Red-Tailed Hawks from Washington Square now in Tompkins Square

I think it was about two years ago when I first saw a hawk in Manhattan. It was in Washington Square park, the one where I Am Legend was filmed. There are NYU buildings surrounding the park and two hawks had turned a window sill on one of those buildings into a nest. The NYU administration did a good thing by leaving the nest in place and then went one step further by sharing the hatching and growing-up process with the world via a web cam live feed.

Life is busy and I didn’t keep up with the hawks and I’d all but forgotten about them until last week. I was walking through Tompkins Square park, which is a few blocks away from Washington Square, when I saw a hawk land on a railing nearby. After a few minutes I realized there were two hawks in the park. They were hanging out together, generally. We watched one try to catch a squirrel, but the squirrel fought back and the hawk dropped him. I was amused to see the squirrel proudly stand on the end of a branch, as if he was daring the hawk to come back and try again.

It’s really neat to see wildlife in the city. Anything to get a little green in the middle of all this concrete. Hopefully the birds don’t start taking and eating rich people’s small dogs, though.

Semi-Domestic Wild Deer in Fort Lee Historic Park, New Jersey

Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park
Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park

On Sunday, when my wife and I walked over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, we stopped by the Fort Lee Historic Park, which is right next to the bridge and offers a great view of the Hudson River and Manhattan, which, I suppose, was the reason the fort was originally built. We didn’t really expect to see a whole lot there. We were just looking for a place to take a short break before turning around and walking back over the bridge. We were both surprised by how much of the historic fort has been restored. We want to go back sometime with real cameras and spend an afternoon there looking around.

The best part of the pit stop, though, was when we saw wild deer snacking on the underbrush in the middle of the park. Even when I lived in Georgia, it was rare to see deer in high traffic areas, and it was especially bizarre for me to look one way and see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and then to look the other and see a little family of deer hanging out like they were special guests in a petting zoo. It reminded me of a snapshot I’d seen on instagram a few weeks ago (I think) of a deer eating flowers from a planter in the middle of an outdoor, strip mall.

I first spotted them when we were a good distance away and I snapped a few photos, because I expected them to bolt the moment they realized we were there. We kept walking closer though, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. The mother deer kept looking up at us, but she decided we weren’t going to bother her and went back to eating. Later, a large Chinese family with loud kids showed up and the deer just kept grazing. I got the impression that these deer live there and people are used to seeing them in the park. I stood about arm’s length from the mother deer and she ignored me. They’re almost domesticated.

In a way, it’s a great bonus to have wild deer hanging around the park. It helped take me completely out of the city and let me better enjoy the trees around me, the open space, the smell of foliage and dirt, and the lack of crowds.

The Veteran’s Memorial Park in Tupelo, Mississippi

Something that surprised me about Tupelo, Mississippi was the fact that there are so many military veteran’s living there. Some of them I could just look at and tell were in the military before. I don’t know why. That sort of thing sometimes sticks with a person. Maybe it was the level of physical fitness and the haircut, or the way they carried themselves. Others were wearing hats identifying themselves as veterans of previous conflicts. My suspicions were confirmed by the friends we were visiting.

But, what I couldn’t figure out was why those people all chose to live in Tupelo. What does it offer? Is it because they all came from Tupelo originally? Are there that many military veterans in the country now, that small towns are becoming saturated with them? I just can’t see myself getting out of the military and choosing, of all places, to go to Tupelo, Mississippi, especially if I had retired and still had privileges to shop on a military installation. But, that’s just my opinion. Maybe there are people who want both to get away from the military entirely and enjoy a small-town feel. Tupelo definitely offers the latter, but with the number of veterans, it doesn’t really offer an escape from everything military.

Flags at Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS
Flags at Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS
Lake, fountain and pier at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS.
Lake, fountain and pier at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS.
More of the lake at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS and a small water park on the far shore.
More of the lake at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS and a small water park on the far shore.

Whatever the reason, a large park in the town has been designated as a veterans memorial park. It was put together quite well, too. The photos I took don’t really do it justice, because I only had my phone with me and we went late in the evening on a weekday. I can see this place being a pretty popular spot for barbecues.

World War II Memorial at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS
World War II Memorial at the Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, MS

I didn’t take photos of them, but there are a lot of ducks living around the pond. They defecate everywhere, and on everything. Most of the monuments, including the World War II memorial monument pictured above, were covered with feces. Walking in the grass was hazardous as well. It would be nice if there were less duck crap everywhere, but what’s the alternative? Kill them all? That wouldn’t be fun either, and they add to the scenery.

