Tags Posts tagged with "Frank Melville Memorial Park"

Frank Melville Memorial Park

John Turner, center with participants from a previous Nighthawk Watch. Photo by Thomas Drysdale

On Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m., the Four Harbors Audubon Society will begin its seventh “Common Nighthawk Watch” on the Stone Bridge located along the southern boundary of Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. The watch will run through to Oct. 6. 

The Common Nighthawk, a bird quite adept in flight, passes through Long Island on its southbound migration in the autumn after leaving their breeding grounds across northern North America and heading to the Amazon region and beyond in South America. The nighthawks passing over the Watch are very likely birds that nested in eastern Canada and New England. 

The Audubon chapter began the Watch in 2017 in response to concerns about declining nighthawk numbers. Based on the last published NYS Breeding Bird Atlas, this species has experienced a 71% reduction in the number of birds that possibly or probably bred or were confirmed as breeders in New York State  from 1985 to 2005.  While continental figures paint a slightly better picture, the trend in nighthawk numbers is still a downward one. 

Common Nighthawk. Photo by Dennis Whittam 2021

“Anyone who witnesses the daily evening migration of Common Nighthawks at the Stone Bridge is hooked; the spectacle is no less than addicting. Yet the bigger picture is disheartening, as we know nighthawks are in steep decline, and the numbers we see are but a small percentage of their historic population levels,” notes Patrice Domeischel, a chapter board member and a co-founder of the Watch. “Hopefully in time our data collection will prove useful in determining ways to preserve this species.” 

Why so many nighthawks appear over the Stone Bridge is not fully clear but two aspects appear to contribute: the geographic position of Setauket along Long Island’s north shore is ideal for intercepting southbound nighthawks as they reach Long Island after crossing the Sound and the presence of the pond that regularly produces an insect hatch that provides a cafeteria for the birds. 

“Common Nighthawks are related to whip-poor-wills” said John Turner, Conservation co-chair of the chapter and a chapter board member, “but are distinctive with their bright white wing bars that flash as they dip and turn in pursuit of the aerial insects that form their diet.” 

The reduction in the abundance of aerial insects due to spraying and habitat loss appears to be the main driver of reduced nighthawk numbers. “These birds serve as bellwethers for the quality of the environment and their decline should be a concern to us all,” Turner added.     

The totals for the number of common nighthawks counted as they zip, bob, and weave erratically overhead for the past six years is as follows: 2,046 nighthawks in 2017, 2,018 nighthawks in 2018, 2,757 nighthawks in 2019, 2,245 nighthawks in 2020, 1,819 nighthawks in 2021, and 1,625 nighthawks in 2022. The single best day observers have had was on Sept. 8, 2017 when 573 nighthawks passed overhead. Last year the best day was the first— Aug. 27 — when 243 birds moved through. 

Many other bird species are observed at the Watch including Bald Eagles and Ospreys, Double-crested Cormorants, Barn and Tree Swallows and Chimney Swifts, several duck species including the beautiful Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, wading birds such as Great Egrets, and many species of songbirds. Toward dusk, several species of bats often emerge to feed over the pond and if any planets are visible in the sky a birding scope is set up to look at them (the ring of Saturn can be seen with a high powered bird scope).     

For more information, visit www.4has.org.

Frank Melville Memorial Park, 1 Old Field Road, Setauket hosts a Sip & Paint fundraiser event at Hap’s Red Barn on Tuesday, July 25 at 6:30 p.m. Enjoy a night of fun and relaxation as you paint Japanese Cherry Blossoms. $55 per person includes step by step painting lessons, 11″ by 14″ canvas, all painting materials, wine and light snacks. To register, visit www.frankmelvillepark.org/fundraisers. Questions? Call 631-689-6146.

