Life, Death, Sand and Ice

Empty nest w footprints DSCF7065

Photo by Bill O’Brian. Empty nest with the footprints of an errant youth?

The oystercatcher nest at Lindell Blvd is no more.

Yes, that’s right, the egg was destroyed. And the chick was to be born just about now. This time the death of new offspring entering our Long Beach shores was not the result of gull attack. This time it was the apparent result of “young boy” attack. “Young boys” harming wildlife in youthful ignorance.

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Oystercatcher nest at Lindell Blvd. June 7, 2015

I’m told that last Friday afternoon two youths were seen yelling at the shore birds as they tended the nest. Soon after someone found the egg smashed on the boardwalk. Another good soul picked up the soon-to-hatch egg and buried it in the sand.

When I first heard this news on Facebook I read that some “punk” was the culprit. Yes “punk” was a good word for him. But I was so incensed, so angry, I felt I had to fire off a release of it through the tips of my fingers onto my keyboard. Sparks flew as I typed. But I called the culprit a more striking, street-alternative to punk or jerk. I also said if I were there he’d be broken right alongside the egg on the boardwalk. Yes, it might have been better if I delayed cathartic gratification. But I didn’t.

Then I recalled a time when I was about ten to twelve years old:

Baisley Park lake in South Ozone Park was frozen but not thick enough to walk on. I was alone and probably bored and looking, as always, for some adventurous activity.

A gull flew high over the lake. I picked up a smooth stone from the lake’s edge and threw it way out and up. The stone struck the gull like a bullet and down he crashed onto the thin ice. I never expected to actually hit the gull, I just threw the stone because both were within reach of my susceptibility to perform senseless acts.

I was shocked. I had expected to congratulate myself for a near miss, at most. But somehow air currents, aim and fate would spread a scene of death and heartbreak before me. The helpless creature was far out on the thin ice. I could do nothing.

I saw the gull’s wings splayed out on the ice. I pleaded that it rise again and soar in the winter sky. But just one wing flapped hopelessly from the ice, either from the wind or the futile work of convulsing flight muscles eager to make it rise once again. It was the most hideous sight I had witnessed in my young years. And it was all my doing. I recall it too vividly to this day. But in that recollection might reside power.

So, here I find myself, too many turns around the sun later, writing on something called Facebook. I’m writing that I’d basically throttle the young man that was once me, and threaten to leave him on our boardwalk, muscles convulsing as a gull on ice.

Some of you may think I’m making too much of this youthful wanton act. We see so much fire and flood, storm and war. So much human death in the world today to write about, slashing of throat, burning of flesh, gunning in pews. Maybe I do invest too much of myself in these wildlife embryos at the threshold of life. But it’s the reverence of life itself that is the point here. The beholding of the birth of a being.

Sometimes some of us do stupid things when we are young. See “The Stupid Years.”:

But sometimes too, we recollect those things with great and sincere regret. Sometimes it changes us and we become more aware of the need to do good, honorable and noble acts while on this Earth. Sometimes we grow and mature to become decent human beings. We only hope, for this lad…may it be so.

Be well,


Also see my Sister Moon blog:

Categories: birding, Birds, wildlife

Tagged as: , ,

4 replies »

  1. Carol, it would be just great if young people could see this post as you suggest. Maybe someone, a teacher could use it as a teaching aid when school opens in the fall. Possibly under a broader theme of “confronting destructive impulses.” How to deal with them. How to find help.

    It would be even better if this post could get to the boy who committed this act. If he’s Long Beach local it’s possible someone knows who it was. Word gets around. If his family hears about it, they may want to seek some psychological intervention.

    There may be some serious issues going on in this young man’s mind. It would be best to stop him before his harmful acts become more serious than the destruction of shore-bird life. This was a sickeningly sad event. Especially to those of us who have been following the progress of these nesting birds, almost daily.

    Thanks for the comment.


  2. That was sad. I only wish this story could impact a young person, but as you indicated, many things are only seen clearly, in hindsight.


  3. Thanks,Walter. I suspect you are not the only one that finds a resonance of your own in this event. At first there is anger at this young man, and well understood anger. But upon reflection some of us can find ourselves. Thanks for the comment. Some of us know what it is to be young and stupid.


  4. A very interesting commentary. I was thinking something similar the other day about shooting my BB gun at a cat, never thinking I would hit it. This took place when I was a 12 yr old boy. I now feed birds in my back yard and find feathers (remains of a dove) on the ground. I mentioned this to a neighbor and she suggested I get out a pellet gun and shoot the cats. These are three cats that she had in the house but threw them out late fall last year because the were urinating in the house. I looked at her like she was crazy, Even though I am not a cat person there was no way I could do that. I was thinking back when I was 12.


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