Look around

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I don’t have the camera & lenses for great bird photography. (You can find plenty of far better shots on the web). But one of the reasons I do this blog is to convey the message that everyone, anyone, can be an observer of wildness. Fancy gear is not necessary. This male blue-winged teal was on the East Pond of JBWR across from the Raunt. I sat quietly on a bench as he and two females steamed by. It was the closest view I’ve ever had of this uncommon species. The A train rattled by in the distance.A couple of Glossy ibis on the West Pond, with their unmistakable (for these parts) silhouettes. This photo doesn’t convey the shimmering blue-green wings nor the rich, orange-brown of their mating plumage, especially in the late afternoon sun. (They looked like gussied-up chocolate desserts). But that’s ok, because you can go out there and see them for yourself.
I was there Thursday afternoon because I wanted to attend the Jamaica Bay Task Force’s meeting that night. The topic was the Regional Planning Association’s recent recommendation to expand JFK International into the Bay. It was a partisan crowd, resolutely against the cockamamie idea.

The paving of wetlands surrounding Jamaica Bay during the 20th century reduced the size of the bay’s watershed by half. People have been fighting hard for decades now to undo some of that landfill damage, as well as other assaults like sewage, nitrogen, and airplane de-icers poured willy-nilly into the water.

As an estuary, the bay is an incredibly rich foundation for a complex foodweb. I know the birds best: some 330 species have been recorded here over the years. I noted 45 species this trip, including Little blue heron and Wilson’s snipe. Situated on the Atlantic Flyway, it’s a vital stop for migrating birds. In addition, of course, there are the other animals and plants and fungi. Threatened diamonback terrapins, for instance, and 100 plus species of fish. But, surrounded by the city, it’s also terribly vulnerable to our blundering.

The RPA’s proposal is currently just a pipe dream, because it would take federal law to encroach on the Gateway National Recreation Area. Still, our voices must be raised in objection to the proposal, and the mentality of growth it represents, so that they’re listening in DC.

Perhaps this is a good place to be reminded of Edward Abbey, who said growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.

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