Sunday, September 20, 2020

Breezy Point - Backroads and Beyond

With the season turning towards fall the Frenchman and I migrate like birds back to the open spaces of Fort Tilden and Breezy Point, situated near the end of the long and skinny Rockaway barrier beach (the very end is a very gated, very white community* - to reach the point itself we use our legs, walking along the beach). 

[*Since I posted this the New York Times wrote about Breezy Point's Trump enclave.]

The reason we go back now is simple: we're allowed to park in the fisherperson's lot, again. After June 15th and before September 15th you need a permit (and to obtain it you have to show up at the permit office with a fishing rod). 

I walked alone on the deserted backroads, which were fragrant with autumn clematis in its glory. The roads are the abandoned infrastructure of a Cold War nuclear missile base - ponder that. The Frenchman left in the opposite direction, on his five-mile run along the low-tide beach while his camera gear waited for him in the car.  

Autumn pokeweed berries have been eaten from their fuchsia panicles by transiting migratory birds (as much as gardeners may dislike poke - Phytolacca americana - it is an important and native food for birds; and humans can eat the cooked spring time shoots - see Forage, Harvest, Feast for recipes and more detailed information).

In mid-walk my phone rang, which it never does. Frenchman. Birds on beach! Big birds! Beautiful wings, red beaks! They sounded like skimmers. He was running back, fast, to the car for his new camera. I about-faced and headed towards him. We met on the beach and speedwalked back out to the point, into the bright western sun.

On our way we passed little furries of piping plovers sanderlings [see comments].

I love how they scurry back and forth, pursuing the edges of the advancing and retreating water.

And at last, after a mile-and-a-half or so, the big birds that had excited the Frenchman: beautiful black skimmers in flocks on the sand. I have only ever seen one bird at a time. They all pointed neatly into the wind. Summer residents up the Northeast coast, they are also on their way south as the weather chills.

Cars are allowed on this beach, with permits. With dwindling safe habitats for shorebirds, and increasing pressure on their populations, I have never understood this. Shoreline ecology is exceptionally fragile. Tire treads just kill it. If you want to fish, walk.

Conservation should be at the forefront of any administration's funding. Instead, it is a distant afterthought.

On our more sedate walk back we were treated to the extremes of human behaviour. This lone fisherperson wearing their mask.  

And a hundred yards behind him: A massive, unmasked, packed-like-sardines gathering of humans at the Silver Gull Beach Club (which lies at the eastern end of the gated Breezy Point community). Do they all have COVID-resistance? Are their parents or grandparents and children and friends immune? What about their colleagues at work? What about the staff working there? 

Is this what is meant by a superspreader event

We didn't even like walking downwind of them.

(Honey, is that a tickle in my throat?)

And that's all, folks (or perhaps the beginning, for some). 



  1. The sodding great Jeep on the beach and all those silly people at the Club annoyed me.
    But your pictures lifted my spirit!
    Our summer visitors are starting to show up here; not many yet, but I keep listening for new arrivals.

  2. Your Piping Plovers look more like Sanderlings. Love those Skimmers although I've never seen them in real life. And definitely stay up wind from big gatherings.

  3. Lovely! Individual people here seem to be very good about wearing masks, but groups not so much. I feel similar to you a few weeks ago...Covid, politics...death...its all too much.


  4. "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt". What are people thinking?

  5. Sanderlings! "pursuing the edges of the advancing and retreating water" A trusted and very wise friend described me as someone who walks along the ocean always close to the water's edge. I am glad I now have an even more beautiful association when thinking of her description. Did you know my surname is Sander?

  6. While temporarily suspending air travel did nothing to reduce climate change it had one positive side effect. Within a few months migrating birds came back to nesting grounds they had avoided.


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