Friday, July 31, 2009

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Driving through Broad Channel last month on our way back from an appointment, we passed a sign for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and decided to stop in. I'd never been there before, though everyone else I've spoken to since is all "...yeah, of course, all the time...since I was a kid..."
Well, it was new to me. And what a nifty place! Birds birds birds. We only saw a few during our midday visit: swans, egrets, red-winged blackbirds...but there are lots more: ospreys, being brought back from the brink of extinction with the help of custom-built nest platforms like the one I wrote about years ago, and barn owls, who are given barn-sized birdhouses. There are houses erected for smaller bird species, and special ones built for just for bats. Quite spoiled, the lot of them. Here's the big barn-owl boudoir:

The refuge is also home to diamondback terrapins, and many of their nests are right next to the trail, as you can see in the photo below. I can't tell you how long we stood there, marveling at the metalworking capabilities of the turtles, so cleverly protecting their nests, before we realized there was an adult right there, just beyond the cage, watching us! Remarkable creatures.

There are lots of sweeping vistas across the salt marshes, alternating with shady avenues of greenery. In the distance, way beyond the free avian housing, you can see the Empire State Building:
There were lots of insects as well, dragonflies and spiders and bees. And snails, of course.
This guy was in the middle of the path, in the blazing sun. I don't know what he was thinking.
He'll be extinct in no time, behaving this way.
We tried not to startle this tall, exotic specimen:

I was clearly a "casual" visitor, without a great big lens, or even a hat, and felt strangely out of place for not carrying a tripod. Everyone else was fully equipped. The bright sun made it hard (for me) to photograph the flora, but it was there. Much of it, sadly, undesirable, like the Japanese knotweed that was strangling the native yucca in a picturesque, spiralling manner.

If it ever stops raining this summer, I recommend you visit the refuge, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. There's an informative and well-equipped visitor center, the trails are easy for people of all ages and abilities, and it's free. Oh, and bring your camera.


Clytie said...

Looks and sounds like a fantastic place to visit! I love it that you can see the city in the background, and yet watch so much nature around. I'm so glad you chose to stop!

Cynthia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia said...

So glad you liked it. I'd give anything to see an owl. It really is a sanctuary in this city.

Cynthia said...

It's so unfair that it says "comment deleted" just because I can't remember my password. It looks as if I've said something untoward.

Cynthia said...

So glad you liked it. I'd give anything to see an owl. It really is a sanctuary in this city.