Your Turn

The American woodcock is back in town. Photo by Luke Ormand

By John Turner

If, in the next couple of weeks, you visit the fields of the wonderful Avalon Preserve off of Shep Jones Lane in Stony Brook at sunset and cup your ears, you might hear twittering and squeaking in the sky and moments later a more emphatic “peenting” call coming from a patch of ground in front of you. 

Cast your eyes skyward into the evening gloaming and you might catch a chunky-shaped bird zooming up from the ground rapidly and circling several times — “sky dancing” as the great conservationist Aldo Leopold once described it — before plunging earthward, typically close to an interested female. His up-and-down spiral flights at twilight are all part of a display he employs in the hope of attracting a mate. 

What is the source of this crepuscular magic? It’s the annual spring mating flight of the American woodcock, a bird that one birder has described as a “flying meatloaf,” due to its chunky nature and rich brown coloration. The woodcock has other names too, some rich in folklore, including the timberdoodle, Labrador twister, bogborer, bogsucker, night peck, whistling snipe, mud bat and night partridge.  And two names shrouded in mystery — the hookum pake and Cache-cache rouge.

The American woodcock. Photo by Luke Ormand

The woodcock is a member of the shorebird family like the piping plovers that nest at West Meadow Beach, but unlike these plovers is never found near the shore. It is a bird of fields, thickets and woodlands, preferably where they are adjacent — fields for spring displays and thickets and woods for nesting and feeding. The species is a widespread breeding bird on Long Island but is declining in abundance as the natural habitat it requires to meet its needs is destroyed by humans to meet their own needs through the construction of housing, shopping centers and industrial parks.

Not surprisingly, like all animals the American woodcock is well adapted for its lifestyle. Often on the forest floor where it rests and forages, the bird’s highly camouflaged plumage serves it quite well, a fact that was reinforced to me on a bird trip to Ohio several years ago. At a very popular birding hot spot a woodcock decided to nest at the edge of the parking lot in some old grasses with scattered branches. Park staff had found the nest and put ribbon around the nest, creating a 15-foot protective perimeter around the incubating adult. Even with help the first time it took me 15 or so seconds to locate the nesting bird. I passed by the nesting site on several occasions over the next couple of days and would stop each time to peer at the incubating woodcock. Even though I knew precisely where the nesting bird was situated, it took several seconds each time to make out her cryptic shape as she sat Zen-like blended in amid the fabric of leaves, grasses and branches.

The bird’s primary food are earthworms, and the woodcock’s long, sensitive bill can easily probe in the ground and, acting like forceps, pull worms out of the ground.  Evolution has been at work here too, with natural selection, acting over eons of time responding to its feeding strategy, which involves spending much time facing downward with a bill thrust into the soil. How so you might ask? By moving its eye position from the front of its face toward the top and back of its head, and by so doing allowing the bird to have a complete 360-degree field of view of its surroundings (in contrast humans have an approximate 210-degree field of view) including, remarkably, a 20-degree binocular-vision field of view behind its head — a good thing since this is where a woodcock is most vulnerable to attack from a predatory fox or hawk.  

This movement in eye position has caused other anatomical changes. The ears, in most birds behind the eyes, have in woodcock, moved under them. More remarkably, the shift in the position of the eye sockets back and up have caused the woodcock’s brain to rotate so that it is almost upside down!     

As woodcocks feed they rapidly probe the ground and, based on specialized cells in their bill, are able to locate their slippery prey. Walking from one set of probing holes to make another set a couple of feet away, the bird simultaneously rocks back and forth and up and down, “walking-like-an-Egyptian” through the leaf litter. What’s the adaptive value of walking like this? Ornithologists aren’t sure but think it may help them detect earthworm prey. Watch a video on YouTube and this behavior (comical to us, serious to the bird) will undoubtedly put a smile on your face.

The nature of their diet means woodcocks have to vacate colder, snow and ice-covered regions, lest they run the real risk of starvation once the ground freezes. So come autumn they leave Long Island heading south to overwinter in the southeastern United States. But return this time of year they do and right now and for a little while longer the “flying meatloaves” are advertising at Avalon and other natural venues near you!

John Turner, a Setauket resident, is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding and Natural History Tours.

Photo by Corinne Conover

Homage to Conscience

By Corinne Conover

I was truly blessed to live 12 wonderful years with great memories and milestones in Strong’s Neck. I wrote this non-fiction piece as a heartfelt thank you to a place that has so much enriched history and beautiful landscapes that, combined with my loving parents and sister, was “home.” Our new ventures take us to Queens and Manhattan. Thank you for reading.

