Recent Stories: Outdoors

Jon M. Diat
September 21, 2017
If you are a fan of catching black sea bass, you have certainly been spoiled for a number of years by the increasingly large biomass of the fish. It seems they are everywhere, and now they are showing up in locations never seen before.

If you are a fan of catching black sea bass, you have certainly been spoiled for a number of years by the increasingly large biomass of the fish. It seems they are everywhere, and now they are showing up in locations never seen before. 

In Sag Harbor and points westward deep into Great Peconic Bay, the waters are teaming with small fish in the 5-to-10-inch range (recreational anglers can retain eight fish over 15 inches). Up until 5 to 10 years ago, it was truly a rare occasion to catch one in these areas. Not anymore. 

Jon M. Diat
September 14, 2017
Our "On the Water" columnist enters the clam-shucking contest at Harborfest in Sag Harbor. At left, Peter Ambrose, top shucker.

I’m pretty good when it comes to opening a bay scallop. I have probably opened well over 500 bushels over the course of 50 years. As such, I have to admit I’m pretty quick with my white, blunt-end Dexter scallop knife. When it comes to oysters, it’s a totally different story, as my pace is significantly slower. Unlike scallops, oysters are tricky little creatures, as each one is never completely alike in shape and size. I’ve even had to make two trips to the hospital to get stitched up after losing a battle between my left hand and an oyster knife while wrestling with an overly stubborn bivalve. I’ve also had many more close calls. 

Christopher Walsh
September 13, 2017
Environmental Conservation officers watched as party boat customers dumped hundreds of black sea bass overboard at Star Island in Montauk Harbor in defiance of their orders to stop.

Marine enforcement officers from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, on patrol in Montauk Harbor on Aug. 31, saw what they estimated was hundreds of pounds of fish being thrown overboard from a Montauk party boat and wound up ticketing eight people, including the boat's captain, Keith Williams.

According to a D.E.C. spokeswoman, the officers approached the 75-foot Fin Chaser, based on Star Island, and ordered the anglers to stop what they were doing. Their orders were ignored, she said.

The party boat's customers were cited for possessing too many black sea bass and porgies, undersized black sea bass and summer flounder, and for failure to stop dumping upon command.

Larry Penny
September 7, 2017
It’s the end of summer and all matter of flying organisms — bird, bats, dragonflies, and butterflies — are on the wing. On the last evening of August, at least seven nighthawks flew over the Bustamante house on the northeast side of Lake Montauk. Flocks of migrating tree swallows have been swirling around during the past three weeks, migrating and feeding as they go. When a hungry sharp-shinned hawk or merlin comes by, they gather into tight bunches like schools of baitfish trying to elude predators.

It’s the end of summer and all matter of flying organisms — bird, bats, dragonflies, and butterflies — are on the wing. On the last evening of August, at least seven nighthawks flew over the Bustamante house on the northeast side of Lake Montauk. Flocks of migrating tree swallows have been swirling around during the past three weeks, migrating and feeding as they go. When a hungry sharp-shinned hawk or merlin comes by, they gather into tight bunches like schools of baitfish trying to elude predators.

Jon M. Diat
September 7, 2017
While the calendar says it’s still summer for a few more weeks, the passing of Labor Day and Tumbleweed Tuesday always seems to trigger an inner emotion that’s sometimes a bit hard to capture and describe.

While the calendar says it’s still summer for a few more weeks, the passing of Labor Day and Tumbleweed Tuesday always seems to trigger an inner emotion that’s sometimes a bit hard to capture and describe. For many, the instant reflection is how fast the summer went; we all seem to say it in unison. One day it’s the Fourth of July and the next thing you see are a few leaves already starting to change color. I even saw Halloween candy in a local store two weeks ago. Now that’s truly pushing it. 

Jon M. Diat
August 31, 2017
As the owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett for nearly 40 years, Harvey Bennett has probably seen just about everything that could happen on the water.

As the owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett for nearly 40 years, Harvey Bennett has probably seen just about everything that could happen on the water. But even with his keen sense of awareness and history, Bennett has never witnessed so much action tight to the ocean beach with sharks — mainly brown, thresher, and dusky sharks — as he has this summer.

