In the 1940s almost every family on the North Fork had at least one dog and one cat. Many families kept a larger menagerie — pigs, chickens, goats, cows, and sometimes a horse or two. Horses were an extravagance; you couldn’t eat them nor did they give milk or lay eggs, and they were no longer needed to pull plows and other farm implements, having been replaced in the 1920s and 1930s by tractors.
America is making progress at bringing back lost species of flowers and plants, while simultaneously better protecting animal species that were most vulnerable. The gray wolf and grizzly bear, two species that were approaching extinction in the latter quarter of the 20th century, are now becoming so common in some areas that several states allow hunters to shoot them.
I led a nature walk at Shadmoor State Park for a nice couple from Amagansett who won the walk in the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society auction held on July 30. Their son and a girlfriend, as well as another woman friend and her son, also accompanied us. I took my large white towel along and swept the vegetation on the sides of the trails as we marched on in the chance that I might find a tick or two. Shadmoor is well known for its large deer tick and Lone Star tick populations.
All animals of a species have culture. If we accept the notion that plants communicate with one another underground via mycorrhizal connections, plants also have culture. In evolution, not only does a species adapt to changing climes and competition by evolving adaptations — as a fish evolving lungs to become an amphibian — but a species also changes its behavior to keep up with quicker changes in its environment.
Long Island is the biggest island by far in the Long Island archipelago. This archipelago may not be a true archipelago like the Galapagos in the South Pacific off Ecuador or the Channel Islands off Southern California in the middle Pacific or the San Juan Islands off Washington in the northern Pacific. The status of Long Island as an island has long been in doubt, separated as it is from the rest of New York by the East River. The United States Supreme Court — lawyers, mind you, not coastal geologists or geographers — ruled 9 to 0 that Long Island is not an island but part of New York State’s mainland.
Some human domiciles are 1,000 years old or more. Several on Long Island date back to the late 1600s. Most houses, however, have lost their sense of permanence. Fifty years ago, one would never raze a house to build another one unless it was severely storm damaged or ravaged by fire. Nowadays, houses built in the last quarter of the 20th century are falling to new, larger ones right and left. Houses have lost their sense of permanence just as we who live in them have lost our sense of immortality.
Montauk, in my eyes, is one of the richest places for natural history in the United States. It has grasslands, forests, savannas, freshwater wetlands, tidal wetlands, ponds both permanent and temporary, hills, kettleholes, glacial erratics, cranberry bogs, dunes, ocean beaches, sound beaches, all matter of marine and freshwater fishes, blue-spotted salamanders, and the only ocean coastal bluffs north of the Caribbean Islands. That venerable Long Islander Teddy Roosevelt traveled the world, and he also visited Montauk. He must have loved it. Walt Whitman loved it. I love it.
In August the insects hold sway. It is time for the most bizarre looking insectsof all, the walking stick and the praying mantis. One very rarely sees more than one or two of these, the largest of our creepy-crawlies, in a season.
The dog days of summer are supposed to wait until mid-August, but decided to come in July this year. Ouch! Having said that, the way the climate has been heating up in this decade, come August, the days could get even doggier.