July 27, 2010
With less than a week before I take off for Nairobi everything becomes a last. My last Monday, my last episode of True Blood, the last time I will take Rheana to the dog park, and the last photo post on my blog. I will post later this week the final installment of my packing guide as promised, which will encompass camera equipment and all things electronic. But before I make that post I wanted to share an awesome New York day trip I did on Sunday (my last Sunday here)!!! It’s amazing how incredibly hot it is now and when I get back in January it will be so terribly cold. Why do I chose to live in such a crazy city with these horrible weather extremes? Oh yeah…because it is the best city in the world. PERIOD. Now I haven’t visited every city in the world, although after the next few months I will be able to cross a lot more off my list, but there is a magic within the city of New York that is unexplainable. People ask me all the time why I chose New York when my interest is wildlife and nature. Well first of all my interests are so varied and as I told Rhys on our Sunday adventure I am just as happy up to my knees in goose poop trying to get a good shot as I am photographing in a studio with models and a light kit. Second, what I love about New York is you can find great fashion in all the boutiques and stores, great culture in the amazing museums and galleries, and as I’ve explored over the last few years great nature right here in the parks. But if you want a little more nature than the island of Manhattan can provide you can travel just 45 minutes out of the city to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens.
The trip out there was inspired by the Audubon Society. As a member I get a newsletter with information about upcoming trips and they had one listed for shorebirds in Jamaica Bay. So Rhys, our friend Sam, and I all headed out to Queens to go see some birds. We met up with the group, but it was quite large and many of the people weren’t dressed properly for sludging through mud and poop so we broke off from them and foraged on our own.
I love birds. I always have. When I was a little girl my parents took me to Big Sur and I named every bird I met along the way. I would wake up at the crack of dawn to feed them (much to my sister’s chagrin as I shared a room with her) and claimed to be able to identify them by name. And no I do not mean species name, I mean the names I gave them (shout out to tweetie and shelly, great bird names right?). My interest has now turned from naming and feeding them to photographing them. I love capturing movement whether it be dancing, jumping, running or the beating of wings. I especially love particularly fast birds where it becomes a game I play in my head trying to see how fast I can focus and keep up to get the right shot. But once I get the right shot I get bored quickly and while I love spending time with the birds after a few hours you realize how ripe the marsh smells and how hot the sun is, so I would suggest planning for around two hours of sight seeing in the bay. If you are a true birder as Rhys and Sam are you may want more time, but if you’re like me and you enjoy them, but aren’t counting or tracking I would say this is a half day activity. We saw over 30 different species including Canadian Geese, Ibises, Terns, Sand Pipers, Egrets, Herons, Swans, and many more.
My tips on this trip are to bring good mud boots, the higher the better because you will sink into a few holes while trudging through the mud. If you don’t have mud boots you can pick up some wellies at a fisherman’s store in Queens that you will pass on the way to the bay if you are coming from Manhattan. Rhys bought some there that you can see him modeling below. Also wear lots of sunscreen because you will get burnt.
If you have two camera bodies bring them so you don’t have to change lenses in the mud. When photographing a bird in the air try and focus on one at a time and follow it a little with your camera so you get the focus and frame right.
You can take public transport almost all the way there, but the train lets you out about a mile away from the visitor center so you have to bike or walk the rest. If you don’t have a car in the city (like me) the easiest thing to do is rent a zip car. They aren’t too expensive and it is really nice to be able to get in your own air conditioned car afterward when you smell like shit (literally) and are muddy and tired. When we got back to the city and returned the car we went to get a taxi on 9th ave right outside of the Maritime Hotel and the Hiro Ballroom and it felt incredibly strange to be hailing a taxi when just under an hour ago we were up to our knees in mud and droppings. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to get a taxi because we smelled so bad, but we actually didn’t smell any worse than the cab we got into…got to love NYC. I sure will miss it for the next 5 months!