09/06/17 6:01am

A monarch butterfly. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

With the passing of Labor Day, it is as if Mother Nature flips a switch and shuts down summer. The days are noticeably shorter. Winds begin to blow from the north, pushing in cooler temperatures and forcing local beach bums to vacate their favorite haunts. Not only do the beachgoers hightail it out of here at the onset of autumn, but so does much of our local wildlife.

Seasonal migrations are very common in the animal kingdom. The most noted of the local journeys is the one taken by the osprey. Osprey of the North Fork head to Central and South America every fall, returning the following spring. Although this is an extremely far distance, it is not hard to fathom how such a powerful bird can make such a flight. (more…)

08/02/17 6:01am

A female blue crab tagged with a DEC tag. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

As we enter August, the summertime blues will slowly creep-up as the realization that we are halfway through our summer vacations begins to sink in. I however, welcome a different type of summertime blues. They have created many fond memories over the years and are the foundation of many of my summer cookouts.

My favorite is the blue crab. Another is the bluefish

This former can be found throughout the small back bays, creeks, and harbors of the Peconics and the Sound. Their olive-colored carapace (topside) allows them to go unnoticed while they lurk along the seafloor searching for their next meal. Although they are scavengers, their sharp, powerful claws can crush through the shells of armored prey such as clams, mussels, oysters, snails and even other blue crabs. Additionally, their paddle-like rear legs enable them to chase down fast moving prey, such as fish, with ease. (more…)

07/10/17 12:27pm

Local marine biologist and northforker outdoors columnist Chris Paparo spotted two notable sights just south of Dune Road last week — a pod of about 100 bottlenose dolphins slapping their tails against the water and a humpback whale leaping in the air.

Paparo saw the animals on Wednesday, July 5 and again on Thursday, July 6 in the water about a half mile south of Westhampton Beach and Hampton Bays. (more…)

07/08/17 6:05am

A blowfish. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

Nestled between the north and south forks with an eastern boundary of Shelter Island are the Great and Little Peconic Bays. These large, relatively deep bodies of water are popular places for rafting up for a barbecue, cruising from port to port, water skiing, tubing and many other summertime boating activities.

But what about fishing? Are there any fish worth pursuing in the Peconics this time of year? (more…)

06/07/17 6:01am

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds from Fish Guy Photos on Vimeo.

The sound of a buzzing, winged creature will send most people running for the sanctuary of the indoors. After being bit or stung from critters such as mosquitos, yellow jackets, and hornets, this reaction can be justified. However, this rushed decision to retreat inside might cause you to miss one of the North Fork’s speediest little birds — the hummingbird. (more…)

05/09/17 6:00am
Chris Paparo gives a juvenile snapping turtle a hand in crossing the road. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

Chris Paparo gives a juvenile snapping turtle a hand in crossing the road. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

Just as our favorite North Fork past times change with the seasons, so do the activities of its local wildlife.

March marks the homecoming of osprey from their wintering areas in South America. Our freshwater rivers and streams come alive in April with the schools of alewife that have returned from a treacherous journey from the sea to spawn. As we enter May, another group of animals becomes active and often needs a little helping hand from us from time to time.

Emerging from their underground burrows, our local turtles are waking from their long winter hibernation and will quickly seek out the warmth of the sun for a “recharge.” (more…)

04/08/17 6:00am
A screech owl in the author's backyard. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

A screech owl in the author’s backyard. (Credit: Chris Paparo)

Of all the birds that inhabit the North Fork, none draw more excitement than owls.

During winter months, birders flock to open grasslands such as those found at the EPCAL facility in Calverton. They hope to catch a glimpse of a short-eared owl as it swiftly soars above the fields looking for mice, voles and other “tasty” rodents. Area beaches are another popular owl haunt. Here, birders hope to spot a snowy owl, like Hedwig that was made famous by the Harry Potter books and movies.

Unfortunately, by April both species have left our area to return to their nesting sites in Canada and the Arctic tundra. There they will stay until cold winter temperatures once again drive them south to our open grasslands and beaches.

Even though these awe-inspiring owls have left the North Fork, there are still many opportunities for an owl lover to view these majestic birds. In fact, two species are true Northforkers, as they reside here year-round and often go completely unnoticed. (more…)