Larry Penny
August 31, 2017
Down the road a piece from where I live is a wonderful nature Shangri-La overseen by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge. It once was a farm and now it is a place known by almost everyone on eastern Long Island and elsewhere for its wildlife and geological uniqueness.

Down the road a piece from where I live is a wonderful nature Shangri-La overseen by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge. It once was a farm and now it is a place known by almost everyone on eastern Long Island and elsewhere for its wildlife and geological uniqueness. 

Jon M. Diat
August 24, 2017
Meteorologists and their forecasts will always get a bad rap. That will probably never change. However, I usually get a bit of a chuckle when Colorado State University puts out its annual forecast for the Atlantic Basin hurricane season.

I tried not to get caught up in the whole solar eclipse hype, but it was hard to escape the constant chatter and commotion leading up to the Monday afternoon event. 

Bryley Williams
August 24, 2017
Tests by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk show enterococcus at several locations, include two sample sites on the Montauk ocean beach.

Lake Montauk’s enterococcus bacteria levels have risen, despite last week’s higher than normal tides, which normally would have led to lower levels, according to a news release from the Concerned Citizens of Montauk.

Bacteria counts are measured by the number of colony forming units, or viable cells, per 100 milliliters of water. Anything over 104 cells surpasses the federal health standard and is rated "high" in the tests.

Little Reed Pond creek and East Creek, both of which drain into Lake Montauk, had high bacteria levels in samples taken on Wednesday. A west side creek sample site in the lake had a "medium" level. The presence of any enterococcus indicates a chance of disease-causing feces in the water.

Larry Penny
August 24, 2017
Another coyote has been found on the South Fork, this one spotted and photographed by Chris Bustamante in a grassy opening north of County Road 39, between Majors Path and North Main Street in Southampton less than a week ago.

Another coyote has been found on the South Fork, this one spotted and photographed by Chris Bustamante in a grassy opening north of County Road 39, between Majors Path and North Main Street in Southampton less than a week ago. Dell Cullum, one of the first to see and photograph a coyote several years ago in the Sagaponack area, thinks it might be the same one that appeared in Water Mill a few years later.

Jon M. Diat
August 17, 2017
Like me, I’m sure you have seen more than your fair share of out-of-state license plates on our roads this summer. California has been a common one, along with Texas, Ontario, Illinois, Florida, and New Mexico, to name just a few. There have been no sightings of a plate from Guam, but there is still time; however, we have seen some other foreign and distant visitors make a cameo appearance in the high-profile Hamptons scene of late. These are not your summer jet-setters ready to attend the latest charity event. These have fins and gills.

Like me, I’m sure you have seen more than your fair share of out-of-state license plates on our roads this summer. California has been a common one, along with Texas, Ontario, Illinois, Florida, and New Mexico, to name just a few. There have been no sightings of a plate from Guam, but there is still time; however, we have seen some other foreign and distant visitors make a cameo appearance in the high-profile Hamptons scene of late. These are not your summer jet-setters ready to attend the latest charity event. These have fins and gills.

Larry Penny
August 17, 2017
Who are the white supremacists? The neo-Nazis? ISIL? The Taliban? Boko Haram? These are some that we know about, but there may be hundreds of other such groups of militant, almost entirely male organizations that in various ways are trying to subvert the rest of us non-belongers and non-believers in devious and perverse ways that we have yet to learn about.

Who are the white supremacists? The neo-Nazis? ISIL? The Taliban? Boko Haram? These are some that we know about, but there may be hundreds of other such groups of militant, almost entirely male organizations that in various ways are trying to subvert the rest of us non-belongers and non-believers in devious and perverse ways that we have yet to learn about. 

Yes, a few women join in, but most of the women become suicide bombers and other sacrificial lambs to further the murky causes of these groups or are kidnapped and held against their will. Some of these groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram are simultaneously belligerent and religious, others are belligerent and political, some are anarchical.

