Birders Flock to the Hudson the Morning After Hurricane Sandy

“It’s amazing how variable the experiences can be. We were basically fine. No power loss and yet 8 million people are apparently without power.”

That was how a passerby summed it up for me when our respective paths came to a halt before a downed tree in Riverside Park. It was one of dozens of majestic tress struck down by the massive storm.

Famished animals, many left homeless by the hurricane, forraged for food among the litter of leaves and branches.

In the course of a walk by the river I saw feeding squirrels and starlings, some ducks and even a red-tailed hawk. A group of birders gathered at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe to watch storm-tossed ocean birds make their way up the Hudson toward New York Harbor, and ultimately back to the sea.

“Storm Petrels and jaegers are things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see here but after hurricanes they often turn up,” said Dr. Richard Fried a veterinarian and local birder.

“A lot of birds that get blown off course never make it back to where they’re supposed to go because they’re exhausted or injured or they’re in the wrong habitat to get food or they’re preyed upon by predators they don’t normally have to defend themselves against.”

According to Fried, The Ornithology Department for the Museum of Natural History has put out a call asking birders to bring the bodies of rare species they might come across to the museum to be added to their collections.

POSTSCRIPT: 1/5/13 Columbia University Journalism School students Matthew Claiborne and Salima Koroma produced this great piece on post-Sandy birding using some of the above footage shot along the Hudson River during and after Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy Slams NYC

Variously known as “Frankenstorm” and “Megastorm,” Hurricane Sandy made her way toward NYC this afternoon. With mass transit service suspended and school closings across the city, many New Yorkers were treating the approaching Category -1 storm like a snow day. Everyone seemed much less uptight than they did around this time last year when Hurricane Irene loomed just off shore. The fact that Sandy is a storm roughly twice the size of Irene doesn’t really sink in until you see it on paper.

Irene (above) vs Sandy (below).

David Blaine Electrifies Hudson River Park

Endurance artist David Blaine has been standing atop a 20-foot pedestal on Pier 54 in Lower Manhattan since Friday night (10/5/2012). Surrounded by four active Tesla coils casting a million volts of electricity his way, he looks like Frankenstein’s grandson. Monday night brings Blaine’s finale and, hopefully, his triumphant exit from the giant bug zapper he’s confined to for 72 hours. The event, which recalls the death-defying feats Harry Houdini amazed New Yorkers with nearly a century ago, is being sponsored by Intel to showcase a new laptop computer, but Blaine and the New Yorkers bearing witness to his superhuman stunt, are the real stars of the show.

POSTSCRIPT: 10/9/12 He did it! Congratulations to David Blaine for withstanding 1 million volts and three days of exposure — both elemental and media-driven —  on Pier 54.  It was magical.

Occu-pirates Sail the Hudson, Dolphin Watch

 

I tagged along with members of Occupy Wall Street’s marine contingent Saturday as they sailed out of the 79th Street Boat Basin bound for Staten Island. Read the full story here.

Several crew members remained on board after the tour, flying protest banners and drumming well into Sunday. They anchored 20-30 yards southwest of the derelict 69th Street Transfer Bridge, an area beyond the boat basin mooring field the protesters had been prohibited from demonstrating in by the Parks Department. Around 3:00 Sunday afternoon, crew member John Eustor shot this footage of a dolphin swimming around the boat.

 

 

A fellow disenfranchised American? Crew-members speculated that it may have been drawn to the boat by the vibrations from their drum playing. A number of people photographed the animal as it made it’s way toward New York Harbor. Sadly, a dead dolphin was found floating in the marina at Chelsea Piers several days later. Many assume it was the one spotted on Sunday afternoon. Results of a necropsy by the Riverhead Foundation are forthcoming. Read more here.

Occupy Wall Street Movement Still Afloat

 

The Occupy Wall Street movement has set sail to spread a protest message across Manhattan via the city’s waterways. Led by members of Pulse, the movement’s drum circle working group, the OWS marine contingent made it’s maiden voyage down the Hudson River aboard a sailboat named The Druid on Saturday, anchoring just south of the 79th Street Boat Basin. Having passed muster with Coast Guard officials who boarded the boat to inspect it over the weekend, the crew of self-styled “Occu-pirates” hopes to be the vanguard of a floating protest community to sail around the city this summer.

Read the related story on DNAinfo.com.

Village Community Boathouse

I spent the Labor Day weekend at the Village Community Boathouse, located on Pier 40 at the diving end of West Houston Street in Lower Manhattan.  That’s where dozens of volunteers build and maintain a variety of small, man-powered boats, including a half-dozen Whitehall Gigs.  These 7-person rowboats — native and perfectly-suited to New York Harbor — are used in a free community rowing program that promotes public ownership of the city’s waterways and carries on New York’s tradition of “maritime hospitality and fellowship.”  It’s a lot of fun, a good workout and a great way to tour the river.