Search

horseshoe - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

A view of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. File photo

Upon the recent receipt of a letter from a Virginia-native third-grade student (see Letters to the Editor), TBR has begun to think retrospectively about what it is that makes our coverage area so unique.

As residents and representatives of Long Island’s North Shore, we often forget to share the natural beauty and cultural heritage that defines where we live. The allure of the picturesque beaches, lush woodlands and historic villages capture our hearts, making it an ideal place to call home.

In terms of making a living, our areas offer a diverse range of opportunities. From bustling commercial centers like those off Nesconset Highway to locally owned shops, residents here engage in various professions spanning industries such as health care, education, finance, hospitality and more. Here at TBR News Media, we work to keep the community informed and up to date on all local news and events.

Our area is also home to excellent academic influence provided enormous contributions made by our research institutions, like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Lab, and Stony Brook University and Medical Center, the flagship campus of the State University System. 

To paint a picture, our coverage area displays picture-perfect beaches stretching along the coastline, framed by towering bluffs and pebble-riddled sands. You can find quaint village scenery all throughout our coverage area from Shoreham/Wading River to Huntington/Cold Spring Harbor, exhibiting charming Colonial architecture and a pleasant way to tour the towns. 

For fun, residents and visitors alike indulge in a plethora of activities. From relaxing beach days and scenic walks through Avalon or Frank Melville parks to cultural events and culinary delights, there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s exploring historic landmarks on Washington’s Spy Trail, visiting the Long Island Museum, attending art festivals or catching a show at a local theater like Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater, the Smithtown Performing Arts Center or Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three, our coverage area offers endless opportunities for leisure and recreation.

As for wildlife, our coverage area is home to a diverse array of creatures. Along the coast, you may spot ospreys soaring overhead or even the endangered piping plover. Our rocky shoreline creates a unique habitat for horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs and fish galore. While inland, deer, fox and various bird species inhabit the woodlands and marshes, adding to our area’s natural charm.

When it comes to food, there is no shortage of options for whatever culinary palette you crave. Famous for our bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel sandwiches, gourmet delis, New-York-style pizza or fresh seafood caught off the shores to hearty Italian and Irish fare, there’s no shortage of delicious dishes to savor. 

For your ears, you’ll find a vibrant music scene with a diverse range of genres. From iconic rock bands like Billy Joel and Blue Öyster Cult to emerging indie artists and classical ensembles, the music of our area reflects the eclectic tastes and talents of its residents. Local tributes to music and entertainment are at the ready with the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame and The Jazz Loft, both located in Stony Brook, hosting various events catered to music enthusiasts.

For the athletes and sports fans, our local high schools represent some of the most competitive athletes across the state in all disciplines. Rocky Point High School Cheerleading earned another national title this year, while the Lady Patriots of Ward Melville High School were crowned soccer state champions. If that isn’t enough, our very own Stony Brook University is yet another destination for local sports viewing, representing some of the finest student-athletes in the NCAA.

Tourism is a driver of our local economy as well as we are fortunate to have the greatest city in the world, New York City, within reach. Our area is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural heritage and community spirit. A place where small-town charm meets cosmopolitan sophistication, where history whispers secrets from its streets and where a vibrant community thrives, hand in hand with the beauty of the natural world. This unique confluence is what continues to make our area a coveted haven in the heart of New York state.

'Music of the Birds'

By John L. Turner

John Turner

From time to time I’m asked a variation of the following question: What bird-nature-environmental books did I enjoy reading or am currently reading?  This got me thinking — why not share the Nature Matters column to explore some of my favorite books on aspects of nature including a first article on birds. So beginning with this column focused on birds, future articles will focus on what I think are broader important and worthwhile books on nature and our relationship with it including numerous environmental struggles, the personalities involved in these struggles, and broader issues of planetary sustainability.

Tens of millions of Americans have an interest in birds, an interest that ranges from  mild to downright intense. Many authors have catered to this, producing thousands of books on a wide variety of bird related topics — bird identification (a future column itself on guides), migration, feathers, coloration, adventures to see birds, how to be a better birder, bird song, bird flight, the history of ornithology and birding, and conservation issues, to name a few. Hundreds of more technical books on birds have been written on such topics as evolution, anatomy and physiology, and mating systems.

So the following are a few of the books on birds I recommend you consider cracking the covers of: 

There are a number of books that are overviews of the avian world that should serve as the core of any bird library. Birds & People by Mark Cocker is an example. It is a tome,  coming in at 591 pages, and as you might guess is exhaustive in its treatment — covering all of the world’s bird families with the author providing fascinating information about each bird group with an emphasis on human interactions, folklore, and cultural significance.  

Another book that has a slightly different format but is richly informative is The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior (numerous authors). It, too, discusses the unique qualities of different bird families but before the family discussion has five chapters that delve into great detail about Flight, Form, and Function; Origins, Evolution, and Classification; Behavior; Habitats and Distributions; and Populations and Conservation. If I were able to recommend only one book for your nightstand to increase the breadth and depth of your knowledge about birds it would be this book.      

Yet another book in this genre — a comprehensive overview of birds — is Kenn Kaufman’s Lives of North American Birds. Here the author focuses at the species level rather than the family, providing basic and important information about various aspects of specific birds’ life histories such as diets and habitats used.  Also worth your consideration is the comprehensive species guide — Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion.

Shore birds — sandpipers, plovers, and the like — are one of my favorite groups of birds and they have been the focus of a number of books. Two classics are Peter Matthiessen’s The Wind Birds and Fred Bodsworth’s Last of the Curlews, a story about the sickening demise of the Eskimo Curlew, a bird once common on Long Island but now believed extinct due to the rapaciousness of uncontrolled sport and market hunting. Perhaps these books can be secured on eBay or at a used bookstore.  

The World of the Shorebirds by Harry Thurston is another worthwhile addition to your bird library replete with stunning photographs of shorebirds and the wetland habitats they frequent.

More recently, the red knot, a plump robin-colored shorebird which has declined precipitously in abundance, has been the subject of a few books including Moonbird by Phillip Hoose, The Flight of the Red Knot by Brian Harrington, and The Narrow Edge by Deborah Cramer. The first book chronicles the life of a single red knot that has lived long enough during its annual migrations to have traveled the distance to the moon and halfway back, the second a straightforward overview of the species, and the last book exploring the relationship between red knots and horseshoe crabs, the eggs of which the bird depends upon on its northbound journeys in the Spring.      

If bird intelligence is of interest to you The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman should be on your mandatory reading list. As the title suggests this book covers many fascinating aspects of bird intelligence and memory. Take, for example, the Clark’s Nutcracker, a western species, that can successfully find tens of thousands of seeds its cached scattered across several square miles, displaying memory prowess that put ours to shame.   

