Birding in Prospect Park Photo: Virginia Freire

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Book Review: Birdwatching in New York City and on Long Island

Author Deborah Rivel, shares with us how to birdwatch in the most urban of environments.

If you ever thought that you needed to get away from all civilization to be able to enjoy birding, you could be mistaken. And Deborah Rivel, board member of Audubon New York and coauthor of Birdwatching in New York City and on Long Island will make sure you know how much fun you can actually have observing nature in an urban environment.

Her book, edited last year by University Press of New England, is currently one of the most comprehensive field guides for bird enthusiasts in the New York City area. And I really mean it. It’s not only about what to look for and where, but also how to get there by public transportation and even where to find a restroom and the best spots to grab a snack.

A native from New Jersey, Rivel started birding over 20 years ago. But it wasn’t until 2013, when a book publisher approached her with a proposal to write this book, that she was able to see New York City in a way she never had before. “Researching for this book led me to some really incredible discoveries, and I got to see and experience the city in a whole new light,” she says.

The biggest surprise of all? Staten Island. With over 20 parks beautifully designed and carefully maintained for birds to hang out, this is often one of the most overlooked spots in the area. “We just don’t talk about it because it’s not Manhattan. I still can’t believe I never knew that!”

Intended for beginners and experienced birders alike, the book covers 176 different locations. As you pick a route and learn more about it, you also get to understand how birds have made this concrete jungle their home.

In the two and a half years that took to write the book, Rivel was able to break her own paradigms. If you’re hoping to do the same, she has one piece of advice to share with you: “If you’re willing to see that New York City is in the middle of a migratory pathway, then you’ll see how suddenly everything makes sense. Just embrace it!”

If you still have your doubts, take this into account: Last Spring, Smithsonian Magazine issued a list of the best five spots to watch migratory birds in North America, and Central Park is one of them. Just bring your binoculars and enjoy this rare chance to see nature in the middle of an urban environment. And for that, this is the guide you need.