Highland Park consists of 155 acres of rolling and hilly terrain which is characteristic of the crescent of glacial hills along Rochester’s southern border. The park dates to the late 19th century when the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the initial stages. There are over 4,000 native and exotic plant species scattered throughout a generally open landscape. In addition to a renowned lilac collection there is substantial collection of conifers in the pinetum to the northeast and many fruiting shrubs and small trees along the paved walkway. Large deciduous trees are common throughout.
There are usually bird feeders (marked F on the map) maintained at private residences around the borders of the park at the following sites: north of Robinson Drive: adjacent to the Garden Center; at the rear of St. John’s Home near the Poets Garden; at the foot of the steep ridge to the north of the pinetum; at the Bed and Breakfast facility near the junction of Doctors Road and Mount Vernon Avenue; and to the southeast behind the Cooperative Extension.
For the latest sightings, go to http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspots and type in ‘Highland Park (Rochester)’.
The ease of access and beauty of the park, in combination with a large variety of plant species which form a green urban island attractive to birds, provide a favorite birding site both in winter and during spring migration.
Common winter birds often are attracted to the feeders along the edges of the park as noted above. Several sparrow species, juncos and finches are also attracted to the winter seeds and fruits in the shrubs and small trees (marked 1 on the map) along the paved walkway in the cast-central section, to the north and rear of the Garden Center, and in the brushy plantings on the slope south of the lily pond. In addition to common winter birds there are regularly Northern Mockingbird and American Robin near a somewhat wet area along the walkway in the southwest comer of the park (marked 2) and among the fruit-bearing trees along the walkways near the overlook (2). Red-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet frequently can be found in the pinetum during the winter. Several woodpecker species forage in the large deciduous trees throughout the park; the large sycamores near the reservoir are particularly worth a close study (3). Ring-billed Gull, Mallard, swallow species and occasionally other gull and duck species may be present on the reservoir.
The park offers good opportunities for viewing most of the warbler species seen in western New York and many of the other migrating passerines. Particularly productive sites during spring migration include (4): the large trees and shrubs in and near the Poets Garden; similar habitat at the east end of the walkways near the overlook; the adjacent steep slope down to Pinetum Drive and the conifers bordering the drive; the wooded and brushy slope leading down to private residences north of the pinetum; the canopies of large deciduous trees on the steep slope along Reservoir Drive east of the Conservatory; the shrubs and larger trees on each side of Robinson Drive and between the Garden Center and Highland Bowl. (Note that in mid-May Highland Park is the site of the annual Lilac Festival, which attracts thousands of people to the park. During this period birding is best confined to early morning.)
Three loop routes visit most of the productive sites described. The first follows the paved walkway across from the Conservatory initially — perhaps with a side trip through the Poets Garden. The loop continues down the slope to Pinetum Drive on a stairway off the northeastern walkway. One may then continue west along the Drive or walk into the pinetum on a trail that enters off the Drive at its east (South Goodman Street) end. The trail climbs up to the ridge which forms the northern border of the park at the rear of the pinetum, continues west overlooking the steep, brushy wooded slope down to private residences and ultimately rejoins Pinetum Drive. One can then continue into the open wooded section east of the Conservatory and back to the parking area.
A second loop trail begins near the Garden Center with a rather obscure entrance (LT) just to the north of the private residences and off the roadway leading to Mount Hope Avenue. This trail continues east along the edge of this small island of private property through a densely brushy wooded area with a branch that bends southerly into a more open area at the rear of private homes along Reservoir Avenue. Both sections of the loop converge near the rear of the Highland Bowl. Along the way there are views down the slope to the north into the canopies of shrubs and trees. The loop trail continues across Robinson Drive near the intersection with South Avenue and circles west along the top of the ridge looking north and down to the lily pond. The trail opens out from the thickly brushy habitat into the more open wooded landscape to the west along Robinson Drive. After a perusal of the bird feeders at the northwest park border one can loop back to the Garden Center.
The third loop trail is off the parking lot at the rear of the Cooperative Extension building (5). The entrance is at the sign announcing the Highland Park Outdoor Education Project. A small pond and wetland border the first part of the trail which then continues to the left bordered by a grove of conifers, shrubs and trees. Immediately to the east are private residences which often maintain bird feeders. The trail loops right at an open field and then soon north again into a more open grove of flowering shrubs and small trees bordering the rather open and newly planted southwestern section of Highland Park that includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS Remembrance Garden. Mockingbirds are often seen or heard near the end of the trail as it loops back to the parking lot.
The park is located on the south side of Rochester, bounded on the east by South Goodman Street and on the west by Mount Hope Avenue. It is divided into eastern and western sections by South Avenue, and into northern, central, and southern sections by Reservoir Drive and Highland Avenue respectively. It is easily accessed from Route 590 via Mount Hope Avenue (Route 15) and from Route 490 via Goodman Street or South Avenue.
ACCESS AND RESTRICTIONS
The park is owned by the city, maintained by the County of Monroe, and is open throughout the year. There is parking at the following sites: Reservoir Drive at the Lamberton Conservatory and near the Rochester Civic Garden Center, along Robinson Drive; in parking lots at the Garden Center and to the rear of the Monroe County Cornell Cooperative Extension on Highland Avenue. The parking sites near the Lamberton Conservatory provide central access to good birding areas. A paved walkway begins across from the Conservatory and traverses both the large east-central and the southern sections of the park. Sidewalks border most of the interior roadways. A number of informal trails and the generally open landscape also offer easy walking, and most of the park (including the restrooms) is accessible to wheelchairs.
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