Recent Stories: Outdoors

Larry Penny
November 16, 2017
One of my long-term hobbies is counting the vehicles that pass east and west in front of my house two or three times a day, but almost always at noon and 6 in the evening. The latter count is now in the dark, but the noon count is fully lighted and I can separate the vehicles into various categories: sedans, S.U.V.s, pickups, buses, government vehicles, and trucks of various kinds. It’s something I’ve been doing off and on since 1980.

One of my long-term hobbies is counting the vehicles that pass east and west in front of my house two or three times a day, but almost always at noon and 6 in the evening. The latter count is now in the dark, but the noon count is fully lighted and I can separate the vehicles into various categories: sedans, S.U.V.s, pickups, buses, government vehicles, and trucks of various kinds. It’s something I’ve been doing off and on since 1980. 

Larry Penny
November 9, 2017
As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to tell us on “Saturday Night Live,” “It’s always something,” Things haven’t changed, or is that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”? We’re living in an up-and-down world, in a dynamic equilibrium. If it weren’t for the sunrises and sunsets, the phases of the moon and the clock-like rise and fall of the seas two times a day, we would be lost.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to tell us on “Saturday Night Live,” “It’s always something,” Things haven’t changed, or is that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”? We’re living in an up-and-down world, in a dynamic equilibrium. If it weren’t for the sunrises and sunsets, the phases of the moon and the clock-like rise and fall of the seas two times a day, we would be lost.

Jon M. Diat
November 7, 2017
The alarm was set to wake me up at 5 on Monday morning. But I was up well before dawn. In fact, I hardly slept at all that night. There was just too much anticipation running through my body to allow for a sound, deep sleep.

The alarm was set to wake me up at 5 on Monday morning. But I was up well before dawn. In fact, I hardly slept at all that night. There was just too much anticipation running through my body to allow for a sound, deep sleep. 

“Why?” you may ask. Well, as anyone who knows me can tell you, I have programmed my schedule for the last 30 or so years, whether it be work or pleasure, to ensure that I get on the water for the first day of bay scallop season. It’s pretty basic, actually. For me, it reminds me of Christmas morning of my youth when I could not wait to open my presents laid under the tree. Sleep is just impossible.

Larry Penny
November 2, 2017
When J.P. Giraud, the American naturalist, published his book “The Birds of Long Island” in 1844, one would be hard pressed to find a single heath hen left on Long Island. Game birds such as the heath hen, Labrador duck, and passenger pigeon disappeared early, along with the wild turkey. The first three became extinct.

When J.P. Giraud, the American naturalist, published his book “The Birds of Long Island” in 1844, one would be hard pressed to find a single heath hen left on Long Island. Game birds such as the heath hen, Labrador duck, and passenger pigeon disappeared early, along with the wild turkey. The first three became extinct.

The heath hen is a species of prairie chicken that preferred grasslands. It was found in Montauk and elsewhere in Suffolk County, but where it throve until hunted out of existence here was on the Hempstead Plains, 60,000 acres of bona fide prairie land in the center of Nassau County.

Jon M. Diat
November 2, 2017
While I have always enjoyed fishing on my own boat, I truly appreciate joining some friends on a charter trip.

While I have always enjoyed fishing on my own boat, I truly appreciate joining some friends on a charter trip. In short, it feels like a bit of a holiday for me. I do about half a dozen or so of these excursions every year and the benefits are many. No worries or pressure to find the fish, no concerns on securing bait and tackle, no hassle of cleaning the boat at the end of the day, and no need to clean and bag any of the fish caught. Those are just a few of the benefits of letting a true professional take all of the responsibilities off your plate for a day. For me, it’s a great way to put my feet up on the gunnel and enjoy a day on the water without an ounce of guilt. 

I can fully relax.

Jon M. Diat
October 26, 2017
Culling through the pile was no easy chore. Many were well worn and encrusted with white, dried-out barnacles. But others were in good shape.

