Must-See Jamaica Bay: Wildlife and Birding
Outdoors & Recreation
by Alyssa Grossman, 05/15/2012
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is perfect for families in search of a day trip, for bird-watchers and ornithologists—for any lover of nature. Start your trek at the Visitor Contact Station, where you will find all the information you'll need for a day of exploring. The LEED-certified space features colorful exhibits detailing the plants and animals that inhabit Jamaica Bay and background on the area's vibrant history. After picking up a free permit for the trails, venture out with bird walks, cruises, tours and animal information sessions. The variety of creatures here is so vast that more than 60 butterfly species have been spotted, along with a community of horseshoe crabs that's one of the biggest in the Northeast. Just like the animals themselves, opportunities for wildlife viewing aren't confined to the refuge. Marine Park in Brooklyn and Fort Tilden provide alternate opportunities for birders.
Sundays, May 25 and June 23
Jamaica Bay Sunset Cruise; departing from Pier 2 in Sheepshead Bay
This three-hour boat tour reveals the natural beauty of Jamaica Bay and travels to areas where peregrine falcons, egrets, ospreys and other waterfowl are nesting. Registration is required; call 917-371-8577 to reserve your space for the journey, which begins at 5pm.
Sundays, June 2–August 11
Sunset EcoCruise at Jamaica Bay; departing from Pier 17 at South Street Seaport
These crepuscular tours, beginning at 6pm, travel to waterways and surrounding shore areas where egrets, herons and ibis nest. The vantage point from the boat lends a magical perspective on the City and its natural expanses. Visit the Audubon Society for registration information.
Saturday, June 29
Horseshoe Crabs & Terrapins at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Horseshoe crabs come ashore to mate and lay their eggs, creating a marvel of regeneration that has been taking place for millions of years; the animals are older than the dinosaurs. During this hike, participants will scout for horseshoe crabs as well as diamondback terrapins, who also lay their eggs on the beach. Call 718-318-9344 to register for the tour, which starts at 1pm and meets at the Visitor Contact Station.
Thursdays, July 18 and August 1
Gerritsen Creek Kayak Excursion at Gateway Marina
Spend the afternoon kayaking around Gerritsen Creek on this 4.5-mile trip. Participants will make a stop at the Salt Marsh Nature Center, where Urban Park Rangers will provide an introduction to the center's animal exhibits. Before paddling back, interested kayakers will get the chance for some seining by the shoreline. Reservations are required by calling 718-338-3799.