Monday, June 11, 2012

Birding Green-Wood Cemetery and Beyond

1. Green-wood Cemetery gate-kab The Entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery 5-20-12

Sunday morning, May 20th dawned bright and sunny in New York City. We had a quick breakfast, then jumped on the subway for a long ride to Brooklyn, NY. Our destination is the Historic Green-Wood Cemetery where I hope to see a bird species that has long eluded me. My friend, Kathryn and I searched for this bird last fall in Hammonassett State Park in Connecticut without any luck. I have also looked for this bird species while visiting a friend in Bridgeport, CT where she regularly sees this bird from her yard, but both times I have visited her it was nowhere to be found!

2. entrance-kab The Gate to Green-Wood Cemetery

After exiting the subway we walk a short distance to the gate which winds up a low hill towards the entrance. Swooping low over the grassy slopes I see my first interesting birds of the day; Barn Swallows! Overhead I already hear the twittering of chimney swifts. Around me robins gather on the lawns while starlings squawk and squabble!

3. signage-kab Green-Wood Cemetery

The Green-Wood Cemetery is not only a National Historic sight, it is also a well known birding site and listed as a birding Hotspot on eBird. On two previous visited we talked of coming here and each time it did not work out. Today I am finally on the premises and my feet are walking toward that gothic entrance!

4. bird nest-kab Bird nest among the peaks

As we near the Gothic Revival entrance to this historic place I can see the large stick nests of my desired species. Dangling from the edifice are the acrobatic green birds, a non-native species that has established itself here and in the aforementioned locations in Connecticut: Monk Parakeets! Life Bird number 426!

However, since I knew we would be riding the subway for a long ride and walking the streets for many miles I did not bring my big Nikon D80 with its 70-300mm lens today. Instead, I have my tiny Nikon Coolpix S4000 in my pocket, so I do not have any outstanding photos of this bird! You can just see a bit of green tucked under the nest and above one of the points near the center in the above photo where one of the four parakeets I saw was clinging to the nest! At this moment I was kind of sorry that I did not have my camera, but as the day went on and we walked and walked some more and the temperature rose and rose, I was glad I was not hauling it around!

5. the nest-kab 

6. details-kab 

6a. facade-kab 

7. gardens-kab The Garden near the entrance


8. restrooms-kab Public Restrooms are located here

9. climbing the hill-kab View across New York Harbor as we climbed the Hill

Once again it is midday and sunny and warm. While it is much less populated and quieter here, I still am not seeing many birds, but I know this is due to the time of day. Still, it is a pleasant walk with so many interesting things to see!

10. graveyard-kab Slopes of the graveyard with New York skyline peeking above the trees.

It is amazing to think that one of the battles from the Revolutionary War was fought here. We lost that battle but thankfully, we won the war! What’s even more amazing is that it took so long for this place to be named as a National Historic Site! It was not given that designation until 2006!

11. minerva-kab Statue of Minerva, the Goddess of War raising her hand in greeting


12. statue of liberty-kab Statue of Liberty across New York Harbor

This is the view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty as seen from where Minerva stands. She was erected in this location on purpose to reflect and honor the image of the Statue of Liberty. At the time there were no apartment buildings in the way to obstruct her view, but then these white buildings were put up sometime in the last century when there were no building height limits. It forced concerned citizens to go to court and fight to keep the skyline visible but they still could not halt the buildings going up. So, now Minerva and the rest of us have to peek over the rooftop!

13. fringe tree-kab Fringe Tree in Green-Wood Cemetery

The trees of Green-Wood Cemetery are famous in their own rights with many of them being decades or even centuries old, but this small ornamental Fringe Tree is what really caught my eye!

14. fringe-kab 

15. fringier-kab 

We only walked a small part of the 478 acres of Green-Wood Cemetery. If you go to their web-site or the Wikipedia article you can see a list of the famous people buried here. I saw a total of 15 species in the hour we spent here. We left Green-Wood Cemetery and walked across Prospect Park, stopping midway for a bit of something cold and refreshing as the day had grown quite warm. I was astonished at all the people in the parks since on my previous visits here it was earlier in the year and the weather a bit more chill. Now there was not a speck of grass anywhere without someone using it in one way or another! Most of the birds had disappeared for the day except for the usual house sparrows, starlings and pigeons but I did hear a few Wood Thrushes as we crossed Prospect Park!

