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Wildlife

By Anthony Petriello

A decomposing beaked whale, not
typically seen near shore, found in Miller Place July 19 caused a stir on social media. Photo from Andrea Costanzo

Pictures of a carcass of a mysterious creature that washed up on the beach in Miller Place discovered by a resident July 19 have been circulating around the local community on Facebook. The photos were provided to TBR News Media by Facebook user Andrea Costanzo, who said they were taken by her father. According to the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the creature has been identified as a beaked whale, a type of whale typically found in the deep ocean, although the exact species of beaked whale is yet to be determined. When found, the whale was in advanced stages of decomposition, making it difficult to determine what exactly it was, conjuring thoughts of the Loch Ness monster or other mythical creatures on social media.   

The SPCA speculated that the whale had gotten sick and swam into the Long Island Sound seeking shelter. The whale was taken off the beach and transported to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in Hampton Bays. According to AMCS Executive Director and Chief Scientist Rob DiGiovanni, very little has been determined as to why the whale became sick or how exactly it ended up on the Miller Place beach due to the advanced stage of decomposition of the animal, making it difficult to ascertain many facts. It was determined through necropsy, however, that the whale did not die due to the ingestion of marine debris such as plastic or metal.

Beaked whales dive for an hour, sometimes two, and surface for just a few minutes to take a series of rapid breaths before diving again, according to New Scientist, an online science and technology magazine. They routinely reach 3,200 feet beneath the surface, while some have been measured as far as 10,000 feet down.

'Cutchogue Barn’ by George Gough

Update, Feb. 11, 1:10 p.m.: According to the Huntington Arts Council, the opening reception scheduled for Feb. 5, originally postponed due to snow conditions, has been moved to Friday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Main Street Gallery.

The Huntington Arts Council’s Main Street Gallery will present its latest exhibit titled “Earth, Air and Water: A Celebration of Tri-State Wildlife and Nature” from Feb. 5 to 27. An opening reception will be held on Feb. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

‘Osprey in the Rain’ by Tom Reichert
‘Osprey in the Rain’ by Tom Reichert

Participating artists in the juried photography show include Talia Amorosano, Irene Andreadis, Debra Baer, Amy Bisagni, Holly Black, Winifred Boyd, Laura Rittenhouse Burke, Terry Canavan, Dorothy M. Chanin, Tom Colligan, Joseph Cutolo, Leonard Digiovanna, Jessie Edelstein, Monica Friedrich, Jay Gammill, Shannon Gannon, Susan Geffken Burton, Phyllis Goodfriend, George Gough, Jovanna Hopkins, Patrick Keeffe, John Killelea, Susan Kozodoy Silkowitz, Julia Lang-Shapiro, Mark Lefkin, Matthew Levine, Elizabeth Milward, Vera Mingovits, Trish Minogue Collins, Howard Pohl, Tom Reichert, Burt Reminick, Spencer Ross, Max Schauder, Harry Schuessler, Ruth Siegel, Don Thiergard, E. Beth Thomas, Susan Tiffen, Mac Titmus, Pamela Waldroup and Joan Weiss.

The exhibit was judged by Andrew Darlow,  a New Jersey-based photographer and digital imaging consultant whose photography has been exhibited internationally and has been featured in numerous magazines and websites. He has lectured and conducted seminars and workshops around the world. Of the 154 pieces of work submitted, Darlow chose 42 photographs to appear in the show.

‘Crab Meadow Sunset’ by Irene Andreadis
‘Crab Meadow Sunset’ by Irene Andreadis

“Photography is like magic. In a fraction of a second, a moment can be captured that will never be repeated exactly the same way again. This is especially true when our images include wildlife and nature,” said Darlow. “The entries for this show truly showcased the natural beauty and splendor of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In addition to many spectacular images of animals, flowers and breathtaking water scenes, I selected some photographs that include people and man-made structures. This balance between the human and natural worlds fascinates me, and I really look forward to viewing the exhibition on the gallery walls,” he added.

Best in show went to “Crab Meadow Sunset” by Irene Andreadis, and honorable mentions  were “Osprey in the Rain” by Tom Reichert and “Cutchogue Barn” by George Gough. Congratulations!

