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On the Wing

On the Wing: Dawn Chorus in Spring

The dawn chorus of birdsong is different depending on your habitat, your location, and the time of year. Songbird migration will peak by mid-May. As songbirds migrate overhead during the night, they blanket the sleeping country with sound, calling to each other to keep their flocks together and tight. When they land, they sing us awake.

May 2, 2024
On the Wing: A Majestic Dump Dweller

If given the opportunity, a turkey vulture would eat you, your kids, and your little dog, too. Other bird species may be struggling, but the turkey vulture is doing just fine eating dead things. Yes, with increasing signs that the end is nigh, the turkey vulture is a strong candidate for Bird of 2024.

Apr 3, 2024
On the Wing: Like Reeds in the Breeze

Odds are, you’re not going to see an American bittern, despite its large size. Frankly, the American bittern doesn’t want to be seen; it chose invisibility as its superpower. Still, this is the best time of year to try; make the experience at least as much about the journey as the destination.

Feb 29, 2024
For ‘Listers,’ the Bird Species Race Is On

When the ball drops marking the beginning of the new year, for some, a silent gun goes off and an invisible race begins. They’re the bird listers, and their goal is to find as many different species of birds as they can over the next year.

Jan 18, 2024
On the Wing: ‘Gifts’ of the Christmas Bird Count

When darkness closed out the Audubon Montauk Christmas Bird Count and the species were tallied, participants agreed that the good weather might have played a role in the total: 134 were found, the highest in a decade.

Jan 4, 2024
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