09/13/13 12:00pm
09/13/2013 12:00 PM

EILEEN KAPELL COURTESY PHOTO | If you see a monarch butterfly with this tag, you’re expected to call the number to help track its migration.

Eileen Kapell rushed to get a camera after she spotted a monarch butterfly — the first of the season — resting among the zinnias in her front garden Sunday morning. But as she lay down to take the photo, the Greenport resident noticed something odd. There was a circular white patch stuck to the butterfly’s wing.

“I thought, how terrible,” she said. “I thought it was one of those little tags you see on fruit.”

Thankfully, the sticker wasn’t litter; it was a tracking tag from a Kansas-based monarch research group.

“I’ve seen tagged bass, I’ve seen tagged birds, but never tagged butterflies,” Ms. Kapell said.

Sunday’s monarch was one of more than 1 million butterflies that have been tagged and identified through Monarch Watch, a University of Kansas program that works to better understand their extensive migration patterns and how to protect the species.

Monarch Watch started in 1992 and was an instant success, said founder and KU professor Orley “Chip” Taylor.

“People want to get involved,” Mr. Taylor told The Suffolk Times. “People are interested in the environment, they’re interested in science, they’re interested in making a difference.”

In its first year, the program had nearly 1,000 volunteers in Kansas and Texas, he said. Now, nearly 22 years later, Monarch Watch has expanded to include volunteers from across the nation and in Mexico.

The tracking group sends out sheets of small circular tags for volunteers to attach to the center of a butterfly’s hind wing, Mr. Taylor said. Those who find a tagged butterfly can call the toll-free number to report where it appeared.

Each fall, monarchs travel hundreds of miles from the Northeast and Canada down to Mexico, where winters are milder.

While Monarch Watch is still analyzing the data compiled so far, the initial results have been surprising, Mr. Taylor said.

Last year, two butterflies traveled from St. John in New Brunswick, Canada, to Mexico over a two-and-a-half month journey, he said. And the larger picture shows that the butterflies’ migrations are not as dependent on weather as biologists had thought.

“The overarching trend is these monarchs are moving based on some celestial change that we’re not sure of yet,” Mr. Taylor said, adding that the lowering angle of the sun appears to trigger the migration.

Knowing more about migration patterns helps biologists understand the species, especially ways to boost conservation efforts, Mr. Taylor said.

“The habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators is changing so rapidly,” he said.

Monarch Watch activities now include education programs in schools and it has even branched out into selling milkweed, a plant that provides a habitat for the butterflies, he said. Still, tagging remains the group’s biggest focus.

Ms. Kapell said she called the toll-free number to report the sighting and is curious to know exactly where her butterfly came from.

While the butterfly’s exact path hasn’t been determined yet, workers at Monarch Watch said the tag found on the butterfly’s wing was issued to the Insectarium in Montreal, Quebec — more than 300 miles north of where it was found.

Many of the tagged butterflies that are located are found dead, she learned. But the one that flew into her garden was likely just beginning its migration, having crossed Long Island Sound from the Connecticut or Massachusetts coast.

“He took off on his merry way,” Ms. Kapell said. “This guy’s still on whatever journey he’s on.”

psquire@timesreview.com

09/09/13 10:00am
09/09/2013 10:00 AM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTOS | Bicyclists would be wise to remember a few basic rules, one reader suggests.

GRANT PARPAN FILE PHOTO | Bicyclists would be wise to remember a few basic rules.

To the Editor:

I am not a serious bicycle rider, but I do occasionally mix it up out there with our summer traffic. I am a motor vehicle driver, however, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve witnessed three categories of bicycle/motor vehicle incidents that I believe are worth mentioning. Hopefully, it’s not too late in the season to save an injury.

