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Alley Pond Park great for watching migratory birds

The clock on the outside of the diner on Jericho Turnpike reads a few minutes before 6 a.m. The rising sun is turning the sides of heavy black wires to a glimmering orange. A friend, Walter, picks me up and a half−hour later we are in Alley Pond Park to see its colorful migratory birds and experience the park’s picturesque tranquility.

A gray catbird perches on an ox bow−shaped tree branch. As smooth as suede, it turns and shows traces of dull white on the edges of its tail.

A robin lands on a tree branch. It goes into an unusually large nest and it appears that some little bills are open and pointed up, waiting for the delivery of a tasty worm. The adult flies quickly. I would like a confirmation that there are nestlings, but we see nothing. Perhaps there are newborns hunkered down awaiting another delivery.

The sun is not high yet and the tall trees, lush with leaves, make it difficult to see birds. We go off a major path onto a narrow one and soon find a large bird in silhouette with a long neck and tapered, fast−flapping wings. Oddly, it is a duck, but which one? Soon another comes along, quickly curving through a small clearing. They are surprisingly fast and agile fliers.

At the bottom of a slope is a pond. A male, red−winged blackbird sways on a tall reed. The feathered ridges on its folded wings look as if they are carved on burnt black wood. Shaking, shaking, shaking, the bird’s motion makes its red epaulet appear fuzzy. Then, spreading its tail, the bird soon lets out a series of harsh metallic calls, announcing this is its territory.

Walter, like many good birders, hears a Baltimore oriole before I even see it. The black−headed, black−winged bird with the orangey breast and belly is more yellow than its characteristic orange, but at last we have seen our first “show bird.”

Identifying birds is one aspect of birding. Experiencing a sense of place in which they are found is another. Time, which has flown as we have gone from bird to bird, now slows, as I look at onion−shaped, white flowers on a tree. They have been closed, but with the sun’s warmth now on them, look as is if they are starting to open. Further down another path, tiny yellow leaves are falling fast, like yellow snow in a sudden breeze. Charming.

On an off, off the beaten path, time comes to a halt as we skirt a kettle pond. Its surface is covered in light green and greenish brown algae so thick and unmoving that it looks like colored cement. In an area of dark water, a log sticks up. A lone chipmunk sits by a tree. Stillness pervades everything. The birds can wait. This is truly Alley Pond Park and I want to drink in the moment.

Michael Givant

Woodbury, N.Y.

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