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02/19/13 11:00am
02/19/2013 11:00 AM

LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM PHOTO | Jelly, a North American river otter, gave birth to four pups this weekend.

The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead closes during most overnight hours — but nature doesn’t stop.

That was apparent Saturday morning, when staffers discovered four newborn North American river otters in the Otter Falls exhibit, which opened in 2008.

The pups were born to the aquarium’s river otter couple, Peanut Butter, the male, and Jelly, the female. Officials say the pups are healthy, and are being kept in a secluded area — away from the public’s eye — with their mother as they nurse, sleep and grow.

“While it’s still very early, they all seem to be doing well and Jelly is being a fabulous mother as expected,” aquarium officials said in a release. “The otter pups and mom are inside in the holding areas of the exhibit while the male, PB, is still on exhibit.”

The pups won’t be visible to the public until they start moving on their own, which will take about a month. They’ll nurse for four months.

In the meantime, the aquarium released photos of the newborns.

LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM CENTER PHOTO | The four river otter pups born this weekend.

From the aquarium:

The playful North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is equally at home in the water as it is on land. Once abundant in U. S. and Canadian rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, the North American river otter can today be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, upper Great Lakes area, New England, and Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. 

Members of the weasel family, river otters enjoy sliding down muddy and snowy hills, bouncing objects on their paws, playing tag, and wrestling.

12/16/12 8:25am
12/16/2012 8:25 AM

CHRISTINE SACKETT COURTESY PHOTO | This Piebald doe, the mother of three fawns, is often seen in Wading River.

What are those ghostly looking deer?
The answer is piebald deer, the name given to a small number of rare animals that appear two-toned in color. Hunters and conservationists say there’s one in just about every hamlet of Southold Town, at least two in Riverhead and at least one on Shelter Island.
“There’s been more showing up in the last few years,” said Jeff Standish, a hunter who serves as deputy director of Southold Town’s department of public works. “There’s at least five between Orient and Laurel. There’s one in Peconic, one in Mattituck, one in Cutchogue, one right here in Southold village and a 12-year-old piebald I know of from Orient who recently passed away.”

Piebald is a 16th-century word that refers to the black and white plumage of the magpie bird; “pie” refers to the bird and “bald” means “white” or “spotted.”

The blotchy deer, which in some cases appear almost pure white, are the result of a recessive gene, said Aphrodite Montalvo, citizen participation specialist with the New York State Department of Conservation.

“A piebald deer is a partial albino, or is only partially missing pigmentation,” she said. “A true albino will have no pigmentation, so it will have pink eyes and nose and be fully white.”

Ms. Montalvo said the animals are rare; though the DEC has not conducted studies on the number of piebald deer, data from other states suggest they constitute less than 1 percent of the population.

That number can be slightly higher in protected areas or areas where natural predators such as the coyote or bobcat have been removed from the landscape, Ms. Montalvo added. They may occur more frequently here than in upstate areas, where predators can pick off the snowy fawns, whose natural response is to lie down and hide in dense cover.

“As you can imagine, it makes it difficult to hide when the animal is stark white,” she said.

“That’s the neatest part about these deer,” said Mr. Standish. “They don’t know they’re white, but they still have that instinct to hide. So you’ll see a buck lying down in a pile of briars, but he’s standing out clear as day.”

Cutchogue hunter Lisa Dabrowski said that although she hasn’t hunted in many years, when she did she let piebald deer be and believes other hunters do the same, even though they are easier targets than most.

In fact, she said she considers the animals good luck and recently fi lmed one she’s seen in the Fort Corchaug area.

“Most hunters have a great respect for nature,” Ms. Dabrowski said. “Just because it’s a white deer doesn’t mean it’s something someone will go make a trophy out of. It’s something we appreciate and protect. Most hunters will look at it from afar and only want to photograph it because it’s special.”

In addition to their unusual color, the bodies of piebald deer are somewhat different, said Ms. Dabrowski.

“They have narrower heads and short legs but are the same length,” she said.

