Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NYC Waters: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

One of my favorite things about living in NYC is this:

What other place in the country (in the world?) can you take public transit to a 9,000 acre wildlife refuge?

It surprises me how few people who live in NYC have been to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; many people I talk to don't even know about it!

Plenty of people take the A train to JFK airport. By going one more stop and walking half a mile (hardly a distance when you walk all over the city anyway), you step foot into a protected area of marshes, ponds, and bay.

Once you exit the Broad Channel station, walk to Cross Bay Boulevard. Cross the street (be sure to wait for the walk sign, as sometimes cars speed by), and head to your right (walking north). If you pass by the American Legion, you are going the right way. Check in at the visitor's center and enjoy!

The main wildlife draw of Jamaica Bay is birds, the most obvious and easy to see animals. While uncommon and rare birds are often found by serious birders, most visitors can count on seeing Tree Swallows, Yellow Warblers, and Osprey (April-August). In colder months, Brant (geese), Northern Harriers, and a variety of ducks can be observed without much effort (binoculars always help!).

Horseshoe crabs can be seen in their mating season (late May, early June), while terrapin turtles also nest (but are not so easy to see). NYC Audubon has a nice guide on when and where to see what.

Walkway to Big John's Pond

Big John's Pond

Barn Owl at Bog John's Pond

Fresh air and scenic views also make this an enjoyable spot to visit. If you want to get wild without a car or without even leaving the city, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge should be added to your must-visit places!

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