Photo by Corinne Conover

This would be my last time at my “other home.” The home where we played volleyball in the rain — countless barbecues, bike rides around Conscience Point and round the bend to the church steeple, carriage house and the old tavern where George Washington would go to when he would visit, which now is a historic home.

The home where we would visit a secret garden at Avalon, where a wealthy father dedicated a park with hiking, and trails in loving memory to his young son who passed away. Endless kayaking trips with me and dad and Sonny, even after years later, when the kayaks finally gave in and deflated. We had to float back home with our arms spread out. Dad said, “We were penguins that day.”

I offered to take my sister’s dog Foster on the last day for a nice walk, just him and me. We made it to Conscience Point. Gazed at the sun starting to set. The tall tree overlooking the inlet to the ocean and headed to the shoreline. There, before us, sat hundreds of colored rocks from seaweed, salt and growth. And, thought “Who am I, to choose one rock that no longer gets to stay here in its natural state?” It is a lot similar to how I feel of the natural inward beauty that some people exude in life with a conscience. So, I left the rock in its place. “Home.” Looked up at the setting sun. Thanked God and solemnly said … Goodbye.

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An assault rifle, the weapon of choice in many mass shootings, including the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school. Stock photo

By Marci Lobel

Our nation is reeling from another school shooting involving a perpetrator who was psychologically disturbed. As we consider ways to prevent such tragedies from recurring, it is important to focus on what is known about gun violence. Only by understanding these facts can we develop strategies that are most likely to be effective.

Marci Lobel is a professor of psychology at SBU. Photo from Marci Lobel

First, the majority of gun violence is committed by people without mental illness. This is well documented by public health experts. A person with mental illness is much less likely than a person without a diagnosable mental illness to commit an act of gun violence. In fact, mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of gun violence. Inaccurate claims equating mental illness with gun violence promote stigma and misunderstanding about mentally ill people and may make it less likely that they will reach out to seek help.

Second, mass shootings are not as common as other acts of gun violence. Mass shootings in schools or elsewhere — churches, movie theaters, congressional softball games, music concerts — understandably receive a lot of attention because these tragedies are exceptionally horrifying, especially when children are victims. Nevertheless, the majority of deaths and unintended injuries by guns are not through mass shootings. Every day in the United States, 93 people die from gun violence on average, according to the key gun violence statistics page on www.bradycampaign.org.

Third, owning a gun or having one accessible puts you at risk of being killed by it. According to research published in 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, homicides, suicides and accidental gun deaths are more numerous among gun owners and others in their household, especially children and women, than among people who don’t own guns. Research also shows that states with higher gun ownership have higher gun homicide rates, even after controlling for other predictors such as poverty and alcohol consumption, and states with gun control laws have fewer gun deaths. Additionally, numerous studies comparing developed countries find that the number of guns per capita is a strong, independent predictor of the number of gun deaths in that country.

“Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well. The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger.”

— Leonard Berkowitz

Fourth, the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed the constitutional legitimacy of gun restrictions. In 2008, in delivering the opinion of the court, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. … We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller [a previous court case] said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Fifth, merely being in the presence of a gun increases aggression. This phenomenon, “the weapons effect,” is well demonstrated by social psychology research, which also finds that people recognize and react to guns very quickly. “Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well,” wrote Leonard Berkowitz in a 1967 study with Anthony LePage. “The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger.”

To truly protect our children, our families, our communities and our nation, we must adopt measures that are consistent with what is known about gun violence. The findings described above suggest that improving mental health outreach and treatment, while important in and of itself, will not solve the much larger problem of gun violence in American society. Stationing armed guards in our schools is not a solution — this endangers our children, teachers and those who work in schools because of the weapons effect described above. And even well-trained professionals are known to make errors in high-pressure situations. As to the idea of arming teachers, there are many more serious flaws with that idea than can be listed here. Furthermore, addressing mass shootings in our schools does nothing to eliminate the 93 gun deaths that occur day in and day out in this country.

Can we enact sensible gun policies? The Supreme Court has ruled that some gun restrictions are constitutional, and evidence indicates that gun control reduces gun deaths, even though it doesn’t completely eliminate them. The vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, support sensible gun policies. So what are we waiting for? We’re waiting for our political leaders to act. Demand action from your elected officials. Make phone calls, send letters, march, protest and vote. Get involved with organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. Demand action before another 93 people die tomorrow.

Marci Lobel is a professor of psychology and the director of the program in social and health psychology at Stony Brook University.

By Patrice Domeischel

Our local Audubon chapter, Four Harbors Audubon Society, is on a mission — to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, bird mortality at Stony Brook University. We recently learned of a severe window-strike problem at two of its campuses. Of special concern is the South Campus, consisting of a cluster of interconnected buildings, each one-story tall, and covered in mirrored windows.