The Bird Way is another book by Ackerman which probes the ways in which birds talk, work, think, and play. It contains one of the most startling things I’ve ever read about bird behavior: apparently some Australian raptors (e.g. hawks and eagles), knowing how it is easier to capture animals fleeing from a wildfire, are known to pick up smoldering sticks and drop them away from a fire in an effort to expand or start a fire!     

Many books have been written about birds and their singing prowess. One of my favorites is Lang Elliot’s Music of the Birds: A Celebration of Bird Song. Besides containing many beautiful color photographs and highly informative text on the function of song, the difference between calls and songs, and how song has inspired humans for millennia, etc., the book comes with a CD filled with bird songs, calls, and the famous “dawn chorus.” 

Three outstanding books on bird migration, definitely worth your time, are A Season on the Wind by Kenn Kaufman and A World on the Wing and Living on the Wind by Scott Weidensaul. In these books the two authors document their experiences traveling around the world trying to better understand the fascinating movement of migratory birds. Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu is another enjoyable book on this topic.  

If the global movement of birds excites you then Eye of the Albatross by Carl Safina is a most worthwhile read.  An outstanding nature writer, Safina chronicles the travels and travails of Amelia, a wide-ranging albatross; besides learning about albatross migration and biology and aspects of the ocean environment, Amelia is a “window” for understanding the struggles all wildlife face on a planet being increasingly usurped by humans.   

Two very different books by Bridget Stutchbury are worthy reads: Silence of the Songbirds and The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life. The former discusses the threats facing birds in today’s wounded world while the latter focuses on how birds interact.  

Back to Peter Matthiessen, we have his delightful overview of the world’s cranes in The Birds of Heaven. An added bonus are the beautiful paintings by Robert Bateman. The author travels around the world learning about this iconic and charismatic group of birds including the two species native to North America — Whooping and Sandhill Cranes.   

Lastly, if you’d like to see a current, real world example of bird evolution happening before your very eyes I invite you to read The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, for which the author won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize. In this fine book the author documents the extensive studies of Peter and Rosemary Grant, who have spent their lives documenting changes to the various finches (and their bills) that live in the Galapagos Islands located off the west coast of South America and made famous by Charles Darwin.    

As Long Island turns away from summer and colder weather arrives, driving most of us indoors, why not explore the fascinating avian worlds presented in these books (and many others not covered here!) All you need is a glass of wine, a comfortable chair, and a curious mind.  

A resident of Setauket, author John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Image by Ray Miller from Pixabay
John Broven. File photo by Diane Wattecamps
By John Broven

How should I travel to the recent Association for Recorded Sound Conference in Pittsburgh? Although the air flight from New York is short, I was shocked when I found the round trip would cost up to $500. A 430-mile car journey didn’t come into consideration.

Following a quick call to Amtrak and after negotiating the inevitable automated messages, I was quoted a return fare of $133.20 on the daily Pennsylvanian train.

After checking the Long Island Rail Road app, I found the connections between Stony Brook and Penn Station were workable, even if it meant all-day journeys to and from Pittsburgh on a Wednesday and a Sunday. I had the time.

With the booking made, I wondered how much extra a business-class seat would cost. When I was quoted $116.40 for the privilege, I accepted with alacrity. Why not travel in comfort? The total outlay was still half the price of an air flight without the hassle of going through LaGuardia Airport and the rest.

The 7:43 a.m. train from Stony Brook arrived on or close at Penn Station. After a short hike through the building site that is one of the premier U.S. rail stations, I arrived at bustling, brand-new Moynihan Train Hall in plenty of time for the 10.58 a.m. Amtrak train to Pittsburgh. We headed south on a perfect sunny day through New Jersey to Philadelphia before we veered west via Lancaster and Harrisburg. “This beautiful farming countryside is Trump country,” I mused to myself.

With a compelling book to hand, Mack McCormick’s “Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey,” detailing the author’s travails through 1960s Mississippi in search of family and friends of the country blues legend, the hours flew by.

The business-class carriage was located next to the café car. The meals were hardly haute cuisine, rather adequate comfort food that was washed down with acceptable Pinot Grigio wine.

At one point, the conductor excitedly announced that we were approaching the World Famous Horseshoe Curve where Irish immigrant workers in the 1850s had constructed rail tracks from the side of the Allegheny Mountains. It was a sight I would never have savored from 35,000 feet in the air.

On past Amtrak trips, my trains had been held up for longish periods by freight convoys, including the Tropicana orange (blossom?) special from Florida. Passenger trains, it appeared, were playing second fiddle to the more profitable freights. For certain, Amtrak has suffered for years from underinvestment, lack of political will and poor reputation. 

Still, our train, due in Pittsburgh at 7:58 p.m., was only 10-minutes late on a mellow sunlit evening. “Are there any taxi cabs at the station?” I asked the ever-polite conductors on my first visit to the reinvigorated Steel City. “Never seen any,” they said in unison. 

With my Uber app on the blink, I tried the iPhone map and was delighted to find it was just a 10-minute walk up Grant Street to the conference hotel.

The closeness should have been no surprise. Amtrak rail and Greyhound bus stations were invariably built in or near city centers, not miles away on the outskirts. I found out later that taxi fares from the airport cost $60.

The music conference, after the pandemic hiatus, was good. Aside from seeing record-collecting and archivist friends old and new, there were excellent presentations on Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, pioneering blues pianist Leroy Carr and Pittsburgh disk jockey Porky Chedwick. A personal highlight was seeing the film, “How They Got Over: Gospel Quartets and the Road to Rock & Roll,” including a stunning black-and-white clip of the Consolers husband-and-wife duet from some 60 years ago. 

And so the return journey to New York, starting out at 7:30 a.m., was more of the pleasant same, although on this occasion the Horseshoe Curve view was obliterated by, you guessed it, a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

Downhill with LIRR

The scheduled 4:50 p.m. Amtrak train arrived some 10 minutes early at Penn. There was a 5:10 LIRR train which meant a modest wait at Huntington for a Port Jeff connection but it avoided another change of train — and track — at Jamaica.

From here on, the journey went rapidly downhill. My trolley bag, indeed any suitcase, would not fit into the overhead rack. There was one pull-down seat but the space was taken up by a bicycle zealously guarded by its owner. I knew I would not be permitted to block the carriage walkway with my case. What to do? Luckily, a kind lady from Hudson Valley, on her way to JFK airport and London, made room for my bag — and me.

