I fully admit to bouts of wanderlust. At the same time, I equally enjoy learning the intimate seasonal details of a particular place.
Thoreau's Walden passed by my eyes many years ago -- high school, perhaps? -- and while I might appreciate the concept behind the man's work, truth be told I found it a bit dull. Enjoying a recent walk through Queens Botanical Garden has made me reconsider his deep documentation of a single landscape.
I stopped by QBG on a day off when I recalled the previous year's sudden downpour of Kinglets, a sprite of a bird. That same week a year earlier, both Ruby- and Golden-crowned species (Regulus calendula and satrapa) were thick in the garden. During my regular lunchtime walk with pal Annette, one nearly landed on her shoulder and a couple days later, another sat on my shoe for a few seconds. Their quick, flitting motions seemed to be just a sign of their personality rather than an indication of fear -- they were almost tame considering how close we approached.
This year's journey began when I drove into the service entrance where heaps of manure sat decomposing, awaiting the transformation into excellent compost for the next growing season. Immediately, I saw quick flashes that, with some later guidance, turned out to be the yellow variation Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum). While enjoying this sighting, I noticed lovely clusters of mushrooms. Fungi on decaying matter is not unusual, but I've not seen this type before. Note to self: watch manure more frequently.
I moved onto the Parking Garden, a space of great pride at QBG. You heard right -- Parking GARDEN, not Parking Lot. This fantastic space not only accommodates cars, but with permeable pavers, rainwater-retaining depressions called bioswales, and native plantings, it can manage stormwater onsite. It's also a great place to enjoy plants, birds, and insects.
Bees were laying low this day given the breeze but a few Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) drifted past on their migration route. I wanted to visit a large stand of sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) that Annette and I noticed several weeks earlier. The flowers should be giving way to seeds by about this time, offering food for various birds, and I was not disappointed to see American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis), White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis), plus my first Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus).
There are moments I wonder if I spend too much time in just one spot -- so opposite my wanderlust tendencies -- and question if time should be spent in other landscapes. But looking at the Parking Garden's adjacent meadow and recalling the nesting Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus) in early summer, I reconsider. After all, if I had not been so tied to watching this landscape with my alert workmate friends, I would have never seen these birds and their two broods raised over the summer.
I rounded a small stand of Poplar trees (Populus spp.), just taking on golden fall colors, and headed to QBG's main gardens. Abundant blooms in the Perennial Beds clearly did not receive the memo that fall had arrived, though the bright orange Persimmons (Diospyros spp.) -- the outcome of a season filled with hard work from a tree's perspective -- nearly glowed.
Next stop on my Kinglet quest were the turf areas, a rewarding location last year. This time the grass near the Floral Border was silent, along with the expanse of the Oak Allee where our stunning trees waited to show off autumn hues along with their Red Maple neighbors (Acer rubrum). It wasn't until the Woodland Garden path that I noticed quick movements in the leaf litter below a Magnolia (Magnolia spp.). Perhaps not in the same number as before, but the Kinglets had returned on cue.
Maybe it's time to give Walden another go.
P.S. A week later the Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris) and Red Maples caught up to the season.