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Saturday beach walk is for the birds

Eileen Gerle points out birds during a walk

Eileen Gerle points out birds during a walk a West Meadow Beach Saturday morning. (March, 26, 2011) Credit: Jasmin Frankel

Nine-year-old Max Haegele of Stony Brook spent two hours of his Saturday morning in the chilly air at West Meadow Beach with a pair of binoculars. He was searching for birds as he strolled down Trustees Road, adjacent to the beach, as part of a bird-watching walk.

While walking on the 1-mile path, Max and the others saw about a dozen species of birds.

“My favorite birds are mourning doves, cardinals, black-capped chickadee and Harris’ hawks,” he said after he listed all the birds he saw on the walk.

The walk, which is held at least once a month, is led by environmental educator Eileen Gerle, who lives in a cottage right on the beach. She began the walks two years ago with the help of the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“I find it really exciting finding new birds,” said Gerle, who also enjoys sharing what she has found.

Setauket resident Patrick Conlisk, 61, began watching birds about 10 years ago. The most unique bird he has ever seen on Gerle's walk was a merlin, from the falconidae family.

“With these walks we notice a lot more birds than we would normally see,” said Conlisk.

Different birds come during different seasons, which is why the tour lasts year-round. With 700 species of birds in the United States and 10,000 types worldwide, Gerle says, “No matter where you go you will always find a bird.”

For those who want to bird-watch, Gerle said it is important to be prepared.

“You will need a good pair of shoes, a good bird guide and a good pair of binoculars,” she said.

The next tour at West Meadow Beach will be on April 9 at 9 a.m. The tour is free for Town of Brookhaven residents and $1 for non-residents. To reserve a spot or for further information, contact Gerle at 631-751-7863 or at

Photo: Environmental educator Eileen Gerle points out birds during a Saturday morning walk at West Meadow Beach. (March 26, 2011)

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