Consider this: LIRR is serving one of the world’s major airports yet is almost totally commuter focused. There is little or no thought given to travelers and their luggage. “Oh, for Amtrak’s business coach class,” I thought.

We arrived at Huntington on the opposite platform to the scheduled Port Jeff departure. “Use the elevator,“ the conductor helpfully announced. Not so fast. The contraption had broken down, not for the first time in my experience. And so I had to haul the trolley bag and myself up and down one of the long footbridges.

The train eventually limped into Stony Brook “on time” at 7:34 p.m. My journey from New York, allowing for the 36-minute stopover at Huntington, had taken 2 hours, 24 minutes — in the year of 2023. High-speed rail, anyone?

Is there any better argument for the electrification of the Port Jefferson Branch line – which services prestigious and populous Stony Brook University — along with a complete review of the LIRR system? How long are North Shore residents going to put up with a third-world rail service? Will the proposed Lawrence Aviation rail yard at Port Jeff Station happen? Yet there is no sign of any positive movement in the Metropolitan Transit Authority capital budgets, as the aging diesel trains continue to pollute the environment and potential riders take to the road in this age of climate change. I cannot forget I was spoiled by superefficient European trains in my younger life. America is a wonderful country, as I saw on my trip to Pittsburgh, but it deserves a better rail system everywhere. Meanwhile, our local elected officials — state, county, town, village — of every stripe should continue to lobby LIRR, MTA and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for a 21st-century railroad for the future benefit of us all.

John Broven, originally from England, is a copy editor with TBR News Media, and author of three award-winning American music history books.

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

There is a presumed lack of engagement in civics of today’s youth: an inability to discern truth from hyperbole, ignorance of our nation’s history and disinterest in government. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court and 32 state supreme courts have explicitly stated that preparation for capable citizenship is a primary purpose of education, and programs in New York State and Suffolk County do bring together education and civics.

At a League of Women Voters’ program several weeks ago, a group of high school students from six western Suffolk districts participated in the League’s “Student Day at the Suffolk County Legislature.” This program, developed with the Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer, was initiated in 2015 but interrupted by COVID. Returning to Hauppauge this year, it was praised by the participants, teachers, and legislators. 

Students (selected by their schools) knew that they would be either supporting or opposing an “Introductory Resolution” (developed in advance): ”RESOLVED, that in order to make our Suffolk County schools as safe as possible, the Suffolk County Police Department is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to allow School Safety Officers and Suffolk County Police stationed at all Suffolk County schools to be armed, including concealed weapons, in order to protect our precious schoolchildren …” 

Upon arrival, they were greeted by representatives of the Legislature and the League, and then heard from elected officials about the responsibilities and role of a legislator. Three representatives of the Suffolk County Police Department with experience in the schools then educated the students about the role of school safety officers, procedures, etc. 

Students had numerous questions and the session was thorough and informative. They then caucused in their “pro” and “con” assigned groups to debate, exhort, and plan their words and actions for the Mock Legislature. They stated later that they needed much more time to fully explore and formulate their position(s). 

They finally convened in the legislative “horseshoe” chamber, with students taking on a variety of roles: 18 as legislators, and the remaining 13 representing the public and Suffolk County Legislature staff. The student acting as Presiding Officer had a herculean task managing the “legislators” and the “public” who vied for time to speak and convince. Finally there was a roll-call vote, and the Resolution was defeated. 

Students were insightful in their evaluations: “I learned that despite the different views of the public, a legislator has to look for a way to please both parties, which isn’t an easy job” and “In AP Gov’t I learned about the congressional/national level, but seeing the similarities and differences on a local/state level was interesting. I noticed how the debate was controlled similarly in Congress but one difference was that even if the moderator has his own side he did not use that against his opponents when choosing who would speak.”

Beyond this small group example of why we have faith and hope in our young people, there are other programs and collaborations such as the League’s “Students Inside Albany” held each May over 3 days. Also  the League has joined DemocracyReady NY— a statewide, nonpartisan, intergenerational coalition of organizations and individuals committed to preparing all students for civic participation. 

The League participated in a task force to create the New York State Education Department’s Seal of Civic Readiness which is a formal distinction on a high school transcript and diploma that a student has attained a high level of proficiency in terms of civic knowledge, civic skills, civic mindset, and civic experiences. In order to obtain the Seal of Civic Readiness, a student must complete all the requirements for a New York State local or Regents diploma and earn a total of six points with at least two points in Civic Knowledge and at least two points in Civic Participation. Students may also earn points by completing a middle school Capstone project or a high school Capstone project. Several hundred NYS schools are committed to this program in the coming school year. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.

Barn owls can catch their prey in complete darkness due to their acute sense of hearing. Pixabay photo

By John L. Turner

John Turner

As you begin to read this article please pause for a moment and take stock of your immediate surroundings. What do you feel? Your fingertips feel the largely smooth texture of the surface of the newspaper (perhaps using Meissner corpuscles as I have since learned) and your legs and back feel the chair you’re sitting in. What do you see? Obvious is the fine print of this article and other articles and different shades of color contained in this  edition. Lift your gaze to look around a palette of several dozen colors. As for smell? Maybe the aroma of your morning coffee or tea accompanying this reading experience. 

Maybe your dog is curled up nearby. While you’d have no reason at this moment to think about it, the worlds you and your dog are currently experiencing are very different. Our entire set of sensory skills — which allows us to perceive and react to the world, varies markedly from a dog’s.  We see color while dogs experience a more limited palette. We can detect many scents and odors but is far surpassed by the capability of dogs. 

Some research papers indicate their ability to detect smells — “their sense to detect scents” — is 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. And as far as hearing goes, your furry pet far surpasses your ability in what it can hear, especially noises at higher ranges (remember a dog whistle which, when blown, cannot be heard by the person blowing it but is definitely heard by the dog?)    

Now, let’s expand this idea outward to capture, say, some animal groups that might inhabit your backyard, such as birds, bats and insects. These groups perceive a very different world than we do. It is well known that some bird and insect species, for example, perceive ultraviolet or UV light, which humans, with rare exceptions, cannot (UV is the light spectrum below a wavelength of 380 nanometers). And a UV illuminated world for them is very different than the world illuminated for us. Certain floral patterns which we can’t see stand out as runways on flower petals for UV capable insects. Birds that have, to our eye, plumage that looks drab, actually have feather coats that radiate under UV light. 

As for bats, their famous ability to echolocate — emitting high pitch sounds (too high for us to hear) to locate prey with a high degree of accuracy — is a sense and capability so far outside the realm of human experience as to seem “other worldly.” Several bird species also are capable of echolocation. In the Western Hemisphere that includes the oilbirds of northern South America. 

