Not a court, school, stock, grave, or back, but a rail yard – 30 train tracks 
wrapped by the High Line “Spur” and flanked truck lots - six ground-level 
blocks abutting a heliport and the Hudson River.    The city covered the 
ground-level access tunnels with streets propped two stories high, and the 
developers built a vertical empire on top of that to keep everyone looking up 
and away from its namesake.

In early Spring, I was one of the first wave of employees to occupy its 
flagship skyscraper #30.  One stairway, three escalators, and two elevator 
banks - a two-way vertigo-inducing commute from super-subterranean subway to 
birds-eye view down at the “vessel” and “Yard”.

So how was Spring birding at the Yards?  Well, the human garbage scavenging 
immigrant House Sparrow and European Starling, joined by the Feral Pigeon and 
occasional Grey Catbird occupy the wafer-thin, jet-engine cooled, “smart” 
islands of highly manicured flora scattered among a sea of pedestrian pavement. 
From my cubicle aerie, I always see a couple of hundred Ring-billed and Herring 
Gulls hang out on the two high-tech green rooftops of Jacob K. Javits 
Convention Center and the lesser-known US Parcel Post Building.  A flock of 
Barn Swallows briefly joined the gulls a few evenings in early May to dive-bomb 
Eleventh Avenue. 

But with few exceptions, the rest of the migrating fauna mostly seek out the 
abandoned garbage-strewn tangles of below-street-level weeds around the train 
yard access tracks which run diagonally northward and are exposed 
intermittently until finally disappearing under the Midtown Tunnel ramp.  The 
first exposure is an inaccessible plot of grass at the northeast corner of 35th 
Street and Eleventh Avenue – unfortunately the largest grass plot outside of 
the green roofs - and home to a pair of American Robins and my only sighting of 
a Song Sparrow in April.

The next exposure emerges north of the Bella Abzug Park.  Protected by a chain 
link fence is a luscious bank of wild trees and weeds steeply sloping up from 
the tracks to a broken concrete lot belonging to a vine covered shuttered auto 
body shop.  Looking in at this wild inaccessible mess through the chain fence 
underneath a sidewalk shade tree containing an abandoned bird feeder, this 
simple acre, of all places, is now my favorite birding spot. I have even seen a 
skunk twice, and a raccoon scramble under the broken concrete slabs at dusk.

So far – 29 bird species (6 warblers).

Happy City Birding,
Alan Drogin

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