Meet New York Times Best Selling Author Carl Safina at the Bates House in Setauket on June 13. File photo

The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket welcomes New York Times Best Selling Author Carl Safina for an Author Talk on Tuesday, June 13 at 7 p.m. Safina will be reading from his many bestselling and award-winning books and talk about the work of his not-for-profit organization, The Safina Center, based in Setauket. A book signing will follow. $10 per person. To register, visit www.thebateshouse.org. For more information, call 631-689-7054

Pixabay photo

Attend May 1 public hearing on Maryhaven

On Monday, May 1, the Village of Port Jefferson will hold a public hearing at Village Hall at 6 p.m. to change the zoning for the Maryhaven Center of Hope — located across from St. Charles Hospital — to develop condos there.

Our elected officials are tasked with balancing the need for development with the equally important need to preserve open space. But striking that delicate balance is challenging, which is why it’s essential that we, the villagers, contribute to these discussions.

At the moment, not many details have been made available — not even all the trustees were fully briefed when the public hearing was approved April 3. As a result, the Port Jefferson Civic Association has not yet formed an opinion about this development. However, we do advocate and hope for thoughtful planning that both reflects the historical nature of our village and respects the environment.

But given what has transpired with some of the other apartment complexes that have gone up in the village, we can’t be confident that the public hearing will be anything more than a formality.

That’s why we encourage residents of Port Jeff, in the spirit of meaningful community engagement, to ask questions and make their voices heard, either by attending the May 1 hearing in person or writing letters. A strong showing from the public will help ensure that this hearing will not be just a formality and the concerns of the villagers will be addressed.

Ana Hozyainova


Port Jefferson Civic Association

Support community newspapers, Albany

Passage of the proposed New York Local Journalism Sustainability Act by the state Legislature is important to assure survival of local journalism. Most communities are down to one local daily or weekly newspaper. Newspapers have to deal with increasing costs for newsprint, delivery and distribution along with reduced advertising revenues and competition from the internet and other news information sources.

Daily newspapers concentrate on international, Washington, Albany, business and sports stories. They have few reporters covering local neighborhood news. Weekly newspapers fill the void for coverage of local community news. 

I’m grateful that your newspaper group has afforded me the opportunity to express my views via letters to the editor along with others who may have different opinions on the issues of the day. 

Albany needs to join us in supporting weekly community newspapers. Readers patronize advertisers, who provide the revenues to help keep the newspapers in business. 

Let us hope there continues to be room for TBR News Media chain publications such as The Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport, The Times of Middle Country, The Village Times Herald, The Port Times Record, The Times of Smithtown and The Village Beacon Record.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

The Constitution must be defended

We are facing a moment when an individual has been accused of committing crimes and is being given all the constitutional protections afforded him by the United States of America and the State of New York.

If we are to believe the media, that individual, and those surrounding him, are threatening our society with violence if our constitutional laws are followed.

Also, if we are to believe the media, many of those making threats are elected members of our government, themselves sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

While most of the current debate is coming from one side of the political spectrum, I have lived long enough to see the other side ignore constitutional law enough times to fill me with an equal level of disgust.

I, and millions more Americans, have risked or given our lives to defend the Constitution. One of my ancestors, Benjamin Franklin, risked everything to give us the Constitution. What right does a group of greedy politicians, without regard to political party, have to spit on those sacrifices?

Before you take a side, get out your history books and read about Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler, each, had millions of supporters. What did that get us?

Francis G. Gibbons Sr.


Community mourns swan together

On Monday, March 27, the mother swan, who had made the Frank Melville Memorial Park her home, died from injuries she had sustained. How? Why? No one will ever know for sure.

Mother Nature can be cruel. A week earlier people had noticed her odd behavior. She swam to the left, sometimes in small, frenzied circles next to her nest, but not on it. Her mate had taken her place. The community came together. Dozens of people tried to help. They watched and wondered, stopped their cars, and offered assistance. We consulted wildlife rescue groups, as well as Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.

On that Monday morning, I was one of the people who stood and watched her listing like a sinking ship, her head sometimes underwater. She looked weak, lethargic, exhausted — near death. Someone speculated that she had gotten tangled in the pond vegetation. We secured a kayak and attempted a rescue. What we saw was worse than we had imagined. Her leg was tightly wrapped in a heavy mass of weeds. In freeing her, we saw that the leg was only bone, the skin sheared off, bleeding out. She was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center where she died. On the park’s Facebook page, the outpouring of grief was overwhelming. But we were reminded that swans are not pets. The park did not own her; it only loved her.

