When I was in sixth grade I went on a field trip to Storm King Art Center, a huge (500+ acres) outdoor museum loaded with cool sculptures that were very fun to climb on and swing from until we got yelled at and threatened with all kinds of dire consequences if we didn’t behave ourselves and appreciate the sculptures the way they were supposed to be appreciated.  How they expected a bunch of hyperactive preteens with virtually no education in art history to understand gigantic postmodern sculpture without any explanation confuses me to this day but I remembered the Storm King Art Center fondly, especially the huge, metal, orange sculptures that were so fun to climb.

We took a family outing up to that same Storm King Art Center, which is located about an hour north of New York City in Mountainville, Orange County, last weekend and had an absolute blast.  The sun was shining, the grounds are beautiful, and I know a little bit more about art now so I could appreciate what we were looking at as something other than a jungle gym, though I was still sorely tempted to see if I could still climb those giant orange doohickeys.

What I really liked about Storm King Art Center was how they have started to leave large swaths of the grounds unmowed which means more cool bugs, more habitat for birds, and less fuel spent pointlessly shortening the grass.  Though I didn’t see any species that I would associate with grasslands there were several “open-country” birds around, including Eastern Bluebirds, Barn Swallows, and Eastern Kingbirds like the one below (which is either carrying nesting material or managed to get feathers stuck to its beak after preening).

The sculpture is great too, especially the pieces that are built into the landscape like Richard Serra’s Schunnemunk Fork, a portion of which can be seen below.

As fascinating as the artwork is and as much as I enjoyed seeing it and photographing it I must recognize that this is a bird blog and stay focused on the birds.  One of my favorite sections of our walk was when we were down in the southeast corner of the art center on a path that bordered the forest and had the pleasure of being serenaded by both Veery and Wood Thrush.  We also observed some evidence of other species breeding.  For example, I was really glad that the bird that built this nest wasn’t around when we checked out its home: a nest so large must hold one heck of a beast!

Now that this post has devolved into silliness I think it is time to bring it to a merciful end.  Let me just say that a visit to Storm King Art Center is well worth the $12 a person admission (kids under four years old free).  Bring a picnic lunch to eat on the grounds, a camera to record the beauty, comfortable shoes to get you around, and hours of time to wander.  You will wish you had more time. I’ll leave you with a shot of Desi, who really appreciated having wide open spaces to explore, even if he does look disgruntled about it.

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.