I spent some hours touring Floyd Bennett Field with David Burg the other day. David is a Bronx resident and the founder of Wild Metro, a small not-for-profit organization committed to helping protect and restore and recognize wild green spaces of New York City. He wanted to talk to me about weeds. This national park is overrun with them.
I packed a picnic lunch and David provided a split of Champagne (I was suitably impressed) and fruit tarts for dessert, and we sat in the pale sunlight in a clearing of trees and invasives, accompanied by an adorable and heart-breaking little feral cat to whom I tossed bits of my lunch. David talked, I listened, trying to keep up with a story that traveled from Medieval Europe to Floyd Bennett Field, connecting all the dots along the way. He is a born raconteur and educator.
We walked, later, through plenty of Sandy damage - salt-killed pines and piles of debris being hauled away, still, by contractors. David painted a picture of grasslands allowed to return to their natural state (grassland, mind you, not woodland) and described, as we walked, a vision of herds of elk picking their way over the flat expanse.
It's hard to reach these parts of Floyd Bennett, unless you drive. It is huge. I wish they rented bicycles at the entrance, which is across the road from where Vince and I usually enter Dead Horse Bay, after riding the 3 subway to the end of the line and then hopping on a bus. But walking around Floyd's entire expanse is simply lunatic, with miles of concrete and enormous parking lots to negotiate. A bizarre place.
If you would like to see the American woodcock in courting display, this is where you do it, according to David. Now, in March, of a moonlit night. We met two young botanist doing survey work and they told us that they had chanced upon a woodcock with its head caught in loop of string. They freed it.
Our own great plains.
To help protect and restore natural wildlife habitat in this national - albeit beleaguered - park and its Gateway cousins, you can sign this petition, proposed by the Audubon Society. The fact that some of the signees leave comments about Canadian geese, notwithstanding (this drives me nuts), these habitats need a hell of a lot more support than they are currently receiving.