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Archive for the ‘NYC’ Category

baby blue jay

Baby Jay looks out on new home

Two baby blue  jays survived growing up on a fire escape in the East Village. My neighbors and I caught the two fledgling babies and brought them to the relative safety of the block’s backyard this morning.  Only two survived out of a nest of five–despite the fascination of the community and many efforts to help them. But really two is pretty good for such a ridiculous nesting spot–twelve feet above nothing but hard sidewalk, a street and lots of nosey New Yorkers. (more…)

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Father jay at gaping mouths

Father Jay looks into babies gaping mouths

The family of seven blue jays that braved an East Village fire escape and a neighborhood cat has left their home. A live webcam on the nest on 5th Street shows nobody home. That means the blue jay chicks have — we hope — fledged.

I’m a little concerned because I didn’t see anything of the five babies since once fell on the sidewalk last week. Neighbors picked him up and put him back. I got to meet some very nice neighbors. The couple who lives in the apartment had been keeping their blinds closed for a month so they wouldn’t scare the jays off. They also let me come up and take some pictures and set up a webcam so everyone could enjoy this unusual urban spectacle.

Normally the jays would be down on the ground a day or two before they learned to fly. I hope I see them at my window sill someday.

blue jay on fire escape
Momma Blue Jay looks at fire escape nest

Where to See Animals in the Northeast

Where to Go See Animals Around New York City

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For years I’ve heard about a Chinatown park where old men bring their exotic birds and this morning I finally went to find it. The Wah-Mei Bird Garden in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, just south of Delancey, can draw 40-some old Chinese men, each carrying a singing bird in an ornate cage. Or that’s what I’ve heard. I only saw three bird guys.

I arrived around 8, in time to see the first bird man take the flannel cloth off his cage. It must shield the bird from the city, though most of narrow Roosevelt Park itself is not much better. It’s got bridge traffic on two sides and it’s dark and unkempt with wavy pavement and a drugged-out man lurching around. The cages themselves are fantastically carved wood, bamboo and what looked like ivory. They hang them on a long line over a fence that encloses the official Wah-Mei Bird garden. You can hear the birds sing if you get close. Nearby, other elderly Chinese exercised with swords.

The most friendly and happy bird

The bird man schedule remains mysterious to me. I asked the men; they acted like they didn’t understand me. I asked around; workers and dog walkers said it’s every day around this time. (Later, I read on New York Daily Photo blog it’s much busier on weekends.) Any singing bird is welcome, but the most desired are male Wah Mei (Garrulax canorus) that know lots of songs. The men who pretended not to speak English told a local guy can be had for $100 in Queens. Tracy Wong described in a NYU paper how the men get the territorial male birds to compete in singing.

The second bird I saw, another bright yellow one in a fabulous cage that looked like it included ivory, was my favorite. He’s a mimic. I whistled to him and she whistled back. And kept the tune going. He was probably annoying his owner with my tuneless notes all day. He ate from fancy porcelain jugs, too.

The third bird was probably the only one that was really a Wah Mei. CITES, which restricted its import after the bird flu outbreak, says that it’s the most popular bird traded in China. Before the ban, they figured 1.8 were captured each year, with most of the females just eaten.

Probably the only real Wah Mei
Where to Go See Weird Birds

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The first blue jay fledgling fell out of the nest built precariously on a New York fire escape this afternoon. It attracted a crowd of neighbors, who put it back in its nest and installed a plastic tarp under the whole set up.

Just yesterday I put up flyers explaining the blue jay babies were up there and it would be normal if they would fall out. If it were a forest instead of Fifth Street, they’d be fine. The parents would feed them for a couple days on the ground. The parents, however, made a really unfortunate real estate choice. Below their nest is sidewalk,  street and a tiny tree pit–no grass or bushes or any other baby bird amenity. And thousands of helpful New Yorkers walk by every day. Somebody would pick it up and bring it to their vet. That’s what happened to a blue jay nest in the next block two years ago. The mom spent weeks looking for them.

So this afternoon I got a call about the flyer from a neighbor. The one bird on the sidewalk wasn’t not fully feathered and was weak and skinny. It looked way too young to be out of the nest to me. People label New Yorkers as harsh, but soon there were six of us trying to figure out how to get the bird back on the fire escape, ringing doorbells, taping on windows.

My friend Pierre found a long board and tripped the fire escape ladder so it would fall. Generally this kind of thing is frowned upon in the city, but Pierre bravely climbed up and replaced the baby. While I was getting some clear plastic, the mother jay returned and swooped at Jonah, a 10-year-old good samaritan. Pierre and I basically lined the fire escape and left some raw peanuts for the blue jays’ trouble.

So far, so good. The mom returned, ate peanuts and sat on the nest. I got a call from the people who live in the blue jay apartment. They’d been worried about the birds and didn’t mind our clamoring over their fire escape.

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The last time cheeky wild Mommy Squirrel came inside my apartment and somehow got Mickey, the squirrel recovering from a malocclusion, to bust out of her cage, there was some question as to why I didn’t get pictures. At the time, it seemed like an emergency. 

Today I left the office for two minutes and came back to find Mommy Squirrel in my chair. So I grabbed the camera to see what Mickey would do. She came out and deliberately ate in front of Mommy Squirrel, but then seemingly ignored her. My dog Jolly would do give dogs who barked at him a kind of I can’t see you kind of nonchalance.

I hope it’s not any kind of Mickey’s disability that she actually can’t see the invading squirrel. I suspect Mickey is like my mom: she only pretends to be oblivious, but is on top of everything going on.

Where to go to See Interesting Squirrels
Where to See Wildlife in New York

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