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On the Wing

On the Wing: The Slightly Creepy Cormorant

There is something creepy about cormorants. From most distances, they look black, with long thick necks, tails, and wings. In flight, they appear like black crosses. Against a cormorant, fish have no hope; the tip of their orange bill is hook-shaped, a perfect tool to capture over 250 species of fish. Soon those single black crosses will join to form sky-wide, shape-shifting patterns as they migrate away.

Oct 26, 2023
On the Wing: Epic Summer for Rare Birds at Mecox

Just over the lip of the dune bordering the lot at Scott Cameron Beach is one of the most important habitat areas for shorebirds on the entire East End: Mecox Inlet.

Aug 31, 2023
A Vulnerable Bird Endures in a Springs Marsh

East Hampton is downright lucky to have a population of saltmarsh sparrows, birds that are vulnerable because of their dependence on a habitat that shrinks with every centimeter in sea level rise: the salt marsh. The sparrows themselves are not so lucky: they've lost 75 percent of their population since 1990. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is assessing whether the bird should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Jul 20, 2023
On the Wing: Swift in the Air, Rarely on Ground

This is the best time of year to observe chimney swifts locally as they burst through the skies over our villages. You’ll never see a chimney swift land, or even come close to street level. In their daily circuits, they can fly 500 miles a day in pursuit of something like 12,000 flying insects.

Jun 22, 2023
On the Wing: Where Great Egrets Go

It’s hard to mistake the great egret: lengthy yellow bill, long black legs, large white body in between. They have sinewy necks, sometimes stretched straight, other times tucked into a squat S, as when they’re flying.

Apr 27, 2023
On the Wing: The Cardinal Rules

Cardinals, among our earliest singer each spring, are so familiar you might forget to appreciate them, but a century ago they were rare in New York.

Mar 30, 2023
On the Wing: Lost in Merganser Time

Red-breasted mergansers rely on the open waters of our winter bays and harbors from November until April. They’ll be there if you walk anywhere along the bay side of the South Fork, between Southampton and Montauk. While they prefer salt water, they also frequent Hook Pond, Sagaponack Pond, and Georgica Pond.

Feb 9, 2023
On the Wing: We Should Call It the Zebra Bird

You don’t need to go deep into the woods to find a red-bellied woodpecker, but if you're looking for a distinctive red belly, you won't find it. Instead, its head is red, which explains why people often misidentify it as the red-headed woodpecker, which hardly shows up on Long Island.

Dec 1, 2022
On the Wing: Turkeys, Turkeys, Everywhere

It’s hard to decouple the turkey from Thanksgiving, but long before we paired turkeys with mashed potatoes and stuffing and turned them into a national symbol, they were going about their business, hanging out in gangs, flipping leaves, and browsing the ground for nuts.

Nov 24, 2022
On the Wing: Tiny Swallows and Big Gulps

A large group of tree swallows is called a gulp, which proves ornithologists are not without humor. Before the leaves change, gulps of swallows crowd our beaches. At Mecox Inlet, Sagaponack Pond, and the dunes that circle Napeague Harbor, hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of tree swallows collect.

Sep 22, 2022
On the Wing: A Bird to Be Proud Of

American oystercatchers, which congregate in the marshes of our barrier beaches before flying south, are about the size of crows, and stout, with heavy white bellies, chocolate-colored wings, and pale pinkish legs. They wear a black executioner’s hood and have a long blood-orange oyster knife of a bill and yellow eyes circled by red eye rings.

Sep 14, 2022
On the Wing: The Hummingbird’s Secrets

Despite the confusion and tragedy of American life in 2022, they somehow return each spring; like flying foil-wrapped gifts come to life. And now, as early as this week, the males will depart from our area to begin their largely daytime migrations south. This is one of the most entertaining weeks to “feeder watch,” as they defend their last sips.

Aug 17, 2022