Recent Stories: Outdoors

Russell Drumm
February 25, 2015

Consider ice: It can be a bulldozer that lifts a few thousand pounds of buoy off the bottom and carries it to new location a half mile away. It can be millions of tiny crystalline blades that scalp the terra firma from the face of a bluff. Ice can suck a piling from deep in a harbor’s clay as easily as pulling a toothpick from an olive in an ice-cold martini.

Larry Penny
February 18, 2015

As I write this on Presidents Day in the afternoon while looking out my window across the snow-covered yard to see which bird will show up next, the temperature hovers at 21 degrees. That’s the highest it’s been all day and it’s starting to sink lower. Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology’s annual birdfeeder count took place over the three-day weekend.

Russell Drumm
February 17, 2015

“Cabin fever” does not do justice to our frozen state of mind. True, the Arctic temperatures that have descended on us in recent days have kept us in looking out while the oil burner adds to our carbon footprint and subtracts from our bank accounts. But “fever” is not the right word. I think “numbness” or “ennui” comes closer.

Larry Penny
February 12, 2015

While out scanning the frozen waters of Noyac Bay and Upper Sag Harbor Cove on Monday, I noticed that one of my favorite trees and the largest tree alongside Long Beach Road, a willow, was already yellowing up, anticipating spring and flowering time, which comes early for the willow clan.

Russell Drumm
February 12, 2015

On the grand playing field of human intercourse, nothing gives us as much satisfaction as seeing braggarts brought low, especially if they are the cause, having dashed rather than hoisted themselves on their own petards. It’s what fools are made of, and fools have always been great entertainment.

Brian Williams, the NBC network news anchor, made one of himself with his “Nightly News” story about having been riding on a Chinook helicopter in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade shot it down. 

Larry Penny
February 4, 2015

All of a sudden after a worldwide record warm year in 2014, the winter turns frigid. Noyac Bay is half frozen, all of the freshwaters are iced up, the ground is still covered with a couple of feet of snow, and the land and water birds are having a hard time of it. These are the times when nature hangs in the balance and familiar themes drop out and alien ones take over.

Russell Drumm
February 4, 2015

Five a.m. on Tuesday. The house is surrounded and topped with snow and ice. It’s cold out and the wind sounds like it wants to come in as much as the cabin fever burning within me wants to go out.

Both my parents were outdoor people, especially my dad. If weather or some kind of obligation kept him inside for too long he got downright ornery, a trait he passed down to me. We walked the beach every weekend whatever the weather. Both parents skied and taught me at an early age.

Larry Penny
January 28, 2015
The biggest Long Island snowstorm that I can remember was the one that occurred in 1947, two days after Christmas. My family was visiting my Aunt Esther and Uncle Jake’s family in West Hills for the holidays.

As I write this column it is blowin’ and snowin’ up a storm. The weather reports on all of the media say we are in for a big one. The various reports remind us of the “Blizzard of ’88” (that’s 1888 for you millennial readers) and the famous storm of 2006, which dropped 26.9 inches in Central Park.

Russell Drumm
January 28, 2015

“Go take a long walk off a short pier.” Not sure why the dismissive phrase came to mind. The pier at San Clemente was not short by a long shot, 200 yards or more. I think it’s because in our minds, piers are a staple, a construct that everyone understands.

“Why do they build them? Just to fish from? Are they for people without boats?” Kyle asked. Good question, and the answer is pretty much, yes, but more. The Pier, as societal microcosm, parade, and oceangoing adventure for pedestrians, has been perfected in California.

Larry Penny
January 21, 2015

Only 37 days till March and the return of the ospreys and piping plovers. So far, it hasn’t been much of a winter as far as brutal weather events are concerned. The local freshwater bodies froze over, as they almost always do, while some of the salt creeks and lagoons, to wit, Upper Sag Harbor Cove and Otter Pond, were glazed over with the usual coating of thin New Year ice. The edges of the bays in the Peconics system have been white on and off with a pudding of concentrated seawater ice crystals.

Russell Drumm
January 21, 2015

It’s Sunday morning. We have just lifted off in the rain from J.F.K. bound for San Diego, where the plan is to rent a car for the short drive north to San Clemente, home of the Surfing Heritage Foundation. The foundation archives surfing history and works to protect access to surf spots around the world.

I’ll be meeting with the foundation’s executive director, a man of Hawaiian lineage, and a surfing god of sorts, a legend in his own time beginning in the 1960s in the waves of Waikiki.

