Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jamaica Bay and Broad Channel

The A Train out to the Far Rockaways; our destination, Broad Channel, in the middle of Jamaica Bay, once an island, now linked by railroad to Long Island (remember that for later). Then a twelve minute walk to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Near the station every house says, Beware of the Dog. Every house has an American flag. 

One house has an American flag with a peace symbol where the stars should be. That house is a haven for feral cats, who seem to be fed and taken care of, there. Should I read something into this? Beware-of-the- Dog-lovers are flag-waving "patriots" and the one flaming peacenik likes cats?

I have seen more cats here than anywhere else in New York.

A five minute walk through these houses and then a right on the wide, Cross Bay Boulevard.

The air is salty. This is Queens.

The tide was out.

We headed towards the East Pond, separated from the West Pond by the Boulevard. This side is green and shady. 

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata - thanks to its pretty berries, the highly invasive porcelain berry.

Big John's Pond has a bird hide from which we took pictures and saw the Three Big Brown Birds that someone had been so excited about. They are black crowned night herons, I think. The pond was empty in August, the last time we had been here, pre-Irene, pre-Lee.

Beautiful and dangerous Toxicodendron radicans - poison ivy. Its berries are an important food source for birds. Some tough birds...

Parthenocissus quinquefolia - Virginia creeper twining up the stalks of reeds.

A lot of water on this side of the Refuge.

Below, on stalks about 12" high, tiny, tiny flowers - what is it? Very like Gypsophila...

White wood asters - Eurybia divaricata (formerly Aster divaricataare in bloom everywhere, now, growing in the shade.

Downy seedheads of....?

Summer's Eupatorium dubium (I think, dwarf Joe-Pye weed) has gone to seed.

Below, new to me, Agalinus purpurea, purple foxglove, as delicate as Campanula, growing in a boggy patch. Very pretty.

On the flower table is was labeled as Gerardia purpurea, apparently its old name

Just as well we had not planned on nibbling covertly at our leftover duck and pickled radish on brioche rolls here. 

Water level had risen...(and pickled radishes, while delicious, make the fridge smell very suspicious unless they are in a sealed jar. Just saying.)

Intimations of autumn, with egrets, across the water. Behind these trees is the train track. Behind the train track, the rest of Jamaica Bay, and then JFK.

Strongly twining American bittersweet, Celastrus scandens.

And then over to the other side. The wide open west.

I looked for the sea rocket (Cakile edentula) and found only one plant. Erosion seemed to have carried the others off, and I found no more. Not prolific. My seeds on the roof, sent to me by Lambert, have not germinated yet.

Golden rod time. Good flower guide time, too. There are many golden rods, Solidago species - and I need to sort them out. The leaves are key, as is the form of the flower cluster.

Asters, harbingers of fall. Don't know which one.

Autumn olives (Eleagnus umbellata) with juicily ripe (and mouth-puckeringly sour) fruit, which is very high in anti-oxidants; good for jams, jellies and fruit leathers (and mebos, in South Africa). The shrub itself is an Asian native and highly invasive, so knock yourself out picking the red berries. The rather drab flowers in spring smell delicious.

It was nice to see a mockingbird in a natural setting, and not on a vintage television aerial, sounding like a car alarm. He sat in this northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) and swooped down to catch an insect before returning again to his spot.

The tides had eaten away at the shoreline.

And this git yelled at and chased the birds. I glared, hands on hips. 

The sand was littered with clam shells.

Remember the train tracks and the Cross Bay Boulevard linking this island to the world? That is how raccoons arrived in the previously raccoon-free Refuge. Apparently they are a menace, and decimate the clutches of eggs that the diamond back turtles lay every June and July. We had seen little wire baskets over the nest sites in August and speculated as to their reason as well as about their contents. We did not know about the turtles, then - they are our only local estuarine turtle. And raccoons think that they are delicious. We were disgusted with ourselves when Ranger Hallowell told us that the prints were raccoon. We were hoping for muskrat!

Rosa rugosa.

And another, beaten flat by wind, tough and persistent. 

It seems obvious, but its truth still surprises me - the better you know a place, the more you notice (if you are looking), and the more interesting it becomes. I had been slow to warm up to the Refuge. It seemed windbitten and harsh, peppered with poison ivy and invasives. But spring, summer and fall each peeled back another layer, revealing those orchids, a new wildflower,  ripe plums or a beach at low tide.

Each discovery has invited more.

We passed several slow cats on the way home and one house that said, Please don't leave your kittens here.

Interesting place.


  1. Great post.

    Broad channel is one of the oddest places in new York city, and yes it's got the highest density of US flags.

    Adding to the culture mash up, jamacia bay has become the water body of choice for the religious ceremonies of the nearby Hindu populations. Which explains this picture I took there


    I need to go back there.

  2. The cats may be slow, but it seems they're literate (if only the females). I hadn't thought to place signs.

  3. lovely.

    I've heard of those rockaway cats.

  4. Wonderful pictures Marie. Sometimes I really miss New York. The large brown bird in the marsh is an American Bittern. It's a member of the heron family.

  5. Thank you, Chris - yep, very compelling place. Strange...And yes, I had read about the Hindu ceremonies.

    my croft - how re your grown kittens? :-)

    Frank - thanks! Really, those cats are famous?

    halfpint - thank you :-) NYC can be lovely. It's a juvenile black crowned night heron (there were three on the same log!), so I can see why it looks like a bittern...

  6. You're right...looks very similar to the Bittern but it has white spots on the wing. I think I need to take a road trip to New York, your photos are making me homesick.

  7. What a lovely tour .....and pictures are excellent. I feel that I have been there. Thank you.

  8. Lovely interesting post, thank you. Want to visit NY real bad....! Love those porcelain berries:)

  9. Beautiful photos! The older I get the more I feel very lucky to have grown up in Rockaway. The bird sanctuary is such a wonderful haven. The seven minutes between Broad Channel and Howard Beach are the highlight of my daily commute. Its amazing how many 'locals' haven't even set foot in it. Thanks for sharing.

  10. yes,those cats AAARRRRRRRRE famous. I think it was NYTs

  11. Hard to tell really, but the downy seeds seem to be of wild lettuce.

  12. halfpint - I haven't seen a bittern yet...one day.

    jelli - well, after ripping those berries out of Prospect Park's woods I love them less, but certainly they are very pretty.

    Hen - thank you, Mama Hen xxx

    Frank - must look up these famous cats. Apparently there are also feral dogs, which sounds...creepy.

    Mama- the more I see of that part of the city, the more I like it...7 minutes exactly? :-)

    Anonymous yes, I should have included leaves, sorry...lettuce, shall investigate. Thank you.

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