Written by Chris Boyle, email@example.com Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:00
After an absence from the local scene for many years, an unusual Long Island resident has slowly been making his presence felt recently- the turkey vulture, a large avian resembling an eagle or hawk.
Recently spotted in areas such as Bellmore and Hicksville, the turkey vulture has some residents expressing concern; most of that concern simply springs from the fact that most people don’t actually know a great deal about these mysterious birds.Hicksville resident Pat Monnia spotted a turkey vulture on her block recently, and was surprised to see the large, out-of-place bird in her neighborhood. She immediately contacted the Hicksville Illustrated News regarding her sighting.
“Over a week ago right on my corner in Hicksville I saw a huge turkey vulture eating a dead squirrel...it was quite disgusting, but I couldn’t believe I saw this bird here,” she said. “I was in my car and took lots of pictures with my phone, I actually put it on my Facebook page with pictures because I couldn’t believe it. I was close and it was not afraid of me in the least. Now, people are posting to me that there was an article somewhere they were spotted in Bellmore. Are they a threat to little animals, dogs and kids?”
Luckily, her concerns, while perfectly valid, are nonetheless unfounded; according to Dennis Fleury, education director at Tackapausha Museum and Preserve in Seaford, these unusual creatures, while essentially meat-eaters, pose no threat to most living things.
“Turkey vultures are harmless to people, and they would be absolutely no threat to pets like cats or dogs,” he said. “Cats would put up too much of a fight...the turkey vulture wouldn’t want to mess with them. And they especially wouldn’t mess with the dogs...turkey vulture very skittish.”
Fleury explained that turkey vultures, while being related to birds that are considered great hunters, are themselves not that accomplished when it comes to finding their meals.
“Some people consider them a bird of prey, as they’re related to eagles, owls, falcons, and hawks,” he said. “But there are others in the ornithological societies that don’t, because while they do eat meat, they primarily eat carrion. Many consider them scavengers, as they don’t really hunt and kill...but if they came across a dead squirrel or deer in the Pine Barrens or somewhere, they’ll be all over it.”
To this end, Fleury said that the turkey vulture depends upon a highly-developed sense of smell to track down and locate its major food source.
“They have a specialized olfactory system that allows them to smell decaying carrion from over a mile away,” he said. “So if there’s something that’s dead in the woods and it’s releasing gas from decomposition, they’re able to detect and target it, then fly there and eat it.”
If there is a general lack of carrion to scavenge, Fleury said, the turkey vulture will either move to another area and search for more, or attempt to prey upon very small living creatures such as mice or songbirds; preferably ones that are already injured.
“They’re cagey, but they’re also opportunists,” he said. “So, they’re really not going to spend a whole lot of time hunting.”
Fleury said that, while turkey vultures may have possibly been more common in the Long Island area many decades ago, man’s encroachment into their territory with insecticides likely contributed to their relative scarcity in the area over the years.
“Once DDT came into the environment in the 20th century, all of the Bird of Prey populations declined...so, if there were turkey vultures here on Long Island, as the DDT built up in the ecosystem, they began to disappear,” he said. “There weren’t seen much here between the 1970s and the 1990s.”
“Then, in the 1990s, we began to get a couple of reports here and there,” Fleury continued. “But now, they’re breeding in the Pine Barrens region in West Hampton, as well as other areas...they’re cropping up, and there’s a nice, steadily-growing population of them. Sometimes you seem them flying in circles out east...their big, black wings are very distinctive.”
However, while indigenous more towards eastern Long Island, Fleury said that there are a number of reasons as to why turkey vultures have been popping up elsewhere recently.
“One, they’re probably moving around, just looking for food,” he said. “Also, this is migration season, so you might be getting turkey vultures that are coming from Connecticut heading south. Also, after Hurricane Sandy, we got reports of black vultures from New Jersey being blown around in the storm and ending up on the South Shore of Long Island...whenever there’s a weather disturbance, they usually get out of range, so to speak.”
Turkey vultures appear to be such a recent phenomenon on Long Island that neither the Towns of Hempstead or Oyster Bay were even aware of them; Town of Oyster Bay Public Information Office representative Brian Devine said that the increased sightings of the large avian creatures wasn’t something that had been called to the Town’s attention as of yet.
“I’ll be honest, up until this moment I’ve never even heard of a turkey vulture,” he said. “We haven’t gotten any reports of them being an issue in Oyster Bay at all.”
If someone encounters a turkey vulture, Fleury said that, despite their low risk factor, residents should treat them just as they would any other wild animal and give them a wide berth.
“They’re probably not afraid of people...they haven’t had much interaction with humans, which is probably why they might not walk away if confronted,” he said. “They’ve just creatures on the fringe of society, eating the waste of animals, and they’re totally harmless.”
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
Although Fuel Cafe is six years old, it's been a work in progress since new owners took over one-and one-half years ago. The main part of the cafe was recently redecorated and an adjoining room is soon to open. And though there's been several changes, the concept remains the same—this is a place where healthy and hearty food is served. The food is grilled or baked, never fried, and they do not use microwaves so everything is made to order.
With a menu of over 170 items and dozens of combinations of meats, vegetables, bread and more, be prepared to do a lot of reading to figure out what your meal will be.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
For the past six months, Hicksville resident Chris Collins has spent his days digging for fossils and his nights falling asleep to the sound of vervet monkeys and coyotes. As a teacher’s assistant at the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) in Kenya, Collins got a firsthand look at what it was like to live like an anthropologist.
Collins got his first taste of Turkana last year, as a student at the TBI field school which was founded by Stony Brook University and paleoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey. As a student, Collins spent four months learning about archeology, paleontology, geology, ecology and human evolution. What started as a study abroad experience, turned into a life changing experience as Collins soon found himself homesick for Africa.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
As they come off their most successful season in 30 years, the Hicksville Boys basketball team faces a challenge in replicating last year's success. The 2012-13 season saw the Comets compile a 15-5 record and had their season ending in the Nassau County semifinals to rival Baldwin. According to Head Coach Phil Essigman, who is entering his 14th season with the varsity team, the team will feature only two returning players from last season. Last year’s team was incredibly deep and experienced and it is part of the “rollercoaster”, as he described it, of high school sports for teams to go through periods of grooming inexperienced players.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:00
Hicksville’s Mary-Jo Depaoli, and Nao Joe scored with awards on Sunday, November 17 in the 5th annual Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer, a 5 Kilometer road race that started and finished at Syosset-Woodbury Community Park.Depaoli crossed the finish line with a time of 23:01, earning her second place honors in the women’s 35-39 age group, and Joe finished the race with a time of 28:36, to earn third place in the women’s 30-34 age group, A record breaking total of 414 runners and walkers crossed the finish line.
The race was held by the Town of Oyster Bay and raised money to help in the fight against prostate cancer. Free prostate cancer screenings were offered on-site, as well as informative urology and men’s health exhibits, refreshments and prizes for participants.