May 4, 2011

Bird Watch: Bird nature in cities

Two fairly recent conversations featured birds.  In the earlier one, a family member commented that pigeons "do not count as nature."  The the more recent conversation, a friend, commenting on the nesting pair of red-tailed hawks on Washington Square South, said, "That's a good thing -- there is not that much nature around here."

Image: Red-tailed hawk nest, Bobst Library, NYC (see top center)
Of course I hold opposing views to those expressed by my family and friend.  My perspective has only strengthened after reading Biophilic Cities by Timothy Beatley (stay tuned for a review).  Beatley writes,
In understanding the nature of cities it is necessary to think beyond our usual approach to visualizing or imagining space and place, and to understand that we can see nature everywhere in cities: it is above us, flying or floating by, it is below our feet in cracks in the pavement, or in the diverse microorganic life of soil and leaf litter.  Nature reaches our senses, well beyond sight, in the sounds, smells, textures, and feelings of wind and sun."  I have found, as Beatley has noted, that as I learn more about my (nearby) environment, my neighborhood seems more "nature-ful."
Image: Song sparrow, courtesy of Ken Thomas/wiki (source)
I have been aurally observing a bird song in the mornings but could not see the bird(s) which produced it.  I figured I needed to look for a song bird and sought answers online and discovered the Urban Bird Sounds Project produced by the Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston.  Urban Bird Sounds Project is a compilation of 19 bird songs with narration by the Codman students.  The birds I have been listening for in the morning are song sparrows (listen to the song sparrow's song).  I also identified another common bird in my neighborhood, the European starling.  The starling was featured in this week's New York Magazine's Intelligencer; it is described as one of "an ever-growing menagerie of species that have already arrived to mess with our waterways, airspace, and general well-being."

Image: Anna's (?) hummingbird and nest, Berkeley (original post)
Serious birders keep a life list.  I am not engaged in serious birding but I do maintain a bird list here in NYC which includes: pigeon, mourning dove, European starling, song sparrow, house sparrow, and red-tailed hawk.  My Berkeley bird list includes house finch, cedar waxwing and Anna's hummingbird.

What's on your bird list?

2 comments:

  1. The key is very much to look, because, to re-coin a phrase, nature is out there. (And some of it is inside, too.) Yesterday, I saw indigo bunting, rose-breasted grosbeak, magnolia warbler, house wren, American redstart, and veery for the first time this year. Somewhere out of town, up the river in the woods? No: Prospect Park.

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  2. An impressive list, Matthew! Thank you sharing it with us.

    Look forward to reading others' lists.

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