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Fall at Jamaica Bay

A bright, warm autumn day. I set out to see what might be of interest at Jamaica Bay, and the delight of the day was the turning foliage. I don’t often contemplate the variety of plants at the refuge, but on this day, each one was a different color, and a walk down the path to the West Pond or to the East Pond via Big John’s Pond, was exhilarating.

My bird list was not long. The best was a young Cooper’s Hawk who had taken up a post near the blind by the Visitors Center and was feigning disinterest in the Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-breasted Nuthatches that came to drink and bathe. Instead of the behavior I've seen in the past, he (because he seemed smallish to me), came down from his perch and looked from prey by stalking through the yellowing grass. It was nice to see this magnificent bird so close and for so long, but also interesting to watch a legendary flight hunter behaving more like a turkey. A few times he found something, but instead of striking, he startled, jumped up and flew off, only to return. Must have been pretty hungry.

The East Pond had some nice ducks including Green-winged Teal and Gadwall, but they were all on the opposite side and had to be viewed through the scope at high magnification.

I’m happy to report that work has begun on the project to fill the breach at the West Pond. A huge pile of dirt was visible from the south side of the breach. The long path around to the far side now only goes a little way before you find it closed for the work period.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Cross Bay Boulevard, Big John’s Pond, empty of water for some time, has begun to look more like a meadow. Grass is growing on the drying bed, and songbirds forage as though in a field. Sadly, while I was watching the juncos and sparrows, a black cat was also there, planted in the middle, looking at the birds that she cannot catch, much like my young Cooper’s Hawk across the highway.

Good luck, National Park Service, restoring and repairing the damage to the West Pond. Can’t wait for it to come back.

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