NYC red-tail

New York City is big, bustling and in July – hot, but there are always entertaining and even educational ways to escape the heat. The planets aligned just right giving both Denise and me the entire July Fourth week off.

We donned our tourist attitudes and headed north for a visit with Denise’s sister in Eastampton, New Jersey and a short train ride and a day in the Big Apple with Izzy (10) and Maddie (6.)

We got up early on the morning of July 5 for the short drive to the train station. However after a wrong turn, we found ourselves in the middle of “train-noir” rushing to catch the train as it leaves the station. An hour later we found ourselves beneath Madison Square Garden at Penn Station.

The girls enjoyed exploring the subterranean labyrinth known as the New York subway. Once onboard they practiced their subway surfing – always within grasp of one of the handy poles. After a short ride we ascended, once again, into the light and heat at W. 81st – the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and Central Park West.

We had time for a short stroll in the park via Hunter’s Gate before the museum opened at 10 a.m. We rambled around the Ramble, saw cormorants sunning at Turtle Pond and viewed Sheep Meadow and the NYC skyline from Belvedere Castle. We trekked around Shakespeare Garden a bit also before the sauna-like heat drove us back to the museum.

Regrettably, we overbooked at the museum buying tickets for three different programs – “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence”; showing and describing an astonishing array of different bioluminescent organisms – “Journey to the Stars”; projected on a planetarium-like ceiling this program travels from 13 billion years in the past to the explosion of our sun, five billion years in the future – “Flying Monsters” – this Imax production narrated by David Attenborough takes us to the world of pterosaurs (flying dinosaurs.)

All of these programs were great and we thought we had spaced them out enough to give us time in between for a little self-exploration. But the museum is simply stuffed with interesting stuff. We would barely have time to scratch the surface of an exhibit like “African Mammals” or “North American Mammals” or “Hall of Biodiversity” or the two exhibits of dinosaurs (orinithischian and saurischian) before it would be time to head to the next ticketed program.

And the museum is quite air-conditioned. In fact, in a bit of serendipity, when Izzy inadvertently left her hair band at one of the exhibits and she and her mom had to go back for it, Maddy and I took the opportunity to walk outside because Maddy was a bit chilled. We stepped out the Columbus Ave. exit/entrance under some large oaks. I glanced up and there, peering now at me, was one of (I suspect) Pale Male’s 2012 offspring – a fledgling red-tailed hawk.

Most birders will know immediately who Pale Male is – a 12-year-old male red-tail of some notoriety who arrived in Central Park in 1991. That first year, Pale Male tried nesting in an oak in Central Park but crows chased him away. He now nests on a building at 927 Fifth Avenue on the eastern edge of the park across from the Museum. He and different mates have produced a dozen or so fledglings and this year, he and new mate Lola, fledged three chicks.

Birders, bloggers and photographers have been following and photographing the family this year and the fledglings have been exploring farther and farther afield. The museum is directly across the park from the nest site and Pale Male has been observed on the grounds in the past. This bird that I believe to be a fledgling because of the large dark breast spots has a light-colored head like its namesake daddy.

Maddy and I went back inside, caught up with Denise and Izzy and continued our whirlwind tour of the AMNH. Toured out, we hiked over a couple of blocks to the Corner of Amsterdam Ave. and W. 82nd for a great vegan lunch at Peacefood Café.

Re-energized, we again hit the subway for a short ride to Times Square where the kids got to take in some real NYC wildlife like the Naked Cowboy, etc. and then back to Penn Station and the train ride back to Jersey – perfect time for two little girls to practice that perfected urban trait of sleeping on the train.