Window collisions are a prime cause of bird fatalities (second only to falling prey to cats), causing anywhere from 365 to 988 million deaths per year in the United States. Collisions are most apparent to us during migration but occur all year. A 2014 window-strike study published by the American Ornithological Society indicates that the greatest total number of bird collisions in the United States occurs with residential (one to three stories tall) and low-rise (four to 11 stories tall) buildings, not skyscrapers (over 12 stories) as one might expect.

A South Campus walk to determine the severity of the strike problem, conducted by Four Harbors Conservation Chair John Turner, revealed numerous bird mortalities and some stunned birds, including species such as the American redstart, Canada warbler, black-and-white warbler, Swainson’s thrush, common yellowthroat, gray catbird, common grackle, dark-eyed junco and American robin. A total of 20 dead and stunned birds were found during one visit, and more during two subsequent visits. Turner found the mirrored windows to be particularly dangerous for birds as their highly reflective quality appeared to be a continuation of the nearby landscape. Mortality at these buildings far exceeded the national average for buildings of low height.

A proposal to embark on a project to address the problem was brought to the Four Harbors board, voted upon and approved. Research into the most effective and least costly way to address the window strikes at SBU resulted in a plan to affix ultraviolet decals to as many of the South and Main Campus windows as possible, emphasizing the worst strike areas. Our goal is the elimination, or at least a sharp reduction, in the incidence of bird window strikes occurring at the university.

Why window decals?

These small 4-by-4-inch stickers reflect ultraviolet light, invisible to us, but appearing as a bright, glowing area to birds. The decal alerts birds to the presence of an obstacle, causing them to redirect their flight pattern and get out of harm’s way. Four Harbors used Window Alert* decals, but there are many other brands and styles of decal on the market, and additional deterrent choices, such as window tape and netting, to choose from. The most effective solution on already-existing windows, but also most expensive, is to erect netting. Prior to Four Harbors involvement, a concerned individual employed this solution on a particularly lethal wall of windows with 100 percent effectiveness. For our chapter, though, window decals seemed the next best thing.

Getting the job done

In October 2017, after obtaining the necessary permit from the university, Four Harbors board members and volunteers spent two days affixing over 1,200 ultraviolet window decals and dabbing ultraviolet liquid on windows of all 11 buildings comprising the South Campus, including the worst culprit, Rockland Hall, where the highest number of strikes had occurred.

As we applied the stickers, additional birds were discovered, including Philadelphia vireo, Tennessee warbler, northern waterthrush, swamp sparrow, northern parula warbler and Swainson’s thrush, and, to our dismay, two yellow-rumped warblers hit as we were applying the decals. Fortunately, one of these two seemed to sustain no injury and after some rest was soon able to fly off.

I think we all felt a bit exhausted afterward, but elated also, knowing that there had been a positive effort to eliminate window strikes at the university. Next on the Four Harbors agenda are plans to continue with the project at the Main Campus.

Prevention is key

Many of you have wondered what you can do to assist and protect birds in this hazardous world. Each day, birds must contend with numerous obstacles: predation, hazardous weather conditions and hunger and starvation. Window strikes are an additional deadly threat, but one that we can do something about. By employing this simple and easy window-strike solution at your own home, you can do your part to make life for our birds a safer one.

Our thanks to Tom Lanzilotta, SUNY, Stony Brook, for acting as our director; Financial Services for Facilities & Administration, SUNY, Stony Brook, for granting permission for this project; to Carl Safina, for alerting us to the problem; and to the Safina Center and Seatuck Environmental Association for their generous donations to cover the partial cost of the decals.

*Four Harbors Audubon Society does not endorse any brand of window-strike deterrent on the market. See the following websites for additional information on window-strike prevention:

https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/learn/top10/ windowstrikes.php

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/why-birds-hit-windows-and-how-you-can-help-prevent-it/

http://www.collidescape.org/

http://www.duncraft.com/

All photos by Patrice Domeischel

Members of the Long Island Accordion Alliance, from left, John Custie, Joe Campo, Phil Prete, Phil Franzese, Ray Oreggia, Franco Ruggiero, Dominic Karcic and Mike Zeppetella performing at Campagnola Restaurant, Commack, August 2010. Photo from Dominic Karcic

By Dominic Karcic

From my very early childhood I have been exposed to the accordion, accordion music and dancing to accordion music. In my Croatian and “quasi-northern Italian” culture and upbringing, the accordion was the musical instrument of choice — “the accordion was king.”

Accordion music was always part of every major social event that I ever attended; so it was no surprise when at the age of 10 I started taking lessons. Eventually my love for the accordion became the catalyst that helped direct me to a career performing music and also a lengthy career as a music educator in the Long Island public school system.

