Photo by MNR

Photo by MNR

If you would like to contact me, leave a comment below.  As all comments are approved, I will not publish your query if you don’t want me to. Or email me directly at matthewwills at earthlink dot net. I am available for other writing and educational gigs. I lead tours and give pretty good slide show presentations for adults and children (I’ve worked with elementary and middle school kids). References are available. 

My name is Matthew Wills. I’m a Brooklyn resident who, in growing older, has returned to nature.  In Brooklyn?  Yes, as a matter of fact, in Brooklyn, NY, where, you may be surprised to learn, a great host of life-forms are to be found. In these pages (of blog), I will be exploring the life I discover in what I call the Back 40, a small patch of concrete out back, as well as the wider range of Brooklyn and the rest of NYC, and places beyond. I am an amateur naturalist, with a stress on the amateur, so please feel free to challenge and/or correct my bogus/bunk science. I started bird watching in Prospect Park about a decade ago, a story I write about here and was interviewed about here by artist extraordinaire Zina Saunders, whose portrait of me is below. From there I branched out into trees, mushrooms, arthropods, etc., whatever catches my eye and awakens my curiosity.

Image by Z. Saunders

Ivana Kottasová and Audrey Yoo of the The Brooklyn Ink produced this profile of me:

 Nature Blogger from Brooklyn Ink on Vimeo.

WNYC’s Amy Pearl and I made this short advertisement for the universe. Check it out.

picture by Amy Melson

99 Responses to “About”

  1. 1 Ted C. MacRae March 6, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Wow – Zina Saunders did a portrait of you?! Very, very cool! It’s a great painting also.

  2. 2 mthew March 8, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Zina is wonderful. Her Overlooked site, including her book, is here

  3. 3 Hilary Hopkins March 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Hello Matthew, and thank you for your article in TNC’s magazine about what I call the wonders hidden in plain view. Although I’m “retired” now, for about ten years I worked as a teacher/naturalist for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and plants are my favorite thing, especially the very most ordinary plants (so-called ordinary). I wrote a little book called Never Say It’s Just a Dandelion: 125 Wonderful Common Plants for Walkers and Walk Leaders, and I am sending you a copy right now. when I used to lead natural history walks for the Appalachian Mountain Club, people would always ask, Will we see any wildlife? by which they meant big sexy mammals. I would always point out that the plant world is the “other” wildlife.

    Anyhow, I am putting my book in the mail for you this afternoon. Let’s hear it for “vacant” lots, schoolyards, parking lots and edges of sidewalks.

    Best wishes for this day,
    Hilary Hopkins
    Cambridge MA

  4. 6 Katie June 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Who’s the rat in your pic?

    • 7 mthew June 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm

      I trust you’re referring to the four-legged critter? Friends have two of these cute lab rats as pets, and, over for brunch, they — the friends and the rats — were very friendly.

  5. 8 Betsy McCully February 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I love your site, Matthew. What a great journey you have begun in your backyard. A kind of Brooklyn Walden. Thanks for listing my site on your blog.
    Your fellow urban trekker,
    Betsy McCully

  6. 9 mthew February 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, Betsy! Thoreau is definitely my model.

    I love your site. I’m sure readers know your book, but if not they should, and can find out about it here.

  7. 10 david burg February 17, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Hey, accidently came across your site while googling the Four Sparrow Marsh meeting tonight. Thanks for linking to WildMetro (no space between the words but what the hey, I tried the link and it worked).

    FYI, WildMetro has been battling sprawl shopping centers for many years but we are not winning many of these battles. It is especially bad on Staten Island, where rare habitat is being destroyed. We are unequivacally opposed to anymore auto dependent sprawl-style retail development in the city. It is part of the continuing (since Robt Moses) effort to kill what makes NYC green (density and public transportation, see the recent book by David Owen) and make it safe for automobiles. Ironic for this “Green” mayor to be selling off natural areas for big box retail.

    • 11 mthew February 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      Keep up the good work! Staten Island does have it bad. For those who don’t know, it’s the city’s least developed borough, with the most open space, but it has seen some of the ugliest sprawl development known to humankind, suburbanization in action.

      I don’t know David Owen’s Green Metropolis, but I will look it up. Thanks for the reference.

      (P.S. WildMetro is now typographically corrected.)

  8. 12 Out Walking the Dog March 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Matthew, I just read your essay in Nature Conservancy – it’s very beautiful.

  9. 14 Rico June 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Hey Mr. Wills,

    I work for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and we’re compiling a list of blogs to send tips/press releases to. Bill cares about nature just as much as you do, so I can wondering if you could do me a favor and send me your email address? It would make it easier to contact you and send you updates.

    Thank you,

  10. 16 Bindu July 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    A really interesting blog. The interest you have in the ordinary plants is worth appreciating. And the pictures are great.