On Saturday, April 1, the father swan was back on the nest, sitting on their eggs. Whether they will hatch, no one knows. But we’ll be watching.

Kerri Glynn


Pixabay photo

Can we trust the Suffolk County Legislature?

We have had a “clean water” sales tax for years. When last I looked both Suffolk County and New York State took that “clean water” sales tax money and put it into their general budgets. Suffolk County was taken to court where it lost and was ordered to replace the improperly taken money. Suffolk then claimed this money was needed to offset the costs of COVID-19, won a referendum and never truly repaid this money. I call this legalized “stealing.”

Now we are being asked to increase and extend this legalized “stealing” [through a 1/8-cent county sales tax increase to fund water quality improvement projects, subject to a mandatory referendum]. Additionally, we are being asked to provide politically well-connected persons with positions as “a 17-member wastewater management district board of trustees” to administer this money.

We are told there will be one, countywide, sewer district with “zones of assessment.” Taxes collected within an established zone of assessment would be required to be kept segregated from taxes collected in other zones of assessment, except upon approval by the county Legislature on the recommendation of the district board of trustees.

Can we trust the Suffolk County Legislature? What do you think?

Francis G. Gibbons Sr.


Dog owners should respect a neighborhood park

Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket is a glorious place for all community members to enjoy year-round. It is particularly lovely in the spring when the trees are budding, the swans are nesting, the turtles are hanging out on the logs, the flowers are blooming, and people are emerging from their winter hibernation to walk the paths available for our enjoyment. I am one of those people, a community member who loves to bring her friendly chocolate Lab out for a walk on a regular basis. 

As a responsible dog owner, and more so, a considerate person, I take it upon myself to clean up after my large dog when he decides to do his business on park grounds. Sadly, and disgustingly, there are several individuals who have decided that they are above this inconvenient task and feel it is proper protocol to leave their piles wherever they may land so that others are subjected to not only the sight, but the aroma of their pets’ feces. Despite the fact that the park has not one, not two, but three receptacles and poop bag dispensaries, these individuals cannot be bothered to do what a respectful, unselfish person should do. Today was actually my favorite display as one person had taken it upon themself to pick up the poop, and then left the full bag in the middle of the grass adjacent to the pond. Perhaps this was meant to enhance the view? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

The park has several signs stating that if your dog is unleashed you will be banned from the park. The same standard needs to be upheld for those who choose to befoul these grounds with dog excrement. Besides being unsanitary, it is unfair to those who use the park responsibly and have the decency to leash and clean up after their pets. If you refuse to abide by common courtesy, stay home.

Stefanie Werner

East Setauket

Putting the park into parking in Port Jeff Village

The parking problem has persisted since the noted Long Island planner, Lee Koppelman, made Port Jefferson’s first village plan in 1965. Multiple updates continued to note this problem, including the 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update. 

As the village has increased parking capacity with more area and asphalt devoted to off-street parking, the less it has felt like an intimate village. Finding a spot, and the walk from your car — through other cars — to Main Street is not a pleasant start to a visit. In the planning to accommodate the car, the harbor front was converted from shipbuilding to parking, absurdly giving the car the best view of the harbor.

In 2006, sponsored by the BID, supported by the Village of Port Jefferson, we presented to the village community the concept of “Putting the Park into Parking” — as seen on the front page of this paper in 2006. The concept was to make a park on the harbor front and move the parking to a parking structure behind Main Street, replacing the asphalt wasteland with scaled-back street mews walks.

With rising tide predictions, the cars should be replaced — before they go under — with a sponge sustainable functioning education park. Parking is just one concern for quality of life in our village.

Michael Schwarting

Campani and Schwarting Architects

Port Jefferson

Uphold democracy by attending the April 3 village board meeting

When we think of dying democracies, we think of faraway lands, where democracies are overthrown by a military coup — like Myanmar in 2021 — or by rampant corruption and fraud, as in Haiti today. But there is a slower blight democracies die from: a gradual loss of trust in the electoral system. We can see that in our own backyard when local officials ignore and thus thwart the will of the majority. People still have the right to vote, but they no longer bother to do so. 

