Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a remarkable place. Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the 9,000-acre refuge lies virtually in the shadow of New York City’s skyscrapers, close to JFK International Airport. And yet it’s one of the best birding spots in the Northeast, where thousands of birds—raptors, shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds, wading birds, and more—stop to rest and feed during migration.
The refuge boasts a diversity of habitats, including ponds, woods, upland fields, saltmarshes, and a bay with small islands, which explains the wide variety of species it attracts. Both spring and fall are good times to visit to see the largest numbers of birds—both in terms of species and individuals. The shorebird watching is particularly good in June and September when the water in the East Pond is lowered to create a mudflat for the birds.
The visitors’ center is open from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The refuge trails are open from dawn to sunset. For more information, call (718) 318-4340.
Directions: Drive east from Brooklyn on the Belt Parkway, then take Exit 17 (Cross Bay Boulevard) and travel south across the North Channel Bridge. Continue for an additional one-and-a-half miles. The refuge headquarters is on the right. Or you can take the Q21 or Q53 bus, which drops passengers right at the visitors’ center.
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