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  • It’s the new year and the East End is looking good. The days get longer by a minute or two every 24 hours. As Shelley wrote, when winter comes, spring can’t be far behind.
  • The winter birds are here and hungry. The Pennys haven’t had a winter feeding station out for more than five years running — no more rats, but very few birds. Having been recently stimulated by watching visitors feed the birds at the Morton Wildlife Refuge a few blocks down the road in Noyac, I decided it was time for me to return to the practice. My understanding of avian ways had become blurred because I had stopped observing them at close range.

  • Pines and oaks are the most common native trees on Long Island. There are two species of pines, pitch and white, and at least seven species of oaks. Oak trees are long-lived — white oaks such as those on Gardiner’s Island can live to 400 or 500 years, equaling the longevity of white pines, while pitch pines, which George Washington called “ill thriven” on his one trip here, are lucky if they make it to the century mark.

  • Trees figure prominently in Long Island street and road names, much more so than animals. Why? Perhaps it’s because trees are large in stature and immobile, while animals are smaller and liable to be in one place one day and another the next.

  • The Town of East Hampton stretches from the tip of Montauk Point to just west of the town airport, from the bays of the Peconic Estuary on the north to the great Atlantic Ocean on the south. Within those boundaries is a set of habitats, ecotypes, ecotones, and plant associations that set the town apart from the rest of Long Island and make it a unique treasure in terms of the natural world.

  • It’s turkey day, and many of us across America will be feasting on what Ben Franklin believed should have been our national bird. Bald eagles don’t taste good, but are more elegant and soar high in the sky; turkeys barely get off the ground when flushed. Vegans will forgo the turkey, but some will dine on the traditional trimmings, meatless stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

  • We all know the names John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and James Audubon. Most us are familiar with the more modern names, Rachael Carson and Erin Brockovich.

  • It’s Monday evening. By the time this column appears in print more than 50 percent of the local leaves will have fallen and a good many trees will be completely bare.

    When I went out earlier this week to survey the fall foliage, however, less than a quarter of the leaves were down and only a few road shoulders were completely covered by leaf litter. Why are the leaves falling so late this year? It’s hard to say.

  • I would not be here today writing about nature if it weren’t for my mentor, Paul Stoutenburgh. In the mid-1950s when I was a teen growing up next to the potato fields in the Oregon part of Mattituck, my mother turned my attention to a small notice in the Mattituck Watchman-Long Island Traveler. It said that a man named Paul would be showing slides of birds at a local church.

  • Out of the mouth of babes come gems . . . to paraphrase a well-based adage about the wisdom of children. Such was the case when Judy Shepard was driving her 4-year-old granddaughter home from preschool in Sag Harbor last fall.

    As they passed Otter Pond on their way to Noyac, little Irina asked the name of the pond. When Judy responded, Irina asked, “Are there otters in it?”

    “No” came the reply.