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Alley Pond Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Grey skies heavy with rain could not keep scores of young bird enthusiasts from attending the Alley Pond Environmental Center’s 25th Annual Arline Thomas Urban Bird Contest on Saturday, March 27. The contest challenged children in grades one through six to express their artistic sensibilities through drawing and writing about birds. With this event, the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) celebrates the artistic accomplishments of students in Queens School District 26 and honors the late, great local environmentalist, Arline Thomas. In attendance were 80 children, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, State Senator Frank Padavan, State Assembly Members Mark Weprin and Ann Margaret Carrozza, and many other distinguished guests.

Arline Thomas, the event’s namesake, was an impassioned environmentalist who dedicated thirty years of her life to nursing injured birds back to health. It is said that her house overflowed with ducks, larks, sparrows, owls, and blue birds. The first bird fortunate enough to fall into her caring hands was a one-eyed nuthatch with a sprained wing. Arline’s success at restoring the nuthatch to health prompted friends and neighbors to bring her all types of birds. She ultimately became a licensed member of the National Audubon Society’s bird-saving corps and published a number of books, including Bird Ambulance and Salty. Arline passed away in 1989, but her legacy lives on with the Arline Thomas Urban Bird Contest.

This year, the children were asked to focus on one theme: the eastern bluebird, New York State’s official bird. A number of factors, including habitat loss, pollution, and the introduction of aggressive species, have contributed to a decline in the eastern bluebird population. In response, APEC initiated the "Bring Bluebirds Back to Alley Pond Park" campaign. Saturday’s contest contributed to the campaign by drawing much-needed attention to the plight of the bluebird.

During Saturday’s event, there was a live bird presentation, and a number of the children read their compositions and showed off their hand-made nest boxes. A presentation of awards followed, with Commissioner Benepe handing out the first grade art awards. More than 300 students competed in the contest, which was divided into three categories: literary, arts, and crafts. Nearly 80 children won awards at the event, with three luminaries taking top honors – one in each category. The following poem, submitted by Christina Rajbahar, a second-grader at P.S. 133 in Queens, won the "Best in Show" literary prize and reflects the creativity and concern for nature that motivated so many young people to participate in the contest.

Crack! Crack! Crack!
The eggs are hatching.
Bluebird bluebird
How beautiful you will be-
Oh! How fast
The nestlings grow.
Fly! Fly! Fly!
Wings flutter in the air
Hey! look
A raccoon is coming.
Quick! Quick! Quick!
Fly away-
You are safe now.

Quotation for the Day

"I have had the pleasure of watching little owls play, felt a warbler’s clasp, and gained the confidence of a hawk."

Arline Thomas

Directions to Alley Pond Park

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