Her expression suggests she’s not too fond of the wildlife paparazzo, wouldn’t you say?
Today, Debbie Becker leads one last Saturday Bird Walk before putting these popular group binocular outings on hiatus until September 7. Join her at 11 a.m. near the Reflecting Pool of the Leon Levy Visitor Center!
Weekends start on Friday! Everyone knows that. And as soon as you get out of work later today, we’ll have something for you to dive into before heading out for the evening. Thanks to Thirteen NY and Treasures of New York, their in-depth examination of all things Big Apple, the New York Botanical Garden has been getting the star treatment all week. In fact, our special feature on Treasures hit the airwaves for a premiere this past Tuesday. But for anyone who missed out, or anyone who’s just looking for the inside scoop on how and why we do things at the Garden, there’s another chance coming up!
We’ll be taking part in an OVEE screening of the special at 5:30 p.m. today on this site, where we’ll have Todd Forrest, VP of Horticulture and Living Collections, and the Treasures of New York producer on hand to answer your questions in a friendly chat. It’s certainly not an everyday opportunity, and you don’t even need a TV remote, so don’t miss out.
Another ship passing in the night this weekend is the Saturday Bird Walk, which—contrary to popular belief—is not an indefinite affair. Sometimes even the birds need a break! Whether or not you have a pair of binoculars of your own (we’ve got some loaner pairs at the Visitor Center), meet Debbie Becker for one last stroll around our 250 acres before the summer hiatus; she’ll be back for more hawk-spotting this September 7.
The hydrangeas are bright, the lotuses are blooming, Wild Medicineis better than ever, and summer’s kaleidoscope is focused squarely on the NYBG. Head below for more.
Sure, the first things you think of when hawks come to mind are probably hooked talons, beaks, and stealthy swoops on unsuspecting (and occasionally adorable) rodents. But beneath their noble profiles and well-earned heritage as the monarchs of the sky (sorry, butterflies), even our Red-tailed Hawks have moments of awkward indignation that border on the cute and fluffy. Bath time in particular—with all its flopping and splashing about—is usually cause for giggles. And lucky for us, this often takes place in the Fountain of Life just outside our offices in the Library Building.
Our resident hawk aficionado and Visitor Services Attendant, Pat Gonzalez, happened to be outside filming one of the local hawks as it fed, dodged resentful bluejays, and washed off the day’s exertions. I’ve bumped the video forward to the most comical bit, but you can catch the rest by dragging the cursor to the beginning.
It’s the last weekend of our Tropical Paradise exhibition, and while the sun’s made a fair showing throughout the week, there’s still enough frost in the air to warrant a little escapism. Of course, that’s what this event is all about–having a chance to at least pretend that you’re not in New York City in the dead of winter. And through Sunday, the doors to our steamy Conservatory will still be open to visitors hoping to explore the real stars of our permanent collection–and leaving their scarves on the rack, too.
Sunday also marks the final day of open photography workshops in the Conservatory, as well as your last opportunity to pitch your name into the hat for our yearly tropical photography contest. Thus far it’s been a heated challenge between a number of talented shutterbugs, but there’s always the opportunity to get in the game with photos of your own, even if you’re late to the party!
For the would-be polar bears among you, this weekend’s schedule offers more than just daydreams under the palm trees; we’re also hosting an involved Winter Tree Tour on Sunday, something to complement Saturday’s traditional outdoor Bird Walk with Debbie Becker. It’s your chance to see winter’s aesthetic from a slightly different angle–one that appreciates the angles and arches of the trees.
But you don’t have to fret. Closing the doors on Tropical Paradise is one of those situations where we open a window elsewhere–in this case, one that looks out on thousands upon thousands of orchids! So stay tuned for next week, folks.
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?
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 took an aimless jaunt around the Garden yesterday to see what the birds were singing about. Of course, I rarely have a goal when I set out, and this was no different. I checked to see whether the trees had given up all of their fall color (they haven’t), and if the NYBG‘s wild turkeys were still tottering around without care for man, beast, or passing Garden tram (they are). In the Forest, breezy reds and yellows still clung to many of the trees, and there was that pervasive, comforting sense of autumn isolation to wrap yourself up in. But what’s going on by the Visitor Center can only be called a holiday hubbub.