Numerous marine mammal species also are known to echolocate — dolphins, as but one example. And unlike bats whose echolocation skills enable them to “only” detect the outer contours of their prey, dolphins can “see” inside their targets to perceive their organs and skeleton.    

Another hard to grasp sense of birds is their ability to detect and utilize the Earth’s magnetic fields which they use to migrate effectively. Researchers aren’t fully sure of the mechanism allowing them to achieve this, but it appears to involve proteins in a bird’s retina. 

‘An Immense World’

And I do mean hard to grasp — I’ve read, several times, the same explanatory article in Scientific American on the details of the current hypothesis regarding magnetic field perception in birds and how it aids their migration and I don’t fully understand what’s going on — involving stuff like cytochrome proteins in a bird’s retina, a blue photon hitting the cytochrome causing an electron to jump from an amino acid to a dinucleotide molecule which create a certain spinning of electrons that are, in turn, influenced by the Earth’s magnetic fields which the bird is able to utilize in determining direction. And I’ve left off the last most complicated steps…call me stupid but amazed!  

Many other species, such as sea turtles and spiny lobsters, but not us humans, also are known to navigate by using the planet’s magnetic fields but the mechanisms they employ are less well understood. These “other worldly” abilities, and so many more which are so different from ours, are richly revealed in a wonderful, recently published book, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong. As the subtitle suggests, Yong takes the reader through dozens of examples of how animals perceive the world in a very different way than we do, using senses we either don’t have or that are far more sensitive or acute. The book is 355 pages of profound discovery and a most worthwhile read. 

As an example of the first are animals that can hear or transmit infrasound (below 20Hz), like whales and elephants. Humans can hear sounds as low as about 20 Hz, sounds lower than that are imperceptible to us unless extremely loud, so infrasound is outside our normal perceptive world. Not so with elephants who regularly communicate with infrasound, often involving elephant herds separated by impressive distances such as several miles. 

Whales, using the medium of water, easily make sounds that easily exceed this distance, with the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, generating sounds that can carry many hundreds, if not thousands of miles, in the ocean. When first suggested the idea was thought implausible even ridiculed; it is now widely accepted.  

Ed Yong, author of An Immense World
Photo by Urzula Soltys

Or how about being able to feel the warmth of another person’s body that is not close to you but rather is several feet away? 

Well, you’ve entered the realm of rattlesnakes which can detect the infrared radiation given off by a mouse from several feet away. And their ability to strike prey just by heat detection is so accurate that blindfolded rattlesnakes can successfully hunt.     

As for senses more acute than ours we turn to the hearing of a barn owl. In well-known (and well designed) experiments, barn owls were capable of routinely seizing prey in complete and utter darkness and they have a special feature we lack. Their ear openings are asymmetrically placed, positioned at slightly different heights on the side of the head. So not only can they accurately determine if a sound is coming from their left or right, in the vertical plane (something we do well), they can also tell where the maker of the sound is in the horizontal plane, since if the sound is coming from below, sound waves will reach the lower ear milliseconds before they reach the higher ear, the bird’s brain can process this information and pinpoint its prey.   

And then there’s electricity generation. Electricity runs through the human body and is vital to human life. Elements like sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which we ingest through food and supplements, have electrical charge and enable us to perform basic tasks like nerve generation and transmission and the creation of a heartbeat through muscular contraction. It is reported that the energy output of a resting human adult is equivalent to powering a 100 watt light bulb. 

Some animals take electricity, though, to a new level. The best example involves electric eels. By discharging ions within electrocytes, which are specialized cells in specialized organs, the world champion eel has the ability to generate 860 volts of electricity — that’s nearly eight times the strength of the electricity available from your home’s wall outlet and is enough to debilitate and perhaps kill you. While we have little to worry about, not so for the fish and other aquatic animals that share the eel’s domain.    

As Yong’s impressively detailed book repeatedly illustrates, the animals that share our planet display a mind-bogglingly rich suite of survival skills for which one article cannot begin to do justice. Let me prove it by one tiny slice of life — a single shorebird species — the Red Knot, a medium sized bird with a robin red colored breast and a spangled pattern of gold, buff, tan, and black on its back.  Overwintering in the southern part of South America, flocks of Red Knots move north on the continent in April, launching in mid-May from the beaches of northern Brazil, driven by invisible impulses which we cannot understand, flying unerringly north toward the East Coast of the United States. 

Shaming human triathletes by their efforts, they will fly nonstop for several days as they traverse the waters of the western Atlantic, using the Earth’s magnetic fields, perhaps also using the Sun’s polarized light, propelled by breathing in a way so much more efficient than the human respiratory system. Their heart will have beaten perhaps a million beats and their wings flapped several hundred thousand times during this leg. 

They land, perhaps along Long Island’s South Shore or southern New Jersey, and begin to feed voraciously, sustained by tiny packets of protein in the form of horseshoe crab eggs — the perfect snack food. They feed so effectively that in a week to ten days they can add 50% more weight onto the weight they had upon arrival; in some cases they may double their weight in the form of subcutaneous fat. 

Gaining enough stored energy they head further north for the last leg of their improbable flight, landing in the High Arctic, perhaps guided by those magnetic fields to the same hummock of dwarf tundra plants where, the year before, they established a breeding territory. They have finished their almost impossible to comprehend 9,000 mile long journey. Just one remarkable story illustrating the unique senses and abilities of species, in a global tapestry of species’ stories that collectively form the planet’s book of life. 

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

On Saturday, April 22, Town of Huntington councilmembers Joan Cergol (D) and Sal Ferro(R) co-sponsored an Earth Day event at Manor Farm Park. Other elected officials in attendance included Suffolk County Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), Legislator Manuel Esteban (R-Commack), Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia and Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman. 

The event featured a number of different interactive opportunities. The Volunteers for Wildlife set up a booth and had a 20-year-old, one-eyed turtle for attendees to look at. She lost her eye in a dog attack, so she could no longer live in the wild. Cornell Cooperative Extension brought a marine touch tank with clams, a horseshoe crab, mud snails and other creatures. Children excitedly gathered around the booth to pet and touch them.

The Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center showed up to raise awareness for their not-for-profit shelter. They brought a litter of five 6-week-old kittens for attendees to play with through the bars of their cage.

There was also a beekeeping demonstration put on by local resident Joe Schwartz. He showed a large crowd of people frames from beehives, which displayed the brood in the honeycomb as well as how the bees cap their honey.

Brandon Stephan Davis, a local Huntington resident, said that the highlight of Earth Day so far for him was the beekeeping display. “I learned a lot,” Davis said. “I didn’t know so much about the details of the hive. I’m grateful that he’s doing this event.”

