School’s Out for Summer

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but it’s finally summer for real! What’s more, my grad school days are completely behind me! The sense of relief after two years of hard work is immense, and it was a struggle against absurdity right up until the end. My master’s defense work was due on Monday, June 26. I was invited to several awesome-sounding events for the preceding weekend, so I pushed myself to get everything completed during the prior week. I managed to have everything finished and submitted by Wednesday, and it’s a damn good thing I did. After celebrating Greg’s birthday on Friday after work, I fell asleep on a train and left my bag behind when I got off. Without my laptop and student data, I would’ve been pretty far down a certain creek if I had not completed my responsibilities beforehand. In a way, my friend’s saved me by inviting me to parties that motivated me to finish early!

After helping Dad put up some fence on Saturday, Miriam and I headed out to the Hamptons for a delicious dinner courtesy of Anthony. After some fantastic paella, a smorgasbord of appetizers, plenty of drinks, and a late night dip in the pool, we took our leave. Brendan joined us on the journey home and we stopped to listen for nightbirds along the way. The Whip-poor-wills we heard near Francis Gabreski Airport were Miriam’s first, and a Marsh Wren was an acceptable consolation prize for the missed Chuck at Quogue. Wine tasting in Baiting Hollow with my coworkers made Sunday a roaring success, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Joe’s thorough planning. I made it through my school’s graduation on Tuesday and the last day of work on Wednesday. Miriam wanted to get in some exploration before my final presentation on Thursday night, so we made a morning excursion to Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area.

Miriam had never been to this preserve before, so I took joy in showing off the array of cooperative wildlife that can be observed and photographed along the trails. We spent some time near the end of the path, keeping a respectful distance from the Osprey nest and snapping pictures as the parents watched over their growing nestlings.

We were fortunate enough to see several Saltmarsh Sparrows fluttering in and out of the grass. A few of them were nice enough to perch up for extended periods of time, allowing nice views before they hopped down and scurried away out of sight. The resident Red-winged Blackbirds were far more conspicuous, providing ample opportunity for close study and photography.

Both Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets are common at Oceanside. We watched as one of the Snowies waggled its bright yellow feet in the water. This behavior is believed to either lure or stir up aquatic life so the bird has an easier time striking at them. Whatever the purpose of these colorful extremities, they make these fancy birds look extra flashy.

After our outing at Lido Beach, Miriam developed a desire to get a picture of a Willet in flight. The bold, contrasting patterns of black and white feathers on their wings are striking subjects for photography. Thanks to the concentrations of birds and their proximity to the trails, Oceanside is one of the best nearby places to make an effort for this goal. Unfortunately, the birds seemed to be toying with us this morning. They never took off while we were watching and waiting, and whenever they went airborne they would fly behind vegetation or in front of the sun. No nice flight shots this time, but the birds will be there all summer. Plenty of time to try again another day!

At the opposite end of the cooperation spectrum were a family of Tree Swallows posted right along the path. Three new fledglings were nestled together on a branch, looking mighty adorable as they waited for their next meal.

Mom and Dad repeatedly returned to drop off mouthfuls of insects for their eager offspring. We were able to observe these precious moments at close range, watching with awe as the parents swooped in to serve breakfast to the babies. I always appreciate the opportunity to do some quality birdWATCHING, rather than just scrambling around in search of rarities. This lovely morning with the swallow family was just the kind of relaxation I needed after my hectic week.

Miriam and I returned to our homes and prepared for the evening, meeting up to head into Manhattan together. Against all odds, I actually got my bag back from the LIRR lost and found, with all contents intact! I delivered my master’s defense presentation without any problems, and we celebrated at nearby Aleo with my friendly bartender Alba. It was a fine kickoff to vacation, and I’m happy to put that stress behind me for now. Here I come, summer!

Year List Update, June 29 – 309 Species (+ Saltmarsh Sparrow)

About timhealz

A recent graduate (Cornell '14) and lifelong explorer cataloging my thoughts and travels.
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1 Response to School’s Out for Summer

  1. Pingback: Studying Marine Nature | Studying Life

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