Returning to New York, however briefly, has been a joyful reunion — not just with old friends, but with my beloved, quirky New York City birds.
Shortly after I arrived I got word of the Gray-hooded Gull at Coney Island, and of course I went after it right away. Unlike the last megararity at that end of Coney Island, I got the gull right away (thanks in part to a helpful phone call from Corey.) It soared over the boardwalk, scoping out the overflowing garbage cans in the company of the usual Laughing Gulls, and then landed on a pole to scan the beach-goers (not to mention the crowd of sweaty birders who promptly arrived.)
My gentleman friend was not particularly impressed by the Gray-hooded Gull. He was impressed by the birders braving the heat and sand. And, oddly enough, he was also very impressed by a bird we encountered as we left his apartment near King’s Highway – a bird we didn’t even see. As we headed for the F train, one of the local Northern Mockingbirds launched into a rendition of the classic multinote car alarm – whoop whoop whoop, be-boop be-boop be-boop, etc.
Seriously, don’t even think about touching his IROC-Z.
Both gull and mockingbird are so in place in this unwilderness, so seemingly at home dealing with noise and human bustle. And while I understand the value of wilderness, to me there is something especially thrilling about the birds who don’t need it, who can shoulder out a space for themselves among what is so often a heedless humanity. I reveled in the multiplicity of Rock Pigeon plumages, watched the Ring-billed Gulls slice the air over a Mets game, and as I headed for the Olde Homestead, I was delighted to note how many Bald Eagles are now happily hunting along the over-civilized Hudson.
But there is one particular bird that has gotten particularly close to humanity this week… a bird that I will tell you all about on Friday…
City birding as opposed to birding the “wilds” mostly lacks the element of surprise as cities usually don’t support migrants (look, not ALL cities can be like NYC, okay!?). What city birds do, however, is remind us that we, as humans, are likely the only living creature that distinguishes between natural and artificial. To birds, human landscapes are just another form of habitat.
Congrats again on the gull.