Posted tagged ‘Mecox Bay’

Egrets, herons and sunsets on Flying Point Road

October 10, 2013

Sunset, October 2013

I’m out on eastern Long Island right now. The landscape, despite the ever-proliferating McMansions, remains stunningly beautiful.


Flying Point Road and Mecox Bay.

And so do the birds.

Great egrets are everywhere.

Great egret flies over Mecox Bay.

Great egret flies over Mecox Bay.

Great blue herons, too.

Great Blue Heron fishes in Mecox Bay.

Great Blue Heron fishes in Mecox Bay.

Usually the herons and egrets are loners. But sometimes they share a good fishing location.

Great Blue Heron and Great Egrret on dock.

Great Blue Heron checks to see if the Great Egret is catching more fish.

Many swans have flown away for the winter, but some still sail and dabble on Mill Pond and Mecox Bay.

Dabbling at sunset.

Dabbling at sunset.

It’s always a pleasure to see the kingfisher (even if at too great a distance for a clear photo).


Kingfisher on a branch.

So, yes, it’s beautiful out here.

Just don’t come looking for direction.

Um, okay ...

Um, okay …

Hurricane Sandy Report: Flying Point Road, Long Island Update

October 30, 2012

Flying Point Beach signpost, September 2012. Photo: Melissa Cooper

The YouTube video below was filmed yesterday, presumably in the early hours of Hurricane Sandy. It shows Flying Point Road in Water Mill, Long Island, from a vantage point very close to my family house, where my brother has weathered the storm.

Our house sits just before the curve in the road where the filmmaker’s car sits. On the near side of the curve, the bay laps the shore and there is a small stretch of land between the bay and the road to absorb its overflow. On the far side of the curve,, the bay is contained by a small retaining wall. The road is wider here, but there is no shore.

Mecox Bay, Water Mill, NY in calmer days. Photo: Melissa Cooper

This is where people park their cars on the side of the road to fish for crabs.

Crabbing in Mecox Bay in September 2012. Photo: Melissa Cooper

When we first started coming to our house in the mid-1960s (Well, it was Mr. Jennings’s house then), there was only one other house visible on the road between us and Flying Point Beach, maybe two. Today, there are many, even on the bay side. But the old farmers knew what they were doing in not building closer to the water. Yesterday, beyond this curve, the road was completely submerged as Hurricane Sandy pushed vast amounts of water from the ocean into the little skillet of Mecox Bay.

Here is a terrific photo taken a little further down the road between our house and the ocean, at approximately 11 am Monday. The roadside and retaining wall break off briefly for this little stretch of shoreline.

Photo: Austin Handler;

I believe that stretch of land and water usually looks like this. Note the fence on the right in both photos.

Crabbing on Flying Point Road in early summer 2012. Photo: Melissa Cooper

The road stretches half a mile from the curve to Flying Point Beach. Just before the road rises to the beach parking lot, it makes a sharp left and runs another half mile straight out to the beach we call “the far beach.”  This morning, the road to the beach remained under water. My brother hitched a ride to the far beach on a huge flat-bed truck that was going to check on damage; his own car would never have made it. On nearby Luther Drive, about 100 feet in from the road, he spotted a 12-foot plastic jet ski dock that belonged, my brother was informed, to people living on the far side of Mecox Bay.

At the far beach, the ocean had pushed vast amounts of water into the bay, and flooded all the way up to the road.  The beach is now completely flat, no slope at all.  My brother described lines of breaking wines reaching to the horizon. The ones breaking on shore were six or seven feet high, but the ones farthest out near the horizon rose up over the water like a house, maybe twelve or thirteen feet high. We’ve been watching the ocean in storms all our lives, but my brother says he has ever seen anything remotely like this.

I’m writing from NYC, so I don’t have any photos of my own to show the wild transformations wrought by Sandy. Instead, I’ll show you another photo of beautiful little Mecox Bay, as it often appears.

Heron at sunset in Mecox Bay, March 2012. Photo: Melissa Cooper

I hope the herons, egrets, swans, ducks and all the other birds and animals have weathered the storm safely,

What a Day: Wildlife on Long Island

September 18, 2012

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.

Snowy egret on the left; great blue heron on the right.

Within a minute of our arrival, the heron took flight, squawking three mighty squawks as it went.

The heron takes off toward the serene little egret.

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.

“Squawk all you like, big fella. I shall not be moved.”

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.

egret fishes

Snowy egret stabs a fish.

Out on the bay, a single Mute swan floated strangely on the water,

mute swan, strange posture

A mute swan rests 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 …

“What’s that?”

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.

What will we see tomorrow?

Change in the Hamptons

September 12, 2012

Late last Thursday, as Esau and I walked toward the ocean, we spotted a herd of nine deer.

White-tailed deer

Almost fifty years ago, my family first started coming to this house on Flying Point Road.

Farmhouse in Water Mill, NY

House with new deck and sliding doors.

