They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and the cam in the iPhone 4S is pretty impressive for the dinky little thing that it is. It also automatically GPS tags every image you shoot. I’m using it to commit the 8th Deadly Sin of Americana.
(Ladder Company 3 lost more men as a percentage of its total complement than any other firehouse in NYC on September 11th. It’s next door to the camera repair place I use.)
I’ve been slack about blogging lately. Lots of other stuff going on.
Yesterday, 24 July 2011, same-sex marriage became legal in New York state. I headed down with Sarah to the City Clerk’s Office in lower Manhattan, where we were legally married almost a year ago, to record the first official gay marriages in the city.
It was hot and extremely humid. Some had been waiting in line from 4:30am. The doors opened at around 8am to let hundreds of couples begin their progress from one official to the next, accumulating one piece of necessary paper after the next. At times there seemed to be more cameras than participants in this drawn-out, somewhat ad-hoc process. (Why do so many big changes in society involve standing in line?)
There was no shortage of stages on which to perform. Frivolity danced with deadly seriousness. A helluva lot of happiness spread itself around.
The images below are a first, loose edit from a place where the intensely personal became expansively (but not always easily) public and political, old rituals shifted their forms and thousands of people walked into a new phase of their lives.
One day we might look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I made it out of bed at 5am to be there.
*NOTE: All images are copyright Adam Welz 2011. If you would like to reproduce them anywhere or anyhow, please contact me first!
sometimes, mr mondrian…
had a fantastic time in Central Park on Saturday with a gang of New York city raptorphiles releasing 5 pint-sized Eastern Screech Owl into the park. They had been rehabilitated by Bobby and Cathy Horvath. Here are some photographs:
Cathy Horvath with one of the young grey-phase birds before release:
Two more grey-phase ESOs. Note Bobby Horvath’s slightly munched hand on left — they may be small, but they have teeth sharp beaks and claws:
Me and ‘my’ owl — the one the Horvaths gave me to release. Cathy on bottom left of frame. It didn’t seem to want to fly off in any hurry and sat on my hand for quite a number of minutes while everyone took pics:
Because the bird did not want to fly, I decided to put it on branch, from which it immediately flew:
Here it is a coupla minutes later near-silhouetted in a bush next to the path. I really like its unevenly-sized pupils!
Here’s a pic of the rufous-phase adult that Bruce Yolton released with a green tinge all over everything — the light really is green under that summer deciduous canopy in North America…
…and another of the same bird a little later:
What a great thing to do on a Saturday afternoon! You can see more pics of the release at
went down to the Riverside nest (in Manhattan’s Upper West Side) this afternoon to check out the three youngsters, one of which has properly fledged, one of which still seems to be in the advanced branching stage, and the third which is still in the nest. As I arrived an adult swooped in with a squirrel, which was a pretty spectacular thing to see. I was very keen to lay my eyes on some NYC Red-tails after spending 6 weeks in this amazing city last year with them while shooting a programme for SABC’s Healing Power of Nature series.
The light was shocking so the images are not great (800 ISO and hail-Mary shutter speeds with no depth of field) but here is the nest-bound youngster and the advanced ‘short-flight’ brancher (note crops bulging with squirrel meat).
Curious little buggers, young Buteo jamaicensis — they’re constantly looking around. If the one on the nest did not fledge just after I left I’m sure it’ll go in the next couple of days. It was standing around a lot on the edge of the nest and eyeballing the ground met ernstige mening.
You can read more about the Riverside Red-tails at Bruce Yolton’s blog
had an extraordinary experience at the Model Boat Pond (just south of the Met Mus of Art) in Central Park, NYC.
22:30, pitch dark, two Black Skimmer going back and forth through the reflections of the city lights… they passed withing 5 metres of me! Got some video footage with small camera in nightshot mode.
One of my most amazing N American wildlife experiences so far!
Frame grab from video footage – added to blog page Fri 20 Jun. These tern-like birds feed by flying very low over the water, their lower mandible dropped down to scythe through it. When they touch a small fish or tadpole or whatever, the bill snaps shut. It’s supposed to be one of the fastest reflexes ever measured in any vertebrate.
it’s late and I’m bushed so this’ll be quick n dirty.
I’ve been following a Red-tailed Hawk nest down on the lower east side of Manhattan. it’s on an airconditioner over a busy road. Bad nest position. The nest has had 3 chicks, raised well, and they’re approaching the time of fledging. Over the last few days 2 of the nestlings have flown. Both ahve ended up on the ground in somewhat dodgy situations, and have been taken in to the care of a rehab guy for a short while until all their flight feathers ahve properly grown out. Houston 3, as I call him, the thrird yongster on the nest, had until today wisely decided to stay put there.
