Edgemere Landfill

Queens Birding

New York City is home to many beautiful places, and Edgemere Landfill is not one of them. The former landfill juts off the Rockaway Peninsula into Jamaica Bay near Kennedy Airport.  The landfill opened in 1938 and was the longest continuously operated landfill in the United States until its closure in 1991.  In the 1980’s it was declared a federal Superfund site, but lost that distinction in 2003 when it was capped.  Today an elevated grassy meadow remains,  surrounded by water on three sides. Despite its history of environmental calamity, Edgemere Landfill is 178 acres of undeveloped land, which means one important thing: bird habitat!

On May 7th, Tim stopped by Edgemere after work, killing time while traffic back to Brooklyn dissipated.  It should be noted that Sarah is such a chill girlfriend, she doesn’t mind that Tim goes birding solo on occasion.  Unless he spots a life-lister.

The Department of Sanitation stores a mountain of road salt near the entrance and the place is dotted with wells venting off the methane gas being brewed beneath the cap – not your typical introduction to an afternoon of birding.  It was around 5:30 in the evening and light was fading under cloud cover, making  photography difficult.  But Tim did manage to document a few of the avian fauna that call this place home, like this pair of American Oystercatchers:


American Oystercatchers

An Oystercatcher was startled and flew off:


American Oystercatcher in flight

A maze of paths crisscross the site, and some of them bring you close to the edge of the water where this Willet was spotted:


Willet. Or won’t it?

Along the water, there were quite a few gulls of various stripes, but more interesting were the elegant lines of this Common Tern, with our beloved Kennedy Airport as a background.


Common Tern flight 101 – cleared for takeoff

Also spotted were a few of the Common Tern’s diminutive cousins, the Least Tern LL, but they alluded photography. A Common Yellowthroat and a Yellow Warbler were among the songbirds species populating this toxic Eden, but the Red-winged Blackbird really owns the joint.  Tim tried counting them, but gave up after counting a hundred in the first few minutes.


Male Red-winged Blackbird

In summary, if you want to see gulls, terns and shorebirds birds living in relative harmony with a mountain of garbage, and also really love Red-winged Blackbirds, then Edgemere Landfill is not to be missed!

The List: Edgemere Landfill – May 7, 2014 5:21 PM to 7:02 PM

Red-winged Blackbird
European Starling
American Oystercatcher
Song Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Gray Catbird
American Robin
Common Tern
Laughing Gull
Great Egret
Brown Thrasher
Crow sp.
American Black Duck
Common Yellowthoat
Least Tern
Northern Cardinal
Red-tailed Hawk


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