang out there, but then I found my way down to the beach and even though it was snowing a bit, I decided to keep going, and did until I ran into water over by Gerritson Creek.

It was snowing a bit that day; it was actually warmer yesterday, although I puttered around at home too long and as I did that, clouds rolled in. By the time I got underway, there was one last streak of blue sky - but it was still a pleasant and reasonably warm day, so I went ahead with it.

No oystercatchers yet (these are really the bird that says spring to me, and in 2016 I actually saw my first ones of the season at the Gerritson Creek end of the walk) but plenty of other birds, including a couple of flocks of what I think are sanderlings. Love watching these little birds running around at the water's edge, and this time I spent some time trying to get some good photos. Someday I might need to splurge on a zoomier zoom lens but I got some OK shots this time! Click on any photo for a better view. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Saturday's Paddle

It wasn't a day when a lot of people would've looked out the window (let alone at the forecast three days out) and said "Ah, the perfect paddling day!"

Two things mainly - it was February, and it was going to rain.

But the wind was going to be light, and it was going to be relatively warm, but not too warm.

Too warm? That can happen as we head into Spring. Already happened last week, in fact - last Tuesday, it was sunny and gorgeous and got up pretty close to 80 degrees; I would've loved to play hooky from work to go for a hike, but even when it's that hot, you still need to dress for immersion, and this time of year that's a drysuit, so you're out there sweltering. It was great for lunch-hour errands, but mid-50's and gray is actually better for a winter paddle. And a little rain (and it was just a little) is no trouble when you're dressed for immersion.

I was not the only one who thought Saturday was a good paddling day - I got to the club and there were four or five others there with the same idea. It's so easy to get to chatting at the club and suddenly realize that you'd planned to launch half an hour ago; this time TQ was actually going to be picking me up at 6 on his way home from work (
we both have Sunday off and usually have dinner on Saturday and then hang out on Sunday; Sunday wasn't going to be as nice a paddling day, though) and I was planning to launch at 3 and be out for somewhere between two and two and a half hours, so I managed to pull myself away and launched right at 3.

Originally I was thinking of a longer paddle but I've had a slow recovery from the flu I had a month ago (hence the inactivity here, I just haven't been doing much) and haven't been in the best shape anyways. 2017 was supposed to be the year I got back in shape after a year of giving myself a break because I'd had cancer, but things didn't work out that way. Maybe 2018. Anyways, realizing I was not up to snuff health-wise yet, I decided to keep it short and sweet. High water was at 3 so instead of doing my usual 2+ hour exercise paddle, which is hanging a right and going to the Marine Park Bridge and back, I hung a left and went to the Cross-Bay Boulevard bridge. I definitely have a thing for going either to something or around something - whether it's an island or a point or a bridge, the distance of a lot of my paddles get determined by my looking at something and deciding I want to go there. I didn't set out to go to the bridge, but once I was paddling towards it it looked like a good goal. 

Ended up being a fine paddle. Just me and the birds out there. I always love that about paddling on Jamaica Bay in the wintertime - it's such a privilege to be in the middle of NYC and yet be alone in the middle of all of this space. There were a few people on the beach, but the only other boat I saw was the Coast Guard or maybe harbor police zipping by in a big orange RIB with their blue light flashing. For a minute I was afraid that somebody had called in a kayaker in distress from the Belt Parkway and they were coming to "save" me - I wasn't doing anything to cause alarm but it wouldn't be the first time that had happened to a Sebago club member! Fortunately that wasn't the case, they buzzed on past me without even veering towards me for a look. 

Seriously, if you're going to see one motorboat while out for a winter paddle, it's nice when it's the folks you'd want to be there if something happened to go wrong. 

Aside from that, it was just me and a fine assortment of winter birds -  brants, loons, buffleheads, and a lovely pair of mergansers, plus swans, mallards, Canada geese, and of course gulls (year-round denizens). I was very excited for a little while when I saw a spot of white on Elder's Point Marsh, there've been snowy owls around this winter and I thought it might be one, but it was a sign. I did actually go looking for an owl a couple of years ago and found one, but that was a paddle where I didn't have plans afterwards, so it was able to be pretty open-ended. 

I got to the bridge a little before 4:30, a little under an hour and a half after launch. That had included quite a bit of stopping for pictures and birds, plus a side trip to retrieve a stray balloon so some poor bird or fish wouldn't eat it and die, but I'd gone left because with high water at the same time as I was launching, that meant some assistance going home - I could feel the current building as I neared the bridge so I knew my planning was OK.

Going back, I mostly left the camera alone and just got into a good steady pace. I was back at the dock at 5:30. Eight miles in two and a half hours. I felt it, but not too badly.

Not the most exciting paddle I've ever done, but oh so good to be out there on the water for the first time in February (note later - actually I realized after I posted this that this was my first paddle of 2018 - see comments for how I managed to not know that when I wrote this). Hope I can make that happen again soon!

All pictures after this - click for a slideshow view. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Guess what?

I'm going paddling!

This is so exciting!

More Later!

paddle paddle paddle!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meet the Breeds - Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2018

Last weekend's wonderful rainy-day fun - a trip with an old friend to the Meet the Breeds event and Agility Competition run in conjunction with the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show! And I loved it that this is what we saw just as we got out of the cab.

Neapolitan Mastiff. Look at those wrinkles! 

