Brooklyn Heights

There was a report on the local TV news yesterday morning here in New York, about the worrying trend for pedestrians to have an unwanted, and presumably rather one sided, encounter with cars as they cross the road. These worthy folk somehow manage to blunder into moving traffic because they are so focussed on texting/downloading meaningless drivel/playing candy crush saga that they fail to look where they are going and unwittingly cross on a red light. Observing the way yellow cabs take off when they have the green leads me to think there must be an awful lot of dented bonnets around the city. But it is completely true. The sheer volume of people walking around with eyes glued to a small electronic device held inches from their nose is quite amazing. I mentioned this to a group of wonderfully, typically uber-friendly, native New Yorker ladies we got chatting to over a cuppa at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (they commented on the size of my camera lens and this naturally led to various other comparisons of cultural divide) and they agreed it was indeed startling. It is, apparently, a relatively new way of going about daily business and seems to be mainly, but not exclusively, a malady enjoyed by the young. Much shaking of heads ensued before all admitted we would ourselves be lost without modern technology. After all this post comes to you via airport wi-fi and a temperamental iPad. Anyway I can feel myself digressing here (and it is absolutely not due to the abundant complimentary red wine in the BA lounge), because the point I was going to make was that I would never, ever collide with a car because I was looking down at my phone. No sir! My graceful dive over a car bonnet would stem from the fact I was looking up. And the reason this middle aged nut would be gazing skywards would be to see if there were any birds passing overhead or zipping about in the trees. It is migration time here on the eastern flyway of the USA with millions of warblers making their way north. It would surely be rude not to try and see a few.

So, yesterday morning we got the metro over to Brooklyn to visit the aforementioned Botanical Gardens. The plan was that because it was midweek, a little on the cool side and there is an admission charge, it would be likely empty and we would have the run of the place. Oops, I should have used my phone! Tuesday is free admission day and it was heaving. There was a Japenese style band whacking seven bells out of.... well seven bells, the motorised lawn mowers were belching their way over the lawns, aircraft from JFK jetted overhead every minute and hordes of school children were running around screaming and shouting at the top of their voices. I was not a happy bunny and with grating jaw and muttering grumpy curses, set about gazing into the tree canopies in a forlorn quest to find little stranded birds. Not a hope. Not a sign of anything warblerish tazzing around in the tree tops. Bugger! But I underestimated the tenacity of these little jewels that don't really give a tinker's cuss about us and the mayhem we create, for soon low down amongst the erupting bright green foliage of a stately willow, we had the pleasure of watching a lovely black and white warbler hunting for aphids and other tiny insects right in front of us. It was oblivious to the human chaos roundabout and was instead intent on survival; finding enough sustenance to get it through the next leg of its epic journey to its breeding grounds somewhere wild and romantic further north. It was nonetheless the devil's own job to photograph. And it was not alone, for also partaking of the unseen bounty was a sweet faced ruby-crowned kinglet and a yellow-rumped warbler. All three birds share about four colours between them but somehow seemed as bright as a fresh rainbow. Umm, so maybe there were birds here after all. Time to put on a smile Madden you grumpy sod and celebrate the fact the sun was tentatively poking through the clouds, the cherry blossom was simply too beautiful for words and the world doesn't revolve around you and your desire to get 'warbler neck'. And in fairness, once I get a little fix of something new - the black and white warbler was a life bird - I get a touch more reasonable. In fact when the Japanese band decided to stop thumping on logs, crashing their cymbals and generally calmed down it was much easier to absorb the ambience of this wonderful urban resource. Beautiful trees, strident mosaics of colourful tulips, heavenly scented flowering shrubs and amongst it all the hardiest, most resilient wild creatures. Once again nothing even remotely rare or unusual, but I hope you agree they are in themselves quite lovely..........


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