First, while driving on a shady, country lane, I encountered a bicycle coming straight at me in the shoulder of my lane. New York state law requires bicycles to ride in the right-hand lane in the direction of other vehicle traffic. The reason behind this is that the distance between bike and car closes so fast when riding “head to head” that things can happen more quickly than either vehicle can safely anticipate. Another reason is that at intersections, right-turning drivers don’t normally expect any vehicles coming at them from the right.

The second instance involves bicycles riding single-file. Again, this is required by state law, but it is so frequently ignored, especially on our back country roads. It is exactly on these more narrow roads where passing widths are reduced, which makes this requirement so important.

Finally, wear your bicycle helmet! Many bicyclists believe helmets are for when they hit another vehicle, and they reason (maybe correctly) that their helmet won’t do them much good, so why wear one? But the main reason for wearing bike helmets is to protect your head when you fall for whatever reason. Think about it: your unprotected head is six feet or more above the pavement, and your hands are holding onto the handlebars for dear life during a fall. That leaves your head completely unprotected.

This was brought home to us recently when we were invited to a friend’s home for dinner. When we arrived, everyone seemed pretty gloomy and our hosts were not in sight. Turns out their daughter had just been in a bike accident and they were waiting for more news. Fortunately, their daughter was wearing a helmet, and except for some temporary cosmetic issues, she’ll be fine. If she had not been wearing her helmet, the story would have had a much sadder ending.

With school about to begin, there will be many more kids on the road heading off to school on their bikes. So, bicyclers and drivers alike, please consider each other when out there “sharing the road.”

Jim Baker, New Suffolk

08/31/13 10:00am
08/31/2013 10:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The bedroom at The Farmer’s House Bed and Breakfast where couples can purchase elopement packages for a more intimate, smaller wedding.

Shortly after Joyce and Robert Barry launched the The Farmer’s House Bed and Breakfast at their Cutchogue home three years ago, the couple began receiving inquiries from guests about a service they hadn’t explored before: elopement packages.

“I can’t tell you how many couples are frazzled because their parents insist on these huge weddings their kids never wanted,” Ms. Barry said. “People have said to me, ‘Oh, I wish I could have had my wedding here, at the bed and breakfast.’ ”

Stirred by her guests’ wistful laments, Ms. Barry obtained a certificate allowing her to perform wedding ceremonies. She also set to work creating an elopement package that begins at $1,800 and includes a ceremony, a bridal bouquet and a two-night stay in one of the house’s luxury suites. Additional items, like a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant, are available at an extra cost.

“They’re very intimate and quiet,” said Ms. Barry, who hosts three or four weddings a year and generally limits them to a maximum of 20 guests. “It’s really about the bride and the groom. There’s so much stress involved when there shouldn’t be. It should be about the commitment a bride and groom have to each other and to have your most intimate friends and family witness that, without all the hoopla.”

The Farmhouse isn’t the first North Fork bed and breakfast to offer elopement packages. Sylvia Daley, who has run Quintessentials Bed and Breakfast and Spa in East Marion for the past two decades, began offering small wedding services to guests eight years ago.

“People started phoning me about it,” Ms. Daley said of her decision to begin hosting elopements. “Or, when guests came here and got engaged, they would say, ‘Do you do weddings?’ That’s when I started learning more about it.”

Budget-friendly elopement packages are not just a local trend but a service offered at small inns across the country. At Historic Heights B&B in Minneapolis, couples can get married for $1,000 or less with a package that includes 20 guests, an officiant, champagne, appetizers, cake and a room and gourmet breakfast for bride and groom. Travel to the Bluff Mountain Inn in Sevierville, Tenn., for the Elope to the Mountains package and the owners there will provide all the requisite wedding accoutrements, plus a wedding planner, for just under a grand.

At East Marion’s Quintessentials, elopement packages range from $1,200 to $1,800 and include a ceremony that takes place in a fully dressed gazebo at the property’s “secret garden,” a wedding cake, champagne and a bridal bouquet. Spa services, videography and photography can be added on for an additional fee.

