Primping and preening: Volunteers spruce up bird-watchers’ paradise Bush Terminal Park

Planted at the park: Sammy and Veronika Goldston with Karen Hue planted a Bayberry bush at Bush Terminal Piers Park on Nov. 22 for the park’s one-year anniversary.
Photo by Jason Speakman

This park is for the birds — literally!

Sunset Parkers celebrated the one-year anniversary of a hard-to-find park on Nov. 22 by spiffing it up for its most frequent visitors — birds. Volunteers weeded the park’s wooded area and planted local species to bring even more avian visitors — and bird-watchers — to the green space.

“The place is a gem — a lot of rare birds are found there,” said Karen Hue. “We were weeding out invasive species and planting native ones. That encourages birds to nest and come there.”

Bush Terminal Piers Park, nestled between 44th and 50th streets on an industrial stretch of First Avenue, is so out of the way that many locals don’t even know about it, but bird-watchers have been flocking there to glimpses more than 120 feathered species, according to Cornell University’s bird-sighting tracker eBird.

Birders regularly spot Bufflehead ducks and Canada geese there, but there’s rare game too. Spotters recorded an arctic-native snowy owl and a bald eagle there this year, the bird-watcher site reports. The park is one of the few public spaces along the waterfront that is forested, which naturally attracts winged wildlife, according to the leader of one avifauna enthusiasts’ club.

“There’s really nothing else like it on the harbor — at least on the Brooklyn side,” said Robert Bate, president of the Brooklyn Bird Club. “We get an enormous number of waterfowl there, and the rare breeds bring every birder in Brooklyn down there.”

The park is popular with birds and their spotters, but it hasn’t yet taken off with the majority of Sunset Parkers. High-flying fowl can spot the sylvan sanctuary from the air, but many of Sunset Park’s human inhabitants do not know it is even there, so it’s no surprise that the majority of people at the anniversary were involved with the Brooklyn Bird Club or parks groups, said one volunteer.

“We had people pass through who said ‘Wow I didn’t know this was here,’ but the turnout of people who knew what was going on was kind of small,” said Ryan Gellis, who is also an arborist with the Prospect Park Alliance. “They could probably do better with signage.”

The park is built atop a remediated brownfield — the city, state, and feds spent 20 years greening the site before it opened in November 2014. But the pace of park construction frustrated locals, who threw their own ribbon-cutting for the long-delayed park two weeks ahead of the city’s official opening.

The park has plenty to offer, including a baseball field, a soccer field, great views across the East River, and one thing that plumed park-goers don’t take advantage of — good toilets, Bate said.

“The bathrooms are amazing,” he said. “They’re clean, new, and — most importantly — they’re open.”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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