From left, Ray Oreggia, Phil Prete, Joe Campo, Charlie Fontana, Dominic Karcic, Bob LaBua, Greg Zukoff, Joe DeClemente, Frank Scardino at the LIAA’s 7th anniversary celebration. Photo by Dominic Karcic

As a longtime resident of Long Island and an active performing accordionist, I knew that there were many people who either played the accordion or used to play the accordion and that there was a vast group of people who just loved accordion music and its culture. I always felt that there was a void and lack of activities and events for the accordion locally.

Being a “dreamer,” I have always felt that a periodic accordion event if structured properly would succeed. I started to bring my dream to reality when in July of 2010 I began calling various accordionists that I knew. Everyone that I contacted agreed to participate and the rest is history.

On Aug. 3, 2010, the very first meeting of what became the Long Island Accordion Alliance, LIAA, took place at a Commack restaurant named Campagnola. This very first meeting included Joe Campo, John Custie, Charlie Fontana, Phil Franzese, Dominic Karcic, Emilio Magnotta, Ray Oreggia, Phil Prete, Franco Ruggiero and Mike Zeppetella. In January of 2011 we moved to our current home at La Villini Restaurant in East Northport.

The LIAA, made up of both professional and amateur accordionists, meets on the first Wednesday of the month with members performing solo, in small ensembles and as an orchestra. Every month we usually have a featured guest artist(s).

From left, Bob LaBua, Frank Scardino, Joe DeClemente, Santo Endrizzi, Phil Prete, Greg Zukoff, Dominic Karcic, Ray Oreggia, ( La Villini Restaurant, East Northport, NY – October 2017 )

We are so proud that periodically some of the finest accordionists perform at our monthly event. Some of these artists have been USA and even world competition champions. These include Beverly Roberts Curnow, Mario Tacca and Mary Tokarski. Some other artists that have performed for us include Manny Corallo, Angelo DiPippo, Don Gerundo, Emilio Magnotta, Paddy Noonan, Frank Toscano, the Scandinavian group Smorgas Bandet and internationally acclaimed vocalist Mary Mancini.

Patrons come in to have dinner and listen to our music. Those who play the accordion are invited and encouraged to participate in the open-mic portion of the evening.

Our aim is to promote a love for the accordion and accordion music, bring former accordionists back to the instrument, create an environment where aficionados can attend and “celebrate the accordion and its culture.” We strive to create an atmosphere where accordionists can perform, grow musically, meet regularly, network and, in our own way, further the aims and goals of the American Accordionists Association.

On Jan. 3 of this year we were honored by a visit from Dave Anthony Setteducati, the host of “Italian America Long Island,” a Cablevision program that airs every Wednesday on Channel 115. He videotaped our event and created a very interesting and informative program that contains personal interviews with LIAA members and guests, many segments of member accordionists performing individually and also segments of ensemble playing. This program is scheduled to be featured on his Cablevision program on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

The current alliance nucleus consists of nine accordionists including Joe Campo of Wantagh, Joe DeClemente of Bellerose, Santo Endrizzi of New Hyde Park, Dominic Karcic of Commack, Bob LaBua of East Northport, Ray Oreggia of Syosset, Phil Prete of Bethpage, Frank Scardino of East Northport and Greg Zukoff of Bellmore.

In August 2018 we will be celebrating our eighth anniversary. We feel so proud that the formula we created works. We hope our success is an incentive to “other dreamers” out there to take the plunge and create their own local “accordion club.”

The LIAA usually meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at La Villini Restaurant, 288 Larkfield Road, East Northport. Reservations are highly recommended. For more information, call 631- 261-6344.

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In Washington state, the Department of Transportation SR 28-5th Street Intersection Improvements project includes roundabouts, a solution that may relieve traffic on Route 25A. From Photo from Washington State Department of Transportation

By Beverly C. Tyler

Getting around on Long Island is frustrating, aggravating and often scary. Cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles and pedestrians share the roadways. Trains, crowded at peak times, move us mostly east and west, and our airplanes sometimes take us where we don’t want to go to get us where we want to be.

There are, of course, no easy answers to approaching gridlock but it’s coming. We can observe it every day as we see more and more stop signs and traffic lights; crowded trains and antiquated bus systems; airport delays and cancellations. Yet, as I have traveled around the world to diverse places such as San Francisco and Hilton Head; London, Derby and Matlock, England; Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; and Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; I have seen wonderfully imaginative ideas that have changed the way I think about transportation.