Despite piebalds’ unique look, Ms. Dabrowski and Mr. Standish said, the unusual deer behave like all other white-tailed deer and are not shunned for their appearance.

“Let’s say a doe had two fawns and one was piebald, I never saw the doe not be with that fawn,” Mr. Standish said. “I was watching a piebald buck rut one time and he rutted like any other buck would. He just had longer hair and looked short and stocky. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he was a goat,”

Riverhead hunters are also familiar with the ghostly deer in local forests.

Tom Gabrielsen, brother of Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen, said he’s seen one while hunting on the former Grumman property in Calverton.

He watched another piebald grow from a fawn to a huge buck in Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays. Though he was a 12-pointer (more points mean a larger rack of antlers), Mr. Gabrielsen said hunters let him be, especially at a park ranger’s request.

Hunters aren’t the only people who enjoy the piebald deer.

One animal in Wading River earned the affectionate handle “Sweetie Pie” from resident Christine Sackett.

Ms. Sackett, who has lived in the hamlet for just over a year, said she sees “Sweetie Pie” and her three fawns just about every dawn and dusk.

Animals that are most active in the morning and at twilight are called crepuscular, as opposed to nocturnal or diurnal. The reason deer are such a hazard to drivers is they’re most active during commuting hours. Ms. Sackett normally sees Sweetie Pie and family at around 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

She and her husband can now come within two feet of the deer without disturbing them, she said, as they have come to know their friendly human neighbors.

“She has one fawn from last year who stays with her and she had twins this past year,” she said. None of the offspring is piebald. “I just started calling her Sweetie Pie because I was thinking she’s very gentle and she’s a piebald, so, Sweetie Pie.”

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11/18/12 9:00am
11/18/2012 9:00 AM

TARAH SABBATINO PHOTO | A bald eagle in the osprey’s nest on Colonel’s Island on the Peconic River between Flanders and the Indian Island Golf Course in RIverhead.

Flanders resident Tarah Sabbatino has a new neighbor.

Over the past couple weeks she said she kept spotting what she thought might be a bald eagle in the osprey’s nest on Colonel’s Island, just south of the Indian Island Golf Course in Riverhead.

On Saturday, she finally got close enough with her zoom lens to snap a few photos of the bird to confirm it is, in fact, a bald eagle.

She said she first spotted the bird after Superstorm Sandy struck the area. She believes it could have been chased here by the storm.

03/11/12 11:00am
03/11/2012 11:00 AM

BILL ZITEK COURTESY PHOTO | Two Eastern bluebirds light on a nest box at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island.

With a bit of help, the beautiful and melodic, but unfortunately uncommon, Eastern bluebird might make a North Fork comeback.

Anyone interested in lending a hand can learn how during a special program on Saturday, April 7, at the Red House at Inlet Pond County Pond in Greenport.

The Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) is not only the small thrush famous for sitting on James Baskett’s shoulder as he sings “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” in Disney’s movie, “Song of the South” — it’s also the New York state bird.

The songbird’s “tu-wheet-tudu” call is rarer than it once was due to a loss of habitat, rough winters and competition for nesting sites with introduced bird species like the house sparrow.

“In 1940, Roy Latham, a wonderful North Fork naturalist, counted 400 bluebirds at Orient Point. Now we’re lucky if we count 20 at a time,” said Bill Zitek, a director of the New York State Bluebird Society and retired veterinarian with the North Fork Animal Hospital.

John Ruska, president of the New York State Bluebird Society, will speak during the April 7 session, starting at 7 p.m. His comments will be more than just wishful thinking.

Grass roots movements to create and maintain nest boxes led to the removal of the species from the state’s endangered, threatened and special concern list in 1999. A bluebird nest box program began at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island in 2001.

Paired boxes are set five to 15 feet apart. Every year, volunteers clean out the nest boxes posted throughout seven of Mashomack’s meadows in the beginning of April to prepare for bluebird nesting. Volunteers then return once a week to observe what’s happening in the nests and record their findings. They recorded 15 bluebird chicks in the first year and were up to 48 chicks in 2011.

