July 14, 2010
With all of the exotic places in the world to go and see wildlife it is easy to forget what beauty we can find in our own backyards. I live in New York so technically I don’t have a backyard, but the great thing about being a New Yorker is the whole city is your backyard. On Sunday nights during the summer New York Water Taxi runs a special Audubon EcoCruise that takes you on a 90 minute journey up and down the East River. New York Water Taxi is known for running very touristy trips full of obnoxious (sometimes drunk and always loud) non-native New Yorkers. However this trip was extremely pleasant and relaxed. There were about 35 people on the cruise and I would say 90% were locals. The boat left from Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport and took us up the river, passing Randalls Island park and circling the Brother Islands.
The trip was lead by a knowledgeable naturalist who gave some interesting facts about the birds we saw (although he was a little slow on spotting them) and also told really interesting facts and stories about the history of the city and these little islands. I definitely love birds, and I went on the trip to see them, but I most enjoyed hearing the illicit histories of the islands that used to be jails, insane asylums, homeless shelters, small pox hospitals and just in general seedy places where (as our guide put it) “undesirables” were sent. You also get an awesome view of all the bridges on the East River and sometimes you can even spot a Pelegrine Falcon roosting in one.
Bird-wise the trip was great! We saw Herons, a ton of Double-Crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Black-Crowned Night Herons and a few types of seagulls. I would suggest bringing a long lens, at least a 300mm or a 200 with a teleconverter if you want to snap good photographs of the birds as the boat can’t get too close to the islands where the birds nest.
Even if you aren’t a big bird watcher the trip is very enjoyable and it is wonderful to simply cruise around and watch sunset over the city. I dragged along my friend Kate who agreed how nice it was to be on the water and feel a cool breeze! (Kate being a good sport and waving hi)
This time of year the only cool places are air conditioned places and feeling a cool breeze while being outside is worth any ticket price to me! Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for kids. I would suggest the trip to locals who want a relaxing evening and to cool down or to tourists who want a laid back view of Manhattan from the water without feeling like a tourist.