Route 25A between Stony Brook Road and Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket has 10 traffic lights, most of them unnecessary, some of them difficult or dangerous. In addition, there are a number of intersections without traffic lights that require a bit of care when pulling out into traffic. The most dangerous of these is probably the intersection of Route 25A and Stony Brook Road. Traffic coming down the hill from Flowerfield cannot see traffic exiting Stony Brook Road and vice versa. It would be unfortunate to see a traffic light at Stony Brook Road, but what would be a better solution? What we need is a new paradigm; a new way to look at traffic.

Beverly C. Tyler is a Three Village Historical Society historian. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

One of the government organizations that has looked at traffic solutions in a new way is the Washington State Department of Transportation. Their website includes a number of traffic safety improvements and traffic calming measures including speed humps, speed tables, raised intersections, closures, neighborhood traffic circles, chicanes, chokers and center island narrowing. All of these solutions are designed to slow traffic at certain points while making travel safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Yet at the same time, these measures increase the flow and decrease the time en route. It sounds too simple, but when implemented, these measures provide a significant reduction in delays along the route.

One of WSDOT’s improvement measures is the roundabout, which has a proven safety record as detailed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Federal Highway Administration. Their studies report “a 37 percent reduction in overall collisions, a 75 percent reduction in injury collisions, a 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions, [and] a 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions.”

Significantly, the WSDOT didn’t just talk about roundabouts they put the concept into practice. One of their projects, “SR 28-5th Street Intersection Improvements,” was completed in August. The project, designed by WSDOT Project Engineer Dan Lewis, also considered two other methods of improved traffic control, both requiring some form of traffic signals, before deciding on a roundabout.

Brian Walsh, a traffic engineer with the WSDOT, is very enthusiastic about the work that has been done to implement traffic calming measures, especially roundabouts throughout the state of Washington.

“In Washington 352 roundabouts have been completed, all built since 1997,” Walsh said. “At the turn of the century, there were only three in the state. We have opened at least 15 in this last construction period.”

Walsh noted that the art of creating roundabouts has gotten a lot better. Walsh is also chair of the Transportation Research Board’s Project Panel Guide for Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety at Alternate Intersections and Interchanges.

“We are a group dedicated to roundabouts — the TRB is also comprised of members from many other countries,” he said. “France, Australia, Holland and Belgium have been constructing roundabouts for many years and we are tightening up the geometrics to get car speeds down — you get better safety.”

Is it possible to redesign 25A between Stony Brook Road and Gnarled Hollow Road to eliminate all or most of the traffic signals? Is it possible to redesign pedestrian crossings so they occur in the middle of a block rather than at busy intersections where vehicle traffic is coming from all directions? The answer, in many cases, is yes. We just have to be willing to accept change when and where it is proven to be beneficial. We need to encourage our state, county and village transportation departments to seriously look at these methods of traffic calming and traffic safety that have a proven success record in this country and in many countries and municipalities throughout the world. We then need to tell them we want it here, and that just may be a good resolution for 2018, saying we are willing to accept a new transportation paradigm that improves our quality of life.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian.

An eroding bluff at Long Beach has been stabilized by constructing a stone seawall at the bluff’s base. The bluff has been terraced to capture material that rolls down from the top and can be planted with vegetation that will help stabilize it. Photo from R. Lawrence Swanson

By R. Lawrence Swanson

Much has been proposed, written, and even implemented, to sustain, armor, adapt, make resilient and conserve the low-lying areas of Long Island’s South Shore since Hurricane Sandy five years ago. That coast is vulnerable to extensive inundation by accelerated sea level rise, the vagaries of storm surges and climate change. Indeed, there are core areas that now flood regularly on the semi-monthly spring tides.

The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes. The entire geomorphology of the North Shore is subject to change with or without anthropogenic intervention. The challenge is to be able to manage this change so that the environmental services — harbors of refuge, beaches, wetlands, fisheries, aesthetics — provided by the complex, precarious topography of the North Shore remain functionally stable for the region, communities and private interests.

Much of the North Shore is composed of unconsolidated morainal bluffs — many 50 feet or higher — accompanied by down-current cobble barrier beaches. These spits form the small pocket bays and harbors that are the locations of historic settlements. They provide refuge for people and marine ecosystems from the energy of waves and storms. The beautiful pocket bays of Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, Northport, Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay are now the cultural centers of the North Shore.

The protective spits that form these bays are fed by erosion of the adjacent coastal bluffs. In order for the pocket bays to be maintained, spits must have a sufficient sediment supply to overcome erosional forces and sea level rise, which is currently increasing at about 1.5 feet a century in Long Island Sound, but undoubtedly will accelerate here and globally. The general process is that the bluffs are undercut at their base or toe by waves and extreme tides. This undercutting will become more severe as sea level rises and we experience greater and longer lasting storm surges in the coming years. The bluffs then slump — about 2 feet per year — creating new beach material, some of which is transported by littoral (near-shore) currents to create and sustain the barrier spits. The small beaches at the toe of the bluffs reduce the wave run-up and thus bluff erosion.