  11. 17 Sue Willman August 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I just linked to your entry of July 5th, 2011, on Diamondback Terrapins from Turtle Wife’s Newsletter. I enjoyed it very much, especially the pics. Very sad to hear of the predation rate. Do you think those covers really keep the raccoons out? I know they are very ingenious.

    • 18 mthew August 25, 2011 at 7:48 am

      Thanks, Sue. I don’t know how effective the covers are. I hope to volunteer for the nest research session and find out more.

  12. 19 Marie September 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Matthew

    I can’t find a contact email for you, so: Any chance of interesting birders and naturalists in our Prospect Park clean up every other Tuesday? The next one, our 10th, is tomorrow.

    We believe that if a more diverse group of people were actually in these woods, they would stay cleaner, and safer.

    – Your Neighbour

  13. 21 George Boorujy October 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Matthew,

    Just came upon your blog. I did the signage for Four Sparrow Marsh and helped a (tiny) bit with the restoration about ten years ago. Just went there today to see what’s what. REALLY overgrown. In an awesome way. Definitely a dude or two living in there AND I saw a red fox. It is the place that awoke me to the nature of NYC, and I will be heartbroken if they sell it off for some crap-ass box retailer. Really heartbroken. It’s such a special place.

    I’m doing a project sort of about the city and have a blog that sort of looks like yours:
    Thought you might be interested. Here’s what else I do:

    I’m happy I found your blog. Cheers,

    • 22 mthew October 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Hi, George, thanks. I really like your drawings. I’ve actually been on the lookout for one of your bottles as I patrol the city’s watery edges. News of the red fox is excellent; joins the ever-growing list of Brooklyn mammals. See you on the shoreline!

  14. 23 Kevin Dann January 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Matthew, I was so delighted by your Thoreau post recently, and kept meaning to send you a little slice of a biography I wrote of HDT (still awaiting publication). This excerpt seems like something you already know and express in your own work. Peace, Kevin Dann

    “The woodcraft of the cunningest hunter”

