Mixed Woodlands of Floyd Bennett Field

A glimpse from the viewing shed at Return-a-Gift Pond, Floyd Bennett Field.
A glimpse from the viewing shed at Return-a-Gift Pond, Floyd Bennett Field.



In the northernmost corner of Floyd Bennett Field lies the North Forty Natural Area, a haven for wildlife and nature lovers alike. The North Forty is easily accessible by public transportation, car or bicycle. Visit the directions page for more information.

Bordered on the north side by the Belt Parkway and on the east side by Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, the North Forty is crisscrossed with hiking trails and boasts the Return-A-Gift pond, a freshwater gem that harbors reptiles such as turtles, amphibians and wetland birds.

The mixed woodland composition of the North Forty attracts a wide variety of birds as well as birdwatchers from the metropolitan area and beyond, including the Brooklyn Bird Club that regularly explores Floyd Bennett Field.

The North Forty mixed woodlands include conifers, deciduous trees, vines, grass species and open space. New forest of aspen, black cherry and grey birch are interspersed with native shrubs like bayberry, blackberry and sumacs. Vine species such as Virginia creeper and poison ivy weave from the shaded understory into the canopy of trees. Grassy areas are populated by native species like little blue stem and invaded by giant reed, known as phragmites. The Return-A-Gift pond, fed by groundwater, is laced with ferns and sedges along its muddy edge.

Dozens of volunteers from all over the New York area help plant new trees at Gateway.
Dozens of volunteers from all over the New York area help plant new trees at Gateway.


In contrast to this wetland, a sandy upland area near the trailhead is home to shrubs, fungus and lichen that are adapted to sun exposure and dry conditions. Thanks to the volunteer effort of MillionTreesNYC, newly planted trees are establishing themselves in the North Forty and are cared for by NPS staff and volunteers. Gateway is proud to be a part of this long-term investment in the sustainability of New York City.

The North Forty's variety of plant and tree species provides a diversity of habitat and food sources for migrating and resident wildlife. Snakes, such as black racers and garter snakes, can be seen basking in open space along the edges of woodland and shrubs. Insect pollinators like swallowtail and monarch butterflies are seen alighting upon the colorful flowers of common milkweed and asters in grassy areas. Birds shelter in branches and feed on berries and seeds of shrubs and trees. Even on hot dry days, one can see the Fowler's toad hopping along the open trails.

If you're lucky enough to be there for an evening stroll, perhaps you'll hear a chorus of spring peepers chirping into the dusky night.

Safety Tips: Watch for ticks, both dog ticks and deer ticks (which can carry Lyme Disease) when you explore any wooded area in the northeastern United States, including the North Forty. Bring insect repellant, especially if you come near Return-a-Gift Pond in the evening. You'll need it!

Last updated: July 22, 2019

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