Photo-Essay: The Day I Inspected Wild Quaker Parrot Nests in Brooklyn
Inspecting wild Monk Parakeet (AKA Quaker Parrot) nests is an interesting job, as long as you have no fear of heights. This nest, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is about 50 feet up.
On the morning of September 12, 2009, I met up with a team of workers whose job was to renovate the lamp fixtures around Bay Ridge's famous "Dust Bowl" ball field in Lief Erickson Park. The field is undergoing renovations, and thanks to an unusual agreement brokered by the NY Parks Department, Councilman Vincent Gentile, and local bird advocates, the work schedule was altered so that the parrots would be able to complete their breeding cycle before the nests were removed in order to install new lights.
The fundamental idea here was to avoid the nightmare we all got into a couple of years ago when wild Quaker nests were removed during the peak of the breeding cycle, which entailed a mass rescue of baby parrots and much grief on the part of their parents.
Although I was confident that there wouldn't be any vulnerable parrot chicks in the nests, a personal inspection was still necessary, because the best laid plans of Man and Parrot sometimes go awry. Barry Schwartz, of the NYC DDC, who usually handles such matters, was unavailable that morning, so I pitched in, after donning a safety helmet, a safety harness, and all the will I could muster. The following photos capture this adventure, which I survived and will never forget!
In this photo, you can see the wild parrot nests, built at the top of the tall light fixtures, in the background. I'm already riding the crane, which is executing a maneuver to take us closer to the largest and oldest parrot nest.
Fortunately, I had a skilled crane operator from contractor Land Tek to guide the crane. "These things usually don't tip over," he quipped, which strangely didn't make me any less apprehensive about the journey ahead.
Here we are moving South along Fort Hamilton Parkway. The ride was very jiggly but the most exciting part was to come.
Up, up, UP, goes the crane toward the parrot nest. You can see my white-knuckled left hand in the lower left hand corner of the photo.
Our aerial ascension is photographed by those tiny figures in the street.
It took a lot of careful maneuvering to bring the crane close enough to the parrot nest to perform an inspection.
Take a LOOK at this magnificent wild parrot nest, which is the biggest and oldest in Bay Ridge. I really didn't want to disturb this formidable architecture, but I was obliged to explore it, to make sure no baby chicks were vulnerable to the imminent nest removals. This necessarily meant removing parts of it.
Here's a close up of one of the entrance portals. There were three individual communal cavities in this nest, and I explored them all. Fortunately, there were no chicks in the nest, which meant that the renovation work could go forward. We all breathed a heavy sigh of relief!
This photo shows a "monk's eye view" of Bay Ridge, and the soon-to-be renovated ball field.
I felt very bad about disturbing the monk parakeet nests, and sad that the renovation work required them to be demolished. But this work was done in a humane way that we should all be proud of. Special care was used to make sure that no young parrots were exposed to the work, and I'm especially grateful to the Parks Department, Councilman Gentile, and Land Tek, the project contractor, for keeping the safety of the parrots top-of-mind.
Yes, the parrots are going to be upset that their homes were disturbed, but they'll rebuild soon after the work is finished, which will hopefully happen soon. Best of all, the parrots will be supplied with basket-like platforms that will serve as good nest sub-surfaces. So it looks like the Wild Quaker Parrots of Bay Ridge will be active denizens of this storied Brooklyn neighborhood for years to come!