    Sometime just before July 1855, Ralph Emerson made a brief entry in his journal:
    The new professions-
    The phrenologist
    The railroad man
    The landscape gardener
    The lecturer
    The sorcerer, rapper, mesmeriser, medium
    The daguerrotypist
    Emerson was himself acting as a kind of phrenologist in compiling this vocational roster, for it gave a characterological reading of American culture at mid-century. The “railroad man” was the easy choice, as by 1855 rail lines penetrated every corner of the country, and had transformed the social and economic lives of many Americans. Emerson’s other choices hardly composed a nested set, but they all were professions that burst quickly upon the scene and then, perhaps with the exception of the landscape gardener, went extinct. Phrenology was already by 1855 losing its former cachet, displaced by other “sciences of the mind”; the wet developing process, which dramatically reduced the exposure time for making photographic images, came into its own this year; the lyceum movement had peaked, and though Emerson went on lecturing until 1870, lecturing as a profession was certainly on the wane; the mesmerizer had been largely replaced by Spiritualist mediums, who saw their commercial opportunities contract as spirit rapping became a hobby for millions.
    Phrenology, landscape architecture, professional public speaking, Spiritualist and mesmeric performance, and daguerrotype portraiture were united by something other than their meteoric rise to obsolescence; they were all “physiognomic” pursuits, seeking to reveal or enhance hidden inner qualities. The phrenologist was the direct descendant of Gall and Spurzheim, who in the late eighteenth century developed a science of physiognomy. Landscape architects and the gardeners who executed their plans sought to discover the inner quality of a place and then to sculpt the soil and plants to best express that quality. Lecturers like Emerson and Thoreau read the physiognomy of their fellow citizens and then suggested through their rhetoric how their audiences might better shape their ideas and actions to the pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty. Sorcerers of all stripes—from the stage magician to the professional or amateur mediums and mesmerizers—used theatrical technique and prescribed physical gestures to lead their subjects and audiences into another world. The daguerrotypist was antebellum America’s supreme recorder of gestures, to whom everyone rushed to immortalize their countenances before their facial physiognomy began to fail and fade away. Like other mid-century vocations, all aspired to scientific objectivity; in their pre-Enlightenment forms, all of these professions would have been “arts,” while in 1855 each one claimed for itself the mantle of science.
    Thoreau’s profession in the 1850s was profoundly physiognomic as well, for in making his journal a “record of his love,” he was practicing the art of reading and responding to gestures. Science by 1855 was entirely analytic, always attempting to reduce complexity and ambiguity by taking living and non-living things apart. Art—and Thoreau’s natural history practice falls into this domain—enlarges understanding by seeking wholes and then rendering them synthetically. Along with artistically observing and recording a wide world of natural phenomena, Thoreau practiced a physiognomic natural history in his indefatigable attempt to place himself inside what he saw, heard, and felt. Trying to imitate the honking of geese, he instinctively flapped his arms and twisted his head as he uttered “mow-ack” in his best nasal twang. His large inventory of bird calls had been won by constantly mimicking the little songsters. Whenever possible, be felt the fox’s foxness, the turtle’s turtleness, the frog’s frogness, by leaping or crawling or croaking just like them. His physiognomic science allowed him to see and speak across structural and functional lines; he thought that the songs of frogs in late March were not only contemporary with, but analogous to, the blossoms of the skunk-cabbage and the silver maple. He belittled naturalists for not being more attentive to color, believing that in both animals and plants, “color expresses character.” Human gestures fascinated him as well—“Why do laborers,” Thoreau asked, “so commonly turn out their feet more than the class still called gentlemen, apparently pushing themselves along by the sides of their feet?”
    Even his ecstasies by 1855 had taken on a profoundly physiognomic cast. On an “aggravated November” day (called such by Thoreau for the lack of snow on the ground) in December, Thoreau while threading the tangle of a spruce swamp thought about flocks of lesser redpolls and pine grosbeaks and other northern birds coming south in winter to add color and activity to Concord’s drab landscape. The thought “charmed and haunted” him:
    My body is all sentient. As I go here or there, I am tickled by this or that I come in contact with, as if I touched the wires of a battery. I can generally recall—have fresh in my mind—several scratches last received. These I continually recall to mind, reimpress, and harp upon. The age of miracles is thus returned. . .
    Beauty and music are not mere traits and exceptions. They are the rule and character. It is the exception that we see and hear. Then I try to discover what it was in the vision that charmed and translated me. What if we could daguerrotype our thoughts and feelings! for I am surprised and enchanted often by some quality which I cannot detect. I have seen an attribute of another world and condition of things.
    In the ecstatic condition, with his etheric body slightly lifted out of its physical casing, he feels the electric “breeze” of the earth’s etheric body, and the effect is to heighten his sense of the fit physiognomy of Nature. Reaching for some device to inscribe and thus fix the sensation, he imagines himself a daguerrotypist. The analogy is particularly apt in that the daguerrotype subject had to sit for long periods of time in order for an image to develop; Thoreau had to remain attentive and still for long periods in order to receive the crystalline, finely etched impressions that were characteristic of his perception. “It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon,” he concluded, “however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance.” This was the talent of the physiognomist, to heighten meaning by tilting the head slightly, thereby catching the accentuated relief of surfaces too long seen as flat and featureless.
    Along with a wealth of drawing and describing of animal tracks, the winter and early spring of 1856 found Thoreau reflecting more often than usual on the tracks of his own past. Having the day after Christmas exclaimed: “In a true history or biography, of how little consequence those events of which so much is commonly made!” He found that most of the important events in his life, “if recorded at all,” were undated. He also was struck by how difficult it was for most people even to recall in which towns or houses they had lived, and when, so the next day he made an inventory of these facts, with the help of his mother. The three-page entry in his journal is actually the most concentrated autobiographical offering since he composed his class autobiography at Harvard eighteen years before. A few months later, he reminisced on Fast Day (April 10) of baseball games played on the snow-free fields near Sleepy Hollow. Years of intense of reading of the gestures of his environment had obscured for Thoreau the contours of his own physiognomy. “I am sometimes affected,” he mused, “by the consideration that a man may spend the whole of his life after boyhood in accomplishing a particular design; as it he were put to a special and petty use, without taking time to look and appreciate the phenomenon of his existence.” He found it impossible to believe that the “innate” passions of a person—“interest in our country, in the spread of liberty, etc.”—could end with death; “It cannot be that all those patriots who die in the midst of their career have no further connection with the career of their country.” The very next morning after making this heartfelt speculation about the endurance of individual destiny across the threshold of the grave, his Uncle Charles died. His mother’s brother had forever been the family member whose eccentric gestures—his clownish habit of swallowing his nose; his falling asleep mid-sentence; his trick of tossing his hat tumbling into the air and then catching it on his head–made the strongest impression on Thoreau.
    Gestures are what we fall in love with, the expressions that catch our eye and delight us to the bone. The day of Uncle Charles’s burial, Thoreau memorialized him with but one thought—that he had been born in February 1780, the winter of the Great Snow, and that by dying in another winter of much snow, Uncle Charles had a life “bounded by great snows.” While his love for his uncle melted even the greatest snows and was only augmented by death, Thoreau’s feeling for another loved one was turning cold: “Farewell, my friend, my path inclines to this side the mountain, yours to that. For a long time you have appeared further and further off to me. I see that you will at length disappear altogether.” In recording the growing distance between himself and Emerson, Thoreau employed gestural language—“I come here to be reminded of the past, to read your inscriptions, the hieroglyphics, the sacred writings.” “Love is a thirst that is never slaked,” declared Thoreau. “Under the coarsest rind, the sweetest meat. If you would read a friend aright, you must be able to read through something thicker and opaquer than horn. If you can read a friend, all languages will be easy to you.” Thoreau’s facility for reading physiognomies actually freed him from the constraints and possible pitfalls of language. Ultimately, he relied on pure gesture to know the status of his friendships:
    You know about a person who deeply interests you more than you can be told. A look, a gesture, an act, which to everybody else is insignificant tells you more about that one than words can. (How language is always found to serve best the highest moods, and expression of the highest truths!) If he wished to conceal something from you it would be apparent. It is as if a bird told you. Something of moment occurs. Your friend designs that it shall be a secret to you. Vain wish! You will know it, and his design. He says consciously nothing about it, yet as he is necessarily affected by it, its effect is visible to you. From this effect you infer the cause. Have you not already anticipated a thousand possible accidents? Can you be surprised? You unconsciously through sympathy make the right supposition. No other will account for precisely this behavior. You are disingenuous, and yet your knowledge exceeds the woodcraft of the cunningest hunter. It is as if you had a sort of trap, knowing the haunts of your game, what lures attract it, and its track, etc. You have foreseen how it will behave when it is caught, and now you only behold what you anticipated.
    “A friend tells all with a look, a tone, a gesture, a presence, a friendliness,” thought Thoreau. “He is present when absent.”
    The tracks that Thoreau made through his life were unmistakable to those who walked with him. Channing remarked that Thoreau’s “whole figure had an active earnestness, as if he had no moment to waste. The clenched hand betokened purpose.” Channing also knew well his friend’s other physical characteristics–his aquiline Roman nose, large overhanging brows, prominent lips, searching eyes, hearty laughter, his peculiar rolling pronunciation of the letter “r.” Emerson and others commented how like his writing Thoreau’s speech was, and that they often heard him say in conversation phrases that would later appear in his books. Thoreau was a stunning example of the very expressiveness he found in Nature. Once, commenting upon the striking relationship between animals and the plants they fed or lived on, he said that it was “as if every condition might have its expression in some form of animated being.” Thoreau was like the yellow spider on the goldenrod—not so much “adapted to” his place and time but called forth from it