Taylor K. Vecsey
August 17, 2017
Ocean beaches on the eastern end of Southampton Town were briefly closed Monday afternoon after lifeguards in Sagaponack spotted what appeared to be a shark close to the beach. The decision came after days of apparent shark sightings in East Hampton Village and elsewhere.

Ocean beaches on the eastern end of Southampton Town were briefly closed Monday afternoon after lifeguards in Sagaponack spotted what appeared to be a shark close to the beach. The decision came after days of apparent shark sightings in East Hampton Village and elsewhere.

Beachgoers have also been marveling at humpback whales feeding off the South Fork shoreline for several weeks.

Ed McDonald, the beach manager for East Hampton Village, said swimmers and surfers should not be alarmed. There has never been a shark attack off East Hampton beaches.

Sharks, like the whales and dolphins, are coming closer to the shore because of an increase in menhaden, a kind of densely schooling, oily fish known locally as bunker.

Bryley Williams
August 11, 2017
Weekly test results from the Concerned Citizens of Montauk showed fecal enterococcus levels more than seven times a federal standard for recreational waters.

Fresh Pond in Amagansett isn’t so fresh after all.

According to the Concerned Citizens of Montauk’s weekly water-quality test report, a tidal creek at the East Hampton Town waterfront park had an enterococcus level of 714 colony forming units, or viable cells, per 100 milliliters of water in a sample taken last week. This was significantly above the health standard of 104 cells, and indicates a high presence of potentially disease-causing feces in the water.

Larry Penny
August 10, 2017
Eutropia in ecology is akin to functional Utopia in mankind’s world. There are levels of position and function, just as in modern society.

Eutropia in ecology is akin to functional Utopia in mankind’s world. There are levels of position and function, just as in modern society. Up-and-down-ness is based on food habits, sheltering niches, pecking order (without the pecking), growth and maturation, longevity, intelligence, learning, ritualism, compensation for acts of God, short-term success and long-term improvement, and generational transfer. The major difference, of course, is that ecology is based on an interacting group of millions and millions of different species, while mankind is composed of just one.

Jon M. Diat
August 10, 2017
Blowfish go by several names — bottlefish, blow toads, northern puffer, sea squab, puffers, chicken of the sea, and a few other local monikers. No matter what you decide to call them, they are one of our oddest-looking fish, as well as one of our tastiest and most affordable.

The first fish I ever caught was a snapper. Fishing off our rickety community pier on the east side of North Haven, the baby bluefish took a piece of spearing that was fished from the end of a saltwater-aged bamboo pole. The pole itself was a remnant salvaged from a broken-off Greenport Oyster Company oyster bed marker that had washed up on our beach a few months earlier. The fishing line was not much more complicated — old kite string. We’re talking old-school fishing here, a setup not far from the pages of Huck Finn. From a fishing point of view, it does not get any simpler than that.

Jon M. Diat
August 3, 2017
A persistent, hard northeast wind at the end of July is not all that common.

A persistent, hard northeast wind at the end of July is not all that common. Usually, we don’t see such blows until September as an early harbinger of the cooler weather of autumn. And while this past weekend would never have been classified by any meteorologist as a true northeaster, the gusty winds, especially on Saturday, did usher in some pronounced changes to our waterfront landscape.

Larry Penny
August 3, 2017
The never-ending mobbing calls of common crows and fish crows continue, but one rarely hears a songbird sing as we approach the halfway point of summer. Most of the birds have bred. The osprey fledglings are learning how to dive for fish. Turkey families are breaking up in preparation for the fall harvest.

The never-ending mobbing calls of common crows and fish crows continue, but one rarely hears a songbird sing as we approach the halfway point of summer. Most of the birds have bred. The osprey fledglings are learning how to dive for fish. Turkey families are breaking up in preparation for the fall harvest. The architect Amado Ortiz, who lives on the west shore of Three Mile Harbor, snapped a photo of a maturish bald eagle working on a big fish while on a tree limb outside his window. All of a sudden four crows spotted it and angrily mobbed it until it flew off and landed on top of a sailboat mast. No wonder the accepted name for a bunch of crows is a “murder” of them.

