On the evening of June the 11 I drove 43 miles on the back roads in Southampton Town listening for the breeding calls of whippoorwills and chuck-will’s-widows. I’ve been living in Noyac for 35 years and discovered a paved road right down the block that I had never been on, Old Sag Harbor Road, which connects Brick Kiln with Millstone Road where the old Bridgehampton Racetrack was situated.
We are on the verge of the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. For those living on the equator, it’s just another day. For those on the tiny island of Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean off the northernmost coast of Norway, there will only be day, no night.
The cosmos is expanding at an accelerated rate. There are thousands of meteorites ranging in size from a hardball to an aircraft carrier in crazy orbits and asymmetric paths in our solar system; small ones hit the earth annually. A big one like the one that smacked down in the center of Russia last year could hit somewhere in America within the next 10 years. The earth is pockmarked with craters from the strikes of asteroids and meteorites, as is the moon.
My first 21 years were spent on the North Fork looking at this and that. While I specialized in birds, learned the mammals — there weren’t that many — I also knew the local frogs, turtles, newts. and fish, which I learned by catching them. I knew as many garden and farm plants as native plants, I knew that Japanese honeysuckle was not American, and I knew about a handful of other invasives. I knew blueberries, beach plums, black cherries, because I picked them and ate them. I knew poison ivy because it made you itch like the devil.
Terry Sullivan is one fisherman who has been around. He fishes the ocean, bays, harbors, tidal creeks, ponds, and trout streams such as the Nissequogue. He’s caught just about every fish that will hit a lure or a fly from a shore at one of the above. He’s seen just about everything fishwise on Long Island, but last Thursday morning he was a bit flabbergasted to find a fish that he never caught here and, maybe, one that he never saw here.
The only butterfly I’ve seen to date is the cabbage white, the one long from Eurasia that lays its eggs on members of the cabbage family, to wit, garlic mustard, wild radish, and the like, also from Eurasia.
Butterflies and moths are part of the second trophic food level; they feed on the first level, the “producers.” In fact most insects — grasshoppers, various ant species, bees and other nectiferous species, almost all beetles and almost all bugs — feed on plants.
A very active week in birdland, indeed! Topping the list of May returnees were ruby-throated hummingbirds. The first to return to the South Fork, perhaps, were the four that showed up at the house of my Noyac neighbor Ellen Stahl on May 6. She called to tell me that they were back, she had her hummingbird feeders up, and they were flying in my direction every once in a while. She thought they might nest in my backyard.
On Monday I took a drive through the hills of Noyac, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, and North Sea that make up the bulk of the so-called terminal moraine left by the glacier that retreated 15,000 or so years ago. When I moved back to Long Island from Oregon and California in 1974, those hills were only sparsely covered with houses. The pitch pine and oaks carpeted the ups and downs of the knob-and-kettle topography, and to the south, the farm fields spread from west to east as far as the eye could see. How things have changed.
By the time this publishes, we should have blossoms on the shads, sweet cherries, and beach plums, the bird’s-foot violets will turn certain road shoulders purple and the dogwoods in Northwest will be trying to expand their snow-white bracts (they don’t have petals).
The Cretaceous period began during the decline of the dinosaurs, 160 million years ago. It was the time when flowering plants and insects, their chief pollinators, evolved and radiated. Those two groups have been together ever since. When the flowers first appear each spring, so do the nectaring insects, among them the butterflies.