The house backed onto a large potato field that stretched low towards the ocean dunes.  After harvesting, we’d glean potatoes from the field, and delicious they were.  Flocks of migrating Canada geese grazed  and picked up insects in the fields, lured by hunters’ decoys of geese resting and eating.  Eastern Long Island then was a place of open vistas.  The front of the house faced little Mecox Bay, which was then sludgy and polluted from the waste of hundreds of Long Island ducklings reared at the duck farm on the other side of the bay. Long Island was famous for its Pekin ducklings until rising property values, anti-pollution regulations, and increased cost of grain shrank the industry.

The Big Duck, Riverhead, NY

Roadside architecture of the highest order: Riverhead’s Big Duck used to sell, what else, duck.

Families of pheasants came to call and foxes lived nearby in the low wild tangles of overgrown brush.  Deer, though? Not so much.

Well, times have changed.  Today, Long Island’s potato fields are largely gone, Mcmansions rule, and open spaces are few and far between.

Cottontail rabbit

A cottontail rabbit nibbles grass in a cleared space leading down to Mecox Bay.

The duck farms are also mostly gone, and the ones that remain are indoor operations now.  Mecox Bay is sparklingly clean,

Mecox Bay at sunset

Mecox Bay at sunset

and is home to herons and egrets,

snowy egret in Mecox Bay

Snowy egrets are regulars in this spot.

terns and gulls,

tern in Mecox Bay

Tern hovering and diving in Mecox Bay

ospreys, kingfishers, skimmers, and a changing host of waterfowl, including coots, grebes, sea ducks, Canada geese, and Mute swans.

Mute swan in Mecox Bay

A swan floats in Mecox Bay earlier this summer.

Wild turkeys have returned to the area, and despite the dwindling wild areas, my sister-in law recently saw a fox and her kits.

And white-tailed deer, after being driven nearly to extermination in New York State at the end of the nineteenth century, are back in force in Suffolk County, as throughout the state.

Deer formed one battalion of the Nature Army that my flower garden-loving father battled ceaselessly.  (Other enemy battalions were made up of digging creatures like voles and moles as well as invasive plants, like bittersweet and phragmites.)  Deer ate the tops off my father’s beloved day lilies, nibbled on his roses and helped themselves to my stepmother’s vegetable garden.  My father netted his gardens for a while, before deciding to put up deer fencing around virtually the entire property – which the deer simply leapt over.

Thus began a fierce, if one-sided, game of oneupmanship. My father raised the fence. The deer crashed right through it. My father strengthened the netting. The deer again leapt over. At its highest, the fence (mostly) worked, until a notice from the town informed us fences higher than 6 feet are not permitted; the fence has been cut back down.

I have mixed feelings about the fence. I’m happy to protect the flowers from deer depredation. I’m happy that Esau can run free, safe from the road.

Gray dog with flowers

Esau among the flowers.

But I’m sorry that any remaining pheasant families will no longer visit us, since pheasants do their visiting on foot. Turkeys, too, like to travel on foot. In fact, a couple of summers ago, my father and I watched one walk back and forth on the far side of the fence, gazing longingly through the mesh at our bird feeders. It didn’t seem to occur to the big bird that it had wings and could fly.

As for the deer, they may be spotted nightly in one of the two open spaces that still remain between our house and the ocean.

Long Island deer

A young grayish buck on the right with a fawn to the left.

The deer field is actually a large lot and is for sale.  Some time ago a tower was built in the middle of the field to show prospective buyers what an incredible view their new house could command from its second floor.

I’m happy to report that the field has grown up around the tower, and the animals have moved in.  It even seems to me that the deer are leaving our flowers alone, now that they have a beautiful yard of their own.

Lovely Long Island

June 13, 2012

As you head east toward the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, near the old water mill that gives the town of Water Mill its name, you’ll see on your right a small body of water.  Known as Mill Creek, it opens into a small bay called Mecox Bay.

If you turn off the road and follow the water, you’ll eventually come to Flying Point Beach.

During part of the year, the little bay is more of a saltwater pond, separated from the ocean. But at other times, a channel is opened, allowing the bay to regain its tides, filling and lowering with the ocean.

The beach is different on every visit.

Last Light by Linda Van Cooper

I read that before the 1938 hurricane, Flying Point Beach had dunes that ranged from 40 to 75 feet. But a 15-foot storm surge carried the sand off and deposited it in the bay. The dunes are not particularly high now.

Dune at the Cut by Linda Van Cooper

And most years, they take a pounding by one storm or other. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene sent water pouring up the slope of the beach and into the parking lot, as you can see in this video.

The surf easily dismantled wooden pathways to the beach, and exposed the huge steel barriers intended to build up the dunes, and protect the many homes that have been built on them.

The beach is narrower now in some spots than I ever remember seeing it.  Of course, beaches have always been about change, but the warming of the planet, thanks to man-made climate change, has put our shorelines in a new kind of jeopardy.

I’ve been coming out here for a long time. The potato fields that swept the open landscape are mostly long gone. The acres of scrubby, tangled vegetation that hid generations of foxes have shrunk to tiny lots, although Linda, the painter of these landscapes, recently spotted a fox and kit on the road to the beach. Mecox Bay is now ringed by houses of Gatsbyesque proportions (whose existence I try to deny by not including them in my photographs), and the few remaining farmhouses and cottages in the area have been renovated beyond recognition, or replaced by  huge, ostentatious structures that look like beach hotels or clubs, but are single-family homes.

