Chicks and ducklings and goslings better scurry. And Millie and I better get out of this downpour in a hurry. Millie’s fluttery pendulum swings from corgi-love (anything edible) to corgi-hate (getting wet). The door can’t open fast enough. Bounding up the stairs, Millie flip-flops on the hall carpet, shaking the offending dampness from her nose and eyelashes.
With the Sunday-in-the-Park-with-Millie outing abated by the afternoon thunderstorm flashing and crashing, and the torrents of rain now pummeling the windows, next on Millie’s agenda is to affix her chinny-chin-chin atop my foot as I finish my August article.
August? August! How can it be August already? That must be the sentiment of the feathered parents in the neighborhood. It is an excellent summer for do-it-yourself baby birds; everywhere you look, there are plush-toy sparrow tots—on the sidewalks, in the shrubs, on fence railings, in window boxes—fluttering gently but incessantly asking for snacks from Mum and Dad. (Millie feels camaraderie.) Bushels of dove-gray starlings stalk across the lawns in the park looking for self-serve. Mockingbird chicks and Catbird kittens monosyllabically plead from the most unlikely locations. (I fear Millie has taken inspiration from their geographically inventive begging.) Does anyone other than their parents recognize these metronomic demands?
The newbie Barn Swallows at Pier 54 line up like casino slot machines waiting to be fed, and Mourning Dove tykes huddle in doorways. There have been two Mallard families and one Black Duck family on the river, and I’ve been lucky enough to see on their first day’s outings. I’ve heard that there is a Canada Goose pair with two progeny, already nearly full grown, with blurry chinstraps just barely discernible from their parents’, but I have not seen them in person. I’m hoping that a Gadwall pair will still come along with a family.
On Washington Street, I’ve seen scruffy-headed Blue Jay fledglings on fire escapes and chimney caps demanding, unequivocally, “Feed me, feed me!” If you think that true-blue Blue Jay patriarchs can be aurally abrasive, these Jaylets don’t fall far from that same decibel-cranking tree. Overhanging Greenwich Street, there is a Cardinal nest so well hidden in a web of tree branches just feet above my head that I can look away for a moment to check for the flashy red arrival of a parent, and when I look back, the nest has miraculously disappeared, as though having cleverly deployed an invisibility cloak.
Millie stays within my left-hand-reach, begging for a comma, a period, or a paragraph break that will free me to scratch behind her corgi ears or, better, proffer her a treat. Success.
A couple of Sundays ago in the park, there was a speckle-breasted Robin chick crashing the nest of his parent’s second brood. Like a college graduate returning home for the summer, this guy was trying to get fed in the ancestral home breakfast nook. To his surprise: “Hey, they rented out my room!”
It’s still too early for the Herring Gull debutantes and, likewise, too early for the summer school fishing lessons from the piers for the novice Common Terns. Some of the younglings we’ll see here may have hatched out on Governors Island. I particularly love watching the terns mature on the Buttermilk Channel piers—do go out there before they’ve all fledged! From these alternately drowsy then tantrum-y balls of fluff grow elegantly long, fully-feathered wings that will take these teenagers to Argentina for the winter. It’s hilarious watching the youngsters’ apparent consternation as their parents demonstrate how they actually have to dive themselves to catch the wriggling fish morsels that, up to this point, have been brought to them, fresh direct, one tasty hors d’oeuvre at a time.
A crooked finger of sunlight beckons from the window. Maybe I can convince Millie to take me to the river now.
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