Beach Reads

Terry Sullivan Releases New Sag Harbor Bird Book

Empire Science Resources released Terry Sullivan’s My Sag Harbor Notebook, A Conversational Survey in Poetry, Prose, Photography and Prints last month to an eager audience.

Last Saturday Sullivan spoke and sang and showed big-screen images of the photos from his book to a standing-room-only crowd at Sag Harbor’s iconic Canio’s Books. On March 15 Sullivan will give his presentation and sign books at the John Jermain Library (in its temporary location on West Water Street, Sag Harbor).

Sullivan has long been known as Sag Harbor’s “performing plumber.” Sag Harbor Village has hatched many characters but only one performing plumber to date. Sullivan sang alongside the late Pete Seeger many times, including a performance at Carnegie Hall in 1991 and one at Sag Harbor’s Old Whalers’ Church in 1993. Sullivan has also earned accolades as an actor and video artist.

Since his move from SoHo to Sag Harbor in 1991, Sullivan often goes out to “shoot boids,” as he says. Full disclosure: This writer encouraged Sullivan to put this book together and so is listed in the acknowledgements. Sullivan has contributed pieces to Dan’s Papers over the years and has read in the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction salons.

What makes this book special is Sullivan’s well-attenuated bead on the birds that populate our local environs. He observes them as not so much another species but as an integrated population, as rich in their storytelling traditions as we humans. Most especially the crows. As Sullivan writes, “They’re black they’re silver, they’re smarter than foxes, more social than chimps, and will eat their neighbor’s young.”

What makes this book stand out are its many, colorful photographs. These include close-ups of a local bald eagle, catbird, chickadee, crows, dove, ducks, eagle, egrets flickers, goose, grackle, gulls, herons, merlin, ospreys, robin, sparrows, swans, turkeys and a wren.

To quote Sullivan’s Spring Song:

The birds went mad in the park today

the sparrow the lark and the wren

the birds were so glad in the park today

It’s springtime once again!

What makes this book the perfect memento of a visit to Sag Harbor are its unique stories. Where else does a robin work for the CIA? Where else can you call a flock of turkeys from the forest into your lawn? As Sullivan tells it, we enjoy an “epic opera at the shore whose score is the constant thrumping, hissing and roaring of the waves,” here on the East End.

Particularly memorable to locals will be the stories of the late East Hampton bayman Stuart Vorpahl’s boyhood pet crows.

On Tuesday March 15 at 7:15 p.m., Sullivan will read selections from the book as well as present copies of its pictures and drawings at the John Jermain Memorial Library, 34 West Water Street, Sag Harbor. He will explain how he’s captured these striking images with a basic technique you can adopt for your own local nature walks. He hopes to encourage generations of people to go birding together wherever they live.

Terry Sullivan’s My Sag Harbor Notebook is available from Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 631-725-4926, caniosbooks.com and from the South Fork Natural History Museum, 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, 631-537-9735, Bridgehampton, sofo.org. To reserve a space at Sullivan’s March presentation at the John Jermain Memorial Library call 631-725-0049 (johnjermain.org).

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