From our earliest childhood we have beheld with marvelous admiration the phenomenon of the migration of a flock of wild geese. There are but few Long Islanders, who are not familiar with the mysterious annual pilgrimage of the wild goose northward in the spring and his return in the fall.The wonder of the autumn migrations has not diminished since then and Woodmere Bay is the perfect place to view ducks, geese and other water birds, as they rest during their journey south, which can last for thousands of miles.
Brant on Woodmere Bay (photo: M. Vollono)
In Tredwell's time, two hundred species of water birds were know to frequent Long Island (p. 96) and the Great South Bay and its branches were a haven for both the birds and the humans who hunted them. He also writes that the Canada goose, known as a pest in our era, was considered the same in the 17th century.
Town [of Hempstead] Meeting, May 5, 1682
"Att the foregoing townd Meeting it was concluded by the Ma Jer Vote that No Teame Geese should have liberty to goo on the commons. In the townd after the fift of November Next insuing and that it shall be lawful for any Person to shute any they shall find on the commons aforementioned after the time..." The above was re-enacted yearly. (p.100)
|Duck hunter reclining in a camouflaged boat.|
(Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress)
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Branch communities became known for tourism. "City folk" took advantage of the area's bounty and hired local farmers and fisherman as guides for recreational fishing and hunting expeditions.
|Typically, a hunter's boat would be camouflaged with grasses and reeds.|
Today, the antique hand-carved decoys of baymen Obadiah Verity, Thomas Gelston and Bill Bowman are highly sought-after collectibles. Contemporary decoy carvers such as Ken Budny, George Rigby Jr. and Larry Udell carry on the tradition .
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation web site:
Long Island holds the majority of New York's wintering waterfowl. Tens of thousands of ducks and geese of at least 28 species are available to Long Island's waterfowlers. The various seasons run from early October through mid-February. The early sea duck season offers generous limits and a long season to those hunting scoters, eiders and long-tailed ducks in Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bays.
Many duck hunters pursue the dabbler species, rigging primarily for the prized black duck, with mallards, pintail, widgeon, gadwall and green-winged teal filling out the bag limit.
A brant, one of many varieties of ducks and
geese which visit Woodmere Bay during theirmigration.
Those that seek out the diving duck species generally set for broadbill (greater scaup) and are rewarded with a variety of other open water species, including bufflehead, goldeneye and redhead. Most waterfowlers hunt on the tidal marshes, bays and creeks found along our shores; Canada geese and brant are popular in the western bays of the south shore.
- Sheluk, Judy Penz. "Antique decoys: Carving a Place in Collectors' Hearts". New England Antiques Journal
- "Decoy Dynasty" (the Verity family) SCREA Newsletter (Spring 2009)
- Giraud. Birds of Long Island
- Tredwell, Daniel. Personal Reminiscences of Men and Things on Long Island
- Solomon, Nancy. On the Bay. Long Island Traditions, 2011.
- Ernest, Adele. "The Hunt for the Decoy: in search of a unique American folk art." (The Clarion, Fall 1975)
- LongIslandTraditions.org: George Rigby, Jr., Larry Udell and Ken Budney -- contemporary duck decoy carvers
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Introduction to Waterfowl Hunting on Long Island