Dear Forest Park:
You have been my favorite birding destination since I moved to Queens two years ago. The short three blocks that I faithfully walk to arrive at your doorstep have a groove worn in them from my feet. I have enjoyed the thrill of spring migration, the birdless doldrums of summer, the foliage and confusing warblers of autumn, and the depths of winter within your boundaries and no park could ever take your place in my heart.
Despite the fact that I hold our time together in the highest estimation you might have noticed that I haven’t been coming around as often lately. Life, through the birth of my son Desmond, has managed to limit the time I have spent with you, but that has made our time together all the sweeter, as I cherish every spare moment I spend walking your tree-shaded and bird-laden precincts. I have spared as much time as I could, and I think that sometimes you are almost aware of how much I wish I could spend more time, like when you send bird after bird for me to photograph at close range.
But, my lovely Forest Park, this note is not about the times we have spent together in the past, as marvelous as they have been, but about the future. You see, Forest Park, I am moving. Now, now, don’t get too upset – it is not as if I am leaving the borough or even the neighborhood – I am merely moving eight blocks. Granted, they are long blocks, and they put both the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Queens Boulevard between us, but it is not as if I am leaving for trendy Brooklyn and that hussy Prospect Park or the shining lights of Manhattan and the well-maintained trails in Central Park. No, I will stay true to you entirely.
What, Forest Park? Did you inquire about the proximity of Flushing Meadows Park to my new apartment? Well, yes, I will technically be closer to Flushing Meadows Park then I will be to you in my new place but Flushing Meadows Park doesn’t mean anything to me. Sure, the two large lakes attract a variety of waterfowl and large waders, and, yes, a rarity or two show up on occasion, and, as I am sure you know, it is vastly underbirded. But you have no reason to be jealous; you have far more wood-warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, and flycatchers. Flushing Meadows Park is loaded with athletic fields and lacks shade. I would never spend as much time there as I spend with you.
So, Forest Park, I just wanted you to know that the longer walk might mean that I will visit a bit less often. Once Desi is a bit older and the weather a bit warmer I might be able to take him out for a long stroll your way but I doubt that will happen more than once every other week or so. If you want to see other birders I will understand, but you will always be the number one New York City park in my humble opinion. I’ll miss you Forest Park, even if you are only eleven very long blocks away.
With love in my heart and binoculars around my neck,
Aaaah. It’s nice to find a man so in touch with his feelings 😉
I used to live just a block and a half from the south side of the park, on 112th street. I learned how to bird here and at Jamaica Bay (with some of the greatest people and rangers as mentors) starting in late 1978. Forest Park WAS the place to be for migrating warblers, not to mention a great variety of other birds. And there wasn’t a day, when tramping through the woods and along trails, that I didn’t come upon a Ring-necked Pheasant or two. The encounter was usually very abrupt as neither of us saw the other until we came upon a rise or around a bush from opposite directions, then scaring one another, each of us with a loud squawk.
In the 23 years since I moved from there, I have been back once or twice, and I have spoken to many who birded there then, and still do now. Alas, everyone says what a gem of a place it used to be. They tell me that it’s nothing like it was…that there are still warblers and other birds during migration, but noticeably fewer. I can’t imagine what changed other than possibly more people using the park and disrupting the environment. This was always a problem there. I used to report abandoned cars and help put out deliberately set grass fires. I wonder if all this has increased since I left the area.
This is still one of the most beautiful parks in the city. It is uniquely filled with ancient glacial kettle-holes that abound with orange Jewelweed from mid-summer on. This in turn attracts (or at least used to attract) hummingbirds by the dozen. I once spent 30 minutes on the elevated rim of a kettle-hole watching 24 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed unimpeded. The activity was mesmerizing.
This was such a wonderful park that I used to make it a major part of the Christmas and Big Day Bird Counts I lead for the Queens County Bird Club.
I hope the city is maintaining (or even improving by cleaning it up) this wonderful park. Maybe I’ll get back there this spring and walk the trails that used to be so familiar.
Thanks for the memories.
East Brunswick, NJ
Ha – good read!
Aaaaw, so sweet.
Such a nice post. I know how you feel – these park relationships are intense! (Good trade-off, though: gain a baby, lose a few nature walks.)
I wrote a New Year’s Eve letter to Riverside Park, an ode inspired by a year of walks: .