As I was walking through the very dark Forest Park yesterday morning at half past five so I could get to the Q53 Limited bus to take me to Jamaica Bay by the time the sun rose I thought to myself, “Man, this is really dumb.  Who walks through a pitch-black New York City Park all alone before the sun comes up?”

Of course, I made it to the bus on Woodhaven Boulevard without incident, and I even spotted a Common Nighthawk overhead while waiting for the bus, but if I had been mugged it is not like it would have been the first time a birder has run into such a situation.  In fact, we birders put ourselves into dangerous situations rather regularly, whether by going to sketchy areas at sketchy times to seek out migrants, or traveling to unstable parts of the world to try to find birds that only can be found in such areas or simply by getting out into the middle of the wilderness out of reach of cell phones and ambulances.  The world’s leading lister, Phoebe Snetsinger, even died in a bus crash in Madagascar on a birding expedition.

I will say, however, that once I got off the bus at Jamaica Bay, crossed the very busy Cross Bay Boulevard, put my boots on and got out on the East Pond I didn’t feel like there was any danger whatsoever, despite the fact that last night, after I gently mocked Will about the birds I was going to see (he was going to come down from Albany to join me but couldn’t make it) his last email back to me ended with the strangely prophetic “I hope you sink up to your hips on the East Pond.”

Anway, once I was out on the pond I was pleased to come across Andrew, Shane, and Doug, and we started to make our way north up the east side of the pond, stopping to check out the shorebirds along the way.  I had just added my first-of-the-year-for-Queens Western Sandpiper when it happened…

I took a step forward with my left foot and, well, my foot kept going.  I ended up with muck over the top of my boot, up past my knee in fact, and with a sharp pain in my shin just below my knee.  Once Shane pulled me out of the muck (I should note that camera, scope, and bins all stayed dry and mud-free) the reason for the pain became apparent: I had a nice gash across my leg that would definitely require stitches.  Fortunately, Shane had a squeeze bottle of water, I had a towel and Doug had athletic tape so we jury-rigged a washing-out and bandage and Shane volunteered to walk out with me and drive me to an emergency room in Doug’s car, because Shane’s car was parked up at the north end of the pond.  When we got off the pond and back to the visitor center Shane located a hose and I washed the wound down some more and then we headed to Jamaica Hospital, where I remembered to take this shot before getting stitched back together again:

It took a bucket of iodine, topical anesthetic, nine stitches, a tetanus shot, and a lollipop, but I am well on the road to recovery.  It was surprisingly not painful to have iodine-soaked gauze applied to the wound prior to the anesthetic, but several hours later the pain came.  I was surprised by how quickly I was treated in a big city hospital, but then again I guess that seven in the morning is not a peak point of emergency room business.  Anyway, here is the after shot:

Shane was kind enough to wait for me to get done getting stitched up in order to give me a ride home.  I have since heard that nothing majorly rare showed up on the East Pond so I can relax and not worry about missed birds, and maybe, this morning, I’ll take a walk (limp?) into Forest Park to look for warblers…after all, what could possibly go wrong there?

Many thanks to Doug and Andrew and Shane for not letting me be a fool by trying to get to the emergency room on my own and also many thanks to Gabrielle, the PA who stitched me up and kept me entertained with tales of the ER (though I think she was more entertained by the idea of having been injured looking for birds).

So, if you go to Jamaica Bay and are one of those who are brave (foolish?) enough to want to walk up the east side of the East Pond just remember to hug the phragmites as you approach the raunt.  Do not, under any condition, walk between any pilings…that is where the hole is.  And, above all else, don’t mock Will: that guy is dangerous!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.