It’s prime bird-watching season on Long Island — time to join the flock of field-guide and binocular-wielding bird-watchers heading out for a gander at feathered friends from near and far.
With spring on the horizon, dozens of guided bird walks are being sponsored by local Audubon Societies and New York State Parks. They’re taking advantage of the extraordinary variety of bird species — both native and migratory — twittering, quacking and flapping around nature preserves from the South Shore to the East End.
“People have no idea of the diversity of the waterfowl species in the winter,” says Bob Grover, 65, of West Islip, an ecologist who leads bird walks for the Great South Bay Audubon Society. Grover says he expects “15 or 16 will be birds we don’t see year-round” on his March 5 “duck walk.”
The nearby ocean and the region’s ponds, lakes, woods and open farmland make Long Island “one of the better places in the world to be a regular day-to-day-type birder,” says Ken Thompson, 74, of Sayville, field trip coordinator for Great South Bay Audubon Society. He co-leads an April 23 hike with Grover at Connetquot River State Park.
Here are upcoming bird walks open to both seasoned bird-watchers and fledglings who can’t tell a merganser from a white-breasted nuthatch.
Bob Laskowski Memorial Duck Walk (Great South Bay Audubon Society)
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 a.m. March 5, meet at Brookwood Hall, Islip Town Park, East Islip.
INFO 516-318-8536, gsbas.org
An auto caravan explores seven or eight different locations including Capri Lake in West Islip, for freshwater species such as scaup, hooded mergansers, shovelers and grebes. Novices will learn how to identify bird species by unique characteristics known as field marks. “There’s a 50-50 chance we’ll see a loon or two,” says Grover, who will bring his spotting scope for close-up looks.
Eastern Long Island Audubon Society Nature Walk
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 a.m. March 5, Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, 2595 Noyack Rd., North Sea. Meet in the refuge parking lot.
INFO 516-662-7751, easternlongislandaudubonsociety.org
Take a mile to a mile-and-a-half walk, depending on ground conditions, through a woodsy habitat favored by white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpeckers and chickadees. Walk leader and Audubon Society member Eileen Schwinn of East Quogue supplies birdseed for hand-feeding the friendly little chickadees.
Book Talk and Walk About With Lane and Joan
WHEN | WHERE 1:30 p.m. March 20, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, Smithtown. Registration required.
INFO 631-265-1054, parks.ny.gov
ADMISSION $4 ($3 ages 12 and younger)
Lane Smith and Joan McCabe, biologists and nature lovers from Centereach, will discuss “The House Of Owls” by Tony Angell, then lead a trail walk through a park known for its nocturnal owl population.
Great South Bay Audubon Society Nature Walk
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 a.m. April 23, Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale. Meet in the parking field.
INFO 516-318-8536, 631-612-8028, gsbas.org
ADMISSION $8 parking
Thompson and Grover lead an eclectic 2-mile walk on park trails, trying to spy pine warblers, chickadees, titmice and bluebirds. Walkers can ask just about “anything that’s a part of nature” — not just birds but also plants and butterflies, Thompson says.
Birding and Breakfast
WHEN | WHERE 8-11:30 a.m. May 8, Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale.
INFO 631-581-1005, friendsofconnetquot.org
ADMISSION $4, $8 parking
Enjoy a continental breakfast, listen to an introduction to bird identification, then walk the preserve to find and identify migrating and resident birds.