The Huntington Arts Council’s Main Street Gallery is located at 213 Main Street in Huntington. It is open Monday to Friday  from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

‘Coffee Pot Sunset,’ Orient Point Lighthouse. Photo by Jerry McGrath

By Rita J. Egan

Photographer Jerry McGrath has a keen eye when it comes to capturing the beauty of wildlife and landscapes, and through the end of February, nature lovers can enjoy his work at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham. The exhibit will include approximately 20 images — the majority taken right here on Long Island with a couple from his trips to Alaska — printed on canvas from the Wading River resident’s collection.

‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘All in the Family,’ a mother fox with her kits on Fire Island. Photo by Jerry McGrath

The library’s art coordinator Hildegard Kroeger said a few years ago when the library displayed McGrath’s photos, they were well received. She said library patrons will enjoy the new exhibit with stunning photos that capture the impressive wingspans of birds or the eye color of the creatures. “He captures them in a very artistic way, and it may open up the eyes of people to look at things differently,” Kroeger said.

McGrath said becoming involved in photography opened up a whole new world for him. A former fifth-grade teacher at Wading River Elementary School for 30 years, the educator’s love of the art form developed slowly over the decades. He said he bought his first 35mm camera in 1968 while stationed in Vietnam. At the time, it was to simply record his experiences there. He never imagined the purchase would one day lead to the passion it has become for him the past five or six years as well as a small source of income.

McGrath said when he prepares for an exhibit he sees the images coming out of the printer, and he becomes energized knowing that he was part of creating the work and just wants to share it with others, and it can be difficult to choose his favorites to display.

“I just love when the picture comes out of the printer, and I see how that final product looks. And when it looks really sharp and crisp, just the right subject, it’s just something that I get a charge out of. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Metropolis,’ winter town of Elfin Cove, Alaska. Photo by Jerry McGrath

An avid fisherman, McGrath was inspired to become more involved in photography after a fishing trip to Alaska that led to winning a photo contest. The photographer, who is also a former licensed charter boat captain and conducts a fishing course through the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, has been visiting Alaska for fishing trips annually for over 15 years.

A few years ago during one trip, he caught a halibut that weighed over 200 pounds. McGrath asked his friend Mike to take a photo of him with his catch, while he held the tail of the fish and sat down with his feet stretched out next to the head of the halibut to give perspective of just how big it was. When he returned home, he entered the picture in a fishing photo contest sponsored by Alaska Airlines and won. With this win, he thought about how he coordinated the photo and started thinking that he may have a knack for capturing a moment.

Winning two round-trip tickets to wherever the airline traveled, he and his wife Cathie decided to take a trip to Hawaii. McGrath said he felt that not any camera would do for such a scenic vacation so he purchased his first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. The photographer said he found it easier to use than previous manual exposure cameras that he owned, as well as an inexpensive way to take photos, and he began taking more.

‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Wings,’ a great egret in Baiting Hollow. Photo by Jerry McGrath

He said places such as Hawaii and Alaska are beautiful spots to take stunning photos. “You can’t take a bad picture of the sun creeping behind the mountains at sunset at 11 o’clock at night up in Elfin Cove, Alaska. It’s just spectacular,” McGrath said.

However, while he has taken gorgeous photos on vacations, the Long Islander said his favorite spots to take photos are close to home. He said he loves going to the Wading River Marsh Preserve where he easily finds birds by the water or even deer in the woods to photograph.

He added that his own backyard is a great place to take photos, especially of birds such as cardinals, blue jays and mourning doves. McGrath said he never paid much attention to birds, but once he started photographing them he started reading up on the different types and now can identify many of them.

“It opened a whole new world for me,” McGrath said.

A tender photo of a mother fox and her cubs that will be on display at the library was taken on Fire Island. According to McGrath, many of his wildlife photos are possible not only due to a good deal of patience while waiting for the perfect shot, but also by using a 300mm lens and 2x extender, which enables him to get great shots even when he is relatively far away from the subject. He now has a collection of three DSLR cameras, and from time to time, he will use a monopod to remain steady.

‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath
‘Fishing Duck,’ a female hooded merganser at the Wading River Duck Pond. Photo by Jerry McGrath

Visitors to the library exhibit who are interested in purchasing prints will be able to do so directly from McGrath. The photographer said after his first exhibit at the North Shore Public Library a few years ago, he displayed his work at the former Grind Cafe in Wading River and realized people wanted to buy his photos. He said he was amazed when during the two months of the café exhibit he sold 14 or 15 pieces that started at $150 or more. While the sales encouraged him to try to sell more of his photos, he said, “I just love taking the pictures. I would take the pictures whether I was getting paid or not.”

