Typically the weather during my mid-winter school break, the week of Presidents’ day, is poor. The usual snow chances have me avoiding travel and “hunkering down” at home in hibernation mode, perhaps planning Spring and Summer adventures. This year, however, had me stricken with early onset Spring fever. I needed to bust out everyday–trying to outrun psychic burdens, the news, emotional lethargy and the like. And this irrational state was compounded by having no obligations whatsoever. More often, escape would be into nature, within its simplicity, its beauty. And living on Long Island, there is plenty of beautiful places around. And being that it is Long Island, these beautiful places are pretty much empty. Like I like it.
Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside, New York is a peaceful 52-acre preserve excellent for bird watching. Though the preserve boasts over 216 observed and recorded species of birds, I was smitten with these fellows–Red-winged Blackbirds–and didn’t really see many others.
What I was perceiving as playfulness was really the males’ territorial behavior. Their instincts of site and mate fidelity had them keeping a watchful eye on me, the intruder. It is amazing to think about all the systems of nature which conspire to aid species propagation. Across the board in the bird world, females are pretty darn boring looking; their feathers are drab, an almost camouflage–oversized grey sweatpants of the animal world. A female bird who is not seen or messed with can take care to raise protected fledglings that get the gusto to hunt and create shelters with ease and confidence. And the blood line continues. These animal behaviors are fascinating to compare with human animals who have complicated matters a great deal with a slew of social constructs and an infinite number of distractors.
Marsh grass on blue.
The long empty walk ways take you far into the marshes. Stop for a moment to see how much life teems at every step, even in the dead of “winter.”
School of fish.
Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge is my favorite place on Long Island. Though it is a bit of a hike out east, I’ve driven far further for far less. First site on the trail were a group of cardinals, bright red boys bouncing about and shyly fluttering away. I managed to get a little closer to this guy who was testing his courage behind the security of a branch.
Swans. Meh, not so into them.
The real draw of this refuge are the assertive birds who go for theirs. It’s simple. Extend your palm outward with a small pile of seed. They will come. The little, nimble birds are the best customers, though I was tempting a tremendous Blue Jay who had been working up the nerve. No dice. Their feet tickle.
Though most would grab a seed and go, others paused to give you a once over.
I can do this all day.
Then a group of wild turkeys walks by. This place is magical. Another fascinating feathered species.
Lest you forget that Long Island is an island. You can walk up Fire Island lighthouse‘s 182 steps to peer down its long-ness. To access, walk through a salt marsh and spy on feeding deer along the boardwalk from Robert Moses’ parking lot.
Surrounded by the blue stuff. I always want to be.
We walked up that thing. Not to sound like Beavis & Butthead, but lighthouses are cool. There are lighthouse aficionado clubs that visit lighthouses all over the world. I would like to do that and be the lone tour member under 60 years of age. I am a fan of old timers. My peers and and those younger than me are typically much more annoying to deal with.
The sun, like the one you see in cartoons and kids drawings.