This fate threatens the Village of Port Jefferson today. We have some 6,000 registered voters in the village. Yet only about 1,200 vote in the mayoral election and even fewer for trustees. The current officers were elected with fewer than a thousand votes each in 2021 and 2022. 

Why is this? The residents have seen issue after issue decided by the Board of Trustees without considering the input of voters. The residents no longer even hope for a voice in village decisions.

Such recent decisions include building of apartment complexes in Upper and Lower Port despite strong opposition from residents; the $10 million bond that was floated to fund the “shield” solution to East Beach bluff erosion; and the parking lot built on the newly cleared forest at Mather Hospital.

But just last week, the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees added the keystone to the arch of despair that has developed over the years. The board and mayor unilaterally extended their terms of office from two years to four with no public debate whatsoever. Whether that extension would be bad or good for the village is not the issue. The issue is that, once again, the village residents’ rightful expectation that their will would be considered in their village government’s decisions was quashed. 

Village residents voted to incorporate as a village because we wanted to have self-governance, to make our own decisions about things that affect us the most. But this is now not the case.

As representatives of the Civic Association of Port Jefferson, we strongly urge the Board of Trustees, in their April 3 meeting, to rescind the undemocratic resolution to extend their terms they made at their last meeting.

We also urge the residents of Port Jefferson to show up at 6 p.m. at the April 3 board meeting at the Village Hall to express their disapproval. Don’t let democracy in our village die the death of apathy.

Ana Hozyainova, President

Holly Fils-Aime, Vice President

Port Jefferson Civic Association


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Email letters to: [email protected]

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Photo by Michael Hall


Michael Hall of Port Jefferson snapped this photo of Conscience Bay in Setauket with his iPhone 12 on Feb. 1. He writes, “My wife Christina and I were walking in the northern, wooded section of Frank Melville Memorial Park on this cool winter day. The tide was so low we were able to walk into the tidal grasses. The layered colors of this erratic boulder caught my eye.”

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

Birdlovers art sale to support local environmental groups

By Melissa Arnold

Birds have long fascinated nature enthusiasts of all ages, and it’s easy to understand why. Their wide variety, brilliant colors, seasonal travel and flight skills provide a lot to admire. Those same qualities have made birds a frequent subject in art for generations as well.

On the weekend of Nov. 11, the historic Bates House in Setauket will host a special 3-day art sale and silent auction entitled “Audubon and Friends.” All proceeds from the weekend will be split equally among four local organizations dedicated to protecting Long Island’s wildlife and environment: The Seatuck Environmental Association, the Four Harbors Audubon Society (4HAS), The Safina Center, and Frank Melville Memorial Park.

The idea for the event came from conservationist John Turner and his brother Craig, who shared a love for nature from their early years.

John, who is conservation chair at Seatuck and serves on the board of 4HAS, developed a passion for birding as he watched his father feed the birds as a young boy.

“I was pretty active in conservation even as a teen — when you fall in love with something, you want to see it protected and have the ability to flourish,” said the Setauket resident. “I was really affected by stories of pollution, fires and disasters on the news, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”

Craig Turner’s interest in birdwatching developed later, thanks to an old friend from his time in the Air Force.

“He fed all sorts of birds at his home, and whenever I would visit I would become completely captivated by watching them stop to eat,” Craig recalled. “It became a wonderful excuse for me to get outside and see what I could find, and it was a great window into exploring natural history as well.”

Craig would go on to befriend a man who lived near him in Maryland who ran an Audubon magazine and also collected an array of bird depictions, many of them made by early natural history artists. Craig found the prints beautiful and desired to start a collection of his own.

“I thought the prints would look great at home, and then eBay came along, which gave me the ability to acquire things that would otherwise be very expensive, like prints made by John James Audubon in the 1840s,” he said.

By 2012, he had amassed so many prints that he decided to open his own shop in Annapolis, Md. The Audubon and Friends Gallery sold a variety of natural history prints as well as glassware and wood carvings before its closing in 2015.

