June. Pier 54. A Big Sit, in birding lingo, is a competitive sport. Pick a prime spot, plop yourself down with a cooler and a bucket of trail mix, and count – as many birds as you can see or hear from that one place. Millie, my corgi, yawns, “What an incomprehensibly geeky way to spend a day.” (Frankly, reciting this sentence would tax her sit-ability limit.) Today, I’m just leaning on the newly blue wall watching for birds – not doing A Big Sit. Millie seems to sigh with relief or maybe she just has dust on her nose.
How many birds can I see? The requisite House Sparrows, Starlings, and Mourning Doves. I like following the sparrows’ peripatetic diligence, picking over the exposed pilings for tidbits then air-dropping them to the kids in their traffic light T-bar condos.
A crow kites over a congress of lollygagging Brant Geese in the pile field across the way. The Brant are still filibustering whether it’s time to head to Canada. Maybe they’re waiting for a quorum, though I doubt that they can count. With their goslings, the Canada Goose first family to odle among the rusting buoys. The second Canada papa is no longer standing sentry at the end of Pier 54, and the third nesting pair on Pier 57 have relocated to a safer site after getting rained out.
Several summers ago there was only a pair or two of Barn Swallows, and now more than a dozen couples swarm in and out from the shade of the pier. These tuxedo- tailed aerial acrobats burst into the sunlight trailing rainbows. A squadron of swallows dive-bombs a trio of Grackles on the concrete barrier. Hardly the Three Graces, these toil-and-troubling Grackles are hanging around for a bit of chick-napping, so the swallows have every reason for screaming, “Get out of town!” Dueling wolves in iridescent clothing.
A Black Duck hen swims by with her weeks old ducklings. She’s darker than her sister hens the Mallards; the Gadwall pair, he with his black stern, and she with only one leg, are still nesting further south in the park. So I can’t add them to my Sit List today.
A Mockingbird has taken up his post on a street light singing out above the rush of West Street. His playlist includes mockery of a Cardinal, a Robin, a Blue Jay, a Carolina Wren, a Red-tailed Hawk, and the bee-bee-beep of a car alarm. I love that this guy can mimic a car alarm. Does that really make him sexier to the girls? Is that hip like getting a tattoo? Is he being ironic?
When the traffic slows I can just make out a gray Catbird caterwauling along the fence, while out in the Hudson a Cormorant surfaces with a speared white-bellied flounder. The gulls start streaming in hoping to steal his breakfast.
I look down. Millie is ecstatically rolling in goose poop. “Home for a bath, young lady.”