I've often passed this little city park en route to Rockaways, but lacked a proper introduction until recently when I joined an NYC Audubon volunteer group monitoring Horseshoe Crab populations.
Just about 19 acres, the Broad Channel American Fields Park is easy to miss with a nondescript entrance just before the Cross Bay Bridge. A popular spot for baseball, Jamaica Bay's waters are just steps away, and on our visit, the shoreline was full of nature and fishermen.
On this particular evening, the moon was full and the tide was exceptionally high, perfect for the crabs to spawn along the sandy shores of Big Egg Marsh.
Our job was to count the number of crabs at certain distances. The high water made this a bit difficult, including the walk – or perhaps “wade” is a better word – to the starting point through watery muck. It was reminscent of The African Queen as Humphrey Bogart’s character pulled the boat through a thick marsh. Thankfully, we did not encounter any leeches!
Large females and smaller males moved in the shallow waters, forming clusters. Sometimes they moved up to the shoreline, and seemed almost curious to see us. Besides counting them, a few were tagged to hopefully be spotted again in the future to determine their movements and range. As the water retreated and the moon rose, the tiny sandpipers moved in to feast on the eggs, a perfect example of an interrelated ecosystem.
A beautiful night, and rewarding experience. However, my boots may never recover....