The North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham, will present McGrath’s exhibit through Feb. 27. An artist reception, hosted by the Friends of the Library, will be held to meet the photographer on Feb. 7 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.northshorepubliclibrary.org or call 631-929-4488. To view McGrath’s work, visit www.facebook.com/CapturedMcgraphicsPhotosByJerryMcgrath.

Volunteers hold the immobile sea turtles they discovered at West Meadow Beach, where Brookhaven Ranger Molly Hastings is working to nurse them back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

December’s wacky weather made life more difficult for everyone — but sea turtles at West Meadow Beach had a particular struggle.

Recent outdoor temperatures were largely above normal, with some brief moments of frigid cold. Molly Hastings, who serves as Brookhaven’s environmental educator and park ranger, saw some of the environmental consequences of this when she received an unusual knock on her door on Dec. 20 after a volunteer encountered two immobile, or cold-stunned, sea turtles.

An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings
An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

Hastings said the knock came from Celeste Gorman, who was taking a hike along West Meadow Beach as a volunteer in search of turtles rendered immobile by the cold weather. She ended up finding two in a very short span of time.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described sea turtles as cold-blooded animals with circulatory systems that can slow to the point of immobility when exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Various factors have helped contribute to the higher prevalence of cold-stunning, like more shallow bodies of water and more dramatic temperature changes, NOAA said.

Hastings said she was well aware of the impact an unpredictable climate has on the wildlife living not only at West Meadow, but across the town and country. She said this small, isolated incident with the sea turtles should serve a greater purpose.

“Hopefully, the turtles will recover from this climate change-caused incident,” Hastings said. “Regardless of their individual fate, let it serve as a gentle reminder that we all are charged of fixing what we’ve done to the great outdoors.”

Many of us may think that black-and-white photographs are not interesting. Mimi Hodges, an enthusiastic photographer and Sound Beach resident, doesn’t agree. She likes to take black-and-white photographs of local places. As she puts it, “color can sometimes be a distraction.”

This female bobcat, named Surabi, lives at Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Proceeds raised at a bowling event on Sunday will be used to feed and care for the more than 100 animals that live at Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center.

Halloween Bowl for Animals will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at Bowl Long Island at Patchogue, and will cost $30 for adults, $20 for children and $10 for non-bowlers who attend. That price includes unlimited bowling, shoe rental, a buffet and dessert. Reservations are required.

“This is a great event for the entire family that will help to ensure the animals at the ecology site continue receiving the proper care,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement.

The spooky bowling fundraiser will include a costume contest — children are encouraged to dress as their favorite animal — and a 50/50 raffle.

To reserve lanes, register online at www.brookhavenwildlifecenter.org or call 631-758-9664 x11.

The bowling alley is located at 138 West Ave., Patchogue.

An osprey with two chicks at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Jay Gammill

By Ernestine Franco

Like many sons, Jay Gammill has followed in his father’s footsteps, a U.S. Navy photographer during World War II. “My father had a tremendous amount of photographic experience. We even set up our own darkroom for processing pictures in our basement. Dad was always the guy with the camera,” said Gammill.

Jay Gammill photographs local birds.
Jay Gammill photographs local birds.

Born and raised in Long Island City, Queens, Gammill spent his entire life on Long Island, with the exception of his four years in the U.S. Air Force, 1968-1972. He met his wife Janet after returning home from the service. They married in 1976 and moved into their first home in Levittown. In 1999, they moved to their current home in East Setauket.

Gammill received his first camera, a Brownie Starflash, as a young boy. “Boy, was I happy! No one could turn around without a flashbulb going off in their face,”  he said. And so began a lifelong passion.

When Gammill entered high school at Rice High School in upper Manhattan, he was in the yearbook photography club, and his parents bought him his first 35mm camera. “That camera was glued to me; if there was any kind of school activity, you could be sure I was taking pictures. It was very gratifying to have many of my pictures published in my senior yearbook,” he said.

A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill
A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill purchased his second 35mm camera while in the Air Force and used it for many years after returning home. “Friends always whined when I was taking pictures at parties and social events but those pictures are now filled with golden memories that can really make people smile.”

Retiring as the director of the maintenance training department of New York City Transit in 2009 gave him more time to pursue this unique hobby.

Sitting outside on the deck of his home, Gammill started taking pictures of birds. He found it wasn’t easy. “Then it became a challenge, and I knew I could do better,” he said. “I have an advanced digital camera now {a Nikon D610}, and birds have become my favorite subjects. My wife, who spent summers in Sound Beach growing up, and I go to parks, ponds, nature areas — anywhere birds may be feeding or nesting.”