  15. 25 Ana rita March 20, 2012 at 11:49 am


    I work at the NAtural History Museum in London and I was wondering if we could use some of your pictures of horseshoe crabs for our Nature Live events?

    looking forward to hear from you,

  16. 26 Ellen Ryan March 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Matthew – thanks for posting on Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Facebook page. We’d also like to use some of your park pictures if possible. Please let me know. Best, Ellen

  17. 27 Mindy Weisberger April 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hello Matthew,

    I’m a producer for Science Bulletins at the American Museum of Natural History and would like to use one of your images of Freshkills Park for this month’s Biodiversity News video on the recent discovery of a new species of frog in the Tri-state area. The video will play in the Hall of Biodiversity through mid-May, and the photo would be credited onscreen to your specifications.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Thanks and best regards,
    Mindy Weisberger

  18. 28 Catherine Montgomery, Ottawa June 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Dear Matthew,

    Through the wonders of technology, I have discovered your site, after our conversation on the bus to Boston last week.(Our communications office picked up on the reference to the Canada Council for the Arts in your tweet.)

    My husband is a long time birder and naturalist, so I have shared your site with him.


  19. 29 Jesse Greenspan January 7, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Hi Matthew,

    I’m a freelance reporter for the New York Times, and I’m currently working on an article about wild groundhogs in the city (for Groundhog Day). I see you’ve written about this topic on your blog, so I was wondering if you were available for an interview sometime in the next week-and-a-half.

    Looking forward to speaking with you!

    Jesse Greenspan

  20. 30 Laura February 1, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I was happy to look through your nature blog. I actually was linked there because I was searching for information about the 10 hour musical (I heard something about it on the radio) and your tweet was the only reference I could find. Is it in Brooklyn?
    My husband and I are planning a short Brooklyn vacation for March. What sort of nature should we look for then?

  21. 32 Eva February 7, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Hi Matthew,
    I am a student at the University of Mannheim working on a project on internet and politics. I am asking bloggers who have posted something about Occupy Wall Street about internet and politics. Would you consider helping me complete this study by filling an anonymous survey of 10 questions that takes less than 2 minutes?
    You can find the survey on our University’s webpage here:
    You can find all the information you need about our project and the researchers in the project’s Facebook page here:
    If you have any questions about the project please feel free to ask me, I will be more than happy to answer them.
    Alternatively you can email:
    Many thanks and your help will be much appreciated!