The information volunteers gather is sent to Cornell University’s ornithology department as part of Project NestWatch.

“We started out with 30 nest boxes and now we’re up to 47,” Dr. Zitek, head volunteer for the nest box project, said. In the program’s 12 years “we have fledged 320 bluebirds and 860 tree swallows.”

The first bluebird eggs are seen in the beginning of April.

“I think the earliest bluebird eggs we’ve recorded were on the 11th of April,” Dr. Zitek said. Though bluebird families require two to 25 acres of territory during mating time and will not nest side by side, they will tolerate a tree swallow family next to their own.

Tree swallows generally nest a month after bluebirds.

Bluebirds will often have two clutches of eggs per year. “A couple of years ago we had a third clutch,” Dr. Zitek said, but that is a rare occurrence.

Typically, bluebirds will have four or five eggs in a clutch. Eggs take 12 to 14 days to hatch, and 17 days after hatching, the chicks are mature enough to “fly out into the real world,” according to Dr. Zitek. He said all the nest boxes are “aimed at” a tree 50 to 100 feet away where the chicks will fly and continue to be fed by their parents for another two to four weeks.

A meeting for those interested in learning about or volunteering for the Mashomack project will be held Thursday, March 22, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the preserve. The program is free to Mashomack members, $5 for nonmembers, and requires advance registration. Call Mashomack at 749-1001 or email [email protected].

For those who wish to set up their own nest box or nest box trail, Dr. Zitek said half the battle is thinking about where not to place a nest box.

He advised setting a box up at least a hundred yards away from a barn structure or bushes and with an entrance hole no wider than one and a half inches.

“The idea is to stay far away from house sparrows,” he said. “I would rather people have a smaller box to enjoy house wrens than have a bluebird box that is taken over by house sparrows.”

Dr. Zitek said an intruding house sparrow will kill a mother bluebird and her eggs or young and then construct its own nest on top of the dead.

“The best habitat is an open meadow, perhaps with fruit trees, where a Bluebird can nest easily and safely,” he said.

A well-known symbol for happiness, prosperity and new life, the Eastern bluebird was designated the state bird by Governor Nelson Rockefeller on May 18, 1970.

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01/06/12 10:59am
01/06/2012 10:59 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Paul and Barbara Stoutenburgh being interviewed by Troy Gustavson in their Cutchogue home.

It is, by all accounts, one of the longest running acts on Long Island’s North Fork.

For 50 years — since 1961, when John F. Kennedy occupied the White House — renowned environmentalist Paul Stoutenburgh and his wife, Barbara, have been writing their weekly column, “Focus on Nature,” first in the Riverhead News-Review and then, beginning in the early 1970s, in its sister publication, The Suffolk Times.

Up until now, that is. With the Dec. 22-29, 2011, edition of The Times, the Stoutenburghs have written their last regular column.

It is their decision, and their decision alone, based on considerations detailed in the interview that follows.

But first, some biographical details to help put the Stoutenburghs’ environmental activism and community service in perspective.

They both attended Southold High School, although not at the same time, and Barbara Stoutenburgh remembers reading a wartime newsletter article about a local sailor’s ship blowing up in the Philippines. The sailor was Paul Stoutenburgh.

They met for the first time in 1949, when they both worked at L.I. Produce in Riverhead. They had their first date (at a cranberry bog in Riverhead) in March 1950 and were married on Thanksgiving Day that same year. Their first child, Peter, was born in 1952. He was followed by a sister, Peggy, in 1954, and a brother, Roger, in 1956. (Today, 89-year-old Paul and 82-year-old Barbara also have four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.)


The Stoutenburghs purchased their seven-acre homestead off Skunk Lane in Cutchogue in 1955, and today it still supports two beef cattle and enough free-roaming wildlife to provide ample copy for a weekly nature column.

Mr. Stoutenburgh’s primary vocation was as a shop teacher at Greenport High School, from which he retired in 1978 at the relatively young age of 55. But his avocation was and is nature, which evolved from his childhood days roaming the fields and forests of Depression-era Cutchogue, and fishing, clamming and scalloping in its creeks. Later in life, that same interest in the natural world led to their six-year stint as summertime rangers/naturalists at the Fire Island National Seashore.

