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It’s Bird Week, and the High Line is an excellent place to observe our avian friends, those who live here permanently as well as the thousands more who pass through en route to someplace else. The High Line parallels the Hudson River, one of this country’s great migration superhighways, and when the Rail Yards section opens later this year, a huge seating platform facing the river will provide one of the best bird-watching perches in the city. But throughout the park in every time of year you can discover many different species of birds. In March I joined Ben Cacace, project leader for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird Project, on an art tour in section 3, and he identified ten species in under an hour. Ben’s checklist from our visit is here, and the High Line’s eBird Hotspots are here. (See below for more info. about eBird and a link to register so you can help build the High Line’s bird list.)

Below are a few of my favorite sitings, beginning with a hungry sparrow enjoying a meal in Sarah Sze’s magnificent 2011 sculpture installation “Still Life With Landscape (Model for a Habitat).”  (As always, click an image to enlarge it.)

Sparrow feeding in Sarah Sze's beloved sculpture installation "Still Life With Birds," December 2011

Sparrow feeding in Sarah Sze’s “Still Life With Landscape,” December 2011

In 2012 this peregrine falcon and his mate made a temporary home under the eave of the Drug Enforcement Agency headquarters at 16th Street. For most of the month of March they could be spotted swooping above the High Line…

A peregrine falcon takes flight off the DEA headquarters, March 2012

A peregrine falcon takes flight off the DEA headquarters, March 2012

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An Outlaw of Robins!

An outlaw of robins on the High Line

An outlaw of robins on the High Line

For Shakespeare, the robin is a symbol of love. Speed, servant of Valentine in “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” notes that his master has of late been wandering around, his head in the clouds, relishing  “a love-song like a robin-redbreast.” Just a week before Valentine’s Day, the robins have stormed the wintry gates of Manhattan, and this morning they seemed downright gleeful on the High Line. And there were tons of them.

I combed the Internet for an accepted collective noun to describe a bunch of robins, but can find no such word. There’s an exaltation of larks, a parliament of owls, a flight of cormorants, a convocation of eagles, a murmuration of starlings, a tiding of magpies, a pitying of turtledoves, a kettle of hawks, a murder of crows. But the little robin doesn’t show up on any of the lists. So I’m coining a word myself, in honor of the man from Sherwood Forest and all the early trespassers on the High Line. If you visit the park today maybe you will have the great joy of seeing it yourself: an outlaw of robins. [click to continue…]


Barbie on the High Line

Sarah Sze’s “Still Life with Landscape” is one my favorite exhibitions on the High Line. As readers of this blog know, I tend to get sentimental about certain exhibits, notably Stephen Vitiello’s “A Bell For Every Minute,” which I still miss. But the point of the public art program is that new works continually appear, and in order for that to happen, old favorites have to come down.

Sze’s work has been attracting birds, butterflies, bees, and humans in huge numbers since it debuted on opening day of section two last year. Even the occasional dog stops by to have a sniff (see photo gallery). Barbie selected Sze’s piece from all of New York City’s landmarks as the location for her latest fashion shoot.

I’ve been photographing “Still Life” all year, jostling amongst the many tourists who stop, in surprise and delight, as soon as they reach it. I love the architectural quality of this piece; it makes the perfect bird feeder, but it also frames several standout buildings with its boxy pattern of steel girders:  London Towers, General Theological Seminary, the Empire State Building, the Guardian Angel Church.  Most wonderful of all, it brings the birds up close. Even New York’s pigeon population — normally happy to perch on a prosaic lamppost — has discovered Sze’s work, along with the sparrows, mourning doves, and other feathered friends.

Mourning Dove

The piece comes down at the end of June, so be sure to pay a visit between now and then. To learn more about Sarah Sze and her work visit SarahSze.com. Check out the gallery to see more photos.


It’s a marvelous day for a bird bath

Tonight is the big bash that Friends of the High Line is hosting to celebrate next month’s the opening of Section Two. For the past hour or so ladies and gentlemen in black tie have been parading past our little patch on 22nd – 23rd street. Ho hum. More interesting: even the birds decided to clean up their act for the big night. These little guys were having a lovely bird bath in the sun deck area.

And did I mention that it’s 7:13 and Atlantis, a child’s toy phone, is sounding in Stephen Vitiello’s exhibit A Bell For Every Minute. See here for the sound map.

Note to the Friends of the High Line: can’t you find a way to keep this wonderful exhibit in the park?