Schwartz said that he volunteers a lot of his resources at Manor Farm, which is run by Starflower Experiences. He keeps roughly a dozen hives on the property. “They have a farming program,” Schwartz said. “They do a sunflower maze. That’s so much pollen, so much nectar for them. It’s just an ideal place.”

Schwartz went on to say that these should be one of the best-producing hives out there, but they can still struggle due to pesticides in the area, since bees can travel up to a couple of miles to get pollen.

Schwartz said that pesticides and insecticides are bad for the environment and that alternatives like setting up bat boxes may be preferable for getting rid of ticks. He said that bees can survive modern pesticides, but they then bring tainted pollen back to the hive, and then when their larvae feed in the spring, many of them die, and the hive collapses.

Schwartz is also passionate about getting children involved in outdoor activities. In the summer, he does beekeeping classes at Manor Farm twice per month. “We need to get the kids out of the house,” Schwartz said. “I know what COVID did to the kids. It was not a help. You need to get them back outside. They need to appreciate what we have here, and this is one way to do it.”

Ferro was pleased with the results of the event. “It was great to see the large turnout at this year’s Earth Day festivities at Manor Farm Park,” he said in an email. “The event was filled with fun and educational programs for people of all ages with the shared goal to safeguard our environment.”

Ferro’s office estimated that over the course of the day 500 people had shown up for the event.

Stony Brook Harbor. Photo by Elyse Buchman

By John L. Turner

It was on a rising tide in mid-afternoon, on an 82-degree late summer day, that I slipped into the opening of the kayak, placed my feet on the rudder controls and pushed off the gently sloping bank in the southern reaches of Stony Brook Harbor, not too far from the famous Hercules Pavilion positioned along the harbor’s edge. 

Stony Brook Harbor. Photo by John Turner

Even in shallow, foot-deep water I was easily able to ply the kayak along the shoreline. The first view that drew my attention were nine bright white, long-necked wading birds. Egrets they were, both the larger American Egret and the more diminutive Snowy Egret feeding in the shallow water of the creek that spills from the Stony Brook Grist Mill. Their likely targets were small, two-inch long baitfish, schools of which I would repeatedly see in the hours ahead as I explored the harbor. 

Within a couple of minutes I had plied across a deeper channel running alongside Youngs Island and moments later alongside one of the many marsh islands found within the harbor.   

For the next four hours I explored the many gifts Stony Brook Harbor had to offer — red beard sponges, several species of floating seaweeds, fiddler crabs scuttling across sand flats, baby horseshoe crab molts, the aforementioned baitfish and their pursuers — baby bluefish known as snappers, snapping the placid tension of the water surface — countless shells, and, of course, the birds: Double-crested Cormorants (many, comically, with their wings outstretched, drying in the sun); more long-necked and long-legged wading birds; a small plover pulling on a long red worm; the plaintive, three part call of Greater Yellowlegs; the ubiquitous gulls; and an adult Bald Eagle, dominating the sky over the southern edge of the harbor. 

Like tiny sailboats, many bird feathers floated over the placid surface of the water during the visit, a tell-tale sign that late summer is a time for many birds to molt by replacing older worn out feathers with new ones.  

That small plover was not a Piping Plover but its darker colored cousin — the Semipalmated Plover, so named because its feet are partially webbed. A handsome bird the color of chocolate on the top of its head and back, a bright white belly, breast, and throat offset by a black chest band and line through the eye, and an orange bill and yellow-orange legs, the Semipalmated Plover breeds in the far north; this bird probably flew south from Labrador, Nova Scotia, or Northern Quebec, but perhaps even further north in its breeding range above the Arctic Circle, to make its way to Stony Brook Harbor on its much longer journey to the Caribbean or South America.

The same is true for the Greater Yellowlegs, a slightly larger shorebird with a salt-and-pepper plumage with, you guessed it! — bright yellow legs. The plover was feeding in a sand/mud flat and the three yellowlegs in very shallow water adjacent to the flat. Suddenly, the yellowlegs exploded into the air, winging away rapidly, apparently due to some danger they could (but I could not) perceive. Their emphatic calls rung out over the water, harkening to more desolate and windy places. 

This little shorebird vignette in the harbor illustrates and underscores the value it and countless other coastal embayments on the East Coast play as critical way stations for migrating shorebirds that stitch together the Northern and Southern  hemispheres. These are like the highway rest stops we use while traveling, providing opportunities for these long distance migrants to feed and rest.   

Ribbed mussels along the harbor. Photo by John Turner

As I turned south into the more open waters at the southern end of the harbor I slid by a long muddy embankment, the leading edge of a salt marsh, when two objects caught my eye — many clumps of Ribbed Mussels and dozens of Cordgrass or Spartina plants in full bloom.   

Ribbed mussels are less well-known and appreciated than the edible Blue Mussel since, unlike the latter species, they are not harvested for food. Nevertheless, they are very important to the healthy functioning of tidal wetlands. So named because of the numerous parallel ribbed lines that run the length of its shell, this species grows in bunches in the mud, often tangled in the roots of Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), with which they have a “mutualistic” or mutually beneficial relationship.  The mussels benefit from anchoring their shells, through the use of byssal threads, to the roots of Spartina and also benefit from the density of the plant shoots that makes it harder for predators, like crabs, to gain access.

The plant benefits by the waste products excreted from the mussel as it is high in nitrogen which acts as a plant fertilizer. The material also helps to build the marsh — filtering tiny organic particles out of the water column and depositing it on the marsh. Because of these important services the Ribbed mussel is referred to as an “ecosystem engineer.”   

Cordgrass in bloom along Stony Brook Harbor. Photo by John Turner

Cordgrass is the most recognizable plant of the marsh. It dominates the view of much of the harbor and along the lower elevations of the tidal marsh, with its sister species Salt Hay (Spartina patens), occurring in the higher portions. These are two of only a small number of plants that can tolerate the presence of salt and its desiccating qualities; they do this by extruding the salt from pores in the surface of the frond; take a close-up view and you can often see the salt crystals sparkling along the stems of the plant. 

Cordgrass is wind pollinated and not surprisingly, therefore, their interesting one-sided flowers aren’t showy nor do they exude nectar in an effort to lure pollinating insects. The winds care not for such things. Still, they are beautiful and arresting as the hundreds of flowers on each stalk move in the slightest breeze.  

Unfortunately, a storm cloud has appeared over the harbor that would likely compromise its beauty and ecological quality. This “cloud” is in the form of two large docks proposed on properties located in the harbor’s shallow southern end in the Village of Nissequogue. 

