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“Education is key, ignorance is ugly…hopefully, we  turn the ugly around.” Cathy Horvath WINORR

Our Long Beach, NY shore, as you know, is being heavily renovated and we welcome that. But our oystercatcher nests have had to deal with the heavy equipment on top of the usual threats, heat and predator gulls, among them. Oystercatcher nests have been besieged with gull attacks on baby chicks, sometimes daily. Some past aerial combat between invading gulls and defending oystercatcher mates:

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Over the Memorial Day weekend a gull in an attempt to capture a chick for a meal, was successful…only in crippling a defending oystercatcher.

The defending bird’s wing hung bleeding and limp.

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Severely wounded oystercatcher. Photo by Matt Markard

After the attack two chicks ended up two beaches away from their mom and sibling.

A Facebook group called the Long Beach Oystercatcher Chronicles: https://www.facebook.com/groups/537744663096107/ networked to contact a fantastic non profit, WINORR, (Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation.)

From their base in Massapequa Cathy and Rob Horvath swooped down to Long Beach, despite the fact that it was Memorial Day evening, when most of us were burping on the couch after a long weekend of family and friends.

Videos by Matt Markard.

The duo took the injured bird and the two distant chicks into safe hands. The latter so that the remaining oystercatcher would be better able to protect and feed one chick while the rest of her family was being held in “protective custody.”

I spoke with Cathy at length and I was impressed with her dedication and compassion. Did you ever speak with someone and hear beyond their words? Every word she spoke carried the heart within:
WINORR, which operates solely out of a private home, takes just about any creature into safe hands, possums, foxes, birds of all kinds from New York City to Montauk Point…sometimes further.

A hawk came from Michigan, a raven, was flown from California. Cathy estimates she takes into her home, for rescue and rehab, almost 900 creatures a year. She, her husband, and nine-year-old daughter, do it basically by themselves. But Rob shares his energies between caring for helpless creatures and fighting blazes for helpless homeowners as a NYC Firefighter.

This Memorial Day holiday rescue was no aberration, for the past seven years they’ve gone into the big Apple on New Year’s eve, not to join the Times Square fun but to pick up a creature to take back home. The day I spoke with Cathy she had in her home baby possums, baby hawks, baby owls, songbirds, night herons, squirrels and pigeons.

This past March they had two geese from Staten Island, both were shot at a park by someone with a hand held cross bow. One was very seriously injured, shot through the throat, the other not as bad.

The Canadian Goose that was shot through the neck with a crossbow is released.


I told Cathy about how ignorance plays a part in acts such as the cross bow incident. I spoke of a preteen boy, last year, who broke one of the oystercatcher eggs on the boardwalk. Cathy said “We go to schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, other educational programs, park programs and we bring a lot of my wildlife, people get to see it. Like that little boy that cracked the egg, we show them little babies, they get a greater appreciation for wildlife. Education is key, ignorance is ugly…hopefully we turn the ugly around.”

I was so impressed with Cathy and Rob’s WINORR and their compassionate dedication I opened my wallet to them, so did my sweetheart, Cheryl. Cathy is a certified Veterinary Technician and has much past experience. But due to her compassionate 25 year work in her creature repair shop she has no time now for outside employment.

Cathy said she’s thankful that her husband, Rob has a good job because apart from a successful GoFund me reach-out, past exposure of her efforts didn’t gain much in the way of contributions to her non-profit program. Usually, “just another bucket of squirrels.” The GoFund me funds were quickly depleted on food, medicine, and operations. The Horvath’s nine-year-old daughter has never been on a vacation. Their link, if you choose the donate…bucks, not buckets:https://www.facebook.com/WINORR-Wildlife-In-Need-of-Rescue-and-Rehabilitation-113685721999067/

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Oystercatchers choose to place their nest right out in the open on our wide white beaches. The theory being that they can better see a threat coming than if they nested under boardwalk overhangs and such. The latter areas would make the eggs vulnerable to raccoons and feral cats. But these wide open venues leave them prey to gull attacks, unleashed dogs, undeveloped pre-teen minds, and unrelieved sun.

Re: nest areas, see below parentheses edits:

(For many years local residents, Bill O’Brien and Anne Bickford put up sticks, strings and cones in a make-shift effort to protect the oystercatchers.)

Over this past winter, with the urging of myself along with Co-Chairs of Conservation of the South Shore Audubon Society, Jim Brown and Brien Weiner, the city of Long Beach agreed to (20′ radius) string fence perimeters with signs around the nests containing eggs.


Stakes and sign at oystercatcher nest, earlier this year

We were very happy to see that cooperation. (partial, no 20′ radius due to construction) But after the eggs hatch…the stakes come down, despite the city’s agreement over the winter that they would stay up. At this point, without warning stakes, only a sharp eye can spot a fuzzball chick hidden in a truck’s track.

OC in track.jpg

I do see beach maintenance vehicles slow down and avoid the chicks, which the crews call, “fuzzballs.” The word of mouth passed among the workers causes them to sharpen their eyes. I and all bird lovers thank them for that, but we’d prefer the fence stay up, with signs, until the fledged birds are fully able to avoid harm.

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Beachgoers unaware of the fuzzballs sometimes run football plays and frisbee tosses in their vicinity. But the city declines to adopt that protective method.

We’d also like to see the city emplace a rudimentary shelter so the chicks have some respite from the afternoon sun. The shelters would also protect against attacks by ravenous gulls.

