Watchable Wildlife
November 20, 2012


Watching the Wildlife in New York City

Though “wild life” and “New York City” are words one frequently finds in close proximity, “wildlife” and the Big City don’t share such close association. Most people expect to have to go out of their way to see anything other than pigeons, rats, mice, cockroaches, or the residents of our various zoos; but a new program created by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation program, Watchable Wildlife, has been set up to disabuse us of these assumptions. Watchable Wildlife is designed to show you where to go, when to go, and what you will see at various locations around the city and beyond. The most fascinating thing about the sites within the five boroughs—Alley Pond Park, Central Park, Forest Park, Fort Totten Park, High Rock Park, Inwood Hill Park, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park—is how wildlife thrives in such close proximity to so many people.

Who knew that not far from the Park Plaza Hotel, Lincoln Center, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can watch red-tailed hawks, snapping turtles or little brown bats thriving in their natural environment? Mute swans—imported from Europe in the late nineteenth century for their aesthetic beauty—can be gazed upon like baubles in the jewelry cases of Tiffany’s just two blocks from Central Park’s southern border. In the massive environs of Alley Pond Park in Queens, you can observe ring-necked pheasant, red fox, and a bestiary of other creatures, thriving just north of the up-and-coming restaurant scene of the borough’s eclectic neighborhoods and the soccer games and tennis matches taking place in Corona Park. When you think of Park Slope, you may think of strollers and lattes, but you should also think red-tailed hawks, largemouth bass, American coot, and wigeon, not to mention the pied-billed grebe. In New York City’s largest park, Pelham Bay, and at neighboring Orchard Beach, you can see egret, heron, white-tailed deer, harbor seals, and red-backed salamanders. The Big Apple is indeed a wildlife watcher’s paradise.

Tips and Events

Watchable Wildlife hosts events and offers tips. Upcoming events include several guided talks and tours in Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve and the Environmental Education Center in Depew, and the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar. The program’s website offers tips for viewing (“Do not feed wildlife”) and photographing (“Remember to look up”) wildlife, and provides useful information on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s programs on pollution control and how to obtain permits and licenses. Other information provided through the program is ideal for answering the types of questions we tend to get from our seven- and nine-year-old children, such as “What do butterflies eat?” and “What’s the difference between a wolf and a coyote?”

Wildlife watching is an activity you could include in a day trip or weekend getaway outside the city too. Watchable Wildlife includes information on sites in the Adirondacks, Hudson Valley, Central New York, the Catskills, and Western New York. You could organize a trip around either what you want to see or where you want to see it.

New York City residents who would like further information on the program can check the program website or contact the Department of Environmental Conservation at 718-482-4900. If you live outside the city, check the department’s website for the number of the contact person near you.

Have you ever spotted a red-tailed hawk in New York City?


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