And still … it’s beautiful.

You have to avert your gaze sometimes to diminish the shock of seeing a huge monstrosity of a house fill your range of vision. But luckily, we haven’t yet figured out how to build right on the water, so the beauty remains.

Path to the Beach by Linda Van Cooper

At any time of day, any time of year, in any weather, in the rosy glow of sunset or the bright light of day.

Flying Point Beach by Linda Van Cooper.

And if you can’t get out to see this place where the bay meets the ocean, you can get a taste of its beauty in these paintings by Linda Van Cooper.

Tracks at Mecox Bay by Linda Van Cooper

So long for now.

For more on Long Island, Mecox Bay and the wildlife of the area, visit:

I Find A Gray Seal Pup
Herons, Swans and Coots on Long Island
Swans on Long Island
Crabbing on Eastern Long Island

Back to Blogging, Catching Up on Spring

May 31, 2012

In the two months since I last posted at Out Walking the Dog, I’ve spent time in Texas, northern Michigan and eastern Long Island as well as here at home in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights.  I’m back now and ready to blog. Soon I’ll write about what I saw in Dallas,

White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas

Traverse City,

Traverse City, Michigan

and the south fork of Long Island.

Mecox Bay, Long Island, NY

  But first I want to catch up with a look at early spring here on my Morningside Heights home turf, back in early April before the trees leafed out. Riverside Park’s great retaining wall is an object of great beauty in all seasons as well as a terrific place to watch animals, including humans.

Here is the wall in late afternoon on one of the first days of April, when the trees were still mostly bare of leaves.

An Eastern gray squirrel, lit by the sun, ventures near the entrance to the raccoon den.  The raccoons, which keep the animal equivalent of jazzman hours, probably won’t be stirring for another hour or two.

At the top of the wall, against a tangle of soon-to-leaf branches, another squirrel discusses life with a young woman.

A man gazes out across the Hudson,

while a young mother and her baby enjoy the daffodils below.

A robin with his breast afire forages at the bottom of the wall.

And high above, the moon glides through the still blue sky.

Everything changes: Two Days at the Beach

December 13, 2011

Two November days on a familiar beach served to remind me that everything changes, and a beach, perhaps, most of all.

Day One

Tiny animal holes dot the wet sand.

Breathing trail. Photo: Melissa Cooper

The surface of the beach is pretty empty,

Esau the dog in an undisclosed desert country. Photo: Melissa Cooper

except for a few remnants of life. Like this brilliant piece of seaweed.

Who lives below? Photo: Melissa Cooper

Or this lovely mussel shell resting against a twig.

Mussel and twig lie near paw print. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Or this delicate little crab, a few of its legs and much of its color washed away by sun and surf.

Where's the rest of me? Photo: Melissa Cooper

Tire tracks broke the beach into a system of unnecessary trails.

Rutted beach. Photo: Melissa Cooper

and  Esau warns of impending danger.

Danger Deep Water Photo: Melissa Cooper

On the way home, a gull looks out over Mecox Bay.

Day Two

The next day, there’s not an air hole to be found. Instead, beach stones lie strewn on the wet sand.

Smooth, rounded, multi-colored touchstones. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Among the stones is a golden egg.

Looking for the golden goose. Photo: Melissa Cooper

 Is this the gull that laid the golden egg?

I will never tell. Photo: Melissa Cooper

A peculiar cartilaginous skeleton lies on the sand.  Reader, any guesses as to identity?

What am I? Or what was I? Photo: Melissa Cooper

A solitary swimmer braves the icy waters,

Brrr. Photo: Melissa Cooper

and Esau leaves footprints wherever he goes.

Esau was here. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Crabbing on Eastern Long Island

July 17, 2010

Flying Point Road curves along the Watermill side of little Mecox Bay on its way to the ocean.

Decisions, decisions

People and animals do a lot of different things in Mecox Bay, depending on the season. In spring, swans nest on its shores. In winter, when the water freezes solid, ice boaters race across the bay at breakneck speed. In fall, hunters shoot ducks and geese.

Summer belongs to the crabbers.

Crabbing restrictions in Mecox Bay

Some crabbers crab alone

Solo Crabber at the Bridge

Others crab in pairs

Two crabbers

and many crab in groups

A crabber in a wheel chair is just out of the frame.

There seem to be three common crabbing techniques. Some crabbers use a baited wire cage, something like a lobster trap, which is placed on the shallow bottom. The trapper watches and waits, peering into the water from the roadside, for a crab to wander in for a meal and spring the trap.

Watching and waiting

Other crabbers use a long-handled net, wading into the brackish water to stalk their scuttling prey.

Hunting crabs

And others use a chicken leg and a piece of string.

Day-after chicken bone with string

They just tie the chicken leg to the string and lower it to the floor of the bay. When a crab grabs hold, they reel it in.

Buckets fill up with crabs.

Emptying the net into the bucket

And at the end of the day, when the sun goes down,

Sunset over Mecox Bay

it’s time for the crabbers to eat some crab.

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