Despite the fact there are two commercial marinas in the northern reaches of the harbor at which a boat can be stored or the fact each property owner currently has access to launch kayaks or canoes from the shore, these residents are seeking approval to install monstrously long docks that would jut well out into the water. One is more than two hundred feet long.  

The proposed site for one of the docks. Photo by John Turner

Installing the dock pilings would be disruptive to the harbor bottom, cause turbidity and sedimentation problems, affecting wetland dependent wildlife such as diamondback terrapins (I saw a dozen terrapins floating and swimming in the southern portion of the bay on the kayak visit and fifteen from a vantage point onshore at Cordwood Park about a month earlier). 

Turbidity problems and disruption to the harbor bottom by “prop scouring” will occur each and every time boats are run out on low tide. Further, the docks will make it more difficult for you and I to walk along the shoreline as is our legal right “to pass and repass” along the shoreline as guaranteed by the Public Trust Doctrine and did I mention the ugliness and visual blight caused by the docks at a site landscape painters find inspiration? 

Perhaps of greater concern is the precedence that approval of these two docks could establish. If these are approved, what’s to stop the harbor’s “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” as several dozen other property owners ringing the harbor, through time, request the same? 

And is it reasonable to assume that, as the years roll by, these owners clamor for the very shallow southern reaches of the harbor to be dredged to ease navigation and better accommodate their boats?  Yes, it is. 

For the sake of this most special and unique place the request for these mega docks must be denied. The public interest in, and use of, Stony Brook Harbor and recognition of the significant ecological value of the harbor dictate against approval and must prevail. Will public officials heed the call?   

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours

—————————–

‘Beween Stony Brook Harbor Tides’

If you wish to learn more about the human and natural history of Stony Brook Harbor, I encourage you to read “Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides — The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay” authored by Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman, two professors who taught at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The book provides an overview of the natural conditions that shape the harbor, the human imprint on the harbor, and the many species of wildlife that call it home. It is a most worthwhile read.  

— John Turner

 

MASTERY AND GRACE Grammy award winner classical guitarist David Russell performs in concert at the Long Island Guitar Festival in Setauket on May 14 at 8 p.m. Photo by M. Rodriguez
Thursday May 12

Long Island Guitar Festival

The 30th annual Long Island Guitar Festival will be held through May 15 at various times the Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave., Setauket. Scheduled performers include David Russell, Benjamin Verdery, Beijing Guitar Duo, Evan Taucher, Harris Becker & Friends, Laura Lessard, Michael Roberts, James Erickson, Paul Cesarczyk, Chinnawat Themkumkwun, Olson/De Cari Duo, Jeffrey Marcus, Maureen Hynes, Rie Schmidt, Alan Morris, and Samantha Clarke. Ensembles scheduled to perform include the NJMEA HS Honors Guitar Orchestra, the New Jersey Guitar Orchestra, the Susan E. Wagner HS Guitar Ensemble, and the Metropolitan Guitar Academy. Tickets are available at Eventbrite or at the door. Visit www.ligfest.net for more info.

Virtual Trivia Night

Wok this way and join the Whaling Museum, 301 Main St. Cold Spring Harbor for a virtually Deliciously Fun Trivia Night via Zoom at 7 p.m. Test your knowledge of foods from around the world, food moments in film and music, food logos, historic dishes, ingredients, cultural traditions, food in art, and more. Questions are mostly multiple choice and include photos, videos and audio clips. Participate solo or play as a team. Winner is Lord of the Fries! $10 suggested donation. To register, visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org..

Friday May 13

Long Island Guitar Festival

See May 12 listing.

Garden Club Plant Sale

The Centerport Garden Club will hold its annual plant sale featuring perennial plants from their gardens at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn from 9 to 11 a.m. while supplies last. Cash or check donations will be accepted. Call 757-4200 for more information.

Musical & Shadow Puppet Show

Stony Brook University’s Charles Wang Center Theatre presents Miao Girl Kiab and the Silver Needle, a live musical and shadow puppet performance, from 6 to 7 p.m. Admission is $20 adults, $15 students/seniors/children ages 6 to 12, free for ages 5 and under. RSVP at www.thewangcenter.org.

Wine and Chocolate Tasting

Celebrate St. James hosts a Wine and Chocolate Tasting event at the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center, 176 2nd St, St James from 7 to 9 p.m. Enjoy wine sampling from a boutique winery, from light whites to robust reds. Donna Meyers will guide you through the sampling as each wine is paired with just the right chocolate! Tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors. To RSVP, visit www.celebratestjames.org or call 984-0201.

Opera Open Mic Night

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 109 Browns Road, Huntington welcomes Opera Night Long Island with Opera Open Mic at 7:30 p.m. Featuring performances by Ariana Warren, Kimberly Iannuzzi, Marie Michalopoulos, Chris Jurak and more. $10 donation at the door. Ccall 261-8808 or visit www.operanight.org.

LITMA Contradance

The Smithtown Historical Society’s Frank Brush Barn, 211 E. Main St., Smithtown hosts a Contradance by LITMA at 7:30 p.m. with basic instruction at 7:15 p.m. Featuring Alex Deis-Lauby Calling with The LITMA Contra Band. Admission is $15, $10 members. Students are half price and children under 16 are free with a paid adult. Questions? Call 369-7854.

Saturday May 14

Long Island Guitar Festival

See May 12 listing.

Pottery & Craft Sale

The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery, 2 Flowerfield, Suites 57 & 60, St. James will hold a Spring Outdoor Pottery and Craft Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring one of a kind hand-made pottery, local artists and craftsmen, live music and a food truck.  Proceeds from bowl and raffle sales will be donated to World Central Kitchen /Ukraine. The Gallery Shop will also be open to browse their handmade pottery made on the premises. Admission is free. Rain date is May 15. Visit www.thebrickstudio.org or call 833-THE-BRICK for more information.

Buttercup Day

Buttercup’s Dairy Store, 285 Boyle Road, Port Jefferson Station invites the community to celebrate its 51st anniversary with a Buttercup Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy a petting zoo, hot dogs, fun slides, games and prizes. Free. Call 928-4607.

Muster Day at the Arsenal

Rescheduled from May 7. Join the Huntington Militia for a Muster Day at the Huntington Arsenal and Village Green on Park Avenue in Huntington from noon to 5 p.m. This is a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes of The Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia and see what is involved reenacting Long Island history with marching, musket firing, tours of the Arsenal, open hearth cooking, and craft demonstrations. Free. Visit www.huntingtonmilitia.com.

