Sunday, May 24, 2009

Redbud in the Red

One can get granular in the garden sometimes. Pick up a leaf. Look at it against the sky, in the light. Take the heart-shaped leaf of the purple-leaved variety of the redbud, Cercis canadensis "Forest Pansy."

The underside of the leaf is bright red shooting off magentas this time of the year. The midrib runs straight through, the lateral veins branching off this main track, glowing light along a greengold stretch. As one follows this tracery, the remarkable crisscross of veins across the surface of the leaf blade suggests an aerial map of an unworldly beauty.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Birds, They Do Come to Brooklyn

If you've ever spent serious time pursuing the activity of birdwatching, you will understand the excitement when a male indigo bunting, Passerina cyanea, is sighted during a mundane trip to the compost bin in a Brooklyn backyard. Apparently male indigo buntings will sing conspicuously out in the open, (the reports also state that the females are a drab brown but secretive - you gotta love Nature.) So here he is, folks: my INDIGO BUNTING - first sighted, singing on the reed fence, and then, here, perched on the power line running through the neighbor's yard.

As far as I can surmise, this would not be a common occurrence, by any stretch of the imagination. Buntings, grosbeaks and such birds are not known to frequent urban backyards, though more and more these recent years, pairs of cardinals appear to be nesting hereabouts, gracing us with their bright presence.

And then there was the youthful Veery, Catharus fuscescens, whom I initially mistook for a mouse when he hopped into the pile of twigs I was bundling up after trimming the branches of the thirty-foot tall Callery pear tree overhanging my yard from my neighbor's astroturf- carpeted one. We stared at each other - he, most certainly, with trepidation - and I, in great astonishment. Thanks to the marvels of present day communications technology, I was able to make a phone call to my photographer retainer sitting thirty feet away inside the house in his study, to come outside and snap this testamentary photograph.

Misgivings about definite identification of my little friend were quelled upon checking in with Donald and Lillian Stokes, who inform us in their Field Guide to Birds that the eastern subspecies of the Veery is cinnamon brown above with a slightly spotted white breast. We are told that it gleans food from the forest floor and the bark of trees, often overturning leaves on the ground with its bill in search of food and eats insects, larvae, spiders, snails, earthworms and wild fruit - most of which abound in my little patch of dirt. Furthermore, "the male Veery often sings his beautiful song from a perch at dusk. Although commonly heard, this bird frequently stays hidden in dense woods, making it a challenge to observe. Much more needs to be learned about its behavior."

I am happy to say that for ten minutes this late lingering spring, I have been graced with the challenge. And reader, I will tell you, that the behaviors described in the books do fit the birds.