A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill
A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill has some advice for anyone interested in photography. “Taking photographs will expand your horizons. It is a very enjoyable hobby, getting you out of the house into the fresh air, not to mention some exercise, which I recommend to anyone.” For himself, he has lots of plans. “Now I want to increase my efforts into landscapes, sunsets, night photography and other areas,” he said.

Mimi Hodges, a resident of Sound Beach and long-time friend of Janet Gammill and her family, credits Jay Gammill with revitalizing her own enthusiasm for photography. At a family get-together last year, Gammill invited Hodges to join a closed Facebook photography group.

“The result is that, for the past year, my interest in photography has been revived and I am truly enjoying this renewed passion. I owe it all to Jay,” said Hodges.

Gammill has posted some of his own photographs on Facebook and was surprised that so many people enjoyed them. When asked by friends how he finds these birds, Gammill answers, “They are all around; you just have to look.” And when Gammill looks through his camera, what he sees is spectacular!

A fearless Long Island deer forages for food. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Belle Terre residents are up in arms, or ready to take up arms, over a village government proposal to allow bow hunting as a means of reducing the community’s deer population.

The village board of trustees set a public hearing for Sept. 15 to consider a law amendment that would allow the hunting, a notion that has split the community, with some calling for more “humane” approaches to the issue.

The deer population, in the absence of predators, has increased such that “people are having multiple deer sleeping on their lawns at night and eating all their vegetation,” and making driving in the area more treacherous, Trustee Bob Sandak said in a phone interview this week. “We’ve had an outcry from the population to please do something.”

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the state’s deer, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. It calls hunting, or culling deer “still the most efficient and cost-effective way to stabilize or reduce deer populations and alleviate associated damages to private property and natural resources.”

But calling bow hunting “a very cruel way to kill,” resident Natalie Brett said she worried an injured deer would wander into her yard and die.

Brett said she has noticed the deer population increase and the animals eat her plants, but “I don’t have a problem; I just go with it.”

She said she wants to see a more “humane” approach to the deer, using sterilization to prevent breeding, tick control to prevent Lyme disease, or stop signs to slow down traffic in deer crossing areas.

But her main concern is whether allowing bow hunting will “open the door” to other types of hunting in a residential area.

“I didn’t move to a state hunting ground and put up a sign, ‘You shouldn’t hunt,’” Brett said in a phone interview. “I don’t want my neighbor, if he’s 150 feet from my house, having a hunter come in.”

Sandak said any Belle Terre bow hunting would be subject to the same state regulations as in any other community. Among those regulations are minimum distances from homes where hunting can take place, ruling out smaller properties. Sandak estimated a property would have to be three acres or more to legally support bow hunting.

The DEC said fertility control is not as effective as hunting in managing deer populations and does not “quickly reduce deer-human conflicts.” And Sandak said he would not necessarily count sterilization as a more humane method, as it puts deer under “unnatural stress” and could leave the animal open to infection.

It is also costly to pay for anesthetic and a marksman to hit the deer, and “doesn’t reduce the size of the herd because you’re not taking any of the herd away, as hunting would do,” the village trustee said.

Dori Scofield, founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Port Jefferson Station, confirmed that sterilization is a costly and tricky method that unnaturally stresses out the deer, but she also said she has at least six veterinarians who would donate time to sterilize deer, and the village is small enough to monitor such a program.

Scofield, a Stony Brook resident, also said in an email that having fewer deer would not reduce Lyme disease cases, as other animals like mice and raccoons also carry ticks. Furthermore, killing deer would not necessarily reduce that population, because it would leave more food for deer from neighboring areas to move in and motivate them to procreate.

“Ideally I would like them to leave the deer be,” Scofield said. “We need to protect the animals in our towns.”

Belle Terre is not the only area considering deer hunting as a means to control the population. The Town of Huntington is mulling a similar proposal for parts of Eaton’s Neck and Asharoken, and residents there are equally split.

Scofield said people who move to a wooded area should expect wildlife.

“I have deer in Stony Brook and, yes, they eat my shrubs and I sip my tea and watch them,” she said. “Then I feed them some horse feed and we all go about our day.”

Sandak said he is leaning toward allowing bow hunting in the village because “I don’t have strong feelings against it” and he wants to vote for what the majority of the community wants.