The Hawks at Washington Square Park

Washington Park Hawk 1

The last place I expected to see a hawk for the first time was at Washington Square Park, in the middle of New York City, but that’s what happened.  My wife and I were passing through and saw a crowd of people gathered with their phones and/or cameras out.

Washington Park Hawk 2

Part of Washington Square Park is fenced off because it’s still being renovated.  Because of that, it’s free of people, which is probably why the hawk chose that area to hang out in, though it might also have had something to do with the squirrel that was on a nearby tree.

Washington Park Hawk 3

I asked a guy near us if the hawk showed up in the park often and he said that it, along with three siblings, lived in the area and had grown up in a nest on a window ledge on a nearby NYU building.  He said that when the hawks were young, there was a 24/7 webcam set up above the nest.  He took a moment to show me a video he had on his phone that he’d saved.  I guess people were allowed to go into the building and look at the hawks from inside.

It’s nice to see that people are supportive of wildlife returning to the area.  There are places in the world where birds like this would have been poached, or hunted just for kicks.  Some people are sick.  I hope these hawks stay cool and don’t make a nuisance of themselves, or you know someone will cry about it right away and want them removed.

For more info about the hawks, you can visit their ‘homepage’: WP Hawks.

For more pics I took of the hawk, see my Google+ photo gallery, or do a Google search.

Birds in my Bedroom

Despite the fact that there are gates and unscreened windows in the house, we haven’t seen too many random animals inside, other than the occasional cat rapist.  Last night, it was pouring rain outside.  We opened the back door to our bedroom, which opens onto a veranda, so we could bring in the laundry before it was ruined.  I saw a black shadow shoot across the ceiling and when I finally spotted it, I was surprised.

There was a bird sitting on the curtain rod…


Naturally, our cats started to go insane trying to catch the bird and as soon as I got a good photo of it we used a broom to shoo it back out the door before our bedroom was wrecked.  I guess it was scared of the storm outside but it definitely wasn’t sleeping in our bedroom with us overnight.  Luckily none of the cats chased him off into the neighborhood before we got the door closed!

Playing With Fire

Today was one of those big bursts of cleaning activity that I mentioned in the last post.  We just looked around and decided that we couldn’t stand it anymore, changed into work clothes and then got cracking on taking out the trash and cleaning up the dining room, kitchen, the side and back of the house.

I did the side and back of the house because it required quite a bit of lifting of heavy stuff.  There was a huge amount of half rotten wood laying around, most of which looked like broken bits of carpentry and cabinetry.  I did find one piece of wood that looked like a gnarled tree branch stripped of bark.  I have no idea what that was doing back there.  I also found a basket full of torn and shredded clothing that I took out.  Everything else was scrap metal, paper boxes, Styrofoam lids, broken broom handles, bottles half full of God only knows what sort of liquids and little plastic bits from broken toys.

So, what to do with all this crap?  Well, in this rural neighborhood burning shit is completely legal, so I unleashed my inner pyromaniac and built a massive bonfire out of all of this rubbish, with the exception of the scrap metal which I intend to sell and reinvest into renovations.  I heaped on the regular household trash as well as random sticks and yard debris that was in the area.  I even through a half-rotten wooden bench into the pile.

I lit it off with burning newspaper and the end result was a big ball of flame that reached at least 8 feet into the air and kept me about 5 feet away from the fire until it burned down quite a bit.  Who knew plastic burned so well?  The wood burned down into a nice bed of coals that left me with a great place to toss other rubbish as we found it for the remainder of the afternoon.

It turned into quite a spectacle and after about an hour, half of the neighbors on the street were out to watch, including kids who decided to add whatever they could find to the blaze.  It was inspirational.  Other people decided it was a good time to burn their yard waste as well.

Unfortunately, the idea of taking pictures slipped my mind during the excitement, so I’ll just have to post a picture of the aftermath tomorrow.

I did get a picture of a giant toad I found though.  It was hiding under some half-rotten wood on the side of the house.  Kinda scared the crap out of me too.  I didn’t know what I was looking at for the first few seconds.  The toad is about the size of my outstretched hand and would sit comfortably on your average dinner plate.  The second photo has my thumb in it for a bit of comparison, but I kept my hand a good distance away.  I didn’t know if it would try to bite me or spray poison or something.  There are a lot of weird animals out here.  I had already dodged two giant brown cane spiders while clearing the back of the house previous to this find.



I also took a picture of the huge box full of scrap metal I collected.  That’s not all of it.


The box in the above picture is the same box from yesterday’s post, just so you have some basis for judging it’s size.

By the end of the day I was covered in dirt, ash and grime, but I was feeling pretty good about the progress we made.  I wasn’t quite as happy about the black boogers I was blowing out of my nose though.