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BREEZY POINT (Gateway National Recreation Area)
Rockaway, NY

Link: www.nps.gov/gate/homepage/jb-bp.htm

Description:

Breezy Point is the terminus of the Rockaway peninsula. It consists predominantly of dune/beach shoreline terrain that extends outward into the Atlantic ocean. The interior has a small central marsh area complemented by shrubbery, extensive beach grass, and a stunted tree forest which renders cover for birds. However, what makes Breezy Point significant is that it serves as a thin barrier separating the Atlantic Ocean from Jamaica Bay. This geologic occurrence provides the bayside cover waterfowl need from the rough ocean currents.

A trip to Breezy Point in fall might also be combined with a stop at nearby Ft. Tilden.

Peak Times: Autumn and Winter

Suggested strategy:

On Southerly winds
On southerly winds, bird species are blown into the Rockaway peninsula or trapped on the Point. From the parking lot, take the 4-wheel drive track through the stunted forest area, towards the ocean. As you walk along, check the field on your left for ground and perching species, such as various sparrows, and Horned Lark and Snow Bunting in the winter months. The shrub forest provides excellent bird variety during the latter part of the year. Near the trail's end, dunes and grassland command your view. Scan the beach carefully for rarities. Snowy Owl is often spotted here; both on the beach and within the grassy areas. Short-Eared Owl also makes an occasional appearance. Northern Harriers can be seen flying over the grasslands. From here, head west down the beach to the Point jetty. The jetty is the vantage point for scanning both the ocean and inlet for various ducks, loons, and grebes. Spend time here during non-summer months. Proceed eastward on the bay side, scanning in every direction. In approximately one mile, you will approach an large eddy, which is excellent for migrating shorebirds. Behind the rock wall you will find the sand trail which leads back to the parking lot. This circular hike is approximately three miles in length.

On North-Northwest winds
Begin on the bay side, in reverse of the previous walk, since the northerly winds bring southbound migrant species to the bay and undergrowth. A suggested tour is to take the inner trail that starts behind the dunes. Continue on the sand trail toward the bay, taking the left fork that diverts behind the rocks.

What to expect:
Although spring provides significantly good birding at Breezy Point, autumn and winter are the best times to go. From late August into October raptors follow the contour of the Rockaway peninsula. To the east, Ft.Tilden's forest harbors the migrating passerines which ensures Breezy Point the autumn fallout phenomenon. In addition, the waterfowl flights can be spectacular from October into November.

Winter brings the residential waterfowl population of grebes, loons, and sea ducks; as well as Bonaparte's Gull and Northern Gannet. Storms and turbulent weather carry in more unusual visitors. The occasional massive beaching of clams after a severe storm pulls in a correspondingly massive population of gulls, which can include rarities. Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow, and Northern Harrier reside in the interior. See the rarities section below for other possible species.

In summer, Breezy Point is best known for its nesting population of the endangered Piping Plover. Here, one can observe the precarious state of these curious birds surviving against trying odds. The balance of nature weighed against human needs is always a complex issue. Take the time to observe, enjoy and marvel as you trek along this shoreline.

Breeding species:
Piping Plover, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, American Oystercatcher, Common Tern

Recent rarities (past 5 years):
Red-necked Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Rough-legged Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Parasitic Jaeger, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Black-headed Gull, Dovekie, Baird's Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Shrike, Vesper Sparrow, "Ipswich" Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Common Redpoll

Permits:
If you are going to Breezy Point between April 15 and September 15, you must obtain a parking permit from the Ft.Tilden Visitors Center. (For current visitor center hours and parking restrictions, call 718-318-4300.) After exiting the Marine Park Bridge, stay to the left, making the first left turn into Ft. Tilden. Go straight in till you see the Center on your left and park. Before and after these dates, no permit is required. However, arrive early for a spot in the small parking lot.

Directions:
Take the Belt Parkway to exit 11s, Flatbush Avenue South. Proceed south to the Marine Park Bridge (toll $1.75.) Stay to your right and take the exit for Breezy Point. The Ft.Tilden Visitors Center will be across the road, on your left. Stop there for a day parking permit if you are visiting between April 15 and September 15. (See "Permit" section above). Continue approximately 2 miles west to the end of the paved road. (Note: you will be required to stop at the gate to the private Breezy Point community. Tell the gatekeeper you are visiting Breezy Point Recreation Area.) The small parking lot is on the right at the end of the road. The 4-wheel drive track before the fence serves as the entrance to the ocean side. You can also head to the bay side on the trail parallel to the barricade.

Note: Please respect the privacy of the residents. Stay within the boundaries of the park borders. Stay off dunes to protect the fragile nature of these ecosystems. Do not disturb the breeding populace of the endangered species, which are sensitive to human disturbance.

—Contributed by Peter Dorosh

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