Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring in Prospect Park

Saturday afternoon in Prospect Park. I walked into the eastern part of the park - woodsy and weedy - with my camera, and my ears tuned to bird calls. A song has been haunting me at home, a sweet thin series of notes, a new bird in town. Matthew, our neighbour a few doors down,  helped identify it for me - a white throated sparrow. A mundane name for a haunting call. Every morning the bird has woken me, singing nearby in Cobble Hill, and confusing, because it's exactly the same series of notes that my smartphone plays for me when it wakes me "gently" to birdsong and running water.

American robin

I went to the park to chart a rough course for my May 19th foraging walk for the BBG, but in its unexpected Saturday silence (no one likes the weedy, woodsy parts, much) and new greenness, I found many birds.

I had been paging through Sibley's bird guide that morning, while drinking my coffee and eating a slice of Patricia Well's lemon cake in bed, and had looked at pictures of fly catchers, wondering if I'd ever see one. I know them from South Africa, only, where they visit my mother's garden.

In the park, on cue, out of a euonymous hedge, darted a tiny creature, performing split-second minute aerial maneuvers before disappearing into the low branches again. Flycatcher behaviour [see comments]. Very hard to photograph. Above you see the best of ten. 

A man loitering on the other side of the hedge, eyed me carefully. I felt like calling out - please take your condoms with you when you go! The birds, the men, the weeds, the woods. And me. Also, a party picnicking on the grass of the Vale of Kashmir/Cashmere in 20's regalia. 

In the woods two yellow birds darted and chased each other. Palm warblers. 

And I found my Cobble Hill songster, the white breasted sparrow, below. Very shy. Here you can listen to some of his songs.

Ahead of me on a path of crumbling stone strewn with fallen branches two small furry things scampered in circles. 

When they saw me they froze on their beech tree.

New leaves are opening. Slowly.

Knotweed! Which means it's time for a rematch at Pelham Bay, although it's cooler up there on the mainland. Any takers? I'm thinking Friday 19th or Saturday 20th.

I have never foraged seriously for dead nettle, below. I see it more as famine food. Good if you have a large clean patchful and like the flavour of rough greens. Maybe nice wilted and stuffed into raviolis.

Two classics of early spring: garlic mustard on the left and field garlic on the right.

And all over the place, lesser celandine. 

Early violets.

And the unmistakeable umbrellas of May apples.

Last year the serviceberries, below, were open in late March. But that was a very early spring.

I left the park about two hours after starting my walk and met several red winged blackbirds, who had strong opinions.

...and if you don't take out the trash I swear I'll ....&!#*^^%$#@@*

Below them grew this weed, lady's bedstraw, or celavers (Galium aparine) en masse, crowing around fence posts and about sixteen inches high. The stems are slightly sticky and hairy, rough to the touch.

As I crossed Ocean Avenue to the subway I passed a thicket of winter honeysuckle, still in bloom, two weeks after its start, the air fresh with its lemony scent.

And now, today, after a Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs with terrace chives, and crisp planks of bacon, it is a beautiful blue and white day, and I can hear things growing.

There is a terrace to be tamed.

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