I dedicate this column to my mother, a lifelong American Audubon member and collector of all books about birds. She taught me at an early age to hear the joyful banter of the birds every early morning, especially in springtime. The East End of Long Island is practically one huge bird sanctuary. The distinct different calls, chirps and yes, songs of all the various birds is truly a most pleasant, soothing sound with a wonderful vibe.
Accordingly to "Bird Watching on Long Island" there are over 400 types of birds that make their homes on Long Island. From large birds like cranes, herons, eagles, turkey vultures, ospreys, hawks and lately actual turkeys to the small amazing variety of tiny sparrows. All together because of them the East End is a symphony of sounds every springtime early morning.
With so many of us quarantined at home it might be worthwhile to notice our daily visitors in the trees around our homes and in the yard. It still amazes me how much sound such small creatures can make.
Maybe because I was raised a Catholic, or maybe because I like bright red, I love the thrill of a cardinal flying by me and landing on a tree branch right there where I am. They have a sweet call too; next time you see one listen. The male cardinals really are something else with that red crown of feathers.
If you like sunflowers, you have to love the little feisty goldfinches that gather around them. I love their pure yellow color. Trivia: the oldest known American Goldfinch was 10 years 9 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in Maryland.
On my walk yesterday I saw a few orioles with that bright orange on the torso by the wings, lots of blue jays, lots of doves, a pair of cardinals, forever number of crows and when we finally arrived at the bay, the egrets, seagulls and osprey were there all around us.
You never know where you're going to come across a turkey on the East End. (Photo: TJ Clemente)
Now I truly believe if you are in love and things are going well, you can hear the individual bird sounds and cadence easily. We have a robin's nest next to the house annually and what beautiful sounds robins' make. When the little ones hatch, you can hear those little chirps!
Living on the Montauk oceanfront like I did once made me a huge fan of the seagull. What a resourceful, powerful bird. They get really big and all you need to see is one out there when it's near zero and windy to know how tough they are. When I used to walk my dog daily along the shoreline just before sunrise with the first rays of sunlight just seconds away, the seagulls would rise up out of the water in unison and fly up into the new day's sunlight. Once up around the clouds, they would make that distinct seagull sound that defines the sound of all Hamptons shores. Seagulls, like almost all birds, really revel in the beginning of every day. I presently live about a half mile from the Great South Bay and I still hear those sunrise seagull reveling sounds in the morning. On the other hand, at sunset the hooting of the owls all around the East End begins, sometimes going on into the night, and again starting up just before sunrise.
Have you ever heard a flock of turkeys? I swear they sound like dogs barking when they go at it! I love when they just take over an intersection, sometimes walking right into the flow of traffic, yet I've never seen one hit!
I am saving the best for last! The easiest bird sound to recognize in the early morning is the woodpecker. Talk about loud sounds - have you ever heard and felt a woodpecker pecking on your home? If you have you know how shocking those first pecks are.
It is springtime in the Hamptons for a few more weeks. The way things look many of us will still be safe spacing quarantined in our homes. Hopefully this column will have you paying just a little more intention to the sounds of the birds that share your space with you. To this day, I still cannot truly understand how birds fly, fly for a long time and navigate the winds while they fly. Mom just couldn't explain that to me.