  22. 33 Deborah Tint March 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Dear Matthew,
    I really enjoyed your wide-ranging nature blog. I am glad my friend Donna introduced us at the PSFC. I was reading your entry on the owl being owly and was reminded of an expression I have always loved in french. When you want to say something is really cool you can call it “vachement chouette!” which literally translated means “cowly owly.” I will send your blog around to delight others.
    Best regards,

  23. 35 alternahealthgrrrl June 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Hello Mr Wills! Wonderful site! I just discovered it as I was looking for information regarding wasps in Brooklyn. I’m part of a community educational garden in downtown Brooklyn (Concord Village, I wonder if you might advise us RE a potential wasp nest? We’ve spotted some (they’re not yellow jackets) and we’re trying to determine how big a problem they are before the coop’s management company decides to drop a poison bomb on it unnecessarily. We haven’t been able to photograph any of the insects yet but these are the clues: They appear to be going underground/digging; they’re brownish; they’re longer than one inch. We’re trying the glass bowl and water trap but if you have any insights that might speed our process we’d be grateful! Thank you. A new subscriber/reader, -Denise

    • 36 mthew June 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Hi Denise,

      Not sure what you have. Lots of wasps dig underground, but yellow jackets are the only ones to worry about. Patches of bare earth are now being left by many gardeners to encourage solitary wasps, as are tube nest spaces and pieces of old wood, to encourage other wasp nesters.

  24. 37 Olivia Hudson July 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm


    Your photos are amazing. Could you kindly tell me what camera and lens you are using, please?

    • 38 mthew July 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you, Olivia! For the last several months I have been using a Canon SX50 HS. This is not an SLR, but it has a nice lens, stretching from 24-1200mm. There seems to be a bit of a lens-race among manufacturers to add telephotos (not just optical zoom, which is digital trickery) to consumer models. At those extreme lengths, though, hand-holding is a bear! Sometimes an iphone5 picture will slip into the mix. Posts previous to this year taken with a Canon G9. What I miss about the G9 is that I could slip it into a cargo pants pocket. Can’t do that with the new camera, so I feel a bit over-geared sometimes when I have my binoculars too (on a shoulder harness, actually, something I strongly recommend). Hope this is helpful.

  25. 39 Olivia Hudson July 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Oh yes, this was very helpful. Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. I have a birthday coming up! Tee hee.

  26. 40 Kevin Dann September 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm


    That camera I bought for Cathline has yet to see any action. . . Any chance that I could hire you for a couple of hours to do an outing in Prospect Park with her, to show her the basics of the camera?


  27. 42 josh January 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm


    Thank you for this wonderful blog which I have been enjoying for many years now. I especially loved your snowy owl posts as I have yet to observe one. I once saw a major mitchells flying stark against a blue sky from the 7 train near the New York Pavilion like a wayward pink plastic bag. Just wanted to let you know that I have been observing a peregrine pair frequenting the steeple of the St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenpoint. I thought for a while they had moved in, but I can’t imagine them putting up with the chimes 24-7! Hope you are well and keep up the great work!

    • 43 mthew January 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Thanks, Josh! I had to look up Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, which looks like it would have mind-blowing sight in Queens. Great to hear about the peregrines. Are they perching on the steeple or entering it somehow? Nesting season is around the corner (hope springs eternal).

      • 44 josh January 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

        Oh they sure do perch right on top the cross next to the lightening rod! I see one of them there for the better part of most days, since I can see the steeple from my apartment window. They must be tough as nails because they will sit there even through the freezing and pouring rain. I’ve watched them snacking on city slickers on top of the lower white steeples; four of which surround the clocks at the base. I think I may have observed them usurping the kestrels that lived there perhaps two months earlier, and I suspect they are entering through the vents on the south-facing side, although I can’t see that side of the tower. I can tell they are causing a stir when I see mixed flocks of frantic birds, not only pigeons but also starlings and sparrows, and sometimes I see those level wings cruising through them. I grew up in the countryside in southwestern PA, so I really miss the birds especially, but we have to observe nature where we are, which is why I love your blog!

  28. 45 Ed Olivera January 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Just stumbled upon B&B and I’m a fan. I live close by Pelham Bay Park and I’m doing research into it’s history and the people who have left their mark on the general environs between the Hutchinson River and Long Island Sound. Perhaps I’ll start a blog on it to spur my writing and gain some feednback. I admire what you’ve done here.

  29. 48 Elizabeth Tocci March 18, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Hi Matthew,

    I came across your blog recently while looking for nature photographs. I love your work!

    I was wondering if you would allow me to reprint one of your photographs, “Wind-blown,” for a blog entry that I am writing on resilience. The picture would be posted on, which is a website for children/teens intended to be a forum for social media based peer support.

    If this is okay, I will obviously credit you as the photographer and can even include a link to your blog if you would like.

    Thank you for your time!

