Jim and I deciding to do a bit of birdng today, but rather than to go Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve (our usual destination), we ventured across the Verrazano Bridge and into Staten Island. Along the south-western shore of the borough are a line of parks and nature preserves, most of which we’d never visited.
A couple of years ago, somebody recommended that we visit the North Mount Loretto State Forest, but instead we decided to first check out Blue Heron Park, mainly because it has a visitor’s center and we thought that we might get some information about the surrounding areas.
Well, we had a marvelous time. We walked into the visitors center and introduced ourselves to the ranger there, and said that we wanted to bird. The ranger was very welcoming, and told us that Mike over here knew all about birds, and would be happy to take us around.
It turned out that “Mike” was Michael Shanley, an archeologist and naturalist who has worked in the Staten Island system for several years, and who knows the local fauna and flora about as well as anyone can. We went for a walk through a forest dotted with marshes, looking for a Prairie Warbler which, he said, he had been hearing all day and wanted to try to find.
We never found the Prairie Warbler, and in fact, only saw a few birds. But those included several Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Hermit Thrush, a Hairy Woodpecker (which immediately disappeared into a hole in a tree; apparently, it was nesting there), and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. He also pointed out some plants and told us a bit about local history (pointing out, for example, a sidewalk that had been built in the 1930s by the WPA, but never finished).
We had a fine time. I’d recommend Blue Heron Park as a great place to visit for anyone who wants to experience a bit of nature in NYC and who is unfamiliar with the area; they also have a variety of programs, workshops, etc.
We set out looking for some of the other areas before going home; we found but didn’t really enter North Mount Loretto State Forest, but we did visit Wolfe’s Pond Park, which is a more family-oriented park (with sports fields, etc.), but with access to a beach where we sat and watch a bunch of Brant Geese and various terns.
It was a nice Sunday.