Monday, July 9, 2007


This is the lull time for birding, between the migrations. The shorebirds can be busy, but the woods are generally quiet. Occasionally, though, an oddball passes through, way off-course. That's today: there’s a rare North American appearance of a western reef heron (Egretta gularis) at Calvert Vaux* Park, formerly Drier-Offerman Park, down on Gravesend Bay/Coney Island Creek. (Missed the last one, in ’83 on Fantasy Island, while I was there mocking the birders in the local newspaper. Those were the days!) The creek’s a dismal and murky affair, with old tires, trash and rotting wooden barges; members of the giant killer ape species (H. sapiens) used to use it as an illegal dump. But this morning, a guy was crabbing out there in low tide, and black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons, snowy and great egrets, laughing gulls, and a black skimmer, all found good eating. The reef heron, probably blown off course from Africa, was pretty spectacular, a graceful plumed bird that amazing blue-gray color, with bright yellow feet. Pictures of this beautiful critter are found here, taken by the guy who IDed it yesterday.

*Vaux, pronounced like “box,” is finally getting some recognition, although he still labors under the long shadow of F.L. Olmsted and his boys, who had much better PR. Prospect Park is their masterwork, so don’t let anybody give FLO all the credit. Vaux left very few papers, not much for a biographer to sink his or her teeth into; meanwhile, you can still find FLO’s writings in print. The circumstances of his death are still, and presumably always will be, mysterious, though. In his 71st year, he disappeared in the fog on his regular morning walk along Gravesend Bay. The drowned body was found three days later. Before the crabs could get to him, I assume. Ashes to ashes, tide to tide.

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