We are in the midst of a deep drought. Yes, we had almost three inches of rain locally two Sundays ago, but a drive by Chatfield’s Hole on Two Holes of Water Road showed that it hardly made a difference. The pond level was so low, that there were two ponds, a largish one to the north, a small one to the south. The small one had a tiny island in its center covered with the northern shrub of the heath family, leatherleaf.
On April 10 I went with some friends to the meeting of the Long Island Botanical Society held at Stony Brook University. When we were approaching the campus from the north end of Nichols Road, a red fox streamed across the road from east to west with outstretched tail. When we arrived back at Warren’s Nursery in Southampton (our starting point), a red fox ran across Majors Path into the nursery, its tail in the same position. That made sense, there is an active den with fox kits at that site.
We are in the midst of a drought and there is nothing worse for those early leavers and early bloomers who bet on a premature spring, but not on the dry weather. In 1986 during an extended dry period a wildfire caught hold of Hither Woods in Montauk and burned more than half of it. In 1995 the Westhampton Pine Barrens exploded from too little precipitation and now in 2012 a warm, dry winter and drier, warmer spring has sparked another major forest fire, north and east of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.
The last “Nature Notes” column talked about Montauk’s ancient hardwood forest, the Point Woods. In East Hampton Town there are two other forests dominated by broad-leaved deciduous trees that have hardly been cut over and have been equally impressive during settler, colonial, and modern times.
Some of you may remember when Camp Hero was still in possession of the federal government and when President Ronald Reagan tried to sell it to the highest bidder. The Concerned Citizens of Montauk showed up in force at the bidding site in New York City and put the kibosh on the sale. Simultaneously, Tony Bullock was working with Senator Moynahan’s office to have it become public land. And it did!
What motivates us, what motivates nature? The DNA and the enzymes and hormones it provides the blueprints for are a driving force, of course, but then, too, there are the stimuli, of which there are many different kinds varying in strength depending upon our ability to sense them. Our senses receive these stimuli and cause us to do this or that, think this or that. There isn’t a single organism, one-celled or multicelled, including the members of the plant kingdom, that doesn’t receive and respond to stimuli.
Just when you thought you had nature by the handle, here comes one of the most bizarre creatures yet, one you had no idea of and one that is found in less than a third of the field guides and other books dealing with insects and lepidopterans, in particular, moths.
It was two weeks ago when I was walking along the Long Beach parking lot road in Noyac when Vicki Bustamante pointed to something in the dune area between Long Beach Road and the parking lot. Not good, she said.
On Monday evening after a record high temperature for March 12 I went out at night to listen for spring peepers. Between 8:30 and 10, I visited 11 known peeper breeding sites and heard not a single peep. The sites were watery, but apparently not watery enough. Peepers and other frogs and toads that breed in water, as do all of ours on Long Island and all but one of our salamander species, generally don’t move from the ground until there’s a rain, and it hasn’t rained sufficiently for at least two weeks now.
On Friday, for the second time in two weeks, I visited the largest of the three Atlantic white cedar swamps in the hamlet of North Sea with a fellow naturalist. Prior to those two visits, I hadn’t seen it since around 1983 when I visited with Rameshwar Das, who was a photographer for The East Hampton Star at the time.
“The View From