“The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes.”

— R. Lawrence Swanson

Construction of seawalls for which there is increasing demand along the bluff faces hinders these natural processes. Beaches fronting the bluffs will disappear so that waves will be beating directly on the seawalls. Little material will be available for transport to maintain the barrier spits with rising sea level. Those spits will then be subject to overwashing — perhaps exposing the embayments behind continuously to the open waters of the Sound.

What can be done in the way of resiliency to preserve the character of the North Shore and yet also protect individual properties on the Sound — both those on the cliffs and those on the barrier spits? Is hardening the bluffs and beaches at great expense the answer? Do we let nature take its course? Do residents on the barrier beaches have rights to the sediment of eroding cliffs in much the same way that downstream California claims rights to Colorado River water? If hardening of bluffs is allowed, will there be enough sediment at the toe to maintain a beach to reduce wave run-up?

New York State needs to examine this issue and develop guidance that works for all. Current policies are confusing and perhaps conflicting. This is a regional issue that cannot be solved property by property or even on a town-by-town basis.

With the state of development on the North Shore, some form of intervention or adaptation is probably required; nature cannot be left totally unchecked, given the grim climate projections for this coming century. Extensive hardening of the shoreline is equally unpalatable. There are negative downstream effects from almost all anthropogenic solutions. We need to understand and minimize them. Once started, hardening will eventually result in entombing us, totally eliminating the natural beauty and functionality of the North Shore that we enjoy. Perhaps there are softer forms of resilience that will allow preservation of natural processes yet significantly reduce the anticipated severe erosion from wind, rain, accelerated sea level rise and climate change. We need to find those techniques and implement them consistently.

In the meantime, there are zoning measures that can be practiced that will reduce erosion of these steep coastal faces — establish respectable setbacks, reduce or eliminate clearing, minimize variances resulting in overbuilding and consider downstream impacts of stabilization measures.

Long Island’s low-lying South Shore is at risk to the negative impacts of storm surge, sea level rise and climate change and much attention is being given to it. The North Shore, while seemingly elevated from these impacts, is not. Because its steep coast consists of unconsolidated sediments, it will experience extensive erosion. We need to understand, plan for and implement regional adaptive measures to reduce potential adverse effects to assure resilience of this vulnerable coastal environment.

R. Lawrence Swanson is the interim dean and associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

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Stock photo Third agers can find more meaning in their lives by engaging with both older and younger generations. Stock photo

“Third age” is one of several terms for a relatively new stage in life — occurring between middle age and old age — and made possible by longer life expectancies. Baby boomers are aging, with the oldest boomers having turned 70 last year and the fastest growing segment of the population made up of people over 90.

The bad news is that boomers will challenge the economy by utilizing more Social Security, medical and health care benefits. Given these facts, it is imperative that we adopt practices in our third age for cultivating not only long lives but also successful, meaningful and productive lives.

The good news is that individuals in the third age have a lot to share. In terms of brainpower, studies show that older individuals can be both productive and creative. In fact, the most frequent age bracket for Nobel laureates is 60 to 64 years old. Consider the work of John Goodenough, who is 95 years old and a professor of mechanical engineering and material science at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his team have recently filed a patent application for a new battery, which if successful, will revolutionize the electric car.

Obviously, Goodenough is exceptional, and while not all of us can expect to reach the pinnacle of success after age 90, we still can make a significant impact. In fact, third agers are hardwired to make contributions to society. The term “generativity,” coined by Erik Erikson, describes a specific stage in life when individuals — usually between the ages of 40 and 65 — are compelled to find meaning in their lives by generating care and concern for both older and younger generations. In other words, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make a significant contribution.

The distinct voice of a third ager comes from years of experience and has real value when shared with others. No other generation before could expect any reasonable chance of living 20 or 30 years after their 50th birthday.

By nurturing generative qualities, third agers may actually be helping themselves. Longevity studies show that individuals who are engaged and connected, who find meaning and purpose in their everyday lives, tend to live longer and healthier lives. Showing up and engaging are the first steps in planning a successful third age and beyond.

Mother Teresa said it best: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Let’s begin now. Dedicate 2018 to the year of doing small things with great love.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

A scene from 'Dracula' 1931

By Kevin Redding

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t enamored with Halloween and, by default, horror in general. It could be argued that my birthday falling in late October has something to do with an obsession with the macabre, but I can’t help but think it goes way beyond that.

