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Cardinal cover image
A cardinal in Dumbo, Brooklyn, on April 24, 2020. Photographed by N.A. Ferrell with a BlackBerry Classic. Edited for publication by V. Gurbo.

In normal times, cardinals are a rare sight for those walking around brownstone Brooklyn and its surrounding neighborhoods.  Perhaps those with gardens see them more often, but they are scarce around the sidewalks.  Since the start of social distancing due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, however, I have seen cardinals on several occasions in DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens.  I can only theorize that they have become bolder with the significant decrease in foot and vehicle traffic over the past several weeks.

Seeing the cardinals reminded me of another rare Brooklyn bird sighting 20 years ago.

The Blue Jay and Black Squirrel Sighting

Back in the year 2000, I attended elementary school in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.  On one April or May morning, I looked down on our playground from my classroom window.  Our quaint playground was hardly a wildlife refuge.  It was rectangular, enclosed on the bottom and right by the walls of our school building and the adjacent building respectively, and on the other two sides by wooden fencing.  The ground was made entirely of crumb rubber, and it was populated by basic playground equipment.

The moment I looked down on the playground, a blue jay landed on the wooden fence.  At that very same moment, a black squirrel ran across the playground and through the fence.  The blue jay departed almost as soon as it landed, vacating the premises with the black squirrel.

The story stayed with me because, at least in my experience, both black squirrels and blue jays are rare sights in the area.  Black squirrels are more common in parts of Manhattan than these areas of Brooklyn.  Blue jays are quite uncommon sights for those of us without gardens – I have only seen a few.  For these reasons, the double sighting was quite memorable.