As much as he treasured each piece, it didn’t make sense for one person to have so many, Craig said to John some time afterward. Why not continue to find ways to share beautiful work with others?

And John had another thought: Why not make it for a good cause as well?

“I wanted to do whatever I could to support the hard work of environmental conservation and protection, and I thought it would be fun to explore the history of natural history art in a talk,” said Craig.

So the event took shape — the beautiful Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park would host more than 100 prints from some of the earliest natural history artists, including John James Audubon, Mark Catesby and Alexander Wilson. Depending on value, some pieces will be for sale, while other, rarer pieces will be available in a silent auction held throughout the weekend.

“Audubon wanted to catalogue all the North American birds in life-size prints, and his work became the pinnacle of bird engraving,” Craig explained. “The idea of owning an original natural history print appeals to a lot of people as an important part of Americana, regardless of whether or not they’re birders themselves.” 

Among the pieces included at the fundraiser are many first edition, hand-colored prints from John James Audubon’s Royal Octavo edition of “Birds of America,” a foundational work in the field. 

Visitors to the show will enjoy light refreshments throughout the weekend, and on Friday, Nov. 11, Craig Turner will offer a special presentation on the history of bird illustration.

It’s a win-win situation for natural history enthusiasts, art lovers and the organizations who will benefit.

“When John Turner approached us about the fundraiser, we thought it was a splendid idea. The art is exquisite and classic,” said Carl Safina, founder of the Safina Center in Setauket. “Birds make the world livable. They are the most beautifully obvious living things in our world and they connect everything, everywhere. It’s truly a tragedy that most people barely notice them, nor do they understand that nearly 200 species can be seen on and around Long Island in the course of a year.”

The Safina Center inspires awareness and action in the community through art, literature and other creative outlets. Safina said that their portion of the funds raised would likely benefit their fellowship program for young, up-and-coming creators.

“Henry David Thoreau said that in wilderness is the preservation of the world, and it’s never been more important to do the work of preservation,” John Turner said. “The biggest thing we can all do is think about the planet in our everyday choices. Some people don’t realize how much of an impact they can make in what they eat, what they buy, and what they reuse.”

The “Audubon and Friends” art sale and silent auction will be held at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket on Friday, Nov. 11 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with a special presentation from Craig Turner titled “A History of Bird Illustration” at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free to attend. For more information, call the Bates House at 631-689-7054.

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Local volunteers recently took on invaders of the natural kind at Frank Melville Memorial Park.

Park volunteers and staff members joined forces with Four Harbors Audubon Society members and teen volunteers from Avalon Park’s Nature Initiative on Oct. 16. Their goal was to rid the FMMP pond of non-native and invasive aquatic plants. 

Setauket-based environmentalist John Turner informed the FMMP board that water hyacinth and water lettuce in the pond were dangerous plants. It was the first time someone spotted them in the pond. Turner was leading the Nighthawk Watch at the park with members of the local Audubon society when the plants were observed.

The volunteers first went out on the pond via kayaks to pull, gather and bag the plants. FMMP trustee Luci Betti-Nash, who also is on the board of Four Harbors Audubon Society, was on hand for the cleanup. She said the team cleaned out the northern section of the pond and part of the southern portion. Betti-Nash said there are still more plants in the most southern portion of the pond. These, she said, will be taken care of at a later date. She added there is a possibility they may die off in the winter. If the winter is a mild one, the floating plants can potentially take root and survive.

“It’s important to nip it in the bud, get them out as soon as you can,” she said.

Within a month of the plants being discovered, Betti-Nash said, “they multiplied enormously.”

She said the teen volunteers have helped with cleanups in the park in the past to pull out invasive species, including vines such as porcelain berry and mile-a-minute, that take over trees. 

Generally, the kayaks used by the teens this time around are not allowed on the pond, which Betti-Nash said made it more fun than past volunteer jobs.

“They really enjoyed it, and they did a great job,” she said. “They worked really hard.”

Turner said if the plants weren’t pulled out of the water, they could cause issues over a few years.

