Recently we rented a bubble car (a tiny smart car, via Car2Go, whose location you pinpoint on your app and unlock with your phone - the beautiful, scifi future). We left our Island (Long) for another (Staten), and went walking in wide open fields.
Mt. Loretto Unique Area has a baffling name but is straightforward in person (or in field?) - two sides of a busy road: seaside, woodland side; enough space for a horizon, and few people. I have been visiting several times a year ever since the Frenchman moved to New York from Canada, post immigration approval (and nearly two years after we were married). He discovered it when he had time to kill, before he landed a job, by surfing Google Earth for wildness in the city.
Time to kill seems very long ago.
Spring was tentative. Leafless trees, green grass, boggy patches after rain. The area has experienced renewed attention from its stewards and supporters and is better kept than I have ever seen it.
An ecological scourge locally is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris - to which I devote many recipes in the book I am working on), whose early fall sticks you see above. Much of it has been mown, but where it was still upright I picked branches to bring home for barbecue skewers. Aromatic.
We found our usual bench uninhabited and unpacked our picnic. Rabbit and juniper terrine, sopressata from Los Paisanos and quick pickled vegetables.
In damp sunny patches this tiny cress was prolific. It could be a species of Cardamine, but I must check.
One of the two other flowers we saw belonged to a prostrate Veronica, bright in the sun.
And winter cress, a species of Barbarea, peppery and very good to eat.
From the southern end of the island we moved back north, following a flock of seabirds feeding out in the harbor. Near another beach I saw a beach plum (Prunus maritima) beginning to bloom.
Not the seabirds we were looking for.
So we kept walking. The tide was low.
It seems wonderful that anything can live and grow in New York Harbor.
And there they were. Terrible pictures, but still: northern gannets. The only gannets I know are the Cape gannets of the cold West Coast water off South Africa.
Flocking, wheeling, diving for schools of spring fish.
It was a good thing to see, on the fringes of the big city.