Barbara Stoutenburgh first worked in the guidance office at Southold High School and, later was a copy editor and proofreader at The Suffolk Times in Greenport, from which she retired, also in the late ’70s.

Mr. Stoutenburgh’s résumé of environmental activism is extensive. He was president of the Eastern Long Island Wetlands Preservation Association, which later joined several other groups to form the North Fork Environmental Council, which he served as vice president in its formative years. Other environmental affiliations include, but are not limited to, The Nature Conservancy and the Peconic Land Trust, which he served as trustee and director, respectively.

Among the many environmental awards Mr. Stoutenburgh has received over the years is The Nature Conservancy’s highest honor for volunteer service, the National Oak Leaf Award.

Then there was public service. Mr. Stoutenburgh served as president of Cutchogue Free Library and completed three terms as a Southold Town Trustee, including one year as board president, and four years as a Southold Town councilman. (A complete résumé of his public service is too extensive to detail in this limited space.)

Finally, readers of “Focus on Nature” will be reassured to know that even though they will no longer write their weekly column, the Stoutenburghs anticipate accepting The Suffolk Times’ open invitation to submit, when inspiration strikes and circumstances allow, periodic articles and photographs on the natural world.

The Stoutenburghs were interviewed in their Cutchogue home the week before Christmas by Times/Review Newsgroup president Troy Gustavson.


Troy Gustavson: Thanks for inviting me into your home today. I’d like to begin by asking if you have any columns that stand out over the years, anything that you wrote that you’re particularly proud of, or that might have caused a stir. I know when there are literally hundreds and hundreds or, I guess, maybe thousands, it might be hard to single out, but I’m just wondering if there’s anything you wrote that you’re particularly proud of.

Paul Stoutenburgh: Well, I thought the one we did on our horse … I had a little pony which all the kids enjoyed. It was part of the family, really. I can remember there was a big snowy day and we decided to go for a walk in the snow, which is our kind of thing to do. And, by gosh, a couple of kids from school, my kids that I taught, happened to stop in that night and they said, “What are you doing? I said, “We’re going for a walk. Do you want to go?” And they said, “Sure.” So here we went with the horse all through the property — something the kids have never done. And they said, “This is great!” And it’s part of what I try to do — to get people to do things, see things that they never thought were there. And being a teacher, I wanted to do that with the whole community …

TG: Did you ever imagine that you’d be doing the column for as many years as you have?

PS: Oh, no.

Barbara Stoutenburgh: He has written in journals his whole life and we are now binding all that up now. And we’ll spend more time doing it now. But he did say in his early years, when he was in high school, he hoped some day he could write. He wrote a lot then, and even his grandson now, who’s Paul Stoutenburgh, has said to him, “You know, you told me to write and even if I only put my name down, I write every night.” And he’s tried to start all the kids to keep journals … So now we are putting it together. We’ve got three of them started.

TG: The decision to stop writing the column. Tell me how you arrived at that, and how difficult is that for you to do?

BS: I think it’s good to know your limitations. It had been easy for him to write, and for us to do it …

PS: I can’t write with my hands anymore. I have problems with my writing. Physically, I can’t do it. Dictating to Barbara, she’s so good at it with the computer. We can do it that way, but it’s lost something because when you write [by hand], as you well know, you go back over it …

TG: And you wrote it out longhand?


BS: And we kept all that writing for years. He would write and then I would type it and we would go back over it and we’d retype it, and he’d go over it again.

TG: Tell me a little bit more about that collaborative process because I get a sense that Barbara has been a very important partner in this column.

PS: The most important.

TG: Is she your editor?

PS: She’s my everything. I mean that.

TG: Well, having worked with her I know how good she is with that sort of thing. She’s meticulous and she knows local lore as well as anybody I know. Whenever I had a question about a local family or a local place, Barbara was the one to go to. No question about that.