“If they’re not controlled and then eradicated within a fairly short period of time — probably within a year or two or three — the entire pond surface will be covered with these plants and create a whole series of adverse environmental conditions,” he said.

Among the detrimental ecological effects would be wading birds, such as egrets, green herons and belted kingfishers, which depend on visually seeing fish, not being able to find food to survive and feed their young.

“People just aren’t aware of the problem that these plants pose,” Turner said.

He added the plants, that are native in South America, have caused problems in the southern United States. The decomposition process pulls oxygen out of the water and leads to an excess of nitrogen, which happens often in Long Island and coastal waters.

“It’s of great concern, because it could adversely impact both turtles and, certainly, fish that would suffocate,” Turner said.

Betti-Nash and Turner said they only have theories as to how the plants wound up in the pond and no definitive answers. Many people use them for decorative purposes in their personal koi ponds. However, the naturalists are not aware of anyone dumping the plants in the park’s pond as sometimes happens when people get rid of aquarium products into freshwater ponds, which is not recommended. Seeds can also get stuck on birds and, when the animal lands, the grains can be introduced to an area, which is also a possibility.

Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Gene Sprouse

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week I wrote about the pleasure of getting away, even for a day, and enjoying the foliage season in lower New England. This time I want to wax rhapsodic (well, in a manner of speaking) about the special places we love here in the neighborhood. 

Do you have such a special place? By which, I mean a place you go when you want to enjoy the beauty of the area, where you can sit and relax and let concerns just melt away for a few minutes. Or where you can go to think out troubles peacefully, deciding what to do next. Or maybe, you just want a bucolic walk.

One such location for me is the Frank Melville Memorial Park, not far from 25A and my office in Setauket, but nicely hidden from view. Opened in 1937 as a memorial to Frank Melville Jr., it was the brainchild of his wife, Jennie MacConnell Melville, and his son, Ward Melville. While it is privately owned, the park is open for the pleasure of the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

So who was Frank Melville, you might ask, and how did it happen that a park is dedicated to him?

Frank Melville Jr. started by selling shoes to the residents from his sailboat on a fixed schedule, as he and his family of wife and small children circumnavigated Long Island. Eventually, he founded the Thom McAn brand with J. Franklin McElwain, a New Hampshire shoe manufacturer, exactly one hundred years ago. Their first retail shoe store in New York, selling a few simple styles at a low fixed price, then expanded to hundreds of stores across the US, becoming the largest footwear retailer in the country with 1400 stores. The brand name was eventually bought by Sears 86 years later. 

As they grew wealthy, the Melvilles, who lived in Manhattan, bought a second home for themselves in Old Field, and became increasingly philanthropic, donating local land for community benefit, including what is now the campus for Stony Brook University. And it was Ward Melville, who visualized and created Stony Brook Village in 1941, the first outdoor mall in the country, and to this day, a fun daytime destination.

When I walk through the park, which surrounds the duck pond with leafy and varied greenery now changing colors, I marvel at the generosity and vision of the Melville family in fashioning such a jewel for anyone who wishes to enjoy its paved path, picture postcard views and many benches. It is such a place of respite for those of us who work just around the corner and those who come with their dogs from farther away. 

Dogs are welcome, as long as their owners pick up after them. We sat on one of the benches last Saturday and called out, “Hello, Dog,” to the various pooches as they walked by with their owners. The dogs immediately veered over for a pat, and sometimes the owners lingered for a chat. 

It was quite a social affair on a beautiful fall afternoon for dogs and people.

One of the people we met as we strolled along was Anita Lago, an energetic woman from Stony Brook who discovered the pond and the park eight years ago and has been coming over to enjoy the swans regularly since then. When she was found cleaning out the stray fishing lines and other detritus that might enmesh the fowl, she was offered a pail and a rake by the foundation that oversees the park and invited to be official. And so, she can be found at water’s edge, when she is not at her full-time job, a hard-working volunteer helping to keep the pond clean and the swans and other fowl safe.

The Frank Melville Memorial Park is supported by donations from a grateful public. It’s that kind of place, one that brings out the best in all of us as it gifts to us all year round.