Ms. Daley, who is an ordained minister, thinks it’s “wonderful” that couples are opting for small, intimate weddings. She said she performs six to 10 ceremonies a year.

“With the economy, a lot of people realize that it might not be a bad idea to have a simple wedding ceremony with two or four of their best friends and then go out to dinner afterward,” she said. “They can save the money they would have spent on a big wedding for a house or go on a honeymoon at a later date.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

08/26/13 1:22pm
08/26/2013 1:22 PM

mosquito-web

Aerial spraying of mosquito control pesticides will be taking place over a number of North Fork marshesTuesday, county officials announced Monday.

Suffolk County’s vector control division of the Department of Public Works plans to treat parts of several salt marshes throughout the county by spraying by helicopter in order to control mosquito larvae, officials said.

The department will use a “low altitude, large droplet liquid application,” of Altoside, which is a brand name for the insecticide, methoprene.

The spraying is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the various locations.

In Riverhead Town, spraying is planned for marshes near Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue, Millar Farm in Aquebogue (north of Cases Creek), Pier Avenue in Northville, and a site listed as “Aquebogue Farm.” It was not immediately clear where that last marsh is located.

In Southold Town, spraying is scheduled for Great Hog Neck in Southold, Kerwin Boulevard in Greenport, Pipes Neck Creek in Greenport and Pipes Cove in Greenport.

Officials say that if weather conditions prevent the scheduled work, spraying will be continue the next suitable day.

08/17/13 10:00am
08/17/2013 10:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Sang Lee farms manager William Lee, 27, (center, with his dog Molly) and farmhands Hudson Miller, Chaz Schneider, Mark Pagano and True McDonald. The young men are part of a unique crew of locals working at the organic farm this summer.

Looking out into the fields at Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, a group of local young men can be seen baling hay and stringing up cherry tomatoes.

These young men each knocked the door of farm owners Karen and Fred Lee this summer expressing an interest in learning about organic farming and nutrition.

“I’ve done this for over 30 years and I’ve never had a team of local boys like this,” Ms. Lee said. “They wanted to be challenged.”

While the job of summer farmhand — known for hot days and long hours — was once a common among local high school and college students during summer break, that’s no longer the case. As easier seasonal employment opportunities have opened up on the North Fork, and the practice of hiring migrant workers has expanded, local field hands who weren’t born into a farm family have become rare.

This is actually the first summer one of the crews tending the Lees’ 100-acre farm has consisted of seven local college students.

Managed by the couple’s 27-year-old son William, the men have been doing everything from digging up onions and garlic to laying irrigation lines through tomato fields.

“These young guys are connected with the land and the region,” William Lee said. “I think the appreciation of the younger generation is starting to come around, because people want to know what’s in their food.”

The crew starts its day at 7 a.m. and finishes up about 6 p.m., he said. Any farmhands who show up late “aren’t going to get the easy jobs all morning,” William Lee said.

While cleaning out a greenhouse last week — pitchfork in hand — 20-year-old Chaz Schneider of Cutchogue said he wanted to learn about plant growth and development and how to grow successfully without using chemicals.

“Working with food feels important,” he said. “It’s good to know where your food’s coming from.”

Mr. Schneider, who expects to major in environmental science at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, is the only crew member with any food production heritage. His father produces a line of all-natural fruit spreads, he said.

Sang Lee Farms veteran Hudson Miller, 21, has been working at the farm for seven years, originally working at the farm stand. The Cutchogue native, who is majoring in economics with a minor in botany at Ohio Wesleyan University, said he hopes to opening a company in the city that uses rooftop gardens to grow fresh produce.

“Working here seems like a great jump-off for it,” Mr. Miller said. He’s also participating in a winemaking internship at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue this fall.

Mark Pagan, 18, an environmental science major at Cornell University, said he wanted to apply what he was learning in the classroom to the farm.

“Now I can see the development myself,” the East Marion man said.

He and Mr. Schneider said that while the rest of their friends go out at night, they’re preparing for the early morning job, which they say would be impossible on only a few hours sleep.