The Sept. 15 public hearing on the amendment to Belle Terre’s code chapter on hunting and firearms starts at 8 p.m. in the Belle Terre Community Center on Cliff Road.

“I would like everyone to come to the public meeting and express themselves,” Sandak said.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers freed a trapped bird in Northport. Photo from SCPD

A bird has got new wind beneath its wings, thanks to rescue efforts by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau, whose officers freed the creature on Sunday after it became entangled on an offshore fuel platform in Northport.

Officers Charles Marchiselli and Michael O’Leary were aboard Marine Bravo when they observed the bird tangled in string along the railing of the platform, about two miles north of National Grid’s Northport power plant, at approximately 11:15 a.m. O’Leary distracted the bird with a wildlife pole while Marchiselli covered it with a blanket and cut the entangling lines.

The bird appeared uninjured and swam away after being freed, police said.

The officers saw the bird while they were conducting a homeland security check of the platform, which is used to offload fuel for the power plant.

National Grid owns and operates the plant, and sells its produced energy to utility PSEG Long Island, which distributes the power to Long Island residents.

Residents vet plan for Eaton’s Neck deer

Some Three Village residents became concerned when they received an advertisement for a deer management program offering its services. File photo

Dozens of residents weighed in at a public hearing on Tuesday on a Huntington Town Board plan that would allow seasonal longbow hunting of deer on Eaton’s Neck.

The proposal would amend the town code to allow longbow hunting during hunting season on private properties on Eaton’s Neck and in unincorporated areas of Asharoken to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Nearly 30 people took to the podium at town hall to voice their concerns on the plan.

Those who supported the proposal, which would only apply to private properties, said they wanted the measure in place to regulate what’s become an overpopulation of deer in the neighborhood. The great numbers of deer have given rise to public health, safety and quality of life issues, supporters said.

Opponents called the plan an “inhumane” solution and suggested the town explores other deer management routes and raised questions about whether the hunting method would even be effective in curbing the population.

Among the residents who spoke against longbow hunting included some who have been impacted by tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease, an infectious bacterial disease that if left untreated can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system; and babesiosis, a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells.

Dr. Gary Stone, Huntington Hospital’s chairman of pathology and director of the laboratory, said in an interview on Wednesday that the hospital has treated about 10 to 15 cases of babesiosis in total this year. Those cases are of individuals from the Huntington Town area, he said. The hospital announced in a statement “more are expected,” and said the disease is “prevalent in our area but sometimes goes unnoticed.”

“This has happened before but it doesn’t happen to do this degree this summer,” Stone said. “This summer is definitely worse than the last few summers.”

He said in research he’s carried out on cases at other area hospitals, it seems as though medical centers on the North Shore are experiencing greater numbers of cases of babesiosis.

“I’m thinking there’s a higher percent of ticks here on the North Shore actually have the disease than on the South Shore,” he said.

Doug Whitcomb told Town Board members that the population has exploded to the point where “everybody encounters deer on a daily basis.” He and others pleaded with board members to consider the elevated health risks associated with a large deer population and to allow longbow hunting.

“I am here to represent that the residents of Eaton’s Neck deserve the same opportunity to quality of life as all of the other residents of Huntington have, and deer are causing us unimaginable problems,” Whitcomb said.

Animal advocates, however, took aim at longbow hunting.

“Animals feel pain and experience a full range of emotions — happiness, contentment, fear and dread,” Jeannie Gedeon said. “They are intelligent. …  If you vote to allow deer hunting in the Town of Huntington we might as well go home and shoot our pet dogs and cats with an arrow and go watch them die.”

The uptick in the deer population has led to a rise in car accidents, residents said. They also claim the animals eat their plants.

Residents of the Eaton Harbors Corporation have been working on the issue. The group posted on its website a January meeting with DEC deer biologist Josh Stiller, who provided an overview of the deer population growth issue.

“The problem is going farther and farther west it seems like every year,” he told residents then. … “Deer can multiply really quickly under ideal situations and in a lot of these suburban areas you have an ideal situation for deer.”

In prior interviews, Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I) spoke about wanting to see a more humane approach to managing the deer population. In separate interviews after the public hearing, they said they hadn’t decided whether they’d support the measure or not.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) echoed similar sentiments. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) told reporters that he felt something needed to be done and that he’d look into the issue further.

“It is getting out of hand. We have to do something. Are we happy about this alternative with bows and deer running and they’re shot? No. There’s no immediate quick fix,” the supervisor said.

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