Sometimes you do stupid things for love.
I love birds, and I especially love seeing birds I haven’t seen before. I also love the Inimitable Todd. IT loves owls, including Snowy Owls. Snowy Owls love lemmings, and when they can’t get enough of those, they love anything that’s made of meat and lives in a relatively isolated area without too much vegetation. Somehow, when you boil it all down, this twisted love triangle, quadrangle, or whatever it is added up to me making another attempt on Jones Beach by bike.
This time, armed with foreknowledge, we took the LIRR to the nearest station. Merrily, energetically even, we biked out along the bike path. And this time, when we found the bike path was closed, we had a cunning plan.
And by “we” I mean “Inimitable Todd”. And by “cunning” I mean “Damn near suicidal.”
Locking up the bikes, we crossed the four lanes of traffic, dense and fast, the Robert Moses dream come true. Then we walked across the bridge along the footpath on the other side. At the toll plaza, we went down to the shore, only to find that that shore was in many ways less passable than the shoulder; later, seemingly much later, we stumbled over a plastic decoy’s head in an endless, shadowed salt marsh, and I adopted it. I probably should have named it Willard. In fact, what the hell, as of right now, the decoy head’s name is Willard. Willard is a Canada Goose, only not really, but Canada Geese are apparently supposed to think he’s a Canada Goose. We pick him up and take him along, although he does not smell particularly good.
Sometime later. We’re in water up to our toes. There are quite a few Common Mergansers on the water, and assorted Gulls.
Sometime later. We try heading uphill, which should work but it doesn’t. Now we’re in water up to our ankles and brush above our heads. There are thorns. The sun, when we can see it, is slanting down at a 45 degree angle.
Sometime later. We’re at the side of the road. We’re eating apples and having a… spirited discussion about whether I got the directions right. We’ve walked three miles and spotted Ruddy Turnstones picking at the pier at Field 10. Later I’ll learn that there were White-winged Crossbills at the Coast Guard station we just passed, but although I’ve been scanning the pines all day I will not spot them.
Sometime later. The Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center. We go out on the boardwalk. A jogger tells us about how the owl flew right past him one day. As he’s speaking, my eyes lock on a Northern Harrier cruising over the dunes behind him. I think he thinks I’m rude. I don’t care. The Harrier is another immature.
A little later. Coming off the boardwalk, we spot a cluster of people staring in one direction. I approach them. Out on the dunes, the Owl, barely visible, sleeps the sleep of the righteous.
Sometime later. The sun sets. Horned Larks feed invisibly, their songs trickling over the dunes. The Owl stretches one wing, then the other. The sun has set. The Owl flies out to the north. A nice man whose name I did not catch, an older gentlemen who counts ducks for the Audubon Society and once pedaled across the country with his daughter, gives us a ride back to the bikes.
Sometime later. The Steelers have beaten the Cardinals, but we are home and safe.