It’s been about eight years since I last soaked and fished my lobster traps. Why did I stop? Well, it was a number of factors, first and foremost that it took a good amount of time to check and rebait the traps. Plus, my boat is not exactly a speed demon. A bit over 30 feet long with a fat 12-foot beam, the commercial Nova Scotia-built boat is very stout and heavy, moving barely more than 14 knots at cruising speed. As stable and safe as she is, she will never be confused with an offshore racer with quadruple 300-horsepower outboards. Speed is not my game.

Larry Penny
October 26, 2017
The ospreys flew south three weeks ago.

The ospreys flew south three weeks ago. On Wednesday a week ago, a laggard dived into the mouth of the Peconic River at around 5:15 in the afternoon as Victoria Bustamante and I crossed the Route 105 bridge on the way back from a grasslands conference at the Whitney Estate in Manhasset. We were headed to the Eastern Audubon Society dinner at Cowfish in Hampton Bays. 

Vicki was quick to point out that the more than 80 mute swans that normally hang out in those waters were missing. Something was up! Today on Long Island the State Department of Environmental Conservation is having one last-ditch open meeting about what to do about those majestic birds: off them or leave them be. Will their fate be sealed?

Larry Penny
October 20, 2017
This October a different cosmopolitan species, the brown booby, common in the Caribbean countries and throughout tropical seas of the world, showed up in Montauk and may have found a new home.

Every once in a while we are visited by a strange species from the north, west, east, or south. These occurrences are called accidentals. On occasion, as in the case of the cattle egret, which is native to Africa, the exotic species will establish on another continent, as it did in South America, then visit a third continent, in this case, North America, and establish there. Those few bird species, such as the osprey, that are cosmopolitan and found on all continents, started on one and spread to the others, one continent at a time.

Jon M. Diat
October 20, 2017
There were some decent reports of cod a week earlier, but the ever-present black sea bass could be a problem. While they are widely proclaimed to be one of the tastiest fish, sadly, we would not be able retain any, as the season for them in Rhode Island and federal waters (more than three miles offshore) remains closed until this coming Sunday.

Saturday morning dawned damp and gray at the docks in Montauk Harbor. The steady and strong northeasterly wind the prior three days had dissipated overnight and was now gently coming off the slowly cooling Atlantic Ocean from the southeast. Despite a forecast only a few hours earlier calling for little to no rain, I thankfully took the foul-weather gear and non-skid fishing boots as a precaution. Better to be over-prepared than wishing I had packed more clothing and supplies, especially if we were planning to fish a decent distance south of Montauk for codfish. 

Christopher Walsh
October 19, 2017
Residents who live along Gardiner’s Bay and members of the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett are unhappy about a changing seascape, as 5 and 10-acre oyster farms have begun to appear offshore from Promised Land to Devon, extending to the Napeague Harbor Inlet.

Residents who live along Gardiner’s Bay and members of the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett are unhappy about a changing seascape, as 5 and 10-acre oyster farms have begun to appear offshore from Promised Land to Devon, extending to the Napeague Harbor Inlet. 

Suffolk County is implementing its Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiner’s Bay. The parcels are leased for private, commercial shellfish cultivation under the program established after New York State ceded title to approximately 100,000 acres of bottomlands to Suffolk County, in 2004, and authorized the county to implement an aquaculture lease program for the region. 

Taylor K. Vecsey
October 12, 2017
It has been a bad 10 days for dolphins on the South Fork. Two that washed ashore within two days on the ocean beaches in Napeague and Amagansett last week appear to have died after becoming entangled in fishing nets, according to officials.

It has been a bad 10 days for dolphins on the South Fork. Two that washed ashore within two days on the ocean beaches in Napeague and Amagansett last week appear to have died after becoming entangled in fishing nets, according to officials, and another found struggling but alive in Three Mile Harbor early last week was later euthanized. A fourth washed up dead in East Hampton Village.

Workers at the East Hampton Marina spotted the dolphin in Three Mile Harbor at around 10 a.m. on Oct. 3. “One of our employees saw him swimming in the back making circles. He didn’t look good,” said William Plitt. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation responded in an attempt to rescue it.