  30. 49 The Nothing Expert April 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Hi Matthew,
    I’ve been birding for so many years, and still refer to myself as an amateur. Perhaps it has something to do with my mixing up all sorts of “little brown birds.” However, my passion for nature is true, and that’s why i’m so delighted to find your site. I look forward to going back and reading some of your earlier posts.
    Rose Perlmutter, The Nothing Expert

  31. 50 Matthew Wills May 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Just googled myself. Found you. Always interesting, tonight I shot some photos of a great blue heron catching fish and a black crowned heron hoping to at the Shad Factory in Rehoboth MA. Loved the pics of the bittern. Here is photos I shot in Eastport Me over Christmas. Enjoy. MCW

    • 51 mthew May 1, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Great shots, MCW!

      There’s also one of of us down south somewhere. And the famous one is a Brit. Although, cough, I see that I now top Google. Algorithms!

      My great grandfather was Robert William Coventry Wills, born on St.Helena 1866, bought to the U.S. in the early 1870s, died Boston 1925.

      • 52 Matthew Wills May 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm

        My great +++ was Richard Wills he was born in 1810 in frontier of PA. No record from before. George Washington Wills was the first recorded wartime machine gunner in history and operated a coffee mill gun for the union. He was injured and saved by his mule, the only reason why this was recorded. St. HELENA is in the middle of nowhere in the s. Atlantic, was his father a ship captain?

      • 53 mthew May 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

        I have a Richard Wills in the lineage too, born in Devon in 1762. Great Great Great Great Grandfather. He left the old sod and joined the British East India company as a soldier, and ended up on St. Helena, where he retired as a farmer. He and his son were there while Napoleon was in exile on the island. His son’s son’s son (my great grandfather, born 1866) was bought to the U.S. with the whole clan since there seems to have be nothing on the island to keep them there.

  32. 54 schilthuizen May 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Hey Matthew, it was great running into you at Prospect Park this afternoon; thsnkd for helping me with a few bird IDs. I really like your blog–a good way for me as “old-world-naturalist” to get to grips with the rich biodiversity of Brooklyn! By the way, I am here on a book tour for my new book Nature’s Nether Regions (Penguin/Viking), just out. You may want to check it out, or even blog about it 😉 See:

  33. 56 schilthuizen May 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    It’s sold at Barnes & Noble. But I can also ask a copy to be sent to you, if you like.

  34. 57 Pamela Langford June 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Matthew, it was great meeting you while watching the peregrine scrape on Altantic Ave. yesterday. I was lucky enough to see three peregrine nestlings today. Photos here

    Thanks for keeping me up to date on the peregrine family.


  35. 59 mechanicalwhispers July 9, 2014 at 9:46 am

    If I wanted to find molted cicada husks in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where would you say the best place to go looking would be? And what time period? Thanks!

    • 60 mthew July 9, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Annual Cicadas peak in August. I’ve seen one husk already, and a single Cicada Killer Wasp as well, so things are starting, slowly. The husks are often around eye-level on tree trunks, so check edges of Long Meadow, Nethermead, anywhere you can get right up to trees. Some street trees as well, sometimes, and even smaller parks. If it’s not a boom year, they may be harder to find. Good hunting!

  36. 61 Frank Schorn August 29, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Matthew,

    The NYT has an article coming up on Sunday about the increasing loss of bird populations throughout the country.

    Here’s the link:



    • 62 mthew August 30, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Thank you, Frank. A great piece. And much to think about. I’ll have some words for Martha on Monday, the grim centennial itself.

  37. 63 Thomas golero October 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Was a pleasure meeting you last night and I look forward to reading your blog and hopefully in the near future taking one of your tours.

  38. 64 Michael Doyle February 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Mr. Wills,
    I enjoyed your article entitled “Mosquitoes: the Science behind the Pests”. It was very well-written and thought provoking. It’s refreshing to see the complex world of mosquitoes summarized so well.
    -Michael Doyle, Executive Director, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

  39. 66 Mariko March 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

    pls email posts as you write them. Many thanks

    • 67 mthew March 18, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Mariko: There is a Subscribe button on the blog page that you will need to click on to enter your email address. This will trigger a confirmation email sent to you; confirm there. This prevents people or machines from just dumping in random addresses.

  40. 68 WILD NOTTINGHAM March 30, 2015 at 5:09 am

    Great blog!

  41. 69 Constantine von Hoffman April 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Mr Wills, I just read your fine article The Erotics of Backgammon on JSTOR. You may want to review the part about the history of the game. You say that tables — backgammon — originated in Byzantium. In fact the oldest copy of a backgammon game is from between 3000 and 2500 BCE and was found in Iran’s Burnt City about a decade ago. See also:

    Constantine von Hoffman
    itinerant board game historian.

