Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is part of the vast Gateway National Recreation Area, which spans New York City and New Jersey and also includes Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park in Queens. We paid an April visit mid-pandemic expecting few fellow excursionists. Instead we found the parking lot packed. Seems we weren't the only ones desperate to get out of our apartment and into the sunshine.
Fortunately the paths around picturesque West Pond are wide enough to maintain social distancing, and most (though not all) human visitors were wearing masks.
We'd forgotten that this is a birdwatchers' haven, and hadn't brought our binoculars. Honestly, I had barely even had this blog in mind when we planned the day, that's how urgent was the need to just get out and enjoy nature. We did get a good look at a number of iridescent blue tree swallows.
Brian Ralphs / Creative Commons
Several other bird species were present too, just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of types that come through here each year.
At the edge of West Pond, shore birds were poking their long beaks into the sand, while in the distance the towers of Manhattan loomed.
The view across Jamaica Bay itself was wide open.
When we left, the entrance was even busier, with cars crawling around the lot looking for spaces. Our parks seem even more important to us when in-person activities are all cancelled and we spend most of our time in our homes. We don't choose to live in a city so we can stay at home. The whole point is to be out, experiencing the multitude of cultures, the activities of every kind, cultural events, gatherings, restaurants, nightlife. Just now, parks are pretty much what we have left.
Except where noted, all photos © Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media