Larry Penny
October 12, 2017
Every year, it seems, the traffic becomes progressively worse. More and more people come to enjoy the East End and more of us native East Enders breathe a sigh of relief and go about our business when the season comes to a close. We have six months to recover, if we ever do.

The last big holiday before Election Day has come and gone. Everyone, well, almost everyone, has left the outback and gone back to the suburbs and urbs. We and nature are left to our own devices. 

Every year, it seems, the traffic becomes progressively worse. More and more people come to enjoy the East End and more of us native East Enders breathe a sigh of relief and go about our business when the season comes to a close. We have six months to recover, if we ever do. 

Jon M. Diat
October 12, 2017
Blackfish, or tautog or tog as they are also commonly referred to, will not win many underwater beauty contests. Compared to other fish like the exalted and highly prized striped bass, they’re just not the prettiest to admire from up close or from afar.

Blackfish, or tautog or tog as they are also commonly referred to, will not win many underwater beauty contests. Compared to other fish like the exalted and highly prized striped bass, they’re just not the prettiest to admire from up close or from afar. But despite their outwardly dull appearance, don’t underestimate their popularity. 

Jon M. Diat
October 5, 2017
Those of us here on eastern Long Island are fortunate that we have not experienced a direct hit from a storm thus far. While we are finally past the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic basin, we still have another two months to keep our guard up. May our good fortunes continue.

I have to admit that the folks who made the various predictions about the 2017 hurricane season were right on target. Most of the widely followed prognosticators who said it was going to be an active and possibly serious season were spot on in their outlook. Weather forecasters get a tough rap when they are wrong, but get little credit when they are correct. Whether it was Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria, or Jose, or one of the other named storms, the trials and tribulations of their destructive wrath have been widely and sadly publicized for all to bear witness to this season. And for those directly affected by those storms, it will take a long time to recover from the damage, rebuilding, and emotional scars. The pain and misery do not evaporate overnight.

Larry Penny
October 5, 2017
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! The Long Island hunting season for bobwhite quail starts on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 31.

Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! The Long Island hunting season for bobwhite quail starts on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 31. The bag limit is six per day, 40 per season. One wonders if there are still 40 bobwhites left on Long Island to hunt, least of all on the South Fork, where I haven’t heard one piping for several years running. As a boy growing up in Mattituck on the North Fork, I would often hear that pleasant bob-bob-white call on a spring morning. 

Jon M. Diat
September 28, 2017
For those with a competitive spirit, the fall season is prime time in Montauk to take part in a number of fishing contests, especially if you are one to ply your skills from the beach.

For those with a competitive spirit, the fall season is prime time in Montauk to take part in a number of fishing contests, especially if you are one to ply your skills from the beach. How the surf fishing will be for the next few months is very hard to predict, but ever since Superstorm Sandy hit the New York area nearly five years ago, the fall fishing patterns, especially for striped bass, have been significantly altered as the fish have consistently bypassed the Montauk area by the time we reach the middle of October. The much sought-after stripers did not disappear, but rather, they have decided to set up feeding on large schools of baitfish and bunker well to the west of Montauk.

Larry Penny
September 28, 2017
“Here we go again,” as Mel Allen used to say, when the Yankees were homering the opposition to death. This time it’s not about baseball but about swans, mute swans.

“Here we go again,” as Mel Allen used to say, when the Yankees were homering the opposition to death. This time it’s not about baseball but about swans, mute swans. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are back on the bandwagon and the bandwagon is out to eliminate once and for all Cygnus olor from New York State waters. Their reasons: It scares people kayaking and canoeing, it picks on native ducks and geese, it befouls the water, and threatens swimmers and walkers along pond shores and rivers.

Larry Penny
September 21, 2017
Albinism is a complete absence of melanin. It can occur in humans, too, and makes exposure to the sun for long periods dangerous.

Some of you may remember seeing the pure white stag that occupied the Village of North Haven for several years in a row about 25 years back. There was another similar albino deer inhabiting the northeast side of Accabonac Harbor, a few years later.

There have also been several partially white deer, grackles, turkeys, and a handful of other wild animals around, not true albinos but leucistic, or partially white, including one spotted recently on Napeague.

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.