BS: It worked very well. And you could say that he was the writer and I edited it. But he would write it longhand … And we have a hay shack up back or on the boat — wherever we were — sit on the bow of the boat and write or he’d sit up in the hay shack and write, and then I would take that and I would put it on the computer. When computers first came around, I bought [former Suffolk Times cooking columnist] Jules Bond’s first computer … Prior to that we used an old typewriter that he had taken to college, an old portable Royal that we used …

PS: I think we still have it.

BS: But then I would do it and I gave it back to him and he would edit it. And, of course, as long as before it had to get to the deadline, we would keep going over it. And once it went, it went. Truthfully, he would say he’s not one to write and spell and that was my part of it. It’s always been that way. But I think it’s good to realize our limitations. I think what he will find, and people have said it to us in the last week or two, maybe snow will come, and they said, “And then we’ll read about it in ‘Focus.’ ” And since we’ve haven’t told too many people, we’re beginning to get that kind of thing: “And you’ll tell about that when you write.” And he’ll have that feeling, I’m sure. He’ll have something he’ll want to sit and write about, or talk about, or dictate.

TG: Well, I think you know there’ll always be a place for that in the paper … I want to talk a little bit about your osprey project. For a number of years, you had a crew that went around and put up osprey poles. Was that at your instigation? Was that your idea or did somebody sort of rope you into doing it? How many years did you do that? Do you know?

PS: We must have done it for 20 or 30 years. We had records up to about 30 nests.

TG: Did you do that in the time period when they ospreys started to come back? Because there was a time in the ’50s and ’60s when the [osprey] population really dropped.

PS: Dramatically. So much so that when we were on Gardiners Island, they had a multitude of osprey platforms all vacant, no birds around.

TG: It must have been very gratifying to see them come back.

PS: Working with Dennis Puleston and people like that we really did a great job helping them come back.

BS: And before they came back, we were involved and watched when they came down to … the beach and they would take an osprey and then they would ship it off. And we’d go over to the airport and they had these CEOs’ planes that were donated and they would put the ospreys in that and they would fly them to Ohio. And they brought eggs here to put in our nests. And that was interesting, before our ospreys came back.

TG: I also wanted to ask you a little bit about how you got into politics. I like to tell the story to all my friends — something that you told me, which was when you first got involved [in politics] — there was a time when the Traveler-Watchman used to take group photographs and they would put you at the far end of the photograph so they could crop you out. Did you start in politics as a Democrat, or were you a Republican?


PS: I was a Republican. What started me was the wetlands. There were so many crooked deals going on right in our own town. The wetlands were being filled with the cheap idea that there was no other place to put the dredge material. And so, my gosh, I couldn’t stand that so we started an organization called Eastern Long Island Wetlands Preservation Association. And we had probably 200 members. But every time we went to a meeting, we were voted down. We never got anywhere. So I said I’m going to change my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. And that’s when I started.

BS: And the [Wetlands] Preservation became part of the North Fork Environmental Council eventually when the groups got together. A little bit more about the Traveler. Our son, who won an award with another boy in town. He was cut out, and the other boy wasn’t. In high school.

PS: Troy, I have photographs, slides, of town trucks going to the old dump, being filled up with sand and gravel, being brought up here and dumped on Leslie Road.

TG: Filling a wetland?

PS: Filling the wetlands. And I asked why they were doing it, and they said it was to keep the mosquitoes under control. And there are two houses on that [site] now …

BS: And those are the two houses you see over there.

PS: And I have pictures of all of it. Didn’t mean a thing to them.

TG: So, you were first elected as a town Trustee?

PS: Yes.

TG: Was that in the ’70s or ’80s? Do you remember?


BS: I think we have a picture up in the hay shack and it says, “He also ran.” And I think that’s about ’77. And he ran a couple of times before he got in. And then when he got in they were having a big debate. One of the men got up after he spoke and said, “And, Paul, you’re not the only conservationist. We are all conservationists on this board.”