The young men’s advice to others interested in working on a farm: “Stick with it. It gets better,” Mr. Schneider said.

“And be ready to get dirty,” added Mr. Pagan.

Ms. Lee said the renewed interest in farming these local men display is exciting, and she hopes many of them will return to help again next season.

“It’s been really unique and really amazing,” Ms. Lee said. “They have the energy and inspiration to get the job done.”

When comparing the students to migrant workers, William Lee said he’s seen a different level of discipline in the “American college boys,” and also appreciates the level of communication, which he doesn’t always have with migrant workers.

“They go home saying, ‘The hard day of work was good for me,’ ” Mr. Lee said. “[They] look forward to jumping in the bay at the end of the day.

“It’s a lifestyle that a lot of country boys out here appreciate.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

08/02/13 7:00pm
08/02/2013 7:00 PM
LIRR

STEVE ROSSIN PHOTO | LIRR riders board an train out of Riverhead about 1:30 p.m. last week.

The Long Island Rail Road will extend its summer schedule on the Greenport to Ronkonkoma line by 10 weeks, stretching into November, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.

The Long Island Rail Road, through its parent company, the MTA,  has been discontinuing all weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma after Columbus Day and before Memorial Day since 2010.

Summer service, as it’s now called, will now begin in April and end in November, said LIRR spokesman Sal Arena.

After November, there will again be no weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The MTA was able to identify additional money, revenue from dedicated state taxes as well as internal cost-savings, that could be used to enhance train service and other customer amenities,” Mr. Arena said. “The LIRR is making a number of improvements with its share of that money, including the extension of weekend service on the North Fork.

“It made this decision based on customer demand and specifically to expend service to the fall harvest period, an important tourist season for the region.”

About seven years ago, the LIRR was considering discontinuing service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma altogether, but backed off that plan.

“This service investment shows that the MTA and LIRR are committed to expanding and improving service to the East End,” South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said of the move.

Mr. Thiele has been an advocate for increasing train service on the East End, and one of the projects he has touted also got some money from the MTA. A proposal to establish a network of smaller “scoot” trains between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, as well as in other areas on Long Island, received $37.2 million from the state.

Currently, the LIRR is exploring the possibility of diesel-powered Scoot service on the Oyster Bay Branch and on the Main Line east of Ronkonkoma, Mr. Arena said.

The $37.2 million funding for such a purchase is in the current (2010-2014) MTA Capital Program, and will remain available even if it is not expended by the end of 2014, Mr. Arena said.

“Scoot” is a railroad industry term used to describe a train that would shuttle regularly between the first and last stops on a particular branch or branch segment, according to Mr. Arena.

Currently, the LIRR runs only about two trains per day in each directions between Greenport and Riverhead on weekends in the summer, and about three trains per day between Greenport and Riverhead during weekdays, prompting calls from East End residents and officials for better service.

“As envisioned by the LIRR, scoot service would allow for more frequent train service than currently provided,” Mr. Arena said. It “would encourage intra-branch and intra-Island travel, but also would require a transfer to electric trains for those traveling on to New York City.

“The LIRR is currently looking for alternate (smaller) diesel trains that would be more cost-effective to operate and maintain, as compared with both the LIRR’s existing diesel fleet and with electric trains.”

The LIRR does not have specific timeline or start date for either purchasing the alternate diesel fleet and/or initiating expanded Scoot service for East of Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The scoot train could be much smaller to than the standard 10 or 12 car consist,” Mr. Arena said, “perhaps just one, two cars or three coach cars, depending on demand.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/26/13 5:00pm
07/26/2013 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Jamesport Bait & Tackle owner Bill Czech holds one of the few sandworms he can offer to fishermen.

Looking forward to a day of fishing, Spiro Beletsis of East Marion visited his local bait and tackle shop to pick up a few dozen worms.

After leaving empty-handed, he moved on to two other area bait shops.