  42. 70 Ellen Brys September 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Matthew,
    I went with you to Floyd Bennett last Spring for the elusive woodcock. My first time in the wilderness hiking area and decided to go hiking there today. No pond! I was really looking forward to seeing some herons, turtles, etc. Does it disappear in the summer and just dry up? Also area is totally overgrown with some invasive vegetation. I figure you may have some idea. Thanks, Ellen.
    PS I wish you a happy life in your new home.

    • 71 mthew September 7, 2015 at 9:39 am

      I have to admit to not getting out much in the middle of summer, so I don’t know if I’ve ever been there. It has been awfully dry, though (was at NYBG this weekend and the forest area is off limits because of fire hazard), and it may have dried up.

  43. 72 Will Harper-Penrose February 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Matthew. Great blog. I write a blog about London’s wildlife, and I’m looking for guest bloggers from other cities around the world to write a post about what’s going on right now where you are. Fancy it? It will be a monthly spot and I’d love for you to write the March entry, or even Feb if you’re feeling very efficient. Will (

    • 73 mthew March 2, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Hi, Will. Thanks for your offer, but I’m afraid I can’t commit to anything now. Good luck on your search for guest bloggers!

  44. 74 Erik Danielson April 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Matt, I’ve found your very informative blog in the process of seeking out NYC’s most exemplary trees and forests. I’m profiling canopy heights, species compositions and height maximums in a bit of a citizen science project, though I’m certified under American Forests in the National Cadre to provide the last word in certifying champion tree measurements. I’ve noticed that information on what trees and forests are especially tall, old, or otherwise noteworthy is pretty scarce and inconsistent (information supplied by the parks department is often highly inaccurate). I’ve enjoyed looking through the elms you’ve highlighted recently. Would you be interested in making use of the information I’ve been collecting? As it stands, someone with a casual interest in trees would have no way to find out that the city’s tallest and most majestic Pin Oaks are in Prospect Park, or that the state record chestnut oaks are hiding in Inwood beneath 150-foot-tall tuliptrees, or that the state’s tallest Sweetgum grows on Staten Island. Green-wood has a number of superlatives as well. Please let me know if you’re curious about the numbers that go along with the majestic character of NYC’s greatest trees, and I’d love to hear about any special trees or sites you think are worth documenting.

  45. 77 Jessica Katz August 5, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Mathew. I just came across your blog while checking in on the ebirdsnyc site, to see who’s in town. I was soooo happy to see your post about the Bald Eagles on Staten Island. How cool is that?!

    I love your blog. As a fellow Brooklynite and amateur naturalist, I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of wildlife in the City. A couple of years ago, it really hit me that NYC is a “real” ecosystem, when a Sharp-shinned hawk took down a House Sparrow from my backyard bird feeder. The Sharpie flushed the bird from a bush in my yard, where it had taken refuge, chased it through my neighbor’s trees and overtook it. It was as dramatic as anything I’ve seen in a nature film.

    I look forward to following your adventures, lovely photos and thoughtful comments about our town and our critters and plants.

    BTW…Thanks so much for posting the photos of the mole crabs. I used to love chasing them between waves, along the shore at Jones Beach and The Rockaways, when I was a kid. I am glad to see they are still around. What delightful and amazing little creatures they are. Your photos of them brought back a lot of happy memories. Thanks!



    • 78 mthew August 5, 2016 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks, Jess!

      The Bald Eagles were amazing cool — I’ll have a post about them Monday hopefully — I thought at first the big dark birds in the distance would be vultures.

  46. 79 Jose Conde October 21, 2017 at 12:54 am

    NOV 2nd – SIEMBRA Tropical Tree Benefit Concert – Littlefield

    Hi Matt.
    I have been following your blog for about a year now and really am glad to have found a window to your voice and work.
    I am celebrating the big 5 0 NOV 2nd and decided to try and raise some money for Trees and play music. Please come on out if you can make it.
    I partnered with COMMUNITY CARBON TREES in Costa Rica. They have planted over half a million tropical trees thus far and their model employs and empowers locals there while helping our fine feathered friends with more high rises ( and us too!)
    Hope you can join us.
    All the best. Jose Conde

  47. 81 Thijs September 19, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Matthew,
    I have a question for you and this seemed like the easiest place to reach you.
    My question is about your JSTOR article “Why No One Believed Einstein”. I’m writing a piece on how easy it is to be wrong and I’m looking for some sources on criticism of Eintsein’s theory of relativity too compare to his own criticism of quantum mechanics. I was wondering if you came across any other direct sources apart from the one linked on the article? I’m asking since that source (“In Defense of Ether: The British Response to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity” by Goldberg) is itself a digestion of other works that I’m finding to be quite hard to look up online.
    Thanks in advance,

  48. 82 Lee Dugatkin November 27, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for Thanksgiving shout to Jefferson and the Giant moose in your Jstor piece.