I saw winter-bare trees wrapped in strings of lights, wreathed benches, and a conifer display primped and preened, anxious for someone to come along and flip the switch on its own light show. And further down the path, just outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, I picked up on the telling twinkle of the season’s defining event: the Holiday Train Show! Horticulturists, model makers, and toy train aficionados have kept their noses to the grindstone for weeks, making sure that each elevated track and glowing window is left perfect for the thousands of New York fans ready to pour through those Conservatory doors. And because there are new models to be seen this year, the challenge was that much greater. But, as always, it’s worth the work they put into it to see so many grins.
The New York Botanical Garden is, first and foremost, a world-renowned collection of flora. But you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than a few minutes walking under the boughs without recognizing the sing-song notes of our most gregarious residents. The birds of the Garden represent some of the most varied fauna in New York City, and not only are we a haven for passersby making the trip to cozier climates, but we’re further home to a menagerie of year-round species in all shapes and sizes.
It so happens that we get the best of both worlds in the fall. Migrating species gather up for the flight south while the locals buckle down for the coming winter, and Debbie Becker, binoculars in hand, is always there to see it; join her for our in-depth NYBG birdwatching course beginning in October and you’re sure to walk away with a new skill.
While the herons and egrets are soon to take flight for the season, and the hummingbirds already have their eyes on the clock, few realize how abundant the wildlife is here in the autumn. Thankfully, Becker has the roll call down pat. She’s been leading Saturday Bird Walks at the NYBG for over 25 years, making her one of the area’s foremost experts on NYC’s winged things. And while newcomers are always welcome to glean what they can from her weekend walks, motivated beginners won’t want to pass up Becker’s primer on birdwatching fundamentals.
It’s like we blinked and suddenly: fall color! For now, the effect is subtle. You might find a few more leaves than average blowing along the grass under the tulip trees. Make your way into the 50-acre Forest and you’ll see familiar reds, oranges, and yellows lighting up the trees here and there. We’re not complaining about the chill in the air, either. But whether the calendar confirms it or not, autumn is dancing its way into New York City, and the NYBG is the place to be.
This weekend is the perfect time to escape into nature and soak up what feels like a second spring. Saturday’s Bird Walk starts you off with a jaunt around the Garden, binoculars in hand, spotting creatures of every sort with our reigning birdwatcher extraordinaire, Debbie Becker. After that, I can’t talk up the Rose Garden Tour enough, especially now that the fall bloom is underway. We’ve had visitors from the four corners talking up the collection on Twitter, and their awe is not misplaced; it’s one of our most popular autumn displays.
We’ll also be joining Sonia Uyterhoeven on Saturday and Sunday for a wrap-up of water lily season. She’s an expert on the planting and care of aquatic plants, so home growers won’t want to miss these open demonstrations around the Conservatory water lily pool. And I should mention Saturday’s Season in Poetry session in the Perennial Garden, for those of you touched with an appreciation for the lyrical. But whatever you choose to do, think about making an entire day of it. No point in squandering this weather with the cold close on its tail!
This might be a bittersweet Saturday for birders. Why? Well, truth be told, we’re bidding adieu to the Bird Walk! But don’t sweat–it’s only for a couple of months. As if the heat hadn’t already driven the point home, the calendar tells us it’s summer, and that means it’s time for a hiatus. Saturday marks this season’s last opportunity to don your boots and binoculars for an expert-led bout of birdwatching. (I am on an alliterative roll today.)
Debbie Becker has been at the head of these outings for over 25 years, making her the absolute authority on the NYBG‘s hawks, owls, and Pileated Woodpeckers (now resettled in the Garden after over seven decades). We can’t wait to have her back on September 1! But there’s no reason to make yourself wait that long, right? Come out tomorrow for the last walk of what I’m still stubbornly calling spring.