Boardwalk Eyes

“If you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine.” Frederico Fellini

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What is our purpose here, on this globe? Is it to evolve, to change, in tiny incremental steps?  If so, maybe we need to honor growth opportunities that present themselves.

We can hurl titanium to distant planets and beyond, but can we raise our consciousness to the height of sand mounds?


They’ve been coming to Long Beach shores each spring to nest and feed. But American oystercatchers have not had it easy, especially one pair we’ve observed of late.

In 2016 a pair of oystercatchers nested at the West end of Long Beach, NY. But a nor’easter brought a rogue tide that overwashed the nest. Anne Bickford, a concerned shorebird lover, moved the eggs from the tidal wash and placed them back just about where they originally were. The pair re-sat the eggs:


The nest after the tidal overwash. Note tidal wash debris. Photo by Anne Bickford

Normally these eggs take 28 days to hatch but as spring turned to summer the pair sat on ocean-chilled inert eggs.

By mid-July, more than ninety days later, one egg was left intact. My research suggested these were adolescent oystercatchers that might not have realized there was no heartbeat in the eggs, eggs that should have heartbeats. So the young inexperienced birds just sat and sat on a nonviable egg, in the summer heat.


The Oystercatcher, in the hot sun, still sitting on her last remaining egg, July 12, 2016

I wrote in this blog at that time that I was tempted to destroy the egg myself but resisted because of prohibitions of wildlife laws. I posted my thoughts and the next day the nest was gone.

Oystercatchers are known to be faithful to their mates and their territories. It does seem that the same pair returns to the same West nest area and similar returns are reported elsewhere.

Long Beach was inundated with the tidal surge of the notorious storm, Sandy. These past few years much work has been done to protect our homes from future surges. But with the ongoing shore restoration, the challenge to the oystercatchers for a safe nest has been evident. 

Last spring a pair set up as far from the surf as it could but doing so left it snug-up to the construction access road the Corps set up. All day long, continuous rumbling steel thundered past the nesting shorebirds.


But they would not desert their nest area. The pair survived that mechanical menace but was overwhelmed by a gull attack. See:

This year as the Army Corps of Engineers was about to clean up its winter work for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend an interesting development ensued.

I was informed by oystercatcher lover, Anne Bickford, that a pair of oystercatchers had set up their nest atop the mounds of sand at the far west end of the beach. These mounds, she had learned, were to be taken down in the beach clearing process for the beach’s opening day. 

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I took a bike ride with my camera and sure enough, aided by a brick and a stick marker placed by Anne, I spotted, way atop the sand pile, an oystercatcher on top of her eggs.

She was apparently as far from a rogue tide as she could be.


Oystercatcher nest sits high above the incoming tide


But maybe not far enough from the perils of a rogue Dept of Interior memorandum.

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Oystercatcher mom about to sit on speckled eggs

I emailed the Long Beach Commissioner of Public Works, John Mirando, explaining the situation and asking for his help in protecting the shorebirds. I reminded him that it is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for anyone to remove or move nests of migratory birds even if they are in an inconvenient location.

Mr. Mirando informed me, “…a recent Memorandum from the US Department of the Interior dated December 22, 2017, clearly states that otherwise lawful activities ( such as the work on our beaches) which accidentally kill nongame migratory birds ( like the oystercatchers) during their operations are not in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.”

But he said he would forward my concerns to the Dept of Env. Conservation who oversee the work of the Army Corps of Engineers. He also said he hoped they would take “…the appropriate measures to protect our wildlife and at the same time return our beaches to normal use by Memorial Day.”

Very soon after I received an email from the above beach restoration authorities that “The contractor will keep a perimeter” around the nesting sand pile “… until the nesting is completed.”

So right now, as I post this on Mothers Day weekend, even though sand removal continues on sand mounds further west, the mound of our nesting oystercatchers are safe.


Oystercatcher mate maintains a defensive perimeter against suspect photog while keeping a yellow machine at bay

We shorebird lovers are delighted that common sense, compassion, and conservation prevailed. And that Long Beach’s shore can shine as an example of beach restoration in tune with beach conservation.

Sadly, I further learned that there is a bill before Congress that would make this, as some call it, “damn” bird-killing memorandum, permanent. That would mean that future works of almost any kind would put American shorebirds at deadly risk by this… damnorendum.

Bird lovers may want to contact their representatives and encourage them to vote against this, “Secure American Energy Act.” Its enactment would only lead to the needless killing of vulnerable shorebirds. 

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A past season’s hatchling navigating track of yellow machines.

Remember when we saw things with innocent eyes? How impressionable we were? How what we saw tended to become our values? I’ve seen eyes wide in amazement, young eyes, peering above, sometimes through, our boardwalk railings, watching yellow machines perform magic in restoring our storm-torn shore.


This binocular mime can see so much better now


We are delighted to show our youngsters how we’ve progressed technologically. Boulder tonnage hoisted like mere marshmallows, then lowered to form new jetties…all to protect us, to protect our homes, our nests.


But, would we want these young eyes at the railing to see the same yellow machinery tear down these piles of sand, destroying the blossoming life atop those mounds?


Would we be proud of this “progress” in conservation? Perhaps not.

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We have evolved in our technological capacities, we can build, we can rebuild, we’re okay there. But maybe we need growth in other capacities. We can move boulders easily, we can hurl titanium to Mars. Can we move ourselves, our consciousness, from old world habits to new enlightened heights?

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On this globe, on this grain of sand in the cosmos, at this tiny city by the sea, Long Beach, NY, our young can now witness a distinct example of humankind’s evolution.

Important shore work had to be done, yes, but it was achieved by working around another important project, other life. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that we are evolving. We’ve shown we honor this tiny fuzzy life…because we are life.

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Be well,




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