Paige Patterson in concert

The Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council presents Paige Patterson in concert at Harborfront Park, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson at 3 p.m. Patterson will be performing her feel-good concert titled Musical Therapy for the Soul encompassing the genres of standards, classic soul, contemporary and Broadway. Rain location: First United Methodist Church, 603 Main St., Port Jefferson. Free. Visit www.gpjac.org.

Artist Talk & Book Signing

The Art League of Long Island, 107 East Deer Park Road, Dix Hills will host an Artist Talk & Book Signing with Holly Gordon and Ward Hooper from 3 to 5 p.m. The authors will discuss their book, Parallel Perspectives: The Brush/Lens Collaboration, followed by a book signing. Free. Call 462-5400 for more information.

Old Burying Ground tour

Join the Huntington Historical Society for an Old Burying Ground  walking tour at 4 p.m. Established soon after the Town’s 1653 founding, Huntington’s earliest public burying ground features stunning folk art and beautiful epitaphs honoring Huntington’s residents and rich history. Tour begins at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building, 228 Main St., Huntington .Tickets are $15 adults, $5 children. For reservations, visit www.huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

An evening of comedy

The Comedy Club returns to Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson with another hilarious night of non-stop laughter and fun! Featuring comedians David Weiss, Steven Rocco Parrillo, Travis Grant, and Chris Monty. Tickets are $35. To order, call 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Sunday May 15

Long Island Guitar Festival

See May 12 listing.

Car Show & Swap Meet

The Long Island Community Hospital Amphitheater at Bald Hill, 1 Ski Run Lane, Farmingville hosts a Car Show & Swap Meet by Long Island Cars from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring street rods, muscle cars, antiques exotics and imports along with a swap meet, live music by The Fugitives plus food and refreshments. Admission is $10, under 12 years are free. Call 567-5898.

Port Jefferson Farmers Market

Get local! The Port Jefferson Farmer’s Market returns to Harborfront Park, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson today and every Sunday through Nov. 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Purchase local produce, honey, bread and baked goods, plants and flower bouquets. Call 473-4724.

Caumsett hike

Join the staff at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, 25 Lloyd Harbor Road, Huntington for a 2-mile hike from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. On this hilly moderately long walk you will study the park’s social economic, architectural and political history. (Some walking in long grass). Adults only $4 per person. Advance registration required by calling 423-1770.

Spring Craft Fair

Join Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, 178 Oxhead Road, Centereach for a Spring Craft Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Featuring local businesses, jewelry, self-care products, clothing, accessories, wreathes and more. Join them as they celebrate their way into the Spring season! Rain date is May 22. Questions? Call 619-7023.

Charity Car & Truck Show

Miller’s Ale House, Middle Country Road, Lake Grove host a Drive for Dana Charity Car  Truck Show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in honor of Dana Ryan Sikorsky who suffered a near fatal drowning accident three years ago. The event will feature all years, makes and models cars and trucks will raffles and awards. $25 donation for show cars, free for spectators. Call 553-6975 for more info.

Spring Farm Festival

Smithtown Historical Society, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown hosts a Spring Farm Festival from noon to 4 p.m. Enjoy spinning & weaving demonstrations, blacksmithing, wool dyeing, sheep shearing, children’s crafts, pony rides, petting zoo, vendor fair and much more. $5 per person. Pre-register at Eventbrite.com. Call 265-6768 for more information.

Celebrate St. James Art Reception

In celebration of Pet Month, Celebrate St. James will host an art exhibit celebrating pets at the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center, 176 Second Street, St. James through May 30. Join them for an opening reception today from 1 to 2 p.m. with live music and refreshments. Call 984-0201.

Grist Mill tours

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook will be open today and every Sunday through October from 1 to 4 p.m. Learn about the inner workings of the mill as it crushes grain into flour and hear about its 323 year history on a guided tour will a miller during guided tours and a visit the Country Store. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children. Cash only. For more information on the Stony Brook Grist Mill and for large group tours, call The Ward Melville Heritage Organization at 751-2244.

Victorian Tea Party

Joan of Arc Columbiettes Council 1992 will host a Victorian Tea at Montfort Hall at Infant Jesus Church, 110 Myrtle Ave., Port Jefferson from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wear a pretty spring hat and bring your own teacup if you wish. $20 adults, $10 ages 10 to 16. To RSVP, call Michele at 473-0165.

Horseshoe Crab Walk

Sunken Meadow State Park, Sunken Meadow Parkway, Kings Park hosts a Horseshoe Crab Walk from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Investigate these living fossils that come to our shores in the spring with a walk down to the marsh to observe these creatures during their high tide spawning periods during this family program. $4 per person. To register, please visit Eventbrite.com and search #NatureEdventure

Silver Chords Chorus concert

The Huntington Moose Lodge, 631 Pulaski Road, Greenlawn welcomes the Silver Chords Chorus in concert at 2 p.m. Celebrating 40 years of choral music, the program will include such old gems as “Shenandoah,” “Birth of the Blues,” “Let the River Run” and “How Can I Keep From Singing,” along with some special premieres. Admission is free. Call 235-3593.

Monday May 16

No events listed for this day.

Tuesday May 17

Anything But Silent at the CAC

The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington continues its Anything But Silent series with a screening of The Cameraman (1928) at 7 p.m. with live accompaniment by Ben Model. In this classic comedy, Buster Keaton stars as a clumsy man hopelessly in love with a woman working at MGM Studios. Buster soon attempts to become a motion picture cameraman to be close to the object of his desire! Tickets are $17, $12 members. For more information, visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Wednesday May 18

Cruise Night Car Show

It’s back! The Shoppes at East Wind, 5720 Route 25A, Wading River hosts a Cruise Night Car Show every Wednesday through Oct. 26 from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit the Shoppes, enjoy a bite to eat and then check out the fine array of classic cars in the parking lot. Call 929-3500.

Thursday May 19

International Museum Day

Celebrate International Museum Day at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach from 4 to 7 p.m. Representatives from many local museums, historical societies, science and nature centers will be on hand to share information regarding their collections, programs and exhibits! Call 585-9393 for further information.

An evening of jazz

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook welcomes the Big Little Bad Band in concert from 7 to 9:30 p.m. featuring vocalist Madeline Kole and original compositions and arrangements by bandleader and pianist Rich Iacona. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children, under age 5 free. Visit www.thejazzloft.org to order.

Theater

‘Mamma Mia!’