This was another one of those events that I've been hearing about for a while. thought it sounded like fun, but just hadn't gotten around to attending. I might well have gone another year without it if Mandy and I hadn't planned ahead; I got the flu last week and had spent 4 days flat on my back with a fever, returning to work the day after my temperature went down to normal, and I totally could've used Saturday as a quiet day at home - but we'd bought our tickets weeks ago and I really was excited to see the dogs! I was wiped out by the end of the day, but yes, it was tons of fun.

Meet the Breeds is exactly what it sounds like. It's held in the enormous exhibition spaces at Piers 92 and 94, and all the various breed clubs from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire Terrier have booths. The clubs decorate their spaces in appropriate themes, with lots of fun pictures and interesting information about the respective breeds, and then yes, of course, each booth is "staffed" by the friendliest and best-natured examples of each breed you could ever hope to meet! Some of them are the champion show dogs, but for this event the personalities are really more important - I particularly recall talking to a lovely lady and her very sweet and friendly Spanish Water Dog. She had actually brought her dog in from Long Island just for the Meet the Breeds; he was a rescue and under new mom's care he'd become a certified therapy dog, the perfect pup to represent the breed at an event where ten million people are there just to pet the dogs!

I'd actually thought I was there to take pictures too but there was this one little problem with that idea - it's actually really hard to take pictures of a dog and play with a dog at the same time. There were also a zillion people there so it was also actually a little tricky to line up a nice shot, but I think I pretty much threw in the towel in the borzoi booth. The boxer club had this adorable and very popular set up featuring a kissing booth with a particularly smoochy boxer girl, plus a couple more super-friendly boxers walking around (one in a tux!). I'd stepped into the borzoi booth next door to scope out a good shot, and I was just starting to do that when a warm and solid body gently started leaning against my leg. I looked down and there was this absolutely sweet and elegant face looking up at me with an expression that said "Forget the boxers, can't you see that my silky borzoi ears need petting right now?"  So I did and I was stuck there for quite some time because every time I would stop petting he would push his nose up into my hand (borzois are the perfect height for that) and ask me to not stop. I finally moved along when I looked up and realized that Mandy had vanished into the crowd ahead but I seriously could've just hung out with that borzoi for an hour. Such a sweet dog! And yes, I completely forgot to take a picture. Sorry!

We did make it through most of the dogs by the end of the day, and here are the pictures I did get. We did sit and watch the agility competition for a while to take a break, and I wish I had gotten better pictures of that - the competition was run by size order; we got there just as they were getting ready for the afternoon session by setting the jumps at their very lowest height. Yes, we were there just in time for the first competitors - all the little toys and tiny terriers and corgis! There is just NOTHING cuter than tiny dog agility, and some of these tiny dogs were VERY serious about the competition! That was especially fun, people sometimes think of toy dogs as, well, toys, but some of these little guys were just as enthusiastic about doing a good job going through all of the various obstacles as any of your bigger dogs.

It was a fun, fun day, and for all I ended up being much more focused on actually meeting the dogs than taking their pictures, I did get some cute ones! There are captions, but as usual, click on any picture for more detail.

Belgian Tervuren
"Want to go see Grandma?" As Mandy and I cracked up over the dog's head-tilt of happy interest, the club folks explained that this dog LOVES to go see Grandma, because she always has the best treats.

Handsome Malamute
American Eskimo, like my parents' dog Belle

We had a nice visit here and one of the pups showed off her obedience skills. Down, stay. Good girl! 

Bearded Collies. The one in the corner was just getting back from going for a walk and the one on the table was so happy to see him again!

Corgi pup mug

Chow chow getting groomed. The gentleman in the chow sweatshirt had a handful of the undercoat so you could feel how soft it was. I can't remember whether it was the Samoyed or Siberian Husky booth where they'd taken this one step further and had some mittens and scarves that they'd knit with yarn spun from their dogs' undercoats on display - if you saw it in a store you would've thought it was angora, that soft and fluffy!  

Chow chow face! This dog was VERY relaxed and comfy with his people grooming him to fluffy perfection.

Border collie performing before the tiny dog agility session

The handlers walking the course. They don't know how it's going to be set up until just before the competition. They have a few minutes to memorize it and figure out how to convey the order to their dogs; a lot of them ran the course doing the signals, which was pretty funny because it looked like INVISIBLE tiny dog agility!  It was pretty interesting watching a bunch of dogs and their people run the course - there was a fine balance between the dog being enthusiastic but paying attention and a dog being TOO enthusiastic, forgetting to watch for directions, and just going for the next obstacle they saw (on our end of the ring, for example, it went jump, jump, jump, tube, but the tube was right in line with the 2nd jump and some dogs just got carried away with their own momentum and OOH OOH THERE'S THE TUNNEL I'M GOING FOR THE TUNNEL YAY!). It was really impressive to see the teamwork where the dogs did have both the drive to go as fast as their tiny little paws could carry them but also the presence of mind to look for each next direction as they finished an obstacle.

Corgi go ZOOM. Corgi butts bounce in the most adorable way when they're charging around and jumping over things - they almost look like bouncing bunny tails! Mandy and I just about fell off our chairs laughing at the first corgi gallop we saw.

Beware of low-flying Scotties!

Back to the breeds. One of these Papillons was being presented with Best in the Toy Group. Very exciting for all of them!

Otterhound puppy, seven months old and just wanted to play with everybody in the world. I knelt down to get a better picture but failed because an instant after I did he was up and washing my right ear for me.

And here we are at N is for Newfie, and that's where my camera battery ran out - too bad, I would've loved to get a picture of the sweet little blue merle Sheltie named Potato, but this is as far as I got.

Really a fun day!