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Nature Notes: The Good With the Bad

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 16:16

All of a sudden it’s hot and humid, but no matter, it’s the time when all hell breaks loose in nature. Eagles are feeding their chicks, spring peepers are crawling back out of the water to climb trees and feed after a long fast, alewives have spawned and are leaving Big Fresh Pond to their larvae, and robins are finding earthworms for their hatchlings. Aside from birds singing, the woods are silent, except on Napeague and a few other local spots. According to Dianne Gordon, who keeps both a close ear and eye out, the whippoorwills are back and singing their doleful three-note songs in Promised Land on Napeague.

I have yet to hear much about ticks, but the mosquitoes are back and the Promised Land inhabitants are beginning to feel their bites. I guess one must take some bad with the good — whippoorwills and ospreys nesting but only to a certain degree. At least we don’t have Maine’s black fly infestations to deal with, but then again, we have green-eyed flies. They don’t fly around in massive swarms like black flies, mosquitoes, or those pestiferous green-head flies, but their nasty bites make up for their solitary ways. Memorial Day is looming and so too may be the biting insects and the buzzing vehicles. Oh, well, Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden; we still get to live here.

Yesterday, my wild geraniums started to bloom and the male oak flowers — those brown stringy things which can cover a car, deck, or patio in a couple of days — began to fall. According to the latest Surfrider and Peconic Bay Keeper samplings, the enterococcus counts are safely low in Southampton Town waters with one major exception, Havens Beach in Sag Harbor, while they are generally at least two times as high in East Hampton Town waters, say, Georgica Pond, Hook Pond, and Pussy’s Pond, where the counts were in the hundreds. Pussy’s Pond scored the highest at 312. The tests were made in the first third of May. Look for a significant decrease in water quality after Memorial Day.

Last year Lake Agawam, Mill Pond, Sagg Pond, Georgica Pond, Little Fresh Pond, Hook Pond, and Wainscott Pond tested dangerously high throughout most of the summer, but none tested as high as the bathing waters at Havens Beach, where the count two weeks ago was a whopping 2,282! 

Our marine waters, including even the great Atlantic Ocean, are going downhill, but as far as enterococcus is concerned, thank goodness, the ocean is still quite safe to swim in. But can you imagine how pure the water must have been when the Pilgrims first arrived? Very few coliforms or enterococci, and not a trace of plastic or Styrofoam, mind you.

Notwithstanding the traffic clogs, ticks, mosquitoes, green-head flies, gnats, loud outdoor music, and having the place lighted up like Yankee Stadium at night, almost all of our original flora and fauna, with about 20 exceptions, are still here. The fishermen and farmers are still working the waters and the lands, and the blueberries, beach plums, and cranberries are still tasty. Yes, we have been joined by Eurasian phragmites, Asian bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, and Japanese knotweed, Russian olive, Chinese bamboo, garlic mustard, and a host of other invasives, almost as many nonnatives now as natives. And just as there is a new Academy Award winner each year, there seems to be a new runaway exotic plant taking over the South Fork each year. Lately, that title belongs to the very aptly named mile-a-minute weed.

You can pull it out, but don’t try to outrun it! 

Larry Penny can be reached via email at [email protected].

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