Whether you’re coming in to catch the Holiday Train Show before December’s crowds pile in, or to glean a bit of feathered wisdom from Debbie Becker’s Saturday morning Bird Walk, this weekend is squarely focused on relaxation. Because we know that in between the crush of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and winter holiday preparations, there’s hardly a sliver of space to squeak in your chill time! Of course, at the NYBG there’s a wider window for taking it easy.
With a light schedule and reasonable temperatures promised for Saturday and Sunday, this is your opportunity to explore 250 acres of New York City’s finest natural sanctuary. If you’re looking for activities, there’s always the Bird Walk for picking up a new hobby, or maybe you’d rather take a load off with the heat on? For that, stop by the Holiday Train Show in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory before hoofing it over to Ross Hall for a bit of history on our decades-long tradition.
Over in the education department, you can join in a two-hour rundown of the herbal arts through a course on making tinctures, salves, and oils from nature’s bounty. And, of course, there’s Gingerbread Adventures waiting for the kids in our Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. Why would you even consider passing up a hand-decorated cookie (of your own artistic creation, of course) before leaving?
This is a super-important reminder, everyone: you have one more day! That’s all that remains of your window to submit photographs to the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition before the judges close up for deliberations. And if you can’t have your submissions in by Friday, November 30, you’ll find yourself waiting at least another anxious year before you have an opportunity to win over $18,000 in prizes, international recognition, and your work in a professional exhibition!
Even if you can’t find the time to hike outdoors in search of that perfect shot, there’s no reason to give up hope–IGPOTY accepts old photos, as well. Just head over to their official competition page for guidelines on what to pull out of your portfolio. In the meantime, here are a few winning photographs from past years to jog your inspiration.
While the shingles may be drifting ever so slowly off the roof, and the gummy candy filling in for the lamp post has taken a header into the driveway, we don’t expect your homemade gingerbread house to be a triumph of art and engineering. It just has to taste good! But at the NYBG,our visiting bakers do hold themselves to a standard above anything most of us can piece together during an afternoon with a frosting bag.
This year, Gingerbread Adventures returns with more sugar, spice, and everything nice than you can wave an edible blueprint at. We’re back in the Discovery Center of the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden for cookie-decorating (and eating!), along with plenty of other holiday activities to keep your little one’s sweet tooth in the game. Beyond a perfectly reasonable sugar high, we’ll be offering fun craft and learning activities to focus that energy, along with a back-to-basics approach to the gingerbread cookie itself. Before the ingredients ever reach the supermarket shelf, your kids can learn the origins of sugar through sugar cane, grind their own cinnamon, and see ginger in its fresh-from-the-ground form. It goes a long way toward teaching them that not everything comes straight from the shrink wrap.
As the Holiday Train Show ramps up, we’ll be highlighting the cultural landmarks of New York City that have come to inspire our many miniatures, as well as the established organizations behind each one. It’s an opportunity for our readers to not only come away with a fresh understanding of the beautiful architecture in our city, but of the important institutions that have helped to create our rich cultural landscape.
What would become the world-renowned Jewish Museum did not begin as such. C.P.H. Gilbert, a prominent New York architect of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, designed this building as a private home for the family of Felix Warburg in 1908. Gilbert’s specialty was designing grand, chateau-style houses on Fifth Avenue for wealthy New York patrons like investment bankers Warburg and Otto Kahn, and entrepreneur Frank Woolworth.
Debbie Becker has been The New York Botanical Garden’s resident bird expert for over 25 years, and continues to lead her popular Bird Walks on Saturday mornings throughout much of the year.
Each year, The Audubon Society holds a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in which bird watchers throughout the country volunteer to count birds in a specified area, setting out at dawn and closing their notebooks at dusk. This year in the Bronx, birders will bring their binoculars to The New York Botanical Garden, Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay Park, City Island, Bronx Park East and other local parks and coastal areas. Based on the counts they come up with for each bird species seen, tallies will be pooled to represent each of the five boroughs.
The purpose of the final count determines the climate of the bird population, as species representation can fluctuate due to disease, weather, habitat destruction, and food supply. At the NYBG in particular, there have been some remarkable numbers observed in the last 10 years. For example, the population of American Crows at the Garden was once counted at over 500. Today, we are lucky to see just one or two. This is owed to the arrival of the West Nile Virus, which has decimated crow populations in our area.
Likewise, declines among the Tufted Titmouse, Chickadees, and the House Finch have struck hard. Populations of these small visitors were explosive in the 1990s, but conjunctivitis–an inflammatory eye disease–has caused them to dwindle since the late 2000s. In this case, however, the cause is more easily tackled; dirty bird feeders quickly pass the disease from bird to bird, so cleaning your feeders with soapy water each week can prevent the epidemic from spreading. Already, numbers of these bird species are slowly rebounding.
Then there are the new species which have been observed, those we hope will stick around long enough to be counted. Red- and White-winged Crossbills, rarities to the NYC area, have been observed around the NYBG and throughout many other locations in the city. Weather and food-related problems further north have driven these pine cone feeders south and into our vicinity.
I read somewhere that a hummingbird’s wings beat between 70 and 80 times a second, and can accelerate up to 200 beats per second during courtship. They can fly at an average speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour, but can dive at 60 miles per hour. With all this hyperactivity, these birds need sugary nectar to support their high-energy bursts.
Fortunately for them, some flower nectar has about two times as much sugar as the average soft drink. The blooms these birds favor tend to be bright red, pink, and orange–flowers in the shape of long tubes that are adapted to the hummingbird’s narrow bill. However, like other avian species they have a poor sense of smell, so the colorful flowers they pollinate do not have strong fragrances.