Nesting** Spring Migration*** Fall Migration*** Winter**
(no star = birding is not very productive, * = somewhat productive, ** = productive, *** = very productive)
High Rock Park, owned by the City Of New York/Parks and Recreation, is a fine place to bird in spring, fall and winter. With approximately 190 acres of older second growth forest, which is part of Staten Island's Greenbelt, a stroll in these woods can be a rewarding experience for naturalists..
Oaks dominate with hickories, White Ash, Sweetgum, Black Birch, American Beech and other deciduous trees native to our region making up the character of this forest.
Some of the vernal ponds, permanent ponds and the Loosestrife Swamp (which is close to the parking area) are excellent in early spring for locating a fine diversity of migrant birds.
Fungi and wildflowers can be found along with Spring Peepers, Gray Tree Frogs and other amphibians. White-tailed Deer are now recent immigrants in the Greenbelt and are encountered while walking the trails.
by D. Speiser
Both kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Pine, Yellow, and Palm Warblers are among the spring migrants that can be observed in good numbers in a more natural setting compared to other parks. From mid-March through May, birds can be seen and heard in the trees.
The rich understory here provides habitat for species such as Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler (rare) and Mourning Warblers.
Gray-cheeked Thrush can be found in mid-May along the asphalt road leading uphill especially after a rainfall when many larvae fall from trees. Flowering oaks in spring harbor a number of caterpillars on their catkins. This produces a wealth of food for warblers and other migrants. During good flights or "waves" this park can be very productive.
by D. Speiser
Woodpecker diversity is good along with a superb list of breeding residents as well. The Pileated Woodpecker, which is so rarely observed along the coastal plain (that includes our five boroughs), was observed here on two occasions by reliable observers. In 2007, these woodpeckers also wintered in another part of the Greenbelt, Buck's Hollow. If there is any habitat with mature trees, this would be the most likely natural area to locate these birds.
Among some of the "urban" nesting highlights here in High Rock Park are: Wood Ducks, Cooper's Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (in summer), as well as Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher and Great Crested Flycatcher. After a long absence in the Greenbelt, the Acadian Flycatcher is now breeding here, both in High Rock and Buck's Hollow.
Look for the Acadian Flycatcher in June in the moister parts of the park near the swamp and just west of the swamp beyond a glacial hill of the moraine. Acadian Flycatchers are quite vocal but it requires some patience to locate the birds.
With some patience, Eastern Screech-Owls can be found roosting in Wood Duck boxes or in tree cavities. Creating a stressful situation for the owls with tapes or imitated calls during the breeding season, is discouraged.
by D. Speiser
Spring is the best season to visit High Rock, however fall can bring surprises as well. Walking the trails in winter can be a challenge and sometimes there is a super variety of wintering sparrows, finches, chickadees and woodpeckers.
Mosquitoes can be a problem in summer so bring some insect spray. Ticks are rarely found in the woods.
Restrooms are located at the top of the asphalt road just to the right of the Administration Building and staff parking.
Trail map and Directions
For a trail map to High Rock Park and the Greenbelt click here.
Look for High Rock on the map detail.
Trails are well marked and appear to more like hiking trails that typical city park walking paths.
Start your walk in High Rock Park at the end of Nevada Avenue, where you will find a parking lot.
For a google map and directions (type in your starting point) click here.
2012- Howard Fischer, tour leader for Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and Friends of Blue Heron Park.