Recent Stories: Outdoors

Russell Drumm
April 15, 2015

Consider the following as an open letter to Larry Penny, The Star’s longtime nature columnist, my good friend, and an indispensable member of the East End community.

Larry, I’m writing this to encourage you to read “H Is for Hawk,” a memoir by Helen Macdonald. Just came out. It’s a beautifully written meditation on one person’s relationship to the wild, and what “wild” means in our time.

Larry Penny
April 15, 2015
Environmental awareness is big here, as big as it is on eastern Long Island. Water, or the lack of it, is the major topic of the moment.

Here I am in San Francisco after a two-year hiatus. Things keep changing, but at the same time keep staying the same. The beautiful houses dating back to the 1920s in the hilly neighborhoods are in fine dander. The streets are clean. People walk and jog back and forth as much as they ride in motor vehicles. The sun comes out and disappears behind low-lying fog clouds just as you are beginning to warm up a bit.

Russell Drumm
April 8, 2015

This year we decided on lobsters for Easter dinner instead of lamb. It seemed the right thing after the hard winter, although I’m not sure why. More celebratory perhaps, or because Duryea’s has a great price on a package deal that includes lobsters, New England clam chowder, and either a bag of mussels or Little Necks. 

Larry Penny
April 8, 2015

We finally broke through to placid spring, but it was a rough one on us and a rough one on nature. Waterfowl and water birds took it on the nose and so did several fish. Greg Boeklin, the bald eagle watcher in Sagaponack, saw several dead fish at the top of Sagg Pond. He couldn’t tell the species; they were decomposing. They may have been alewives. In some years when the water from Jeremy’s Hole comes down in a gush by way of Solomon’s Creek, the alewives make it up to the little water body to reproduce.

Larry Penny
April 1, 2015

When the peepers start singing two things come to mind. There’s water in the vernal ponds and it’s warming up.

As of Monday the alewives are slow in coming but, nonetheless, many of the ospreys are back and ready to catch them as soon as they appear. On Sunday afternoon the spring peepers were peeping away in Big Reed Pond in Montauk. Evidently, they had just come up from hiding after a very long, cold, and snow-covered winter. Once they are up, they don’t retreat. They are mandated to sing and reproduce.

Russell Drumm
April 1, 2015

I’m embarrassed for my freezer. It’s pathetic, or it was. So much in and around the house that needs attention after the harsh winter just past. Where do I start? Then I opened the freezer compartment of the refrigerator and it screamed. 

A frozen wasteland. A scene from “Dr. Zhivago.” The coldest, most uncomfortable day of the winter, heavy clothes strewn about the house, wet boots, the rattle of the furnace, an old, leaky window — all of it was before me when I opened the freezer door, a diorama of the winter of 2015. I closed it.

Larry Penny
March 25, 2015

After two major retreats spring marches on. There is no turning back, or is there? In this millennium there have been several spring northeasters, and in March 2010 the East End got more than seven inches of rain in two close-together storms.

Russell Drumm
March 25, 2015

I’ve been working on a book. Slow going at first. But, as most writers will attest, once the narrative ball gets rolling, even if it seems at times to be rolling uphill, the work becomes an oasis of sorts, a place to repair to in your mind.

It’s a bit like having the ability to summon a dream, or a semi-obedient genie whose job it is to gather kindling to feed fantasy’s fire, or at least provide food for thought.

Larry Penny
March 18, 2015

The snow is melting away quickly, and the ice in the bays is disappearing almost as fast. Spring is three days away. Things are heating up. The black widow spider that lives between the panes of my south-facing window has made her end-of-winter debut. I’m sure she hasn’t eaten a thing since the end of summer, as she is the same size as when she retreated in the fall.

Russell Drumm
March 17, 2015

It’s 1820, the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Two sperm whales have been harpooned from the small boats launched from the whaler Essex out of Nantucket. A bull sperm whale does not like what’s going on. Enraged, it charges the Essex, ramming her bow twice. The ship fills with water, capsizes, and leaves her crew of 20 to head for the coast of South America a couple of thousand  miles away in three boats with nothing but a limited supply of hardtack and very little water. Half die en route, the others barely survive by cannibalizing their fellow whalemen.

Larry Penny
March 11, 2015

You might have seen Senator Charles Schumer on the news on Monday taking PSEG and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to task for allowing 95,000 or so penta-treated utility poles to be installed on Long Island. Penta, or pentachlorophenol, is not only very toxic if inhaled, touched, or ingested, it is also classified as a probable carcinogen. That is why it has already been banned for use by more than 26 countries and counting.

Jack Graves
March 11, 2015

Ken Ferrin first fly-fished at the age of 19 at Flathead Lake in Montana, where he was the waterfront director at a boys camp.

A long hiatus followed, until four years ago, at the age of 78, he suggested to his wife and tennis and cycling partner, Patti, with whom he’s biked all over the world, that they forgo heli-skiing, which they’d done for 20 years, in Canada, in favor of fly-fishing.

Russell Drumm
March 11, 2015

We had the opportunity to head for the hills and early Sunday morning we took it: the South Ferry to a sleeping Shelter Island, then we stemmed the tide and a few car-size icebergs over to Greenport on the North Ferry where we bought scones and coffee for the ride to meet the 9 a.m. Cross Sound Ferry to New London, bound for Stowe, Vt.

Larry Penny
March 5, 2015

My ichthyologist buddy, Howard Reisman, who lives in North Sea, says that, notwithstanding the monthlong occupation of North Sea Harbor and other inlets and coves of the Peconics, the alewives are out there and ready to move in to Big Fresh Pond as soon as their passageway thaws. They have been arriving annually at this time every year like clockwork for at least a half-century and most likely for several centuries. The streamway connecting the harbor to the pond can be high or low, depending upon the standing level of the water in Big Fresh.

Russell Drumm
March 5, 2015

The winter of 2015 refused to loosen its grip. As a result, cold-weather passions that have lain dormant in recent years returned with a vengeance in the Northeast.

Ski resorts upstate and in New England have not seen so much snow in years. Iceboats have been dragged out of storage and onto Long Island lakes and ponds. One of the more intense winter passions is the otherworldly sport of ice fishing.

Larry Penny
February 25, 2015

The great American winter pastime for those of us who live not too far from the Arctic Circle: feeding and watching birds. Each bird species has its own unique way of staying active when the windchills are in the single digits and the sun is covered up by a pale gray sky for most of the day.

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.