TG: That must be something that is also gratifying — to know how the thinking changed out here over time. Because when you first started you were a voice in the wilderness and eventually, I think, everybody, both political parties, were all claiming to be preservationists.

PS: Let me tell you about a situation. We had a meeting on dredging. And I invited Robert Cushman Murphy, head of the Museum of Natural History in New York. He came out and told how important [the creeks] were and how these groins that people were putting in were destroying the waterfront. And I tried to explain with a map. I happened to have a red pencil going there. And somebody in the audience said, “Yeah, red, red. And this was the time of the Soviets being very powerful. They laughed this man right out of the … Right here at the East Cutchogue School. Couldn’t believe it.

BS: That was at the time we were trying to stop the dredging of the creeks. And the creeks had all been dredged, and there was one left — Goose Creek. And so they got the right to dredge that because they’d never done a study before. So they were going to use Goose Creek to do a study, and dredge it.

PS: The only ones that weren’t dredged were the ones like West Creek in New Suffolk, where they have bridges that boats can’t get under. That’s what saved it.

TG: Still, over time, there seemed to be a developing environmental awareness and a need to preserve this place. Do you take any satisfaction in knowing that your column was part of that educational process?

PS: Being a teacher I used the idea that teaching the community … The people that read your paper, hopefully they support me … Support not me but the idea of conservation. That does give me some gratification. That’s what it’s all about, I guess.


BS: There’s great satisfaction in that we have files and files of people who have written. There’s been a great following in that kind of thing. I think he says what people feel they can’t say. I have a letter from a woman in New York and she’s a writer and goes and does her birding out of the Museum of Natural History. But she carries copies of his articles around when she wants something to read. She gives the paper credit, and I’ve got a copy of it for you.

TG: That’s nice … Back to the question of deer. Do you see any answer to the problem?

PS: I think what the town is doing is exactly right — expanding the hunting season and keeping the herd down. Where there are no natural predators, man has to step in. And by letting them shoot the deer I think they’re on the right track. It’s about the only way you can do it. This idea of trying to round them up and moving them doesn’t work.

TG: Looking back over the years, do you see anything in particular that has led to the successful effort to preserve this place? I’m thinking now of two-acre zoning, the farmland preservation [program], also the Community Preservation Fund. Are they all part of the process or do you pick out one of those as being the most important?

PS: I think the one with the tax of 2 percent is a very, very important one. It’s just too bad our economy went down because we were reaping quite a harvest from that.

TG: I would have to agree. If I had to point to one single thing, it would be that. Also the evolution of the grape-growing industry has been pretty important, too, I think, helping to keep open space here.

PS: Yes, I think you’re right there.

TG: How do you think the North Fork has changed during your time here, for the better or for the worse? Do you think we’re better off than we were back in the ’70s and ’60s, when you started writing your column, or are we worse off because of population growth and that sort of thing?

PS: I think population growth is our biggest problem. When I was a kid, we could walk down to our creeks, walk anywhere in our creeks, because there was always shallow water. And it wasn’t very pleasant; you couldn’t get your boat out. You had to wait for high tide to get your boat out. Now they dredge the creeks. Soon as they did that, the whole waterfront on our creeks built up. And you build up with pollution and all those problems that development brings with it: congestion. But you can’t blame people. They wanted what we had. Only trouble is … I always said that they dredged with too big equipment … instead of small, little, skimpy dredges. And the county came in and just ruined every one of our creeks.
When we were kids we could walk out and dig soft clams, hard clams, oysters. All these things were available. I remember when I was a kid in high school I sold 25 soft clams for 25 cents apiece. A bushel of scallops for 50 cents. It was just unbelievable, the wealth of things …

TG: To back up to something you just said, you consider population growth basically the greatest threat to this area?

