Birding the Long Island barrier beach this morning was poignant for Pat and me. 
Having just lost a singular mentor, Tony Lauro, we were especially tuned in to 
appreciating the company of many newer friends, including some just now 
learning the barrier beach magic, with us.

We anticipated a flight this morning based on simple experience—it’s late 
August, and a cold front had finally broken a prolonged sultry period of hot, 
humid weather with southwesterly winds. All the radar data and meteorological 
minutiae acknowledged, we knew anyway that birds would be moving, and so it was.

If anything, the flight was slower than we had hoped—especially in terms of 
nocturnal, Neotropical migrants. Part of the problem was the premature swing to 
northeast from northwest winds—seemingly the prevalent pattern after cold 
fronts in recent years—which disrupts the usual east to west morning flight 
dynamic for many species.

But there were, as always, things to be learned. Twenty-four (or more) 
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers launching their tiny selves from east to west with 
personality were far more than I’ve ever seen here in a day, but warblers and 
other Neotropicals were fewer than expected. The swallows, counted in good 
numbers yesterday, continued pressing westward, and these took on a good 
portion of the attention of the assembled talent (nine people at the Field 2 
toll booths).

I couldn’t help but remember the immense flight that led Pat and me to discover 
our now go-to vantage near the Field 2 toll booths, back on 10 May 2002. On 
that morning, overwhelmed by a Tadoussacian blitz of Neotropicals, we hunted 
around until we found the sweet spot for surveying the east to west flux. In 
those early days of digital connectivity, we managed to get Manny Levine down 
to Jones Beach and Joan Quinlan and Tony Lauro to join us at the tolls.

As it happened, Joan was with us on Thursday night, with Manny’s widow Mickey, 
in Baldwin, celebrating Mickey's 96th birthday, when we learned of Tony’s 
passing. The point is, having taught us how to bird the barrier beach, Tony 
went on to learn from us, too, and the process continues.

Besides the Gnatscratchers, our highlights this morning were a very impressive 
tally of 39 Cliff Swallows passing east to west, and a count of 71 Royal Terns 
on the inlet bars—by far the most I’ve ever seen here in Fire Island Inlet.

Birds will migrate tonight, too.

Shai Mitra & Patricia Lindsay
Bay Shore


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