These simple devices, photos of which have been provided to the city, have worked well in other Long Island areas. But again, the city of Long Beach declines that small effort too.


A very simple solution to a vexing problem

The city’s Public Works Commissioner, John Mirando said in an email, “We are very aware of the Oystercathers. Obviously they come back every year so we are handling it. We do not need constant reminders.

Yes, the oystercatchers do come back every year and the city congratulates itself for that fact. But the fact is, the annual return by this species to chosen nesting areas is documented as a repeated natural pattern…everywhere.

I think every little thing we do as a society sends a message. They are expressions of our care for the vulnerable, whether it’s curb wheel chair ramps for the disabled or a tiny wooden structure to give shade and protection for a little fuzzball. It all says, we are compassionate. We try to enlighten with wordless education by our actions…to turn the ugly in the world around.

Cathy Horvath said, “This is what I do, it’s my passion, I want to fix things. It’s what I love to do. If I can fix it and release it, that’s my passion. It makes me feel happy inside.  That I can open my hands and let something go. I had a laughing gull that we released yesterday…It was hit by a car, it was flat out. A lady found it brought it over with her daughter. I gave it some pain medication with some steroids. By the end of the day it was hopping around, ready to go. And I let it go and it flew and it put on this whole show, it was amazing. Yeah…it was so cool.”

Yes, Cathy’s video is a wordless expression of how we care for life’s creatures…as would a wooden protector for a tiny fuzzball:

We hope the city of Long Beach reconsiders its current policy. But perhaps it may take more gentle “reminders” from concerned bird lovers to make that happen.

I’m not suggesting any harassment of our Long Beach officials. I actually believe that apart from our immediate issue, the city of Long Beach has done an incredible job in making our City by the Sea  shine.

But maybe they need to know that we think more protection needs to be given to our little fuzzballs:

Public Works Commissioner John Mirando:jmirando@longbeachny.gov
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman : jschnirman@longbeachny.gov

Be well,

8 replies »

  1. Ann,

    Wow. Such fine words. Especially valued coming from such a pro as yourself. Thank you so much for following my blog all these years.

    All I do is put together, in words and photos, what I see and hear in the hearts of people around me. We see so much ego, anger, violence in the world. It’s almost as if the TV guy says, “Let’s go to Brian with today’s terror report. Take it away, Brian.”

    But there are so many good people on this planet with empathy, with compassion, with big hearts. They just don’t get much print or video time except for a minute or two at the end of an evening newscast like “Making a Difference,” etc. Then it’s presented as such an outlier, such a rare occurrence.

    But they are all around us every day. Look at the hearts of these caring oystercatcher lovers who root on the nesters every spring. Look at Cathy and Rob Horvath of WINORR. You know the latter from past personal contact with them.

    They don’t do what they do to enrich themselves, with money, that’s for sure. But they not only help our little creatures, they enrich their own hearts and in the process the hearts of those who know of their work. They give us all optimism, they give us hope in ultimate goodness of human nature. So, sure Cheryl and I donated to them to help them along, and we encourage others to join us.

    All I do is try to be a mirror to reflect what good people do with my humble words and photos.

    As for being a city of Long Beach ambassador? I think I’m more their…Pain-in-the-ass-ador



  2. Lee, your ‘Fuzzballs’ post is a perfect storm of empathetic, meaningful subject of Cathy & Rob Horvath’s WINOOR + Writing + Photography by “Lee By the Sea.” And sharing that you yourself donated to WINOOR is the ultimate recommendation pretty much anyone can make about a non-profit.

    A few years ago, I met and briefly photographed some volunteers and rescued birds at the WINOOR area at Scottish Day at Old Westbury Gardens. WINOOR helps fill such an important wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in our Long Island and beyond area.

    For Years I’ve looked forward to receiving new post of your blog – with its heart & coverage. Long Beach government would be wise to think outside the sandbox, recognize you as the Long Beach ambassador you already are, and include link to “Leee By The Sea” on their site. – Ann


  3. Cathy,

    Glad you liked reading my blog. With so much negative “stuff” happening in this world, I find it a pleasure to let others know about the caring people among us too.

    Cheryl and I were happy to donate to your WINORR fund and sincerely hope that many others join in helping you help our little creatures.

    We wish you continued success in your work and especially…turning the ugliness of ignorance around through education.

    Be well,


  4. Mary,
    Thank you for those kind words. Yes, the fuzzballs are lucky to have such a legion of bird lovers on Long Beach sands…especially oystercatcher lovers.

    But we realize the WE are more lucky than the oystercatchers, having them nest right in front of our boardwalk balcony to witness their progress.

    However, the season is fraught with drama, as evidenced in the recent gull attack in this post. But we were fortunate too to have WINORR come to our rescue.

    Thanks again for the kind words,


  5. Thank you for your passion Lee!! I enjoyed reading your Blog. Thank you for the kind words and shout out to our organization. Also thank you in advance for your very kind donation and the donations from your followers. We use 100 percent of the donations to the care of all of our wildlife patients. Thank you again!!! Sincerely Cathy Horvath

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wowie! What a great blog! Those fuzz balls don’t know how lucky they are with you, Cathy, and others watching their backs.


  7. Thank you Lee for sharing this story. I am so taken with Cathy and what she does for these amazing animals. I am happy to donate to her cause and share this story for all to see.


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