  49. 83 Andy Dunning May 21, 2020 at 10:12 pm

    Mr. Wills – this is probably not the place for this comment, but I read your JSTOR article about the practice of charivari/shivaree and thought I’d share my experience with the custom. I’m a Pastor, and have served churches in rural towns on Colorado’s Eastern Plains. The older town residents there, many of them from homesteading families who settled there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, told me about the practice that they called “Shivaree.”

    By the time they remembered it, Shivaree had morphed from a way of enforcing social mores to something that a crowd would do to a newlywed couple on their wedding night. A newly married couple would commonly stay in town rather than traveling elsewhere; “honeymoons” were something rich people did. If they traveled anywhere, they would go to Raton, New Mexico to get married. (I don’t know why Raton, and when I asked no one else seemed to know either.)

    On the wedding night, the couple’s circle of friends in town would go to their home and yell, play music, and bang pots and pans outside their window to interrupt their activity. The people who told me about the custom described it as a kind of affectionately rowdy practical joke – perhaps born of envy from the unmarried folk in the crowd. What that says about the way that social practices change over time and in varying contexts, I’ll leave to the social scientists.

    • 84 mthew May 22, 2020 at 11:46 am

      This is fascinating. Thanks for this note, Reverend Dunning.

      Everyone can see the post in question here at Jstor Daily.

      • 85 Andy Dunning May 22, 2020 at 1:26 pm

        Thanks – and by the way, thanks for your blog. I live in Denver, which I love, partly because we have lots of “nature” in our neighborhood, as well as more remote areas easily accessible. You’re encouraging me to look more deeply at my immediate surroundings.

  50. 86 chuxpix65 May 26, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    By now you may have heard of the Cooper vs Cooper incident. My thought was that this may be a woodcock breeding area and that’s why it’s an on-leash zone. Learned about timber doodles from you and would welcome your thoughts about the “Bramble” or “Ramble” habitat from your bird watching perspective.

    • 87 mthew May 26, 2020 at 11:08 pm

      Yes, I’ve heard of the incident and see the footage. Quite horrible. I’ve been yelled at by people who refuse to leash their pets in Prospect Park as they go tramping and crashing through areas the park spent ten years and ten million dollars stabilizing and replanting….

      The Ramble is the birdiest part of Central Park. Along with the north end of the park, it’s as close to woodland as you can get south of Inwood Hill on Manhattan Island. I don’t think woodcock breed there, although they do stop over during migration. Plenty of other birds, and other animals, do nest there.

      The city’s leash law is simple: dogs are supposed to be on leash outside, except in stated dog runs. The parks department, and the public-private entities that managed Central (and Prospect) are notoriously lax in enforcing these rules. One factor of this, I suspect, is that they consider dog people an ally, a “stake-holder” in the parlance, and a source of funding, so they don’t want to upset them. Money talks in our post-democracy; the entitled get to flaunt the rules.

  51. 88 sandy July 26, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Greetings from National Moth Week! We’re happy to have you as a fan. Please send your email address so we can put you on our blogger list for next year’s celebration. We started in NJ in 2012, but NMW is a worldwide citizen science project today. Happy Mothing!

  52. 89 Myra K April 10, 2021 at 8:18 am

    Hi Matt,
    I am doing a project for Pollinator Pathway and would like to use some of your insect images for an outreach card. I can send you an example.
    Thank you, Myra

  53. 91 Charles Mercier June 15, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    Enjoyed your “Bringing France Back into American History,” have a similar interest, would like to call your attention to my new “Peshtigo 1871: Peter Pernin’s Peshtigo Fire Memoir The Finger of God Is There!” TBR Books, which, among other things, makes available for the first time the original French text.

  54. 92 Lisa Levenstein March 25, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks so much for your wonderful description of my article on Displaced Homeworkers. You captured so much, so beautifully. I really appreciated it.:

  55. 94 Chuck McAlexander September 20, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    I have a good memory, but it is short, Did you refer to and show a photo of a miniscule dragonfly in the past two or three weeks? While vbirding in /Central Park’s Tupelo Meadow Sunday morning the 18th we found what we took for seeriously large miosquitos. Through good bincoculars with good close focus these flying bugs looked more like dragonflies. There were several and they were flitting about some leaves on a London Plane. They had four clear wings and an abdomen which swelled at the back end. Overall length was about 3/8″ with a wingspan somewhat longer, but this was a tiny insect. Can’t find any reference to odonata that small. Got any idea what we saw? ThankQ

  56. 98 paulbjerk March 17, 2023 at 12:01 am

    Cool blog… I admire the energy and time you put into writing and photography…. I ran across this because I just ran across you JSTOR Daily piece on my article on “The Iterability of Sovereignty”. That piece has been flying under the radar for years, you’re my first citation! Thanks for raising its profile. I also write very occasionally on WordPress, and hope to do more…I’l take your beautiful blog as a model and try to put some pictures in there! Best, Paul

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