BIRDING IN A CEMETERY

 

One of the surprising outcomes from my adventure in Peru was the discovery that birding, or bird-watching can be a fascinating hobby, requiring sharp eyes and extreme patience.  As you will recall from my post,  one of my fellow Peru travelers, Ginny was an accomplished birder and she helped me get started on this new obsession.

Now back in the states,  I decided to test my birding resolve by taking a tour of the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.    Green-Wood has 478 acres of landscaped hills, winding paths and glacial ponds. Not only does the natural beauty of 7000 trees and multiple gardens entice hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, this resting place, founded in 1838 also has an international reputation for being the fashionable place to be buried.  Included in its 560,000 permanent residents are Civil War Generals,  “Boss” Tweed, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley and Samuel Morse.

But that’s not all.  Green-Wood is also renowned for its abundance of birds, including a colony of green Monk Parrots that nest in the spires of its gothic revival entrance.

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However, when I arrived at the entrance, thee was nary of parrot in sight.

There is also a company of these parrots in my own Queens neighborhood – they have made a cell tower their home.  I often hear them squawking, but it was only recently that I managed to capture a shot of one as they are “flighty” (pun intended):

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I may not have seen these colorful and noisy parrots at Green-Wood , but in one of the towers’ alcoves was a kestrel, no doubt trying to get a bit of protection against the strong winds that morning:

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This fortuitous sighting gave us good vibes so off we went to explore the vast grounds of Green-Wood, and I can happily say many new bird species are now added to my knowledge.  Of course there were the rather pedestrian geese:

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And robins:

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And tree sparrows:

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And the grounds themselves were spectacular:

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Coming round the first corner of the trail,  we ran into this handsome mocking-bird that seemed to be pointing out the way:

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And fortunately for us this bird was not mocking us for we soon came upon groups of wrens, thrushes, and tiny kinglets who hovered much like hummingbirds.

A little aside here to share what I discovered during my research phase for this post.  Many gatherings of animals have specific possessive nouns  such as: pride of lions, herd of deer, bed of clams, pod of dolphins and so on.  Bird groupings have titles as well.  Some are familiar

  • brood of chickens
  • brace of ducks on land or paddling of ducks swimming
  • aerie of eagles
  • colony of gulls
  • gaggle of geese
  • host of sparrows
  • company of parrots

Others are rather poetic or downright bizarre:

  • charm of hummingbirds
  • mutation of thrush
  • exaltation of larks
  • ballet of swans
  • wreck of seabirds
  • mockeroserous of mocking birds

Some sadly are in the midst of an identity crisis:

  • a bouquet, confusion, fall, or wrench of warblers.

Others are perfect:

  • a castle, court, princedom or dynasty of kinglets
  • soar of kestrels

Those birds with exotic names of their own (you’ll see one of these further in the post) also have quite descriptive group names:

  • an outfield, swatting, zapper or zipper of phoebe (this could also be in the perfect possessive noun category as phoebe are flycatchers)

Back to our nature walk.  As mentioned at the top of this post, it takes a great deal of patience, keen eyes and quick reflexes to capture photos of birds, particularly the smaller ones that flit about like lashes of light.  Having learned through other photographic endeavors that staying the course rather than yielding to frustration usually delivers results, I kept a constant vigil and now you can see the fruits of this labor.

Some of my subjects played hide and seek in the grass:

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Or the trees:

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Others perched higher, which meant I was very visible and could only approach so far (thank goodness for zoom lenses):

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The above is one of the tiny kinglets who, when not hovering, fly like quicksilver – I was very lucky to have caught him in a sitting moment.  I originally thought that this bird, as well as others sighted, was fluffed up to protect against the cold wind of the day.  The guide told us however,  that the kinglets and others were actually fattened up for the trip to their winter habitat south  to Florida and the Gulf coast.  I have friends and relatives that do pretty much the same thing.

Speaking of hovering, there was another grouping I had not expected to see, but given my promise to myself I went to see the grist, hive, swarm, nest of bees that are nurtured and cared for on the grounds of Green-Wood and no doubt give back by helping propagate the lush landscape.  My readers are familiar with my fear of bees as well as my attempts at times to face my phobia by getting up close and personal.  You are about to see the results of another adrenaline producing but successful personal challenge:

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Heart pounding?  Absolutely.  Worth the danger?  I definitely believe so, though I will NEVER attempt to be a beekeeper.

Instead, let me leave you with my favorite discovery of the day  – the little phoebe, which is so named for it call:

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Since this visit, I have of course become totally obsessed with capturing photos of new birds in my neighborhood.  A future post will highlight my endeavors!

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