Birdspot. On the road. Drawing birds.


Walking through the mud of Jamaica Bay for the first time last Sunday, I fell in love a little. I don’t know if there are many people who find wading through pitch black, sulphurous muck to be a romantic adventure, just as I full well know that few would find hours of shorebird watching to be a reliable mechanism for tapping into the sublime, but my heart is still out among those reeds, or perhaps more correctly floating on the Lemna or hanging in the humid air between a lens and a flock of birds, drawing lines in the interstices of small sandpipers flying along East Pond, flashing silver and moving in that awesomely single organism sort of way, or tracing paths in the sweat that runs beneath annoyingly protective clothing. Words are so clumsy for love, and my love is more clumsy than most, and amorphous, indeterminate, always on the cusp of existing, floundering after Calidris wings and the tide.

Bird list/image info:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Ruddy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper (3)
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Gull-billed Tern (8+, another birder had seen 12)
Common Tern
Forster’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
Least Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

image: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, East Pond. Digital sketch or painting or whatever you want to call it, hand drawn in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. Ed. note – I’m still working on this piece, and am uploading revisions as I work on it.

19 Responses to “jul 28”

  1. What a beautiful, evocative description – written & visual – most would just be slogging through muck.

  2. Lovely writing & drawing!!

  3. Very beautiful and dreamy and lovely.

  4. Came home late to find a sparrow wedged beak-first into an inner corner of my porch roof. No nest, just a bird. Can’t tell if it’s alive, but I can’t imagine how it would stay up there if it weren’t. Any ideas as to what’s happening or reasons why I shouldn’t give it the softest touch with a stick to see if it’s alive?

  5. Jesse, I would poke it softly, but then I’m the one who stepped over the baby rattler in the dark to take a picture!

  6. Is the bird still there this morning?

  7. Beautifully said! So soft and lovely..just like the photo!

  8. Thank you! It’s actually a drawing (info at end of the post).

  9. Sorry about the delay, but this was my first chance to write. Woke up at six and the bird was gone. I’ll assume a happy ending, but still — very strange!

  10. Extraordinarily beautiful. Makes me feel as if I am there! Thank you for sharing your gifts!

  11. Wonderful artwork – very vibrant


  12. The sparrow’s back! (I’ll keep you posted if it does anything other than perch and sleep.)

  13. Jesse, could the sparrow be stashing seeds in whatever crack the beak was stuck in?

  14. CLH,

    Thanks for writing! I don’t think so, because there’s really not much room, and it’s all exposed. This is tough to explain, but the corner of the porch is centered on a column, so the space available to the sparrow (unless there’s some hidden crevice, but I doubt it) is one quarter of the capital of a column. It’s enough to perch on (and I’m sure for some types of birds to build nests), but not much else. My new knowing-nothing-about-birds theory is that its nest is destroyed and it just wants a place to spend the night, but wouldn’t it be building a new nest instead of sleeping in the open?

  15. Do we have any gardeners amongst the birders and others on the site? This is at least a year in the future, but I’d like to develop a shade garden (my backyard gets almost zero sunlight due to trees that I love) of moss, fern, and rocks. So far, the rocks are doing well, but very tentative attempts at moss and ferns have been complete failures. Pachysandra and violets are doing fine, but the ferns and mosses just didn’t take.

    One theory I’ve heard is that because I have several large maples around, I need to trim them below their canopy and work the soil to free it from their mass of roots. I don’t mind the soil part, but I’d rather not trim trees if I can help it. Any ideas?

  16. Just Came back to your post and saw that you said this was a Drawing..and using Wacom tablet! wow…just beautiful..
    The reason I was coming back was because I will be linking to this post in my
    Dawns Blogaholic weekly reader..
    The art makes it even more special..though your photos are art as well.
    check my blog…should have my weekly reader up in a day.i think..

  17. Hi Jesse: back in my days of house ownership I gardened quite a bit, and mostly with shade gardening. Your maples may well be causing arid conditions underneath – they tend to out-compete everything and suck all of the water up. We worked the soil underneath and then made raised beds with added topsoil, which made for wetter, more nutrient-rich conditions. Was still drier there, but finally got some plants to grow…

  18. Lovely. No wonder you want to step back into the ooze. You are in love. My love is the big flat wide-open midwest sky. It allows my soul to soar in a way that living in the east it can not.

    On the fern-moss question it has to do with soil acidity. My backyard is densely shaded with old oaks and the ground is covered with a soft thick carpet of moss.

  19. [...] excuse about allergies). Anyway after a good but somewhat species poor trip a couple of weeks back (see her much better description of the day out there than I could ever manage) we decided to meet back up for another stroll through the filth and the fury that is a scorching [...]

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