Clove Lakes Park was created in the 1930’s by filling in marshland and damming up a brook that ran to the Kill van Kull. Almost half of its 198 acres are devoted to recreation; ballfields, a playground (restrooms), and boating facilities. The other half comprises Brooks Pond, Martling Pond, Clove Lake, streams, and 100 acres of hilly woodlands. Paved pedestrian roads encircle the lakes, and an informal network of dirt trails wind through the woods. The City of New York/Parks and Recreation owns Clove Lakes Park. The Park’s name is derived from the Dutch word “kloven,” meaning stream-cut valley. An elegant restaurant, The Lake Café, overlooking Clove Lake, serves lunch and dinner year-round.
Birding is particularly good during spring migration, especially if you are looking for warblers. Spring mornings, it is possible to see 15-20 warbler species that include Cerulean, Prothonotary, , Louisiana Waterthrush (early in spring), Kentucky, and Mourning (late in spring). Also watch for Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Empidonax flycatchers, and more.
For spring (and fall) migrants, start at Martling Avenue, head east, to the eastern edge of Martling Pond and then along the stream until you reach Clove Lake. Cross over the large stone bridge and head back, along an old bridle trail, working the western side of the stream and its brushy areas, an excellent place in fall for Connecticut Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Philadelphia Vireo.
When you reach Martling Avenue, cross over the concrete bridge, stopping for a moment to search the eye-level willows for migrants. Continue on and work the stream to Brooks Pond. Follow along the pond to another stream, working the banks and treetops, until you reach Forest Avenue. In spring this woodland patch attracts large numbers of warblers. Cross the stream and work the other side on your way back to Martling Avenue. If you have time, walk to the east in the vicinity of the Fire Tower, visible on the hilltop; Indigo Bunting has been seen here in spring, as well as Vesper Sparrow in fall.
Waterfowl can be seen during fall migration as well as spring migration. In summer, there are wading birds; in winter search for waterfowl, raptors and warblers (Orange-crowned and Pine have been seen in recent years).
When to Go
For spring songbirds, it is best to go pre-dawn to about 10am, from April 1 to June 1 with April 25 to May 25 being the peak time. Early morning is also the best time to view waterfowl. Shy species, such as Wood Duck, tend to get scared away by the crowds of people who show up later in the morning and in the afternoon.
For fall migrants, visit the park from mid-August to early November, early in the day through mid-morning, when the birds are most active.
It is a good idea to bird with at least one other person, although the park is considered safe.
Watch out for dog ticks, particularly in May and June, and poison ivy.
Click here for a google map which shows the start point for the birding walk as described earlier in the text. On the map page, click "directions" and enter the address you are starting to receive directions.
Resource Persons for Clove Lakes Park Birding:
2012- Edward W. Johnson, Director of Science, Staten Island Museum
2001- Howard Fischer and Edward W. Johnson
All photographs courtesy of the Staten Island Borough President's Office.