16. grand army plaza-kab We exited near Grand Army Plaza…


17. manhatten-kab New York City Skyline

then headed for Brooklyn Heights! From here we had a grand view of the city.


17. Middagh st-kab 

As we walked along the promenade we came to Middagh Street. I would not have known the significance of this street if my brother had not told me about a book he read called February House. It is the true story of W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Brittan and Gypsy Rose Lee who all  ended up living in a house on this street at the start of World War II. It was called “February House” because all of the inhabitants happened to be born in February!

18. February house-kab The location of the former February House

We walked up the alley to the former location of this poet, artist and writer’s retreat which was torn down to build an entrance ramp onto the highway below!

19. dead end-kab Now it is just a dead end.


20. to the street-kab 

So I walk back down the alley to the street thinking of how my day began…


21. green-wood cemetery-kab 

It started with birds in Green-Wood Cemetery,


22. brooklyn bridge-kab

and ended with poets, artists and writers near the Brooklyn Bridge. Not a bad way to spend your day! We hopped on the subway once again to head back to the apartment. We have now all grown strangely quiet as we think of how we have to pack our bags and head back to life in the real world. It has all been so magical and wonderful. I know these are 5 days I will never forget, and I think that Gus feels the same way. He has fallen in love with the city and he would move here if he could. While I have grown to love this place, I am not sure if I could live this life. I am left with much to think about as the wheels of the subway car rumble beneath me, pulling us all back as if from a dream.


  1. That Cathedral is stunning. How appropriate too, that the birds nesting among its beautiful bones are called 'Monk' Parakeets.

    1. Laurence, thanks! I never made that connection but you are so right!

  2. That Gothic entrance is amazing and I love that the parakeets nest among the gargoyles. What a gorgeous place to wander in and get such marvelous views. Thank goodness that building wasn't any taller.

    I've never been fascinated with the idea of visiting NYC but your posts have changed my mind.

    1. Gaelyn, my brother has changed my mind. there is much to see and enjoy here, even for a nature lover like you or me!

  3. Beautifully written post, Kathie! One of my favorite books was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I also love Carson McCullar's works! My daughter visited Brooklyn once and said it was a really nice place. Now you have me wishing I could go as well! The gothic entrance to the cemetery is amazing! And I am so glad you saw your parakeets! I am going to have to get a copy of February House now too! Great post!!!!

    1. Marie, I never read a Tree Grows in Brooklyn and though I had heard the title, "The heart is a Lonely Hunter," i knew nothing about the book or the author, Carson McCullar. Now I have borrowed the book on CD from the library and will soon be listening to it. Meanwhile I am still reading February House. I like making all the connections between, place, book and author! I am so glad you liked this post!

  4. ooooh...again...homesick.
    thanks for taking me back. the entrance to the cemetery is so beautiful!!
    barn swallows and chimney swifts...amazing finds in the city!

    i love the brooklyn bridge shot! i remember as a kid riding over it so many times...going to visit my grandparents.

    thanks for sharing all the beauty of the city!!
    but it's still sad...when you look at the skyline...

    1. Laura, I am sorry I made you homesick but I know you enjoyed seeing all the pics. I do hope you get to visit again one day. I am sad about the building obstructing the view and I just learned from my brother today that that building only went up in 2005! I thought it was much older than that!

  5. Hi Kathie

    A lovely post and an intriguing spot to visit. Not only was the cemetery lovely but the lure of Monk Parakeets is pretty overwhelming. I will have to add that to the already extensive list of places to visit when we go back to New York.


    1. Guy, I do hope you make it back and I am so pleased that I have added to your list of places to visit! I would definitely add this one tot he list and Prospect park is right nearby!

  6. An interesting place to go birding. Those nests are amazing to see. Glad you found the bird you were looking for!

    1. Thank you Mary! I am continually amazed at all the places I find birds!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.