Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Quest for the Birds!

A few months ago a buddy of mine told me that I should go out to see the parrots in Brooklyn. Then he showed me a picture he took of these green warm weather birds making a nest next to a power line transformer. They were in Bensenhurst, I think. I was amazed. Are there actually parrots in Brooklyn living wild? I put it on my list of things to do and went on with my farewell tour.

As I wrote here a week a few weeks ago, i found some of these little suckers in City Island where they have made their largest home in New York. I did some online reading about them and then went out this weekend to snap some photos...if I could.

Before I tell you of my bird watching, here is what i know about these immigrants. It seems that some unknown time ago a crate of green monk parrakeets was accidentally left open and all the birds escaped. Also known as Quaker parrots, they came from Argentina and were to be sold in NYC pet shops. The pet shop connection continues to be ironic in that from time to time it is thought that the NYC tropical bird population has been heightened due to illegal release of unsold "products" from these little stores.

In a tale of great bird courage, the flocks have managed to survive and actually thrive in unnatural conditions. They have made home in waterfront wetlands preserves in All boroughs except Manhattan. They also nest in City Island, Brooklyn College, Greenwood cemetery and at least a half dozen other locales. In harsh winter conditions, they huddle next to warm power stations and have been a source of neighborhood pride and a company pest for Con Edison. There are bird watching clubs and photo communities based solely around these little creatures.

So, I wanted to document their existence all on my own. My buddy who started me on this adventure could have told me where exactly he took the picture and I could have gone out and duplicated his find...but what fun would that be? So I went out on a cold Saturday with my bike and my camera and went to search the 2 most well known sites in Brooklyn. Brooklyn College was not very fruitful so i moved quickly to Greenwood Cemetery where flocks have be known to dive bomb the groundskeepers at regular intervals.

I have never been on a bird watch before, and i can tell you now that it doesn't look like bird watching is anywhere in my future. I can wait on very long lines at a bank, sit in gridlock traffic, deal with an inept waiter without much trouble...but it takes a special kind of patience to look for a specific type of bird in a place like Brooklyn when there is absolutely no real starting point with which to look. I circled around the large cemetery for about an hour and a half, looking up at every tree and turning my head quickly at every chirp I heard.

After all this I have exactly ZERO pictures of the green parrots I came to see. I am not ashamed to say that I gave up the search after a total of 2 hours. Not very long in terms of bird watching time, but 2 hours is very valuable to me on my attempt to see everything i can in NYC in 5 months.

I have a feeling that seeing the birds would have been anti-climactic anyway. After all, Its the story that excited me, and that's more valuable than a picture, ain't it.

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