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Posts Tagged ‘bronx river flotilla’

Glossy ibis in the Bronx River. Photo by Ted Gruber.

By Erik Baard

Up to a point, I love being ignorant. As an aspiring urban naturalist, I am frequently discovering my hometown’s exoticism. I had one such moment on Saturday, as I paddled up the Bronx River with a boathouse volunteer to help with the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla.

 

Stroke by stroke we left the west bank of the Bronx River mouth’s grocery store distributor truck lots, warehouse construction, and the old sanitation pier further behind. Retaining walls ended and broad mudflats footed the green, landfilled uplands of Soundview Park. Brilliant white birds stole our attention first – three great egrets and two large mute swans. But after that rush subsided, I noticed the smaller wader silhouetted above (photo by Ted Gruber) and was awed. It was an ambassador from ancient Egypt.

 

The first time I came across the hooked-bill face of an ibis, it had a human body and was busy teaching Isis spells to resurrect the dismembered Osiris. This was a depiction of the Egyptian god of wisdom, magic, and measurement. He derived his name, Djehuty, as well as visage, from the ibis. He is also credited with inventing writing, and Egyptian scribes often owned depictions of ibises. We more commonly know Djehuty through the Greeks as Thoth. That distinct bill (great for snatching up crustacens, snakes, and invertebrates) stirred Egyptian imaginations further, and they associated the bird, and Djehuty, with the similarly shaped crescent moon. The god is usually attended by a baboon (which is also an occasional incarnation), as Egyptians noticed how that primate seemed to howl at the moon.

 

As I read those enchanting stories, encountering a living descendent in the South Bronx was nowhere in my thoughts.

 

During the winter I’d flipped past the ibis in an Audubon Society guide, not having much faith in seeing one. Despite a population surge in the mid-twentieth century, it’s now listed as a species “of greatest conservation concern” in New York. Still, a dedicated birder can count on spotting them in our parts from spring through autumn (they winter in the Deep South); this absolutely breathtaking photo offers a closer look at a glossy ibis in Jamaica Bay, with its breeding plumage, rusty and iridescent green like a dogbane beetle.

But for all its ancient pedigree, the glossy ibis is a newcomer to America. Most scientists believe it arrived in the late 19th century. Now you might ask, “If it’s invasive, why would the Audubon Society be worried about it? Shouldn’t the organization be working to curtail it so that native shorebirds can survive?”

Well, this is partly because the glossy ibis seems to have arrived naturally, swept across the Atlantic Ocean by a hurricane as it migrated between Africa and Europe (this still happens today). And today it’s habitat is threatened by pollution and wetlands draining throughout its current range, even North Africa. Our continent is home to 21,000 ibises, about one percent of the global total, but we could end up serving as a global gene bank for the species.

 

Or maybe there’s an environmental grant waiting for a revival of the Egyptian solution to species preservation: Temple priests raised the birds in captivity so skillfully that archeologists have uncovered millions of ibis remains…sacrificed and mummified. Or not.

But the next time I see the moon at a crescent sliver, I will see ibis-headed Djehuty and smile knowing I once glided alongside him. I will hope, as a minor scribe, that I have honored him.

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Weekly WildWire: May 7-May 14

 

A new feature of Nature Calendar is our Weekly WildWire. Each Wednesday we’ll compile a selection of fun activities for you to enjoy outside, with an emphasis on free or cheap weekend activities that are sustainable and easily reached by mass transit or bike. We’ll also jot down natural highlights worth seeing on your own. 

 

We’ll include calendar links in our postings so that you can find even more fine options.

 

You might have noticed that we’re cheating today – computer problems delayed us from posting.

 

 

SPECIAL NOTE: Welcome back ClimbNYC!

 

On April 21, the ClimbNYC online forum for bouldering returned after dying of spam a year ago. Climbing is a wonderful way to work out, but why always do it indoors? Outside is better, and you provide a little theater for other parkgoers! Get to know these people and soon enough you’ll be getting to know ancient neighbors like Rat Rock, Worthless Boulder, and Vista Rock. The photo above is from a great guide published by master climber Nicolas Falacci.

 

 

FRIDAY, MAY 9

 

Brooklyn: Bike Rides with Time’s Up!

 

Help calm traffic in Prospect Park and then meld into the joyous Brooklyn Critical Mass Bike Ride. Both rides meet at Grand Army Plaza, the first at 6PM and the second at 7PM. You can also hop into the Critical Mass ride in Prospect Park and at the Brooklyn foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

 

 

SATURDAY, MAY 10

Bronx: Tree Planting with Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

Help make Van Cortlandt Park a place of even greater beauty and healthy habitat by planting trees and shrubs and removing invasive plants on the John Muir Nature Trail. This fun work starts at 10AM and ends at 1PM, so get up early and scurry over to the entrance at Moshulu Avenue and Broadway.

 

Bronx: The Amazing Bronx River Flotilla

Celebration the restoration of New York City’s only true river and beaver home, the Bronx River! The Bronx River Alliance has loads more information on its site, but in short: food and fun on the water! Don’t be scared off by weather forecasts in making weekend plans. Plan with optimism and keep your Plan B ready.  🙂

 

Queens: Bike Parade at Socrates Sculpture Park.

New York City’s premier contemporary outdoor sculpture park and on-site studio hosts a bike parade in partnership with a host of great arts, bike, and green spaces groups. Go for the goofy bikes, stay for the skills clinics, performances, and art.

 

 

Staten Island: Wildflower Hike in the Greenbelt.

Hoof through some of NYC’s best-protected ecosystems and see an abundance of wildflowers in bloom. The walk starts at noon, so I highly recommend this as a ferry-bike-and-hike day! Call to register: 718-351-3450

 

SUNDAY, MAY 11

Manhattan: Stroll through the heather garden at Fort Tryon Park

Stroll through Fort Tryon Park’s redbud and dogwood blossoms, and a plethora of other flowers, and take in sweeping Hudson River views.

 

Staten Island: Mother’s Day Greenbelt Hike

Get mom and Mother Nature together for some female bonding, or simply take this day to admire both. Register by calling 718-351-3450.

MONDAY, MAY 12

Manhattan-Queens-Manhattan: Bridge Walk and Picnic with the Shorewalkers.

Be at the Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center at 1st Avenue and 112th Street (6 train to 110th Street or direct by M-15 bus).

The group will cross the 104th Street Footbridge to Wards and Randalls Island (landfill plugged Little Hell Gate long ago to unify them) and then go over the Triboro Bridge to Astoria Park for a picnic (bring your own or buy at a deli en route). The walk then proceeds south through Ravenswood and Dutch Kills to the Queensboro Bridge to return to Manhattan.

 

Compiled by Erik Baard

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