Larry Penny
July 27, 2017
Sunday was the last in a string of hot, rainless days. I took my grandson over to the North Fork to look at the Penny family grave site on Factory Avenue in Mattituck. On the way I visited Calverton because Fred Havemeyer, who is running for supervisor in Southampton Town, told me about a large solar farm on Edwards Avenue in Riverhead, not far from the border of Brookhaven.

Sunday was the last in a string of hot, rainless days. I took my grandson over to the North Fork to look at the Penny family grave site on Factory Avenue in Mattituck. On the way I visited Calverton because Fred Havemeyer, who is running for supervisor in Southampton Town, told me about a large solar farm on Edwards Avenue in Riverhead, not far from the border of Brookhaven.

Jon M. Diat
July 27, 2017
When I told a few friends the other week on a 90-degree day that I was planning to go fishing for cod, I received some strange and quizzical looks.

When I told a few friends the other week on a 90-degree day that I was planning to go fishing for cod, I received some strange and quizzical looks.

“You can catch cod in the summer?” asked one. “I thought that you can only catch them in the winter?” piped in another skeptical colleague. The fact is that codfish, which are also known by many as the winter king, can be found in pretty solid and consistent quantities during the dog days of summer. Granted, the ride to the productive grounds is not that close.

Jon M. Diat
July 20, 2017
This past weekend, for the 17th year in a row, our core group fished in the Montauk Mercury Grand Slam.

I can be a loner at times. As such, I sometimes enjoy the solitude of fishing by myself when the mood strikes. There are those moments in life when it’s nice to be away from the problems that may be swirling around in your world, or the world in general. Whether it’s casting for stripers on an empty ocean beach in November or sitting lazily on the stern of your boat for a long drift for fluke near the Cedar Point Lighthouse, I cherish those days greatly when it’s clearly time to de-fog the brain and hit the reset button to gain some inner peace. Catching anything is a side issue at that point too. If the fish cooperate, that’s fine. All the better. But if my pail remains empty at the end of the trip, that’s okay, too.

Larry Penny
July 20, 2017
Summer presses on, hot and humid with an occasional bout of rain. The beaches fill up on the weekend, the traffic is crazy mad on the South Fork’s main thoroughfares, County Road 39, Montauk Highway, Noyac Road, the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Route 114, and the Scuttlehole-Head of Ponds-7 Ponds-Mecox Roads, which wind through the fields of Bridgehampton and Water Mill and meet North Sea Road north of Southampton Village.

Summer presses on, hot and humid with an occasional bout of rain. The beaches fill up on the weekend, the traffic is crazy mad on the South Fork’s main thoroughfares, County Road 39, Montauk Highway, Noyac Road, the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Route 114, and the Scuttlehole-Head of Ponds-7 Ponds-Mecox Roads, which wind through the fields of Bridgehampton and Water Mill and meet North Sea Road north of Southampton Village.

Jon M. Diat
July 13, 2017
The afternoon of July 3 was a perfect time to take a leisurely kayak cruise in Sag Harbor Cove. Due to other commitments this season,

The afternoon of July 3 was a perfect time to take a leisurely kayak cruise in Sag Harbor Cove. Due to other commitments this season, I had not had a chance to dunk my dinky little blue kayak into the water. Being nearly 6-foot-6 and one who labors with a ridiculously large size-16 foot, my kayak makes me feel as if I am snugly entombed in an odd-colored banana in a wobbly, old shopping cart. Comfortable? No. Practical and easy to store? Most certainly.

Larry Penny
July 13, 2017
Of all of the many thousands of vertebrate species, fish being the most numerous, which one is the most famous for preying on its own?

Of all of the many thousands of vertebrate species, fish being the most numerous, which one is the most famous for preying on its own? 

Why, Homo sapiens, of course. We kill one another with abandon and en masse as in the widely used term “genocide.” We very, very rarely engage in genocide for food, which is the main reason other vertebrates kill their own. While it has become extremely rare, cannibalism in humans still occurs here and there.