On Saturday, before the Western Reef Heron had fortuitously reappeared, Daisy and I journeyed through the boroughs of New York City seeking out birds.  Our last stop was Great Kills Park, more properly known as the Staten Island Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Wait, what? Staten Island?  Is that even in New York?

Yes, Staten Island is one of the Big Apple’s five boroughs, though it is often aptly referred to as the forgotten borough.  It is so forgotten that neither Daisy nor I had ever travelled beyond the ferry terminal after taking the free ride from Manhattan.  That made the ride over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge somewhat fun.  Fun, that is, until we paid the $9 toll for crossing said bridge.

Though the bathing beach was crowded with those who were enjoying a more sensible pursuit on such a hot day, the rocky shore to the north of the beachgoers was mostly empty, of people at least.  We found a nice spot to sit and enjoyed two distinctly different views.

The first was the rocky flats, exposed by the low tide, being picked at by gulls and herons.

rocky shore at Great Kills Park

We kept an eye out for the missing reef heron, as Staten Island is only a short distance from Brooklyn as the heron flies, but despite seeing three other species (Great and Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Heron) we were disappointed.

The other view, of the exposed bank behind us, was pretty cool too.

Bank Swallow bank

And what made the bank so cool?  Those holes are Bank Swallow nests!  There were dozens of the birds swooping around, snatching bugs from the air.  With the binoculars we could see young in a couple of the holes but I didn’t dare risk disturbing them by approaching close enough to get a picture.  You’ll have to be content with this shot of an adult in flight, the only pic out of forty that I took with which I was happy.

Bank Swallow in Flight

Brown swallow with a stripe?  Bank Swallow

We also spotted an Osprey being chased by a pair of Common Terns, Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed and Laughing Gulls and the expected birds you would find in any city park.  It’s probably a park that if we had spent more time in we could have found more birds but we were hot and tired and didn’t feel like beating the bushes so we stayed by the shore awhile, enjoying the sea breeze and the sun and then headed home to Queens.

Laughing Gull in flight

Laughing Gull in flight

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.