Fishing Machine

This flexible-necked, goose-sized bird is a very efficient fishing machine. From the surface, it dives under water and uses its large webbed feet to paddle furiously while it uses its stiff broad tail as a rudder. It snags fish in its long slender hooked bill equipped with sharp serrated mandibles for a hold-fast grip.

Because it doesn’t have water-repellent feathers it must air dry its feathers by spreading its wings while standing upright on a perch. This activity is frequently observed at docks and piers along Long Island’s bays.

The Atlantic coast cormorants include the great cormorant and the double-crested cormorant.
Long Island is the southern-most winter range of the great cormorant. Some double-crested cormorants can be found in our area year-round as their northern-most winter range is Long Island and during the other seasons they are fairly common.

The double-crested cormorant adult, Phalacrocorax auritus, is about 30 inches in length and has a wing span almost double that length. It is black except for an orange throat pouch above its long flexible neck. Its two curly plumed crests, as per its name, are not often visible. The immature double-crested has a white breast.

All cormorants hold their bills in an upward slant while swimming on the surface of the water.
Their only voice is a guttural grunt. Cormorants are social birds and generally nest in communities. Sometimes they fish in groups using a herding technique to move a school of fish to shallow water where snagging the fish becomes simplified.

To take flight, they must paddle across the water’s surface to gain enough momentum. When migrating, cormorants utilize a V-formation like geese, but unlike geese they remain silent.

The increased presence of cormorants in our area is a good news/bad news issue. The good news is that any increase in their population generally indicates that the water quality has improved. Cormorant reproductive capabilities are severely impaired by the presence of pollutants in the water. More cormorants usually means cleaner water.

However, the down side of an increased cormorant population is that they are such voracious feeders and efficient anglers that the bait fishing and sport fishing people are concerned.

Studies do show that the cormorant diet is mostly small non-commercial fish, with sport fish representing only two percent. But, they do compete with larger sport fish for food and they definitely will take large quantities of small bait fish. Further, cormorants also damage vegetation and can cause bank erosion along the bay side.

Swallow Mosquito Eaters

Swallows are very popular summer visitors to Long Island. Aside from their beauty and grace they are natural weapons in the battle against the mosquito. From the family of passerine birds, swallows are distinguished by their long pointed wings. They have small legs and feet. And, they have round heads with short bills with wide mouths, well designed for feeding on flying insects. They are almost totally insectivorous, eating flies, mosquitoes and gnats.

Swallows are swift and graceful fliers, eating and drinking on the fly. It has been estimated that a swallow may cover 600 miles per day gathering food for its nestlings. All swallows migrate only by day and they feed on insects as they travel, thereby enabling them to make great distances each day. They are social birds, traveling in flocks and in, some cases, nesting in colonies. They gather in huge flocks, which can include more that one variety of swallow, in late summer and by the end of September they vacate their northern breeding area.

There are three varieties of swallows common in our area: the barn swallow, the tree swallow and the purple martin.

The barn swallow is the most common swallow, world wide. It is a long-distance migrant that breeds in the northern hemisphere and winters in the southern hemisphere, sometimes as far south as Argentina. Most barn swallows nest in man-made structures, where they construct a mud and grass cup, reinforced with feathers and soft material, supported by a sheltered ledge or rafter. They average around 6 inches long and have deeply forked tails. Barn swallows are blue-black above with creamy underparts and chestnut throats and foreheads. Female barn swallows are duller in color and their tails are shorter that males.

Tree Swallows are about the same size as Barn swallows but their notched tails lack the deep forked profile. They have metallic steely blue-green upperparts and white underparts. Tree swallows lay 4 to 6 white eggs in a feather lined cup of grasses installed in a tree or a nest box. They don’t migrate as far south as barn swallows and can feed on berries in the winter if they find insects scarce.

Purple martins are our largest swallow, averaging over 7 inches. The adult male is a dark steel blue all over while the female and young have gray underparts and foreheads. They lay their 4 or 5 white eggs in a clump of plant material stuffed in a natural cavity or in an apartment-style martin house. They prefer to nest in colonies rather than singly and a martin house is a special structure designed with this in mind. The practice of erecting a group house to attract these insect eliminators was used by early new world settlers and their native American predecessors who hung clusters of hollow gourds near their precious crops.

Storm Drain Dangers

Storm Drains Empty into Our Bay!

Nothing Should be Discharged Down a Storm Drain.
They are for Storm Rain Waters Only.
Storm Drains are Not Part of our Sewer System.
Storm Water goes Untreated, Directly into Our Bays!

