Jamaica Bay is a refuge for all, new exhibit shows – Queens Chronicle

Clear skies. Low around 45F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph..
Clear skies. Low around 45F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.
Updated: May 17, 2023 @ 7:58 pm
It’s a bird … It’s a plane … It’s both! Quintessential Jamaica Bay photos by Angela Carcione, which show the intersection of wildlife and city life in Queens, are now on view at the visitor center through June.
Angela Carcione

It’s a bird … It’s a plane … It’s both! Quintessential Jamaica Bay photos by Angela Carcione, which show the intersection of wildlife and city life in Queens, are now on view at the visitor center through June.
Angela Carcione
During the pandemic, as human activity ground to a halt, wildlife continued business as usual. In some cases, it even thrived, as air quality improved and greenhouse gas emissions decreased.
As Howard Beach science teacher, author and now artist Angela Carcione writes, ruby-throated hummingbirds still arrived here after a long flight from the tropics, unaware that human flights were canceled.
“Tree swallows still played and fraternized and fought face to face; they were unaware that, for humans, there were orders to socially-distance,” Carcione wrote in a recent thesis. The warblers still sang cheerfully, unaware that Broadway was shuttered. The lady beetles still dined on milkweed, even though restaurants were closed.
You get the picture. And the actual pictures are on view through June at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, in Carcione’s exhibit “Phenology Was My Refuge, Life Thrives at Jamaica Bay Amidst a Pandemic that Stopped the World.”
Carcione described the activities in her thesis statement for the exhibit, which features 20 of her images.
Outside of teaching remotely, she spent nearly every day visiting the refuge near her home and honing her photography skills.
“Everything was still normal inside that refuge, even though on the outside, everything was falling apart,” Carcione told the Chronicle.
It was there that she found peace, stability and predictability.
First, she was interested in the bugs on her walks. In November 2021, she published her first book, “Buggin’ Out with Natalia Vedalia: The Neighborhood Naturalist Collection” with her cousin, Annamarie Carcione, who illustrated it. Then, she was captivated by birding — her next book will focus on it.
“I majored in wildlife in college but I learned more that year just by walking than I did in four years of college,” the PS 207 teacher said.
Now, what she learned has culminated in the exhibit, which opened on April 2. Carcione never expected her hobby to manifest into a public showing but said it is fulfilling to be able to share it with family and friends who have supported it.
“This is a passion project at the end of the day and it’s nice to see people take it seriously, because I did,” she said.
While she was exploring, she was encouraging her students to do the same, even if it meant simply observing the life cycle of a tree on their block.
While Carcione ventured to other boroughs to bird and explore, only what she saw at the refuge is on view there.
“Every single picture that’s on the walls was taken in the refuge … that was important to me,” she said.
So visitors doing a loop around the East and West Pond trails can read the captions to inform their potential spottings.
And pandemic times or not, the beauty Carcione saw remains all year long.
“Although we were entering our darkest days as a city, the sun continued to rise over East Pond each morning, its soft beams of light turning the phragmites golden,” she wrote.
The refuge is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and its visitor center is open Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
QueensChronicle.com
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