I am not an avid bird watcher, but I do appreciate that where there are wild birds, there is usually gorgeous nature to be found. Who would have thought that nature such as this can be found in Jamaica, Queens? The refuge provides an easy hike through marshland that should be relatively safe and dry during the drier months.
There are actually two separate hiking trails here. I recommend the less marshy west pond trail. It’s a 2 mile loop on a well-maintained gravel-y road. You will see more bushes and other ground covering than trees here, which gives you a great view of open sky. You might even forget that you’re in the city except for the occasional airplane taking off in the distance from nearby JFK.
You will need a trail permit, so your first stop is at the visitor center. They will issue you a permit and give you a trail map. You will likely not need it, but it makes for a good souvenir.
As you make your way into the trail, you will come across lots of these bird houses. Each one is customized to a particular bird species. It’s very interesting how some are much larger than others.
The main attraction, at least for me, is close to the beginning of the trail. These birds could be mistaken for eagles from afar, but they are actually ospreys. They are huge birds that just take your breathe away. I had to zoom to get a good shot of them. Their nest is a lot farther away than it appears in the pic.
Farther in you’ll come across lots of lakes and inlets inhabited by ducks.
This particular spot was the duck riviera. They were all quacking away enjoying their time in the sun.
I was looking forward to some turtles, but came across this sign instead. Turtles can be camera shy too.
Further in, I caught a lonely egret (?) in the marshes. It makes me wonder where these birds are migrating from.
In the middle of summer, there were plenty of colorful wildflowers to ogle. Watch out for the bees though.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s best to come here during the drier months- summer to fall. Otherwise, you will need waterproof boots and plenty of mosquito repellent. The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take the Q53 from the Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights station. It’ll drop you right off at the entrance. Dogs and bikes are not allowed, and there are no spots where you would want to sit down and picnic. Due to the lack of shade, be sure to bring a hat, and definitely bring binoculars if you want to see some birds up close.
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