Recent Stories: Outdoors

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.

Larry Penny
December 3, 2014

The Town of East Hampton stretches from the tip of Montauk Point to just west of the town airport, from the bays of the Peconic Estuary on the north to the great Atlantic Ocean on the south. Within those boundaries is a set of habitats, ecotypes, ecotones, and plant associations that set the town apart from the rest of Long Island and make it a unique treasure in terms of the natural world.

Larry Penny
November 26, 2014

It’s turkey day, and many of us across America will be feasting on what Ben Franklin believed should have been our national bird. Bald eagles don’t taste good, but are more elegant and soar high in the sky; turkeys barely get off the ground when flushed. Vegans will forgo the turkey, but some will dine on the traditional trimmings, meatless stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

Larry Penny
November 19, 2014

We all know the names John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and James Audubon. Most us are familiar with the more modern names, Rachael Carson and Erin Brockovich.

Russell Drumm
November 19, 2014

I keep a journal, not as consistently as I should, but enough so that I’ve trained myself to recognize and acknowledge events or experiences that might cause a particular week to stand out thematically.

Larry Penny
November 12, 2014

It’s Monday evening. By the time this column appears in print more than 50 percent of the local leaves will have fallen and a good many trees will be completely bare.

When I went out earlier this week to survey the fall foliage, however, less than a quarter of the leaves were down and only a few road shoulders were completely covered by leaf litter. Why are the leaves falling so late this year? It’s hard to say.

Russell Drumm
November 12, 2014

It’s the smell, finest kind. When I first ventured to the East End in the late 1960s a community existed here that I knew virtually nothing about, yet I recognized them.

This could be because my mother’s side of the family were farmers. As I’ve written here before, my grandfather was an apple grower in Nedrow, N.Y., south of Syracuse. My uncle Scott had a small dairy farm. Uncle Scott was a tall man with bowed legs and so walked with a strange rolling gate.

Larry Penny
November 5, 2014

I would not be here today writing about nature if it weren’t for my mentor, Paul Stoutenburgh. In the mid-1950s when I was a teen growing up next to the potato fields in the Oregon part of Mattituck, my mother turned my attention to a small notice in the Mattituck Watchman-Long Island Traveler. It said that a man named Paul would be showing slides of birds at a local church.