While New York City has incredible nature in it’s near 30,000 acres of city parks sometimes a night in a tent under the stars is required to feel like you’ve immersed yourself in nature. As a New York City resident and camper, this normally means getting in a car and driving upstate or to some destination several hours away, by car.
Last week, I found one of my new favorite campsites that you can travel to from New York City by train (actually subway to train to ferry)! In just under 3 hours I had left my apartment steps and had reached a designated wilderness area. The National Park side of Fire Island, a long linear barrier island off of Long Island, is home to the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness. It offers 7 miles of desolate beaches and free wilderness camping! It is meant to protect the fragile native dune ecosystems that have since disappeared along with the development of the eastern shore and with the popularity of beaches.
Even if it was just for a night, camping on the beach, under the stars made me feel far far away from my urban home. If you go, just remember bug spray!
I spent the morning at marine park in south Brooklyn. Over the past few years invasive plants have been removed and native trees and grasses planted. Before this area was a park it was a landfill, specifically a glass dump. When we planted the area I clearly remember all of the glass and trash in the soil. This morning I found a young healthy coastal forest and equally as important a native understory-and honestly i was hard pressed to find the abundance of glass and trash that was there just a few years ago. This snowy egret was wading close to the wetland restoration.
I was one of only a few people walking around Highland Park today. Located on the Queens -Brooklyn border I walked the trail under the dense oak-black cherry-sassafras canopy. The last time I was here was after one of the cities only snow storms this winter. Today I caught a glimpse of what I think is a Kingfisher resting along a downed oak in the parks wetland.
It is very hard to see but on the thin branch sticking out of the water is what I think is a Kingfisher-I only got a glimpse before it flew off.
I took this shot last January after one of our only snowstorms.
Bring on the rain! Finally some much needed rain hit the city just in time for earth day and offered relief for the diversity of plants that have transformed our city early making it look more like late May than April.
To celebrate earth day online I decided to post some of my favorite New York City nature pictures from this spring.
Above is Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) a native wetland plant that has a foul namesake odor I found growing in Staten Island. The odor attracts pollinators but discourages larger mammals.
One of the most abundant and well studied birds of North America, the Red Winged Blackbird ( Agelaius phoeniceus).
Above is a discarded Oyster shell in Conference House Park which was historically a popular oyster farming location, it was so popular it was the boroughs most important industry from 1880-1905 and the evidence remains scattered above and buried just under the surface of the soil.
This Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) was likely planted considering the location I snapped this photo-but is one of my favorite trees mostly because of the heart shaped leaf and tree architurture as well as reminding me of western riparian areas I studied for so long and it’s close relative Fremont Cottonwood-my all time favorite tree.
Even in New York City there is an abundance of diversity and nature and we need to work together to protect and celebrate it! Happy Earth Day!!
Conference House Park is the southern most tip of New York City (and also New York State). This is a stand of native Sumac (Rhus spp.) along the Arthur Kill tidal strait and the Atlantic Ocean.