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  •     It was a frigid, blustery, sleety, snowy morning when the participants in the 84th Montauk Christmas Bird Count left the comfort of their homes on Dec. 14 to identify and count the birds in a 15-mile-diameter circle including Montauk, three quarters of Amagansett (including Napeague), Springs, and Gardiner’s Island. Some of the counters were participating in their 30th or more Montauk count. These Christmas counts were an alternative to hunting birds with guns and began in the very first years of the 20th century in New York City.

  •     Last week I wrote from San Francisco, a metropolitan area with an influx of wild animals, including coyotes. Now I am at Nevada City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas at about 2,500 feet. There is snow on the ground from the once-a-year snow and the temperature hovers at the freezing mark each evening.

  •    Three thousand miles away in San Francisco, and the first bird I see is Corvus brachyrhynchos, the common crow, the same species that we have on the South Fork, doing what it does best here and there: raiding nests, making a lot of noise, attacking hawks and such, and in turn being chased by small birds like blackbirds away from nesting sites. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  •        As we continue on into the tech era, after digging out from the post-industrial era, I wonder, what comes next? There are thousands of new patent applications for thousands of new inventions every week. Very few of them will ever see their way to market. Just about every past invention and every one in progress is in some way derived from from nature. Nature’s inventions are not intentional; they arise by gene mutations, adaptation, and natural selection via the process of evolution. For every success there are hundreds of failures.

  •     Hither Woods was hither to what? To mainland East Hampton, with respect to the Point Woods just east of the Lighthouse? While much of Montauk has changed, Hither Woods has stayed the same; it’s never been developed.

  •     There is an overriding theory in physics known as entropy: Energy is continually moving from a higher state of order to a lower one. Ski down a hill that starts out steep but ends in a long flattish plain and you’ll eventually come to a stop. You’ve reached an end entropic state. Having come to a standstill, should a cataclysm all of a sudden remove the ground from under the plain, you would freefall down until you hit solid rock. You will have reached a second end entropic state.

  •     Woods, before Lyme disease, were the child’s other playground. Shimmy up trees, play cops and robbers, hide and seek, and all the time aware of the trees, leaves, bushes, open spots, learning ecology without knowing it.

  •     In the United States Army we used to leave the barracks at 6 a.m. and fall in, i.e., line up for the daily accounting. After everyone said, “Here,” the platoon sergeant would say, “All present and accounted for, sir” to the company commander, and we would fall out and go about our business of “hurrying up and waiting.” There was always someone missing from one or more of the platoons and that would cause some consternation among those wearing the “scrambled eggs,” the brass.

  •     On Sunday the South Fork Natural History Society hosted memorial service for the late Christopher Roberts, who passed away in August. Chris was a long-standing naturalist, musician, D.J., TV show producer, and landscaper who also worked for me in the East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department on and off. There was nothing environmental that he couldn’t master in a short time, be it wetland mapping, plant and animal identification, nature preserve caretaking, oil spill cleanup, or what have you.

  •     Acorns falling on the roof, isn’t that a phrase from a popular song? Acorns have been falling on my roof since the last week in September. Most of them get caught in the gutter and are easy picking for jays, squirrels, chipmunks, white-footed mice, and raccoons. Long Island’s forests are derived primarily from the eastern deciduous biome centered in the Appalachians. While key Appalachian states like North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have more oak species than any other states or other countries, Long Island has its share.