ambling at a leisurely pace along
the narrow blacktop trail snaking just below the osprey platform. Cotton-white clouds sailed
by effortlessly in a fathomless
and deep-cerulean sky, changing
imperceptibly in appearance as
they trailed westward.
A mystery bird flashes by,
revealing a gilded breast as it
catches the late light. A quartet of
fly-over killdeer; the trill of a chipping sparrow; the distinctive nasal
call of a fish crow; and, oh, did I
mention ticks? Heckscher hosts
three species: dog, deer, and Lone
Star ticks. At this time of year, the
place is infested. A disgruntled
visitor fuming on the Internet and
vowing never to return to Heckscher tells of plucking 50 ticks
from his American Eskimo dogs,
a total tally of 100 ticks from the
pair, and this after a three-minute
stroll at the park.
My own experience proved
more modest, though no less
lessly, at the hapless ospreys, while
sputtering a high-pitched, stac-
cato tzi tzee, tzi tzee, tzi tzee.
To put this contest into perspective, I might point out that
the osprey, Pandion haliaetus,
Latin for “sea eagle”, can reach
a wingspan of almost 72 inches—nearly eagle size. A female
osprey, the larger of the sexes,
may weigh as much as 4 pounds.
These powerful fish-eating birds
can carry prey nearly as heavy as
their own considerable weight.
On the other hand, the eastern
kingbird, a songbird, whose diet
consists mostly of insects and
berries, has a wingspan of a mere
15 inches and weighs in at less
than 2 ounces.
This was indeed high drama,
an avian version of David and
Goliath taking place on an otherwise dreamy late-July afternoon, within walking distance of
a public parking lot at the edge
of the Great South Bay, with
wind surfers skimming above
bright blue waters and joggers
A present for the author.