Once the world's biggest garbage dumps, Freshkills Park in New York is transforming itself into a new home for bird and mammals species. Elly Park reports.
This group of researchers from the College of Staten Island is sampling birds. Mostly caught are gray catbirds and cardinals, and to the excitement of team leader Dr. Lisa Manne - a mockingbird. While the species are common in this area, this location is anything but.... Freshkills Park was once the biggest landfill in the world. At one point the garbage pile here was so high, it was 82 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. But almost a decade into the reclamation project Freshkills is a far cry from its former self. Mountains of garbage have transformed into lush forests and grasslands and with it came wildlife species common and uncommon for the area, explains the park's science manager Cait Field. SOUNDBITE (English) CAIT FIELD, MANAGER FOR SCIENCE AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT, FRESHKILLS PARK, SAYING: "We have about eight osprey nests on site that are successful. The ospreys hunt the fish that are in the creeks here. We have this year about 45 nesting pairs of grasshopper sparrows which was not expected whatsoever as they're very uncommon." Endangered at state level, the largest colony of grasshopper sparrow in New York is found on these hills that are built on top of trash. Other wildlife includes bald eagles, numerous fish species, and groundhogs - attracting scientists from different fields. SOUNDBITE (English) CAIT FIELD, MANAGER FOR SCIENCE AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT, FRESHKILLS PARK, SAYING: "It kind of gives us this sort of time point zero that is rarely available in this type of ecology work to see what comes back when and how successful it is." According to Manne, the birds are already thriving. SOUNDBITE (English) LISA MANNE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT THE COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, SAYING: "We capture a lot of hatching year birds which means those are birds that just hatched this summer. And they're about to undertake their first winter or undertake their first migratory passage. And they're doing just fine." Part of Freshkills is still an active landfill closure construction site, but when all is finished it will be nearly three times the size of Central Park. While nature is gradually finding its way back, last to be allowed here will be humans, as the reclamation is projected to be finished in 2036.