PS: Absolutely. The resources are just so much … If you go to see Duck Pond [in Cutchogue]. Are you familiar where Duck Pond is? Drive down there the next time you have a chance. You go down to the end where it goes to the Sound and you look off to the right and it will blow your mind. There’s some big motel-hotel … We used to go down there and I’d dive for lobsters and we’d bring them in and eat them on the beach. There were sand dunes there, and all that has been wiped out. They’re using every parcel. When you go down, you see these banks that were held with trees and bushes and grasses. And now it’s all cleared off, all the grass. Houses, right on the [dunes] … You have to see it to believe it …

TG: What are your hopes for the future for the North Fork? If you could basically plan the next 25 years for this place, what would your hopes be for this area?


PS: That we have people in our town government that look out for the trees, look out for the water, look out for the wetlands, look out for the things that make this place so great. And if we don’t have the people on the Town Board, the planning department, the building department all working with that in the back of their minds, we’re lost. We can do it if we get good enough people in town government. I don’t know if we can do that. Man has a way of twisting things.

TG: I pose this last question to both of you. And you can answer it in any order. What do you hope your legacy will be from your time here on the North Fork? Fifty years from now, 100 years from now, what do you hope people will say about your contributions?

PS: I’m not sure I can answer that.

TG: Maybe Barbara can.

BS: This is typical. When the ospreys came back, and he had written this big, long article … This is typical of the ends of his articles, where one of his sons said, “Talk about your philosophy when you talk to Troy.” And [Paul] said, “I don’t have any philosophy.” And [daughter] Peggy [Dickerson] said, “There’s always something at the end [of the column] that is to the people, and that’s the little bit he adds.” He tells them a story, but he ends with something like this [quoting directly from an earlier “Focus on Nature” column]: “Years ago we lived in ignorance. Today we’re informed. With knowledge and the will to do what’s right, our world will blossom and keep on returning to us the delicate fragrance of may pinks in the woods, a spring run of flounder for dinner and ospreys to delight our heart and spirit.” And [Paul] said, “Who wrote that? It’s pretty good.”

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01/04/12 12:34pm
01/04/2012 12:34 PM
Suffolk Times

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Paul and Barbara Stoutenburgh recently sat down for an interview with Times/Review Newsgroup president Troy Gustavson. After five decades of penning their 'Focus on Nature' column for Times/Review the couple wrote their final piece Dec. 22.

Five decades after penning their first “Focus on Nature” column for Times/Review Newsgroup, Paul and Barbara Stoutenburgh are calling it a career.

Times/Review president Troy Gustavson sat down with the Cutchogue couple for a Q&A that will be published in Thursday’s issue of the Riverhead News-Review. In the interview, they answer questions about their 61 years of marriage and five decades of collaboration on the column.

A complete transcript of the interview will appear Thursday afternoon on riverheadnewsreview.com.

Here’s a brief video of the couple discussing the process of writing the column — they once did everything by hand — and how difficult a task it became in recent years.

01/04/12 10:52am

DIANNE TAGGART COURTESY FILE PHOTO | A black and white warbler, never before seen on the Christmas Bird Count, was found this year. The bird is usually in Central or South America this time of year.

This year’s Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, held on New Years Eve, turned up large numbers of southern birds that have usually migrated long before the end of December, and the count’s organizer believes they’ve been lulled into complacency by the warm weather that ended abruptly early this week.

“In all my years as a compiler, I’ve never seen stuff like this year,” said MaryLaura Lamont, a Jamesport resident who has been compiling the results of the local bird count for 18 years. “We’re getting species that we haven’t had on this count in years, probably because of the mild, mild winter. We’re seeing a great number of unusual species that should be down south by now.”

The count was held before the cold front that began Tuesday, and Ms. Lamont said she’s worried that many of the birds will have trouble finding insects to eat if the cold weather continues.

Not all of the statistics from the count were in as of Wednesday, but already the 50-plus volunteers who counted birds last Saturday found a black and white warbler, which would normally be in Central or South America by now and has never been found on the local bird count before. They also found Virginia rails and large numbers of marsh wrens, two great egrets, a sedge wren and two house wrens.

Ms. Lamont said the counts are held in late December (Audubon allows them to be held during a three week window from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, and the organizers of individual counts decide when they’ll be held) because it’s the time in the year when birds are where they plan to spend the winter. Once winter weather sets in, she said, if birds haven’t migrated already, they aren’t going to. Because of this, the counts give scientists an idea of where birds are overwintering each year.

