Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall leaf walk

Chrissy read somewhere that peak foliage for NYC this year would be November 1-2, so we planned our weekend around that. Saturday morning we rose and went to breakfast at The Oak and the Iris on our way to Green-Wood Cemetery. I had forgotten my cemetery map, but was confident the security guard at our trusty Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance would be able to furnish one. First mistake. While we were waiting for the patrol to drive some over to the guardhouse, we tried to help another couple locate a plot on a map with no street names. A gust of wind later and there's my second mistake. The unclosed guardhouse door slammed into the concrete post which is supposed to prevent it from swinging too far open. Unfortunately, I had been resting my hand on this post, unaware that the door was not properly shut. Pain shot through my hand and I fell on the ground and cried. Now if you witnessed this, you might think I am a giant baby, but actually I have a very high threshold for pain, except for finger pain. Weird. I discovered this a few years ago on the job when my charge smashed my finger in a mailbox at the children's museum in Boston. Anyway, after I dried up, I inspected my finger, which was all right aside from some pinprick bruising, residual pain, and a feeling of flatness in the muscle tissue that hadn't been there before. On the bright side, it turned out to be a lovely day for leaves and birds!

We didn't stick around to get that map after all, and just headed off to climb a tall hill. On our way up, we saw dark-eyed juncos, northern mockingbirds, and northern flickers. At the top, we found Stephen Whitney's impressive family mausoleum surrounded by hermit thrushes. The views from up there are incredible. We could see the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge that we scooted over in the summertime. Above, I noticed a large bird of prey trying to catch thermals. It was distinctly different from the silhouette of a red-tailed hawk, which I've come to recognize so well this year yet not take for granted that every hawk is a red-tail. The wingspan was perhaps comparable, but this bird's wings were very tall, taking up a lot of space on the sides of its body. Also, it had gorgeous uniform speckling across both underwings. The bird showed white undertail coverts, and its striped tail seemed longer than it was wide, and not spread out like a fan, but held in a more rectangular shape. My first thought was a Cooper's hawk, and I suppose it's possible and even likely at this time of year, but I wish I'd had a longer sighting so I could catch more details.

The cemetery is alive with color, and with birds. Also up on this hill I saw a downy woodpecker and a red-bellied woodpecker. At the base of the hill on the other side, sitting atop a stone obelisk, was a proud little yellow-rumped warbler. Here's a beautiful tree for you. The sight of it helped me forget about my throbbing finger.

We soon headed home to rest our feet, but we stopped at The Oak and Iris again for lunch. I guess that says we have a lot of exploring left to do in our neighborhood. After lunch, we sat on our couch and had a Mario Party. When our feet were thoroughly rested, and Chrissy's butt was firmly kicked (I was the Super Star of the game), we left our jackets at home and ventured into Prospect Park for a self-guided tour of gorgeous leaves and the birds among them. I was so busy ogling the trees that I forgot to take notes, so instead of telling you about birds, I will leave you with a lovely photo from late Saturday afternoon. The big Leaf Dump is sure to happen soon, so get out there and enjoy the splendor!

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