Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coyote in yesterday's snowstorm

Feb 25, 2010--photo by Bruce Yolton

for more coyote pix check Bruce's blog at

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tree disaster in the park

Below, two newspapers' coverage of the tree disaster. See my comments at the end.
photo by Dan Brinzac - NY Post

photo by Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

From the NY Times - 2/26/10:

Man Is Killed in Central Park by the Falling Branch of a Snow-Laden Tree

A 46-year-old man was killed on Thursday as he was walking through Central Park when a large tree branch, weighed down by snow, snapped off and struck him, the police said.

Less than an hour later, a second enormous tree laden with snow, on the east side of the park near 69th Street, collapsed, landing on a city bus and a car on Fifth Avenue.

The fatal episode and reports of other trees giving way prompted the city to take the unusual measure of urging people to stay out of parks for the remainder of the day.

The man, Elmaz Qyra of Brooklyn, was killed around 3:30 p.m., along a picturesque stretch called Literary Walk, named because of the statues of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns overlooking it. He was declared dead at the scene; he was not immediately identified.

One witness who saw the man as he lay bleeding said the branch was about 20 feet long and looked as if it weighed 100 pounds. It came from a tree that was perhaps 80 feet tall, he said.

“It was obviously a direct hit to his head,” said the witness, a man who lives on the Upper West Side but would not give his name. “There was this big pool of blood spreading through the snow. It was horrifying.”

Other fallen branches could be seen nearby, and a tree was collapsed over a walkway with its entire root bed exposed from a huge mound of earth.

“The breaking of the branch and the other fallen trees were likely caused by the accumulation of wet, unusually heavy snow,” the parks department said in a statement.

Parks officials warned New Yorkers to take caution anywhere there were snow-laden trees. That included a stretch of Fifth Avenue from 69th to 71st Streets, which was so dangerous that the Police Department closed it for a few hours on Thursday afternoon.

Heavy, wet snow blanketed New York City all day. By early evening, there was nearly six inches of snow in Central Park — much of it damp and slushy — and forecasters were predicting that another six would fall by the end of the storm.

As dusk fell, passers-by, including some tourists, stared at the twinkling lights of emergency vehicles in the park. An unmarked sport-utility vehicle blared warnings for people to leave.

Archie Worley, 44, an opera singer, came upon the site of the accident as he walked across the park from Hunter College to catch the subway home to Hamilton Heights. He said that he came through the park three times a week or so, and that the Literary Walk was his “favorite part.“I saw the trees down on Fifth Avenue, and I had never seen that before,” Mr. Worley said. “It’s very eerie to hear that someone died here.”

Link to NY Times article:

From the New York Post - 2/26/10

Snow-laden, falling tree limb kills man in Central Park


A tree branch laden with snow snapped off and killed a 46-year-old man in Central Park yesterday during the blustery winter storm that roared through the region.

The branch from an American elm -- one of several trees that lost limbs or were leveled by yesterday's storm -- fell on Elmaz Qyra of Brooklyn, at 3:25 p.m. near 69th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The tragedy came as the metropolitan region was pelted by strong winds and huge, soaking, wet flakes of snow that wreaked havoc with travel plans and turned sidewalks into slushy messes.

As of early this morning, more than nine inches of snow had fallen in the city, with another four to six inches expected by daybreak.

Occasional light snow will fall throughout the day today, putting another inch on the ground, but the storm will end by tonight, according to AccuWeather. Wind gusts could hit 40 mph.

Around 17,000 people in Westchester were without power last night, while about 700 customers in the five boroughs were affected by outages.

About 1,000 flights were cancelled at local airports.

Alternate-side parking rules are suspended, but parking meters will remain in effect.

Qyra, who lived in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, was a steward at the New York Athletic Club, located nearby on Central Park South.

He was wearing workout clothes and sneakers as he passed through a tree-lined stretch of the park's mall known as Literary Walk, for its assortment of statues of authors, poets and composers.

Qyra was killed near the bronze statue of Fitz-Greene Halleck, a 19th-century poet and essayist whose satirical "Croaker Papers" appeared in The Post, then the New York Evening Post.

The thick branch broke, fell several dozen feet and struck him on the head.

A passer-by discovered him on the pathway.

Qyra's distraught relatives gathered last night at his home, but were too distraught to comment.

Just outside the park, on Fifth Avenue near East 71st Street, another branch crashed onto an MTA bus carrying only the driver, who was uninjured.

"The limbs can't handle the snow load," said a Parks Department worker.

The department last night urged people to avoid city parks and nearby streets because of heavy snow accumulation on trees. Cops also closed the west sidewalk of Fifth Avenue between 69th and 71st streets because of the risk of falling limbs.

Read more:


Note from Marie:

It's always interesting to compare the way newspapers cover the same story. I was surprised to find that the NY Post, a paper I rarely admire, did a better job in getting the facts this time than the proud and respectable NY Times. For instance, the Post noted that the fatal limb came from an elm, while the Times didn't bother identifying the tree. Since the elms at the Literary Walk are venerable, historic trees, surely this is worth mentioning. And since elms are vulnerable to Dutch Elm disease, it might be an important aspect of the tragedy to investigate. I found many other salient details in the Post story that were missing in the Times' coverage. What do you think?

For details about the Literary Walk where the accident occurred, here's a link:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hawk vs Eagle

Mitchell Nussbaum, a Central Park nature observer and amateur astronomer, sent me the photo below with a note:

Dear Marie, From Ft. Tryon park last Wednesday at 10:53AM the Redtail made a sortie at the Eagle. What a huge difference in size! Imaged from the Billings Lawn, looking West

photo by Mitchell Nusbaum -- Fort Tryon Park --- 2/17/10

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coyote still here!

Yesterday regular website correspondent Margo Beller alerted me to an extraordinary posting by Bruce Yolton on his website: Just returned from a trip to London, Bruce headed for the Pond in the southeast corner of the park in search of the coyote. That's where it was first seen. But nobody had seen traces of it for weeks. Indeed, most of us assumed it had taken off for greener pastures, But good old Bruce -- he found it! You can see his great photos AND a video [!] of the coyote playing with a bottle on the ice, by going to Bruce's website.

3 photos by Bruce Yolton --7/22/10 -- The coyote at the Pond

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring song

Song Sparrow - 7/13/07
photo by Cal Vornberger -

Every year around this time I start taking note of birds that have begun to sing a different tune: their breeding song. Here is Jack Meyer's report from last Saturday, 2/20/10, as it appeared on eBirds:

Besides the bed of snowdrops in Strawberry Fields, there were three singing birds: Song Sparrow on Bow Bridge Island, Cardinal on Cherry Hill, and a half-hearted House Finch near Azalea Pond.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brown Thrasher in Central Park

photo of Brown Thrasher by David Speiser --

From Ben Cacace in yesterday's eBirds:

Date: Saturday, 20 February 2010 (7:15a-11:20a)
Location: Central Park - reservoir to the Ramble / Lake
Reported by: Ben Cacace

The *Brown Thrasher* and the 45+ *American Crows* were both surprises.

The *thrasher* was on the east slope of Sparrow Ridge feeding with robins, white-throats & finches. This spot is west of the Great Lawn and east of Summit Rock at a latitude of approximately 83rd St. The huge group of *crows * were seen heading south then later heading north from the same spot in the Pinetum.

A juvenile *Red-tailed Hawk* was coursing over the west side of the nesting pair's territory just east of Summit Rock.

Approximately 25-30% of the reservoir is frozen.