I wrote this right before the Summer Solstice but now that you’re holding WestView in your hands, yes, summer has officially commenced. (Just don’t think about the days already getting shorter, and summer slowly ending).
My work is on an academic schedule, so part of the pomp-and-circumstance of wrapping up the school year, other than graduation and all of that, is the refrain: “What are you doing this summer?” It’s a ritual to ask and then nod appreciatively during the dutiful answer. I feel like I’m expected to reply, “I’m planning to circumnavigate the globe (do forgive me if I only tell you the highlights): I’m looking forward to adding 600 new Peruvian bird species to my World List, a weekend in the Galapagos, a rare winter tour to Antarctica, an African safari, climb Mount Everest (can you believe it?), volunteer at a reef conservation project off of the Philippines, and then just relax for eight days trekking through the forests of New Guinea to observe the extraordinary courting dances of the Birds of Paradise.” That’s the “pomp”, but the “circumstance” is: “I’m mostly staying at home.”
I really don’t get to be at home very much during the school year, so getting to be at home, and stay at home feels like a cushy everything-included vacation. My corgi Millie loves it (she gets to order me around even more than usual – the potential for additional treats is enormous) and I get to be a tourist in a world-destination city. What could be better?
My To Do List is already longer than the number of days before orientation begins in August. Get out a map of New York City, put an X on the green spaces, and I’ll be there. Starting with Manhattan, of course there are the daily excursions with Millie around the West Village (talk about world-class destinations) cheering on all of the nesting avian residents and their progeny. Already Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Starlings and Sparrows have little ones squawking after them, and just last week I was lucky to win tickets for the inaugural parade of a Hudson River Park Mallard duck family: nest to river direct! Central Park and Inwood Hill Park are destined for multiple visits. I’d like to bike the circumference of the island, and then track down the remaining official Great Trees of NYC that I still haven’t checked off my list.
The Bronx short list: Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay parks, the Botanical Garden and the Zoo. I’d also like to finally walk the length of Grand Concourse and photograph the Art Deco buildings. Queens! Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge will garner at least a weekly visit (I was just there watching Diamondback Terrapins laying eggs), and as it gets into shorebird migration later in the summer, I’ll walk the East Pond, sometimes every day. Some of those little guys are already on their way back after starting families way up in Canada, leaving their kids to find their way to South America all on their own! I’ll have to visit the nesting Terns and Piping Plovers and Black Skimmers out at Breezy Point, and take the American Princess from Riis Landing several times for dolphin and whale watching (that’s right, you can see the aforementioned while still in view of the Manhattan skyline). And I hope to squeeze in an Audubon Jamaica Bay sunset cruise that goes around the marshes south of JFK. Oh, there’s Alley Pond Park, and the Kissena Park corridor, and summer isn’t summer without taking houseguests to the Queens Museum to marvel over the ‘64-65 World’s Fair model of the City of New York. Did you know that there’s a Red-tailed Hawk nest in the Unisphere this year?
Maybe I’ll walk the whole Brooklyn waterfront, and surely take boat tours up Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal (SuperFund sites have their crusty allure). How many nooks of Prospect Park haven’t I seen? And it’s never too often to watch the antics of the Monk Parakeets at Greenwood Cemetery.
Staten Island. Oh, sweet Staten Island. Just riding the ferry is a perfect day’s outing, but then there’s High Rock, Great Kills, Wolfe’s Pond and Mount Loretto (for starters), Snug Harbor and probably the Parks Service has an excursion to the fledgling Fresh Kills Park. Uh, Governor’s Island (duh), NY WaterTaxi EcoCruises out of South Street Seaport and Working Harbor Tours of Newark Bay, then Wards and Randall’s Islands…
Okay, Millie’s not happy that it doesn’t seem like I’m planning my summer around her. Maybe if I get up earlier I can fit it all in.
For a schedule of NYC Wild! nature walks visit http://www.keithmichaelnyc.com .