I’m looking down at the sidewalk, scuffing my feet along the ice. Millie is snuffling beside me taking corgi-steps so small she’s practically moving backwards. She scales the Everests and McKinleys of the snow piles to dodge the salt flats of our morning trek around the block.
The Blue Jays are the first to entice my eyes up above the barren tundra of the sidewalk. Though it’s really my ears that “listen up,” noticing the falderal of their got-out-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed braying. Somehow the wrong side seems to be the only side of the bed that Blue Jays ever get out on. One Jay flies silhouetted across the blinding reflection of the sun off of the south Meier tower, and a second follows—both in rowdy pursuit of their morning coffee.
Sparrows are scavenging through an overturned garbage can by the curb, while above, a Mockingbird with his gray-and-white territorial flash chases a Robin through the trees. The guarding of the remaining Callery pears has been fierce this winter—so many got eaten in November and December that very few remain for these hard times of February and March.
Every fire escape, balcony, cornice, chimney and water tower gets my attention as I look for wintering hawks. Score! There. On the gaudy pink top of the Palazzo Chupi. An equally gaudy gentleman American Kestral. Against the breathtakingly blue winter sky this guy seems to have been painted with the exaggerated colors of 18th century porcelain—russet and azure with dashes of white and black, the sun dappling on the gold leaf filigree. I look down to check the settings on my camera, and by the time I look back up, Mr. Kestral has dived off of his aerial perch and, nearly instantaneously, I hear the startled scream of a Starling under the eaves across the street. For that Starling this morning began and ended so quickly.
Millie, pawing chest-deep in the snow, is oblivious as a dark feather settles beside her with its shadow of mortality. She too is just looking for breakfast.
To try to cheer myself, I look up to the flagpole at Westbeth. The bronze ball at the top has recently been a perch for a Red-tailed Hawk. Not this morning. I like to think that that hawk is one of last summer’s youngsters from the Washington Square nest. Wouldn’t it be nice if the West Village got its own resident pair? Could someone please hang up a shingle: Balcony Available—Red-tails Inquire Without.
As we turn the corner, of course, I’m always looking and listening for the transient Ravens. Since my “nevermore” sighting of that dastardly pair back in August, I have seen a Raven twice again: on a lamppost at West and Charles Streets as well as a brief flyover at Seventh and Greenwich Avenues. Nevermore has softened into maybe-more.
Millie pulls around the next corner. We’re on the home sprint now—which means that our forward progression is more of a global warming version of glacial. There’s a merry-go-round of pigeons circling above us. However, they’re not so merry as they go frantically round trying to stay a (literally) lively distance ahead of a tailing long-tailed Cooper’s Hawk. The Cooper seems to put on the brakes banking a curve; the pigeons disperse and the hawk flies off east on his own—probably to try his luck with the pigeon flock around the 12th Street subway entrance—a familiar drama on my morning commute.
Mid-block we pass the nest, barely above head height, that was home to a Cardinal family. What had been a full-fledged nursery last summer is now barely a pen-and-ink sketch snagged on a branch.
As we round the final corner, a phalanx of five crows patrols the air rights above Perry Street, and higher, nearly out of sight, motes of gulls disappear into the blue. A Tufted Titmouse across the street complains about the cold as Millie closes the gap between her nose and our front door.
I look down, taking off my mismatched gloves to get out my keys.
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