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.