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson closes its 2021-2022 with Mamma Mia! from May 21 to June 25. ABBA’s timeless hits tell the enchanting story! On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the Greek island paradise they last visited twenty years ago. Featuring such chart toppers as “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” and “Dancing Queen,” this is a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget. Contains adult themes and situations. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and older. To order, call 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

‘Kinky Boots’

Up next at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport is Kinky Boots from May 19 to July 3. With songs by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein, this dazzling, sassy and uplifting musical celebrates a joyous story, inspired by true life events, taking you from the factory floor of a men’s shoe factory to the glamorous catwalks of Milan! Tickets range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

The Carriage House Players open the 31st annual Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport with Midsummer Night’s Dream on May 13 from 8 to 9 p.m. and May 15 from 7 to 8 p.m.. Performances take place outdoors on stage in the courtyard, where the Spanish-Mediterranean architecture adds a touch of timeless charm and magic. Bring your own lawn chairs. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors and children. To order, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. 

‘It Shoulda Been You’

Star Playhouse at Stage 74, 74 Hauppauge Road, Commack presents It Shoulda Been You, Broadway’s wild musical farce with blushing brides, nervous grooms, overbearing moms, unexpected guests and plenty of crazy twists and turns, on May 14 and 21 at 8 p.m. and May 15 and May 22 at 2 p.m. It’s wedding season and you’re invited to a wedding like no other! Get ready for a good time filled with music, mayhem, comedy, and a real bunch of characters! Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors and students. To order, call 462-9800, ext. 136 or visit www.starplayhouse.com.

Central Park. Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

man I never met had a profound effect on my early life. Indeed, I could not have met him since his 200th birthday was this past Tuesday.

There are millions of others whose lives he has touched and continue to touch all over the country. His name is Frederick Law Olmsted, and along with a colleague, Calvert Vaux, he designed Central Park in the late 1850s. He went on to design many other parks and public spaces, but Central Park was his first. 

Olmsted was more than a landscape architect, and his philosophy and appreciation of community and human nature were built into his designs. Proving that I am not the only one who feels his importance, I was pleased to notice a special section about Olmsted published in Tuesday’s New York Times. All subsequent quotes are from that section, written by Audra D.S. Burch, with sayings from essays of Frederick Law Olmsted.

“In plots of earth and green, Olmsted saw something more: freedom, human connection, public health…Olmsted’s vision is as essential today as it was more than a century ago. His parks helped sustain Americans’ mental and physical health and social connections during the darkest days of the pandemic. As COVID-19 lockdowns unlaced nearly every familiar aspect of life, parks were reaffirmed as respite, an escape from quarantine.”

Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park. Pixabay photo

And this from Olmsted: “The park should, as far as possible, complement the town. Openness is the one thing you cannot get in buildings… The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system… We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them.” 

When people ask me where I grew up, I answer, “New York City,” but I should answer “Central Park.” 

Almost every Sunday without inclement weather, my dad would take us to the park for the day, giving my mom time for herself. It worked out splendidly for him because he grew up on a farm and never liked the urban surroundings in which we lived. It also gave him some uninterrupted time with us since we didn’t see much of him during the work week. And of course it was welcomed by my mother, who then had a chance to sleep in and tend to her own needs. 

Dad would awaken early, make us a creative breakfast that always involved eggs and braised onions plus whatever other ingredients happened to be in the fridge. Never were two Sunday breakfasts the same. Then we would go off, my younger sister and I with him, to “The Park.” 

There were many different destinations once we left the street and stepped into the greenery. We roamed along countless paved paths, over charming bridges and through tunnels (always yodeling for the echo effect), climbed rocks, crossed meadows, watched baseball games on several ballfields, played “21” on the basketball courts (if we had remembered to bring a basketball), watched older men competitively play quoits (pitching horseshoes) and munched on crackerjacks — my dad limiting the three of us to one box. I usually got the prize since my sister wasn’t interested. 

On beautiful days, when longer walks beckoned, we would visit the merry-go-round and ride until we were dizzy. Or we would spend the afternoon at the small zoo. My dad taught me to row on the Central Park lake. And always the air was fresh, the seasons would debut around us, the birds would sing and the squirrels would play tag through the trees.

By pre-arrangement, my mom would appear with a pot of supper, some paper plates, forks and a blanket, and we would eat in a copse or a thicket of brush. Then, as the sun was setting, we would walk home together.

Ward Melville Heritage Organization trustees wave to the students. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has created a virtual bridge across the Long Island Sound for students on both sides of the waterway.

Patricia Paladines holds a horseshoe crab up to show the students who viewed the presentation through Zoom. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On Tuesday, June 1, WMHO unveiled Long Island Sound Connections, its new STEM and conservation program at the Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center on Trustees Road by West Meadow Creek. Students from Selden and Bridgeport, Connecticut, participated from their classrooms via Zoom, while WMHO trustees members and grant donors looked on from the center. Dr. Robert Park from the Fullwood Foundation, one of the donors, also joined virtually.

Students from Selden Middle School in Michelle Miller’s sixth-grade science class and Julianne Biagioli’s seventh-grade science class in the Bridgeport school district discussed their studies in the June 1 presentation. The students were able to show how urban and suburban communities have contrasting situations, where the Selden students have the 88-acre preserved wetlands of West Meadow Creek only miles away from them, and the Bridgeport students live in a city where former wetlands were developed decades ago.

The organization’s virtual, cooperative learning is led by Deborah Boudreau, WMHO’s director of education.

“It’s an opportunity for students to research their local Long Island ecosystems, and share what they learned about those ecosystems to learn how we can best preserve all the animals and plants that depend on these ecosystems,” Boudreau said.

She told the students during the June 1 class that the teachers wanted to hear from them as much as possible.

“I want to say that this program is very much about the students and your data and your research and your ideas,” she said. “You are the future of our wetlands. You are the ones that are going to carry that forward.”

During the presentation, students compared findings about the wetlands as well as species that would normally be found in waterways including lobsters and horseshoe crabs, which Bridgeport students found recently in mudflats.

Naturalist and environmentalist Patricia Paladines, from Setauket, was on hand to provide a presentation on horseshoe crabs for the students. She found one in West Meadow Creek June 1 that was injured and explained it would heal. Paladines told students, while holding the crab for them to see, that a lot of people are afraid of its long tail, but it doesn’t sting.

“A lot of people are afraid of them because they have this long tail here, which is called a telson, but it’s not to hurt you — it’s not to protect itself, it’s a rudder,” she said, adding that the tail was moving at the time because the crab wanted to turn over from its back to being right-side up.

The program will continue throughout the month with various schools participating where they will compare and contrast data such as water salinization, marine species inventory and more.

Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president, said the program was made possible by grants from the Fullwood Foundation, Investors Foundation and Teachers Federal Credit Union.