Only two more weeks to enjoy the wildflowers. Unlike most parts of the country where the spring and summer blooms are the brightest, most colorful, and most abundant, Long Island’s best wildflower season is in the first month of fall. California and Oregon, for example, have only a few species of asters, while Long Island has many. Though those two states have their share of goldenrods, they are few and far between, whereas on Long Island you often find four or five species blooming in close proximity.
The migration back to the city is under way. The migration south is under way. Not only are birds leaving us, but fish are going around Montauk Point on their way to warmer waters, dragonflies, and butterflies are moving off, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles are paddling south.
This past week saw the beginning of what could promise to be one of the greatest monarch butterfly migrations in a long time. The wind was gentle and blowing out of the southwest and south-southwest on most days after Tropical Storm Irene’s passage. At this time of year the monarchs fresh out of their chrysalises are heading south and southwest, into the wind, and following the shoreline. Since before the year 2000 here on eastern Long Island we have seen very little in the way of monarchs come the end of summer.
Hurricane Irene has come and gone. Last year Earl swept up the coast near the end of August with a great deal of hullabaloo. It missed us but did carry away some of Montauk’s valuable ocean beach sand. Irene had decidedly better aim and hit when the tide was high, washing away beaches and dunes from the Rockaways to Montauk Point.
If you take a ride out to Montauk via the parkway, you will pass through Hither Woods. As you motor along, keep your eyes on the rusting guardrails. Just behind them you will find a very healthy four-foot-high hedge of big bluestem grass, one of the original staples of old Montauk’s bountiful prairie. At one time it stretched from the western end of the Napeague isthmus to the point, a few trees here and there, but mostly grasses and wildflowers.
We are two-thirds of the way through summer and the last third promises to be one of the toughest to get through, unless you stay inside or remain in your car. If you go outdoors, either in the field or in the water, on the South Fork you’re in for it. A host of pests will be waiting for you. They have to get their dinners before turning into adults or laying eggs.
The middle of the summer is the best time to enjoy the plants. I like birds. I like mammals, I am one. I like fish. I like snakes, salamanders, turtles, and frogs. I like all of the animals without backbones, especially the ones in the sea. I even like insects, spiders, and most other creepy-crawlies. But there is nothing quite so beautiful as a plant. I like plants best.