Larry Penny
January 14, 2015

A cruise around the South Fork last Thursday revealed that about 99 percent of the deciduous tree leaves had fallen. The ground beneath the oaks, hickories, and other trees on either side of the roads in Northwest and Middle Line Highway and Old Sag Harbor Road in Bridgehampton were completely covered with brownish leaves from this year’s crop. The woods, per se, were as they should be, bare trees, underbrush, and a thick leaf groundcover.

Russell Drumm
January 13, 2015

Skating south, I squinted into the sun reflecting off the cold obsidian of Fort Pond in Montauk on Sunday, my blades carving the surface with the crisp metallic notes of swordplay.

The ice mirrored my fellow skaters. They appeared to be skating both right side up and upside down, joined at the blades. A few kids huddled, looking down through the ice in search of fish. “Through the glass darkly” came to mind, the way Corinthians suggests most of us view life — that is, imperfectly.

Russell Drumm
January 7, 2015

If you think of life as an unending story that’s whispered to you, shouted at you, otherwise presented, and then knitted together with the wool you’ve gathered — and I do — then you learn to consider the sources.

Larry Penny
January 7, 2015

Long Island’s annual holiday-season breeding bird counts have come and gone, the last, the Orient Count, finishing up the lot on Saturday. The two closest to home were the Orient count, which includes part of Noyac, Sag Harbor, North Haven, and East Hampton’s Northwest Woods, and the Montauk count, which includes Amagansett, Springs, Montauk, and Gardiner’s Island.

Larry Penny
January 1, 2015
It’s the new year and the East End is looking good. The days get longer by a minute or two every 24 hours. As Shelley wrote, when winter comes, spring can’t be far behind.

It’s the new year and the East End is looking good. The days get longer by a minute or two every 24 hours. As Shelley wrote, when winter comes, spring can’t be far behind.

In my mind, Montauk is the biggest jewel in the South Fork’s tiara. It has more open space per capita than any other hamlet or village on Long Island. It has a variety of habitats and floral associations, including both southern and northern elements. It has more waterfowl than you can shake a stick at, and they all preoccupy locals and tourists who observe and study them.

Russell Drumm
December 30, 2014

This is the time of year when we seem duty-bound to reflect upon the year just past. I suspect a formalized, perennial look back has always been part of our basic makeup on whatever calendar, and upon whatever date, was chosen as the start of a new year.

Larry Penny
December 23, 2014

The winter birds are here and hungry. The Pennys haven’t had a winter feeding station out for more than five years running — no more rats, but very few birds. Having been recently stimulated by watching visitors feed the birds at the Morton Wildlife Refuge a few blocks down the road in Noyac, I decided it was time for me to return to the practice. My understanding of avian ways had become blurred because I had stopped observing them at close range.

Russell Drumm
December 23, 2014

It’s not our seascape, hills and dales,
When I think Montauk, it’s fins and tails.
Not Rita’s mare, or ‘The Affair,’
Not the Light, or stars at night
Not Gosman’s Dock, or Blackfish Rock
Not summer’s sails, nor nor’east gales
What is Montauk?
It’s fins and tails.

Larry Penny
December 18, 2014

Pines and oaks are the most common native trees on Long Island. There are two species of pines, pitch and white, and at least seven species of oaks. Oak trees are long-lived — white oaks such as those on Gardiner’s Island can live to 400 or 500 years, equaling the longevity of white pines, while pitch pines, which George Washington called “ill thriven” on his one trip here, are lucky if they make it to the century mark.

Russell Drumm
December 18, 2014

Of cod, blackfish, black sea bass, winter in Montauk, One Million Years B.C., Christmas, and Susan Sontag:

I was watching a documentary about Susan Sontag the other night, an extraordinary woman very much of her time in the ’60s, a feminist, philosopher, and essayist with what were, and to some still are, radical views. As it happened, I had caught the last half of “One Million Years B.C.” starring Rachel Welch on the Turner Classic Movies channel earlier in the day. It was one of those cold rainy days last week, so perhaps I can be forgiven.

Larry Penny
December 10, 2014

Trees figure prominently in Long Island street and road names, much more so than animals. Why? Perhaps it’s because trees are large in stature and immobile, while animals are smaller and liable to be in one place one day and another the next.

Russell Drumm
December 10, 2014

I want to talk about beaches and why the Town of East Hampton should do everything in its power to purchase the former East Deck Motel property at Ditch Plain in Montauk and turn it into a park.

Russell Drumm
December 3, 2014

“Like butter,” was Dalton Portella’s brief and, given the day, appropriate description of the surf as he watched a set of waves peel across one of Montauk’s moorland coves a week ago.