“All three of them didn’t have worms,” Mr. Beletsis said.

There has been a shortage of worms since the July 4 weekend, North Fork bait shop owner say, leaving fishermen, particularly surfcasters, without the bait they prefer.

When hooked, the slimy creature known as the sandworm gives off a juicy brew that finfish — like porgies and striped bass — cannot resist, said Glen Valentine of Regal Marine Products, a bait distributor that supplies some local shops.

“It hurts business because some people don’t how to fish with anything else,” said Bill Czech of Jamesport Bait and Tackle in Mattituck.

“I can order 14 boxes, and I get delivered three boxes” of about 125 worms each, he said. “I usually put a two dozen maximum [limit on sales per customer].”

WeGo Bait and Tackle in Southold hasn’t had sandworms in stock for over a week, said Steven, the shop’s owner. He said he sent close to 100 customers away worm-less in recent days.

Capt. Dave Brennan, owner of the Peconic Star fleet in Greenport, said the shortage has had an effect on fishing.

While he said he usually relies on other types of bait for porgy and striped bass fishing “sometimes they are very critical to put a catch together. You need worms, and that’s the time I miss them. I am not able to carry them this year,” he said.

Sandworms are harvested from the shores of Maine and distributed nationwide, Mr. Valentine said.

He said his distribution company, which works out of Huntington Station, is receiving only about 15 percent of what is demanded by area bait shops.

In Maine there are a lot of mud flats where the worms burrow into the sand. When tides go out the flats are exposed, giving more of an opportunity to gather worms, he said.

“Right now the tides are not great,” he said, adding that the hot temperatures send worms deeper in the ground.

He said summer weather and tides are only partly to blame, though, as the worms have been overharvested for years.

“It’s getting worse every year because they are over-dug,” Mr. Valentine said. “There is very little conservation in Maine.”

To get any kind of quantity, harvesters are digging them kind of small, at about 2 to 5 inches. “Years ago they were much bigger, [about 7 to 8 inches] you don’t see them that size anymore,” he said.

“The public needs to understand that it is a problem. It’s going to get worse and worse every year,” Mr. Valentine said.

Until more worms can be unearthed, there are alternatives fisherman can use as bait, shop owners said.

“You can improvise and use clam or squid,” Mr. Czech said. “But for some reason the worms work better.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/24/13 2:30pm
07/24/2013 2:30 PM

FILE PHOTO | Riders from last year’s Bike for Life during a quick break in Rocky Point.

A priest, two teachers and a group of students pedal bikes down the road … No, this isn’t the start of an potentially offensive joke. Instead, this is exactly the sight to be seen across the North Fork this weekend on Main Road or Sound Avenue.

The 27th annual McGann-Mercy Bike for Life, in which students from the private high school cycle from Port Jefferson to Orient Point, will take place over four days beginning Thursday morning. This year, the riders include 15 current students and alumni, two teachers, three support staff, and of course, the school’s chaplain, Rev. Gerald Cestare.

The trip across the North Fork is about more than exercise. The Bike for Life also incorporates a spiritual aspect for the Catholic school students.

Each day of pedaling ends at a local church where students engage in activities and talks, giving the weekend more of a retreat feel. The discussions revolve around teaching students about living a wholesome life as they grow older, building up their school community, dealing with the pressures and worries of high school, cherishing their faith and sexuality.

Riders kick off the trip in Port Jefferson and will travel along 25A and Route 48 until they reach St. Patrick’s Church in Southold, where they will spend the night. On Friday they will continue to Orient Point Beach Park, where they will have a beach barbecue and then circle back to St. Agnes in Greenport for the night.

On Saturday they will ride to Sacred Heart Church in Cutchogue, and then on Sunday they will travel back from Sacred Heart to Port Jefferson for a closing Mass at Infant Jesus Church.

The event is sponsored by McGann-Mercy Campus Ministry.

intern@timesreview.com