When I was very young, I became infatuated with a couple important things — one, the work of Tim Burton (specifically “Batman” and “Beetlejuice”), so much so that the only guaranteed remedy to silence this curly-haired toddler’s wails was putting one of his movies in the VCR. I’d sniffle my last cry and watch with attentive giddiness at the Gothic sets, whimsical dark humor and cast of weird characters. The other early influence in my life was Charles Addams — the longtime Westhampton Beach resident, renowned cartoonist for The New Yorker and, most importantly, creator of “The Addams Family.”

Around age 4 or 5, one of my uncles gifted me with a large book called “The World of Charles Addams,” a sprawling tome that contained hundreds of pages of the cartoonist’s famously humorous, creepy artwork and comic strips centered around the grotesque, the misfitted, the spooky, and altogether ooky.

For years my eyes were glued to that book, and I have just about memorized each and every one of its black-and-white and full-cover drawings at this point. It was the first time I remember being truly swept up by art and storytelling — his spooky settings, characters and sensibilities captured my imagination like nothing else before — and it inspired me to put pen to paper and create my own characters and stories, tapping into an artistic, creative side that has followed me into my mid-20s.

The Burton films and “The Addams Family” movies I devoured at this time served as great gateways to the more hard-core horror titles I discovered a few years later. One summer, as I was relaxing before the big move to fourth grade, my cousins and I, joined by my aunt and uncle, gathered around the TV in their living room and watched the original “House on Haunted Hill,” that hokey and wonderful Vincent Price classic.

It would be the start of a weekend tradition, dubbed Saturday Scary Movie Night, wherein we watched scary movies from a bygone era, namely the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Up until this point, I don’t think I was really exposed to old horror (I loved all the classic monsters but really only knew them as toys, lunch boxes and cartoons … I didn’t exactly know where they came from).

A scene from ‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’

I remember watching “Frankenstein,” “The Wolfman,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” “Nosferatu,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Birds.” I loved them all, and they gave me a real appreciation and adoration of old movies and the art of filmmaking in general. After these viewings, I always seemed to go to sleep unscathed, at least until we watched “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi, which haunted me and led to my first and only sleepwalking escapade. I was scared by it, but also mesmerized by it. From then on, I was hooked. If a movie was scary or had monsters in it, I had to watch it.

And horror is what really got me interested in reading. Entranced by the freaky covers of “Goosebumps” by R.L. Stine, I consumed any of those books available to me, either from the school or public library. As I got a little bit older, I gravitated toward Stephen King, whose books I ate up — especially “The Dead Zone,” “Firestarter” and “Four Past Midnight” — and served as incredible textbooks on how to craft tension, drama and likeable fictional characters. It would be his memoir/advice manual for budding writers, “On Writing,” that sealed the deal for me for what I wanted to do with my life.

So, naturally, Halloween has always meant so much to me. I mean, as a kid, I already walked around in a vampire’s cape and that was in the middle of April, so to have an entire day/month wherein that fashion choice is socially acceptable and encouraged? Sign me up.

Me as Fester

As a kid, I was definitely an oddball and not exactly brimming with confidence. I didn’t have a torturous childhood, but I was certainly on the outskirts of my peers. In the first grade, I had curly hair and I was missing my front teeth, which paved the way for lots of jokes. I was also quiet and painfully shy and never quite knew what to talk about with others, and so, I looked to fictional characters like the Addams family for an escape. I even went as Uncle Fester for Halloween one year, in a really great handmade costume (Thanks mom!), complete with light bulb in mouth. It was a beautiful thing, and I point to horror as being what helped me come out of my shell and feel okay with who I was. For those of us who have ever wanted to hide or escape or be someone else for a day, Halloween is the day that encourages that.

It’s the one day a year when the weird, creative and imaginative parts of ourselves can be unleashed without any hesitation; it’s a celebration of human fear, of community and the art of pretending. And seriously, in this world we’re living in, couldn’t we all use a day of pretending?

John Turner, center, points to a flock of common nighthawks passing overhead. Photo by Patricia Paladines

By Patrice Domeischel and John Turner

If you happen to have driven recently on Old Field Road in Setauket, where it crosses over Frank Melville Memorial Park, you may have noticed anywhere from a few to a dozen and a half people staring at all angles skyward with binoculars and wondered what’s got their attention. Looking at cloud formations? Maybe UFOs? Waiting for sunset? Watching the monarch butterfly migration? Or perhaps observing numerous bird species as they fly by?

If you picked the last choice, you’d be right (although any migrating monarchs are dutifully noted by observers too!). Specifically, these observers have tuned into an annual phenomenon — common nighthawks passing through Long Island on their annual migration, traveling from their breeding grounds in New England and Canada to their wintering grounds in South America.

