What a Day: Wildlife on Long Island
What a day.
It started with a monarch butterfly on the deck.
An hour later, as Esau the dog and I were on our way to the ocean, the sight of an airborne river of butterflies made me stop in wonder. A wavering parade of monarchs fluttered across the parking lot, the road and the dunes, heading west-southwest. They crossed Mecox Bay and Channel Pond, crossed fields and yards, some flying high, some low, in small groups or singly, too small for my camera to catch.
The sun was already hot, but the air stayed cool with the tease of a promise of fall. After about ten minutes, the insect stream slowed and we continued on to the ocean. A huge flock of swallows dipped and hunted over the dunes before heading off in the same general direction as the monarchs. They were also too small, fast and high up for my camera to catch, so you will have to look at swallowless dunes and take my sighting on faith.
Down the beach, a man and a little boy were surfcasting.
On the way home, we stopped, as ever, at the bridge, where a snowy egret and a great blue heron stalked and hunted.
Within a minute of our arrival, the heron took flight, squawking three mighty squawks as it went.
The heron circles and flies off to the right.
The snowy, now in sole possession of this prime fishing spot, seemed unmoved. In fact, it didn’t move.
Snowy egrets seem to me to be bolder than great blue herons , and great blue herons to be bolder than great egrets. At least, this seems to be true around Mecox Bay this fall. The big guys startle and fly off, as this great egret did several days ago at sunset.
The little guys just go about their business.
Out on the bay, a single Mute swan floated strangely on the water,
its neck twisted round, its beak tucked into its feathers, and one wing raised like a protective screen.
In the afternoon I biked into town for food, as I am without a car for a few days.
I passed reeds that resounded with birdsong, but no birds could, at first, be seen. Stopping for a closer look, I understood that the reeds were a temporary city dense with red-winged blackbirds.
Then the blackbirds – the males in fall-faded epaulets and females in drab brown – began to fly out of the reed city and across the road. Fifty or sixty or more winged away and yet the reeds remained full of song.
I passed a single deer feeding by the side of the road.
When I stopped the bike, it watched me intently.
Then, surprisingly, it moved a few steps closer.
And began again to feed.
I too moved quietly closer, trying to get out of the bright sunlight. And …
the deer and I reached the end of our tale.
Near the end of the day, Esau and I again walked to the ocean. On the way, I noticed a swan swimming in its customarily regal posture, but unusually close to a man fishing from the roadside. I wondered about this.
Esau basked at the beach.
On our way back, we saw the kingfisher perched on one of its favorite pilings near the egret’s fishing spot.
The swan had again tucked its head under its wing
and was letting itself drift on the open water.
I wondered if it were ill or injured, and Esau sat down to ponder that question or another.
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