“I used to never see birds like red bellied woodpeckers. They were southerners, but they’ve extended their range to the north,” she said. “Now we’re picking up thousands of robins. We never used to see them in wintertime. A lot stay north, perhaps because of global climate change. That’s why Christmas Bird Counts are so important. It’s very good science.”

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Read more about the bird count and its history in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

11/02/11 2:00am
11/02/2011 2:00 AM

These past few weeks we have reviewed our travels together in many parts of the world. This week finishes up those travels and next week we will return to fall on the North Fork.

In 1997 we traveled to Germany, Russia, the Scandinavian countries and London; so much in so short a time. We traveled across Germany in a train and saw fields of yellow rape grown for use in canola oil. We touched the Berlin Wall in East Germany and saw Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate.

In Russia we got to see the magnificent Hermitage, one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and open to the public since 1852. A museum of art and culture in St. Petersburg, it has a collection of 3 million items. We also went to see colorful country dancers while there.

Then we stopped to visit the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway with their colorfully painted homes and busy waterfronts. In Norway we visited the Viking ships and the Kon-Tiki that Thor Heyerdahl built in 1947. It was a primitive balsa raft he built in Peru and sailed to Polynesia to show that ancient South Americans could have contributed to the culture of Pacific peoples. Then it was on to Heathrow Airport to spend a few wonderful days in London before flying back home.

In 2000 we traveled on a cruise ship through the Panama Canal, where I’d taken the helm of a ship while in the service years before. Passing through the canal on Easter Sunday, we joined other couples married 50 years and renewed our wedding vows.

I went skin diving in Jamaica, then on to Cartagena on our trip to Colombia, South America. We traveled to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, where we saw magnificent bird life. In Mexico we watched the high divers at Acapulco. We took a catamaran tour in Puerta Vallarta, where we saw dolphins, sea turtles and whales and later watched whales along the Baja Peninsula in California, eventually ending up at the great San Diego Zoo and on to San Francisco to fly back home.

In 2001 we cruised the Seine and went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. We saw the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the religious center of the city of Paris. We drove down the Champs-Elysées, the prestigious avenue in Paris, and saw the Arch of Triumph. We were lucky to have a special guide at the Louvre where we got up close to the Mona Lisa. During that trip, which our children gave us for our 50th anniversary, good friends loaned us their lovely home there. We were driven up to Claude Monet’s home in Giverny and sat for a while to relax in his water gardens. During our stay in Paris we met up with friends from home who joined us for a lovely dinner at the home where we were staying.

In August of that same year we were invited to go salmon fishing in Canada and we took you along with us. We caught no fish but had a wonderful time trying. Every day we would be taken in canoes up and down the river not only fishing but enjoying the fabulous evergreen forests that surrounded this magnificent area. You may remember the little hummingbird we saw tumble down from the porch ceiling all tangled up in spider webs; we were able with the people in the kitchen there to cut it free and send it off, hopefully to look for something besides spider webs for its nesting material.

In 2002 we traveled by train with its magnificent sky dome across Canada. We started by first stopping at Niagara Falls and going on the Maid of the Mist, then we boarded our train to travel across the country of Canada; across the great prairie lands of wheat and corn, etc. Our room aboard the train was set up so we had chairs during the day to sit in and look out a full window at all we could see of Canada. At nighttime the room converted into a bedroom and we had a pleasant sleep aboard the moving train.

Across Canada we went out to Alberta Province, where views became spectacular. We visited Jasper National Park, the gentle giant of the Rockies, the ice fields of the Columbia Glacier and Banff National Park, where we ate in a beautiful hotel overlooking Lake Louise. We couldn’t resist the gondola rides in these parks, up high for sights in all directions of this magnificent area. We ended our trip on Vancouver Island, where we visited the well-known beautiful Butchart Gardens and had tea in a gorgeous hotel where the Queen stopped when visiting the island.