These medium-sized birds with long wings that sport distinctive white bars may be seen agilely flitting incessantly over the pond, most often at dawn to an hour later and an hour before, right up until, dusk. These erratic flight movements are not a show for our pleasure but a feeding tactic employed to catch their main food source, small insects like midges, mosquitoes, gnats etc. on the wing.

The bird of the hour, the common nighthawk. Stock photo

Not a hawk at all, nighthawks are referred to as “goatsuckers” and are members of the Caprimulgidae family (capri, Latin for goat, and mulgare, Latin for milking). This name is derived from the mistaken belief, originating as early as 2000 years ago, that these wide-mouthed birds sucked the teats on farm goats. In actuality the birds were attracted to the insects stirred up by roving livestock. Other members of this family found on Long Island include the whip-poor-will and the Chuck-will’s-widow.

Common nighthawks, once a common breeder on Long Island (there have been no confirmed breeding records for several decades), and other members of the goatsucker family are experiencing population declines. Published data indicate that nationally common nighthawk numbers have dropped by more than 60 percent over the last 50 years.

This same trend has been seen in New York. Common nighthawks here have declined by 71 percent as a breeding bird between 1985 and 2005, whip-poor-will’s by 57 percent and Chuck-will’s-widows by 62 percent. Prime contributing factors are thought to include rampant pesticide use resulting in diminished insect populations and loss of nesting habitat (being ground nesters they are especially vulnerable to feral and free-roaming cats, fox, skunks and other mammalian predators) and pesticide use.

Pesticide use is highly significant as it has also been implicated in the decline of other birds that feed in the air who also depend upon small aerial insects — species such as swallows, swifts and flycatchers.

There are simply significantly less insects than there were a few decades ago, before the advent and widespread use of pesticides.

Nighthawks do not build a nest, but, as mentioned above, lay their eggs (typically two) directly on the ground, preferring gravelly surfaces. Old gravel rooftops in urban areas once provided additional, appealing nesting habitat for nighthawks, but many roofs are no longer surfaced with gravel, but of rubber, and are not a viable nesting alternative. The shift to other types of roofing materials is also thought to have contributed to a decline in nighthawk numbers.

At the stone bridge on Main Street, the Four Harbors Audubon Society, with the support of the board of the Frank Melville Memorial Park, is conducting a census of nighthawks in an effort to provide an additional source of data about population trends. It is hoped that an annual count, through time as information over the span of years is compiled, can provide additional data on the species’ population trends, helping to supplement the findings gained by the annual nationwide Breeding Bird Survey and periodic statewide Breeding Bird Atlas.

Local birder Richard Haimes, right, with his son and grandchildren, at a recent nighthawk watch at Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Patrice Domeischel

Named the Frank Melville Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch, pedestrians can watch each evening between 5:30 p.m. until dusk as Audubon members don their binoculars and tally nighthawks and any other avian or winged creature passing through. Several bats are regular visitors at dusk, and a bald eagle, peregrine falcon and other falcon species and hawks have been sighted as have ruby-throated hummingbirds, green herons, belted kingfishers and red-bellied woodpeckers.

It first became evident in October of 2016 when significant nighthawk migration was noticed and recorded at this location, that Frank Melville Park’s stone bridge lookout, with its open vistas overlooking the pond in both directions, might be a hot spot. It was recognized that this location was an important nighthawk migration thoroughfare and a great vantage point to witness them as they traveled through the area. It was also recognized as a hot spot for nighthawks due to the prolific hatch of aerial insects such as midges coming off the two ponds that become ready prey for these birds.

So, an idea was born of curiosity and the desire to help this fascinating, declining species. Why not conduct a common nighthawk survey at the stone bridge? There were questions that needed answering. When do nighthawks arrive here and in what numbers? Are they continuing to decline and at what rate? What can we do to help them?

The data, to date (the nighthawk counting season is not yet complete), have been quite interesting and exciting. The count has been as high as 573 on a wildly exciting evening, where there were “kettles” of birds, circling and feeding, to the only day where no nighthawks were spotted, on a windy, rainy, tropical storm day. Recent data also seem to indicate that most birds travel in a westerly direction, likely following the Long Island Sound coastline before continuing south.

Will data from coming years support our findings from this current year? Will our results mirror the national and statewide trends of declining abundance? Years of data will need to be collected and analyzed; a reliable conclusion cannot be reached based on one year’s findings. But each year’s count results will help us gain a better understanding of the common nighthawk, its numbers and migration trends, and through our research, better protections may be formulated and instituted. Until then, we continue to stand at the stone bridge and count, witness to the exciting phenomenon of nighthawk migration.

The Stone Bridge Nighthawk Count will be ongoing through Oct. 15. All are welcome. Bring your binoculars, your desire to see goatsuckers, and come watch the show. For more information or directions, please call 631-689-6146.

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