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Even During Baseball Season, Very Little Bunting(s)

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For the birdsBy Brian Kluepfel

We’re in the death throes of an overly-hot start to August, but sometimes one just needs to get outside.

Even in the fiercest of heat, birds are out there, going on with their un-airconditioned lives. So I took to the trails and grasslands of Mariandale on Sunday morning.  

I did have a bird in mind. My neighbors have lately spotted an Indigo Bunting in the area, and I know where it may be. However, recent walks have yielded no sightings.

This is one of the more striking birds you might see in the New York area, a small splash of expressive cobalt hidden among some shrubbery or atop a telephone wire; if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, it may indeed be the lovely bunting. (I speak only for the brightly-hued male buntings; the females are a plainer brown shade.)  

I attempted to stay in the shade on an oppressively hot morning, and mostly succeeded. Being a bit tired during a birding expedition is actually a good thing –you stop, you look, you listen. Taking in all the sights and sounds of a wooded pathway can be quite the cure-all; I should ditch my headphones more often, to be honest.  

It’s not only the birdsong which pricks my senses. I’ve been startled by deer, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs and all manner of other creatures on my walks. This hot, sticky weather seems to be prime butterfly season, too, and I’ve counted at least four species this week.  

The forest’s small movement yields common local birds: the mewling of an immature grey catbird; the plaintive teakettle of an animated Carolina wren, sassy upturned tail flicking up and down in the morning sunlight; the ever-present yet noble American robin flashing a bit of orange chest as it crosses the path; the underappreciated beauty of a female northern cardinal, lacking the crimson robe of its male counterpart but with a “warm, red-tinged brown” (according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) that’s irresistible in its own fashion.  

In the sunny skies above there is some action: the broad wingspan of nature’s cleanup crew, a pair of black vultures. Some view these carrion eaters with revulsion, but I find beauty in their unhurried, circular flight and circumspect bearing, nobility and efficiency in eating dead animals before they rot, stink and carry potential disease to other beings.  

Out on the majestic river that runs two ways is a huge freighter, perhaps bound for Albany or another Hudson port. Near its side flaps the telltale black-and-white “M” flapping of an osprey. No matter how many times I see one – often with a fish in its talons – I’m brought back to teenage sojourns to the Gulf Coast of Florida and my discovery of this magnificent fishing machine (Common name: fish hawk).  

Later in the day, because the vultures haven’t stopped by our place yet, we bring our own compost up to Cedar Lane Park and walk around the pond. A quick survey of the area yields movement in the tallest treetops and a memorable three-note song; it’s a couple of eastern wood pewees flycatching on this buggy, humid night.  

No ducks on the pond, nor herons. Not an indigo bunting in sight, either. But a day is what you make of it, and today was a good day for birds in Ossining.  

Brian Kluepfel is a member of the Saw Mill River Audubon and encourages you to join their activities and come to their annual dinner at Crabtree’s Kittle House on Sept. 9. Local author Scott Craven will be discussing his new book, “Croton Point Park: Westchester’s Jewel on the Hudson.”

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