The Coyotes are Coming!

Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Presents:

The Coyotes are Coming! with Mike Bottini

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 – 7:00 PM

Cold Spring Harbor Library: 95 Harbor Road (Rt 25A), Cold Spring Harbor

The coyote (Canis latrans) has greatly expanded its range in North America over the last century, and it is now found in every state except Hawaii and every Canadian province. Long Island is now one of the few large land masses in the continental U.S. without a breeding population of coyotes. But wildlife biologists think that will change soon.

A breeding population of coyotes has been established in the Bronx near Long Island’s western end and on Fishers Island (technically the Town of Southold, Suffolk County), near Long Island’s eastern end, for some years. Individual coyotes have been residing in Queens since 2009, and on the south fork of Suffolk County since 2013.

Assuming that Long Island will have a breeding population of coyotes in the near future, this presents a unique opportunity. This presentation will discuss the goals of the Long Island Coyote Study Group, as well as some interesting facts about the extremely adaptable creature.

Mike Bottini is a veteran naturalist, outdoor educator, and environmental consultant. After completing graduate studies in wildlife ecology at the University of British Columbia, Mike worked for fourteen years at the Group for the South Fork, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization. He has taught field ecology, environmental  science, and natural history courses at St. Lawrence University, Southampton College, and CUNY, has published three books, and is an award-winning columnist. Mike’s wildlife research studies have included elk, spotted and tiger salamanders, spotted turtles, piping plovers, and river otters. At St. Lawrence, he designed and taught Winter Field Ecology, and has slept in igloos and snow caves in the mountains of New England, Colorado, Scotland, Labrador and Baffin Island. He continues to introduce people to the outdoors through his field naturalist classes, nature walks, and paddling trips.

All meetings are free and open to the public!

Please check Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon’s website for updates.

Spring Colors

Shades of beach greens amidst a foggy backdrop.
Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) fledgeling camouflaged in the backyard leaf litter.
Piping plover’s (Charadrius melodus) full clutch of speckled eggs blend in nicely with surrounding sand, rocks and shells.
Oldfield toadflax (Linaria canadensis) thrives in a back dune and adds small spashes of blue and purple.
Baltimore oriole’s (Icterus galbula) striking orange contrasts a crabapple tree in bloom.

Nissequogue River Paddle: Signs of Spring

Last Saturday we had perfect weather and an incoming tide for a great paddle up the Nissequogue River from Nissequogue River State Park (just upstream of the outlet to Long Island Sound) to the take-out on Rte. 25A near “The Bull.” Most of the riverside vegetation showed some tint of green as leaf buds are swelling and unfurling, and tracks of the horseshoe crab (but no eggs) were found at one beach stop.  Lots of brant and lesser yellowlegs stopping to feed en route to their nesting sites in northern Canada, and a couple of great and snowy egrets…both local nesters.  Upstream, where the water was less saline, we encountered several large snapping turtles basking in the shallows.

Muskrats In Long Pond


Two muskrats busy in Long Pond as the sun sets in early spring.
Two muskrats busy in Long Pond as the sun begins to set in early spring:  Note the long, scaly tail used for swimming.

Despite its smaller size, the muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) can easily be mistaken for a beaver (Castor canadensis) or river otter (Lontra canadensis), as all are semi-aquatic mammals often seen in the water. Without a scale, all three look very similar while swimming with nose, eyes and ears streamlined with the surface of the water; make a note of its tail structure and swimming habits to help determine the species. Also note that the beaver and river otter are chiefly nocturnal and not often seen during the daytime.

The muskrat can easily be distinguished by its long, scaly, black tail which is slightly flattened from side to side and used propel itself through the water. In contrast, the beaver  has a wide scaly tail which is flattened from top to bottom (shaped like a paddle) and is often heard slapping its tail against the water while diving. The river otter can appear somewhat playful in the water, diving often to catch fish, and is a more efficient swimmer with a long, thick and tapering, furred tail which is used in combination with its hind legs and semi-webbed feet in an undulating swimming motion. Like the otter, muskrats will dive beneath the surface to collect food such as aquatic vegetation as well as shellfish, frogs and sometimes fish.

Muscrat carrying vegetation
Muskrat carrying vegetation to an underwater entrance to its house on Long Pond in April

Muskrats are slower swimmers and generally travel in direct lines to and from their 2-3ft tall conical houses made of marsh vegetation. Entrances to these houses are general sometimes underwater, so don’t be surprised if you see them dive beneath the surface several meters before reaching the shoreline.

Background on the Piping Plover and Some Thoughts on Shared Territories

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small shorebird that nests on mostly sandy and somewhat barren beaches with some pebbles, shells, scattered beach grass and small plants. Their nests are located above the mean high tide mark and consist of small indented “scrapes” in the sand while the eggs blend in closely with the landscape, resembling small speckled stones. They tend to avoid nesting in areas with a lot of human activity, although they have been known to nest in close proximity to heavy recreational use areas. Major threats to eggs and young chicks are predators such as crows and foxes as well as human activities such as off-road vehicles, pedestrians and unleashed dogs. A major threat to the species is a general loss of nesting habitat mostly due to human development. Tides and storm surges are continuing to overwash higher elevations on our coasts due to rising sea levels and greater storm surges. What would be newly created nesting habitat for nesting shorebirds (replacing older areas, now inaccesible due to tidal inundation), is now restricted by existing development along our shorelines.

Every spring, piping plovers return to the sandy beaches of Long Island to nest (most birds even returning to the same beaches each year). The East End is known for its beautiful beaches, and between us (humans) and the birds, there is only so much beach to go around during the summer months. Because the species is federally endangered and threatened in New York State, specific protection of their nesting habitat is required. Sharing these valuable resources (our beaches) is a fair option for us to provide these beach nesting shorebirds, and we do this each year by giving up a portion of our beaches during the nesting season (April through August). By offering this shared space, we are also actively respecting and maintaining the integrity of our natural landscapes on which we also inherently depend. In the end, we are inspiring a better living environment for all of us!

A pair of piping plover resting in the sand at Louse Point in East Hampton in late March.
Well camouflaged, a pair of piping plovers rest in the sand at Louse Point in East Hampton last week.

March 16, 2013 – First sign of piping plover this season on Shinnecock Bay:


March 20 2013 – First sighting of piping plover this season on Shinnecock Bay:


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