Anyhow, I went down to film him, and set up the tripod, quite early this afternoon. I zoomed in and locked off the shot on the nest, and started rolling, just when I noticed a funny buzzing on channel 2 of the sound. While I was trying to sort that out, lo and behold, Houston 3 flapped a bit, took an oncoming gust, and flew for the first time! Since the tripod was locked off I have no follow shot – tho I’m well chuffed I got waht I did – and in fact could not see where he went. We scoured the ‘hood for a blocks in all directions, and then I diecided to go off uptown to get the camera looked at. No sooner had I missioned across to 38th st, taken the camera ou tot show the techinician what was ‘wrong’ and have it behave perfectly, than my phone rang. houston 3 had been found, goofing off in a tree across the road from his nest. I hurried back (carrying all this gear across Manhattan is making me fit) and started shooting him flopping from branch to branch. After a littel while mama Red-tail piched up with a nice juicy rat, and started flying back and forth around the nest area, tempting houston 3 to fly, to come get dinner. i guess this is the natural way of getting a new fledgling flying fit.
As I was filming rat-pack mama on the nest, I heard a huge commotion. Houston 3 had flown back across the 4 lanes of traffic of Houston St, aiming for his nest building – but had failed to read a good perch. He was flopping around, trying desperately to cling to a vertical wall. As I got my camera on to him trying to perch on a vertical, he suddenly gave up, turned, and came down at a steep angle on to the tarmac of the west-running lane of Houston. He crash-landed somewhat badly (having done precious little landing in his life, and never before on the ground), belly flopped forward and skidded across the tarmac. Crap!
Blimpie, one of the neighbourhood’s hawk fans, imediately ran out into the traffic, waving his arms and blowing the whistle that he carries everywhere – an unforgettable sight. All I could think was get the poor dumb bird out of the road! Francois, a Swiss-French photographer who has been photographing the birds, was already taking his shirt off to throw over the by now very confused Houston 3 (I’d been telling him yesterday what do do if this happened) and other people were already bearing down on him from all sides (the hawks are somwhat of a local circus with $0 entry tickets). My camera was on a tripod, and I could not move fast with it, so I abandoned the viewfinder and sprinted across to get the hawk – as a result, missing the dramatic money shot (urgh – producer, please don’t be angry w me!). i was conscious of at least two more people with hands on the bird as I lifted it up, one tugging on the wing. As I scooped it up and crossed the road, to where some trees were that I had a vague idea of putting it up in, a crowd began to form. Somewhere before or after this a car crashed into another car because someone was trying to see the hawk. there were jokes about me being the “Discovery Channel in the ‘Hood” (I guess making videos and simultaneously grabbing hold of unhappy wildlife is, indeed, what the game’s all about nowadays
i asked the people to stand back so i could give the bird a littel peace and see if I could get it into a decent tree, when suddenly a plainclothes cop car pulled across in front of me, the guy grabbing his badge from under his shirt – all very NY cop show. “where the heck are you going w that bird’ etc. I told the cop I knew how to handle raptors and the best thing for the bird might be just to release it in a nearby tree. (Cop thought I was trying to steal it – whcih happens a lot to urban raptors in NYC)
“Is that a badge in your hand or are you just unhappy to see me?”
That was not to be. Within another minute things had become completely insane. there were something like 40 or 50 people around, yelling at me, some to release the bird, most wanting me to turn around so they could take pictures of it (I felt like a goddamn movie star on Oscar night – it’s not fun). somebody was climbing a tree and telling me to toss the bird up to them, like it was a football???, kids were screaming senseless stuff – it was all too hectic. There was no way I was going to get the by now incredibly stressed bird into any kind of useful tree without it being hounded into harm by the public. Officer Keenan (the name of the rather sizeable cop in the pic below) seems to have somewhat lost his temper at that point too. He got out of his car an informed me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t care who I was or what I did, he was taking the bird. (“You can’t expect to walk around in Manhattan with a hawk and not have a crowd form around you!” was one of his more astute observations.) I told him that if he could find me a box, and make sure the bird got to Bobby Horvath (the only rehabber I know in NYC, who happens to have this bird’s siblings under care), I would give him the bird. You don’t really have any bargaining power with an NY police officer who’s had it, but I guess he understood that he did not want to be clawed by a hawk and htat maybe putting it in a box instead of the trunk of his car was at the end of the day the most practical solution. He went off, and came back with a dirty cat-carrier, better than nothing I guess, I put Houston 3 in it and asked Officer Keenan if he could drape somehting over the cage so the bird could be less stressed. He told me that was the last thing on his priority list (which I guess it is, if your job is to bust drug dealers in the projects) and walked off with Houston 3 bouncing around unhappily in his new confinement.
Bobby Horvath (whom I had called in the middle of the madness) was on his way, and when he arrived we tracked the bird down to an animal pound facility somewhere uptown (Houston 3 had a small blood spot on his bill but otherwise seemed healthy). So – i got home at almost 11, exhausted the bird is safe in the hands of an experienced rehabber, and hopefully will be released with his sibs shortly, in a nearby area where their parents can carry on raising them. I trust that next year the Houston St hawks will find a safer place to raise a brood…
Now I just need to figure out how to tell this drama for my little documentary, seeing as half the shots are missing. you can’t film and hang on to birds and try to hold back the insatiably curious public all at once, but when that insect gene gets inserted into the human genome, you know, the one that’ll give you six arms and legs, I’ll be first in line for the treatment!
Note to producer: I’m not even going to consider a re-enactment!
PS there are doubtless pics on some of the urban hawk blogs from NYC now – google Yolton’s blog and pale male blog…