A visual journal exploring the birds of Inwood and Northern Manhattan

by Teri Tynes – writer, photographer, and illustrator

Sightings May 2023

Eastern Screech-Owl. The Clove in Inwood Hill Park. May 27, 2023

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Observations and thoughts

Background and Purpose

I moved to the Inwood neighborhood of Northern Manhattan in the late summer of 2013. I immediately fell for its wild beauty – the leafy forest of Inwood Hill Park, the rush of the Harlem River to meet the Hudson under the Henry Hudson Bridge, and the tides of the Salt Marsh. As a newcomer, I often felt that I had been shipwrecked on a remote island in the New World.

From those first days and weeks, I noticed Red-tailed Hawks flying over nearby Inwood Hill Park and many Herring Gulls following the sanitation trucks on garbage pickup days. Whole flocks of sparrows tried to nest under my air-conditioning unit. On many mornings, I would awaken to the sound of a loud and insistent mockingbird.

When the pandemic and lockdown descended on New York City in March of 2020, I quickly learned that the safest place in the world was the forest down the street. As the city shut down, spring was awakening. With the slow unfurling of the fresh young leaves, the birds arrived in waves.

Left: A Great Egret at the edge of the Salt Marsh. September 7, 2022.

As I settled into the new restricted routines of the pandemic, I learned more about bird life in my own backyard. I brought along my camera, the discontinued Nikon CoolPix B700, to document the birds along the way. The earliest of these pictures date from March of 2020.

I am not an experienced birder, and I do not keep a life list. I often struggle to identify birds correctly. I do try to take pictures that have an aesthetic quality and that attempt to portray birds in some characteristic action.

Through my walks, I enjoy seeing familiar birds and meeting new ones. It’s in my head, but I like to think that certain robins appear to guide me to the new birds in my path, or that a certain Red-tailed Hawk keeps watch over me while I sleep. I often ascribe to them qualities associated with fairytales or folklore. The birds are my guides, sentries, and oracles.

This website, accordingly, does not attempt to offer a comprehensive account of the birds found in Inwood Hill Park and the rest of Northern Manhattan. At a basic level, it’s simply my favorite pictures of cool birds that I see when I go on walks. I do hope that people interested in birds and wildlife may be inspired to visit this wild area of New York City.

Thanks for visiting. – Teri Tynes

Left: A Great Egret spreads its wing at the Salt Marsh. August 6, 2022.

Red-tailed Hawk. March 31, 2023

The Landscapes

Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan is the location for most of the birds observed here.

A forested and hilly site, the park was initially shaped by the retreat of glaciers. Nestled within the old growth forest, park trails lead to glacial potholes, caves once inhabited by the Lenape, the former location for an earthen fort from the American Revolution, and the foundation of the lost mansions once inhabited by wealthy residents.

In the 1930s,  under the direction of New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, teams of construction workers damaged the landscape by tearing down the trees and altering the landscape to build and expand the Hudson River Bridge. That landscape is lost. In recent years, NYC Parks and volunteers have helped the landscape regenerate and thrive.

Not all of Inwood Hill Park is forest. The northern boundary of the park is marked by the confluence of the Harlem River Ship Canal, a small estuary called Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and the mighty Hudson River to the west. Here, the Salt Marsh plays a vital role in filtering pollutants from the water.

An intertidal marsh, salt meadow, and mudflats sustain their own types of plants and wildlife. A Great Egret, Great Blue Herons, shorebirds, and a Belted Kingfisher frequent these waters from spring through fall. Ospreys visit the area for fishing opportunities.

A Few of the Regulars and Visitors

Inwood is my Amherst.

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