Friday, March 8, 2013

Manhattan's Wild Side

Hiding in the forest from the rest of New York City
     Most people only think of Manhattan as the concrete jungle, but if you look hard enough you can find wildlife hiding all around. Finding wildlife though tends to be easier when there is actual wild space to inhabit. Many people don't know about the treasure that is Inwood Hill Park, it is truly a wild place in that it is not manicured or built by man, it is the original landscape of Manhattan. It is full of hills, rocky ledges, and the tallest trees I have seen in all of NYC!
     My day began by taking the A train to the very end, or beginning, I suppose it depends on your perspective, to the tippy top of Manhattan. The day was sunny and almost warm, I actually broke a sweat walking the trails and hills of the park. The park is intimidating as you feel like you can get lost on the trails, but I did just fine, remembering the turns I took. It was also very desolate, and in my walk the only other people I saw were on their own, some were a little startled by the fact that I greeted them on the trail - a not very New York thing to do, but to ensure my own safety, I made sure I met every persons eyes and said "hi." Maybe I was being paranoid, but if you go on your own, just keep in mind, you are almost always on your own.
     The trails were full of birds and squirrels, they also had the melanistic (black) squirrels, which I really love. It was also nice to see squirrels that don't run up to a human on sight. They were being wild squirrels, foraging on the tulip trees, way high up or on the ground, digging up the remains of their cache.
     On the rotting logs bird gathered to forage, lots of chickadees, titmice, cardinals, and white throated sparrows. Speaking of rotting logs, the other thing I LOVED about this park was that it smelt like a real forest, it had that earthy smell that every good forest has. Honestly, unless you approached near the Henry Hudson Parkway or got a break in the trees in higher elevations, you kind of forget that you are actually in New York City.
     The sighting of the day was a golden crowned kinglet, a little flitty bird that is near impossible to photograph. I was really hoping to see eagles or an owl, but there was none of that.
     Enjoy some of the photos I was able to get, it's a beautiful park, I highly suggest a visit if you want to get away from that city park "perfectness." I plan to go back, especially as it get warmer!

A poofy white throated sparrow
Chickadees move too fast too often. This is the clearest shot I have ever gotten of one. Thankfully, I am a huge fan of bird tushies. Chickadees are one of the more entertaining birds to watch in my opinion because of their little acrobatics, I love when they dangle upside down on tiny branches.
Golden crowned kinglet. I love their teenie tiny beaks. These guys love being in coniferous (cone bearing) forests, and here he is hanging out near a white pine.
An interesting shot, but it allows you to see that gorgeous gold stripe on its head that gives it its name. Lil' bugger was quick! 
I saw red bellied and downy/hairy (they are really hard for me to tell apart) woodpeckers. These guys were actively drumming away. This is a red bellied woodpecker.
You're probably wondering why the heck someone would call this a red bellied woodpecker... well red headed woodpecker was already taken. They do a have a blush red patch of red on their belly that gives them their name. I love how well camouflaged this guy is! 
One of my all time faves! A white breasted nuthatch! Not only are the blue (+1), they make a funny little call (+1), they have that cute little upturned beak (+1), and they walk up and down the sides of trees - both upside down and right side up (+1) - this gives them a total of 4 cuteness points!
I feel like all male cardinals are just singing away in their pretty little heads the song, "I'm Sexy and I Know it." I mean, he totally knows it.
The tops of a tulip tree. Along with the sassafras, this is my other favorite tree. They get these gorgeous tulip like blooms which create these massive seed pod things (I'm not a botanist). The leaves are shaped like pressed tulips or cat faces. They grow so incredibly tall and have the straightest trunks. Native Americans used the trunks of these trees to create dugout canoes, because they grow so straight. They are just a beautiful tree and I get excited whenever I see them. The forest here was FULL of tulip poplars - which made me happy. 
This squirrel was foraging in the tulip tree. He was so high up! It was so nice to see them just being squirrels.
I love squirrel hands. This guy was digging up some stored away food. Squirrel hands are adapted to help them grasp their food and the branches they climb. They have some serious claws too!
This red tail hawk was so far away, but I felt like he/she teased me all day, this guy flew over me so many times on my hike. Finally as I was getting ready to leave he landed at the top of a tree up the hillside and then taunted me with a series of blurry photos.