From migratory birds like the Blackpoll Warbler to the poisonous cockleburr plant, to cute little furry outdoor critters like the chipmunk, we have an opportunity to behold it all. Thanks to the wise and creative Wave Hill Naturalist Gabriel Willow, nature enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the wonder that surrounds us in our own New York City backyard.
Frequently described as an urban oasis, Wave Hill, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, is a 28-acre garden and cultural center filled with a multitude of linked gardens high above the Hudson River with sweeping views and lots of open sky. The site's offering of nature tours onsite has not been available to visitors since it temporarily closed to the public earlier this year due to Covid-19.
However, in lieu of "in-person" tours until Wave Hill reopens, the venue has put together a series of videos featuring virtual tours. These include their “Neighborhood Naturalist” series led by their site naturalist Gabriel Willow.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical about whether I could enjoy the “virtual outdoors” but I assure you that you will revel in this series of video walks available to experience on the Wave Hill website.
There is an incomparable ritual to going on an outdoor exploration through parks, cemeteries and salt marshes that includes certain attire, gear and equipment in which nature lovers derive great pleasure. Clearly, virtual tours do not provide the same joyous experience as catching a glimpse of a spectacular Blue Jay perched in a tree through binoculars or capturing bright yellow forsythias with a high powered camera, however, these cyber video adventures are surprisingly delightful!
Willow guides viewers throughout local outdoor spaces in the Bronx and Brooklyn during the months of April and May, filmed earlier this year, to enjoy the awakenings of Springtime in the city. You’ll be captivated as you virtually journey through the sandy soil of the Salt Marshes in Marine Park Brooklyn where you’ll learn about the now extinct Carolina Parakeet that used to dine on the spiny seedpods of the poisonous cockelbur, or listen to the tiny male Blackpoll Warbler that migrates from South America to Canada to find his mate.
Expand your awareness as you watch your computer or phone screen and listen to a flock of Blue Jays in Prospect Park, Brooklyn as they engage in mobbing behavior in the sea of pine trees. You will have to watch for yourself to uncover the mystery of what the predator is and if they catch it!
Mr. Willow’s soft spoken voice will pull you in as will his expertise of the plant and animal life. For instance, did you know that chipmunks build their underground homes to include both a bathroom and bedroom area? These and other tidbits of information about the outdoor world will be garnered as you transport yourself to the great outdoors with the full array of Nature Expeditions virtual tours.