Storm drains are constructed to prevent flooding  by diverting rain waters off streets into local waters. Chemicals that are used or disposed of improperly, frequently mix with the storm water and are transported by the same system into our local streams, lakes and bays. These chemicals can end up in the aquifer, the sources of our drinking water.

Barrier Beach Lease History

Compiled by Madeline Fitzpatrick, Babylon Town Historian

The Barrier beaches were part of the Town of Huntington 1663-1872

1663 – People were actually grazing livestock on the Barrier Island this early date. Records of Agricultural Supervisor ordered residents to stop their swine from trampling the salt meadows and enforced a forfeiture of seven shillings for each load of salt hay mowed.

April 1671 – Huntington also placed a fine of five pounds for everyone found on Marshes on the Island in September. These marshes were prized by early settlers up until the 1800’s.

April 4, 1785 – The first Post Revolutionary lease was made to Joshua Ketcham. However, private homes were never allowed on the Island even though shelters for watchmen guarding the valuable oyster beds were permitted.

1845 – Leased a piece of land to John L. Korthwright.

1866 – Records show another lese to Timothy S. Carll for 12 years at $50 per year for the privilege of planting oysters and erecting a house for some person to live and protect said privilege. Other de-facto shelters existed before 1845.

Town of Babylon was formed in 1872 by a partition of the Town of Huntington.

1872 – Babylon Town Board minutes indicate that no hay cutting or cattle grazing was allowed for 6 years. The Town hired grass cutters and auctions were held on Babylon docks. They also did away with leases of lands under water since rights of lease of navigable waters us doubted.

1878 – A lease arrangement was made between Babylon and Islip on April 2nd to share each others waters in the Great South Bay for oyster planting purposes. Within weeks of this agreement the first lease to build a hut was granted to Erastus Tooker. On November 7, 1878 Charles J. Duryea, President of Babylon Town Board was authorized to sign a 21 year lease on Oak Island Beach for 18 Babylon residents with express intention that lease holders could utilize lots for recreational and residential purposes. This was known as the Oyster Planters and Businessman’s Association of Babylon.

1879 – On august 13th Babylon’s Trustees also authorized leases for members of the Oyster Planters Association of Amityville for lots on Oak Island. The public was allowed access to all islands except in July and august. The only exception was men from the U.S. Lifesaving Station.

Oak Island Leases Begin

1879 – The first privately owned cottage on Babylon’s Bay Island was build by Henry Livingston and was called Little Rest.

1882-1883 – The second house was build by Benjamin Field.

1884 – Charles Searle built the 3rd house. Alanso Weeks, James Cooper, Jeramiah Robbins and Frederick Thorpe joined their 3 friends by building houses.

1886 – The first on Oak Beach was build by Charles B. Arnold, a prosperous West Babylon farmer.

1894 – The largest lease granted was to Oak Beach Association, when Reverend John Dietrich Long, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Babylon obtained a 50 year lease from the Town of Babylon for land on the eastern end of Oak Island for a religious retreat and cultural center. The Reverend Lon built a Community Center large enough to seat an audience of 1,000 people – “it stands on a high table of land and has spacious verandas on three sides’.

1895 – The Grand opening was to be celebrated on July 4th. There was scheduled to be a clam bake, a patriotic concert and fireworks. However, the day arrived with torrential rains. That, the mosquitoes, and other social problems soon soured Reverend Long’s dream of a religious camp and he abandoned the project after the first year. While the Association proved a failure as a religious retreat it was a success as a residential colony and induced people to build more expensive homes.

1896 – The Oak Island Beach Association was granted its original lease by Babylon Town Board on March 7, 1896. The lease was for nine years – rent of $100 as year plus $5.00 rent per year for each house with the understanding that a minimum of 20 houses would be constructed before the lease expired. The lease also stated that rent would be paid on all property regardless of whether a house was built. This is still in effect today

Turtle Path thru the Dunes

NYDOT Leaves Gaps in New Beach Fence for Turtles

The repaired dune systems along Ocean Parkway are now lined with beach fence gaps to allow nesting turtles access to the surrounding ecosystem.

The Diamondback Terrapin, is one of the few marine turtles that is known to live most of its life in the brackish marsh waters along Ocean Parkway.  When the turtles are ready to lay eggs, they generally prefer to use the beach sand.

The Diamondback Terrapin can be found along the eastern coast of the United States from Cape Cod down to Florida but has faced increasing threats due to habitat destruction and climate change.