A sketchy plot of landfill on the southwest corner of Long Island, New York, that attracts many migrants and a range of waterbirds in winter and nesting species in summer.
By Alex Wilson | Published: 6/20/2008
Calvert Vaux Park made news in summer 2007 when I happened upon New York’s first Western Reef-Heron. Many birders found the location almost as surprising as the bird, but I’d already become accustomed to the unexpected at this sketchy plot of landfill on the Brooklyn coast.
Favorably placed at the southwest corner of Long Island, the park has a diversity of habitats, providing good birding potential any time. It attracts many migrants and hosts a range of waterbirds in winter and nesting species in summer. The reef-heron was not the first or last of its rarities, but on that day in July I’d have been perfectly happy just watching the six other heron species that mingled with shorebirds in the tidal flat while terns and skimmers plied the deeper waters, kingfishers rattled around, and songbirds tended their nests. The generally dilapidated surroundings and Coney Island as a backdrop rendered the scene almost surreal.
I’ve found the park popping with woodcocks on a day in March, and I’ve watched pipits, larks, and bluebirds dropping out of the sky to feed in November. It’s a place where virtually anything might turn up. – Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson is an artist and a writer. He has birded around New York City for eight years and has a particular fondness for out-of-the-way spots.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Open fields, tidal mudflat along Coney Island Creek outlet, open waters of Gravesend Bay, tall grass, scrubby margins, thin woods.
Mostly flat but steeply sloped along tidal basin. Wheelchair-accessible but difficult in spots because paved paths are limited.
Loons, grebes, herons, Glossy Ibis, waterfowl, Peregrine Falcon, shorebirds. Horned Lark and American Pipit in late fall, Bobolink in summer and fall. Breeding: Willow Flycatcher, catbird, mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat. Summer: Osprey, Least Tern, Black Skimmer. Winter: Great Cormorant, Purple Sandpiper, accipiters, Bonaparte’s Gull. Rarities: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Connecticut and Orange-crowned Warblers, and Clay-colored, Vesper, Lark, and Seaside Sparrows.
When to go
Good year-round; best during fall migration. Early morning is best to avoid crowds on the heavily used athletic fields.
Restrooms at the Dreier-Offerman playground across the expressway, reached by a footbridge at 27th Ave., open 7-4. Planned improvements to the park include a nature center, but currently no formal birding programs or facilities.
City park. No fees. Open dawn to dusk. Many birders park at the Home Depot just to the east at 2970 Cropsey Ave. Public transit: D subway to Bay 50th St.; B82 or B64 bus to 27th Ave.
This is very much an urban park and typical cautions apply. A scope is useful but not essential. Check tide tables for low-tide times when shorebirds and waders are in season.