07/24/12 2:00pm
07/24/2012 2:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Tonight’s roundtable discussion on banning plastic bags in Greenport Village is set for 5 p.m. tonight at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Greenport Village officials will hold a roundtable discussion tonight to gather feedback on banning plastic bags at local stores.

The village code committee began preliminary discussions in December to determine the feasibility of restricting single-use plastic bags given out by retailers. The move aims to decrease litter and help improve the environment.

East Hampton and Southampton villages already outlaw plastic bags, but a move to ban them townwide in Southampton failed last year in a party-line vote.

Earlier this month, Southold Town officials announced they are also looking into the feasibility of legislation banning plastic bags.

During the village code committee meeting June 13, Mayor David Nyce said he believed partnering with the town is the best way to approach drafting the proposed law.

The village has invited the Southold Town Board, North Fork Audubon, The Nature Conservancy and Group for the East End to the meeting. Mayor David Nyce said Greenport’s largest retailer, the IGA supermarket, which has another location in Southold, has also been invited.

In addition to a plastic bag ban, the mayor said other options, such as the use of biodegradable, corn-based dissolvable single-use bags, will also be discussed.

Tonight’s meeting is set for 5 p.m. in the Little Red Schoolhouse on Front Street.

Pick up Thursday’s paper and check suffolktimes.com again later this week to read about the meeting.

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03/27/12 7:00am
03/27/2012 7:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Diana van Buren's Greenport yard, which she filled with native flowers and shrubs.

No bugs means no birds.

That’s the terse reminder for anyone hoping to encourage a winged presence in their gardens from Diana Van Buren, president and program chair of the North Fork chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Her advice? Start a backyard bee, bird and butterfly garden.

“It’s not just an aesthetic pursuit,” Ms. Van Buren said. “So much of the native plant environment has been compromised in being developed for homes. We are redeveloping the habitat and each garden has the power to undo the damage that’s been done.”

Part of the problem, she said, is America’s bug-killing culture.

“We have to look at insects not as the enemy, but as an important part of the web of life,” she said. Bees, for example, don’t chase people and are essential for agriculture.

“If we didn’t have bees, we wouldn’t have fruit,” Ms. Van Buren said.

Native plants are important to undoing the damage because local insects and birds can’t sustain themselves on imported plants. Ms. Van Buren likened a yard filled with colorful foreign fauna to a wasteland for local wildlife.

“They just don’t recognize it as food,” she said.

Supporting local wildlife is as simple as planting some native shrubs on a property’s periphery. A proven food source for insects, caterpillars and birds can also double in providing privacy.

“Don’t be afraid when your shrub is being eaten by a caterpillar either,” she explained. “If you plant a butterfly garden, you don’t just want flowers or nectar sources. Once a butterfly mates, they lay eggs on the leaves of plants so the caterpillar can eat the leaves and grow. If you don’t have host plants, you don’t have butterflies.”

Native oak trees, black or choke cherry trees, witch hazel, viburnum, elderberry, inkberry, American holly and shad bush are a few of the examples of plantings that help sustain backyard wildlife.

“It’s as simple as visiting your local nursery,” Ms. Van Buren said.

Some good native flowers for butterflies include goldenrod, New England asters, sunflowers and black-eyed Susans.

Monarch butterflies love Asclepias tuberosa, or milkweed, a bright orange flower that Ms. Van Buren said is a gardener favorite and makes lovely flower arrangements.

To learn more about attracting favored fliers, Ms. Van Buren recommended “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy and “Butterflies of the East Coast,” a guide to butterflies and their host plants by part-time Greenport resident Guy Tudor.

“If you have an empty backyard and are looking to start a bee, bird and butterfly garden, check out athome.audubon.org, a website devoted to how to support backyard wildlife,” she said. “If you plant it, they will come.”

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01/04/12 10:51am
01/04/2012 10:51 AM

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.

01/13/11 5:32pm
01/13/2011 5:32 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTH FORK AUDUBON SOCIETY Students are being challenged by the North Fork Audubon Society to take the lead in helping to save their environment. They’ll be gathering Jan. 21 to choose their projects in a new young naturalists program. Here, young environmentalists participate in one of last year’s Audubon youth programs.

The North Fork Audubon Society is tapping into a network of budding scientists, convinced that area students have the intelligence, energy and determination to develop programs that will inspire people to interact with and protect the environment.

Scallops and bluefish were easy to find in the waters surrounding the North Fork when Audubon education chairwoman Debra O’Kane spent summers here as a child. There are a lot fewer now, she said, and she doesn’t want to see more species disappear so that today’s children will have similarly sad recollections in a few years.

Accordingly, she is launching a young naturalists program for students in grades seven through 12 with a kickoff roundtable discussion at the Audubon’s Red House in Greenport on Friday, Jan. 21. Ms. O’Kane will be building on an existing program of events for youths.

The roundtable won’t be a group of talking heads telling students what to do, Ms. O’Kane said. It will give them a chance to tell the adults what they would like to do to protect the environment. Organizers also hope the students will get involved in creating a science center at the Red House and that the Audubon headquarters will become a gathering place for students.

“It’s a forum for them to be empowered,” Audubon education committee member Laura Klahre said of the initial roundtable and the activities that will grow out of discussions with the youths. The women have been working with students well ahead of the Jan. 21 kickoff event to identify ideas that may interest the wider group of young environmentalists.

Among the ideas that have come up are:

• creating a group of “secret shoppers” to visit area stores and determine if they are selling any of the 63 plant species on Suffolk County’s “do not sell” list;

• gathering data about species that are either thriving or failing to thrive on the North Fork;

• cooperating with beach cleanup efforts to see what’s being discarded that poses danger to fish and birds.
Ms. O’Kane said she’d like to work with Dr. William Zitek, a retired veterinarian, in his ongoing effort to attract bluebirds back to the North Fork. Ms. Klahre said she would like to lead a group of students to Orient Point in February to learn if seals are still thriving there.

“We just need a dynamic group that’s gung ho,” Ms. Klahre said about enlisting the students.

To entice young people to attend the initial session, pizza, brownies and ice cream will be served, Ms. O’Kane said. But she and Ms. Klahre said they hope those who do come will leave feeling empowered to become involved.

“It’s a cool thing to do,” Ms. Klahre said. “We’re part of nature. North Fork Audubon isn’t just about birds — it’s about nature as a whole.”

“It’s about connecting people with nature,” Ms. O’Kane added. “That’s the greatest thing we can teach kids — that people are part of the natural world. We put so much stress on the environment,” she said. Unless a new generation of environmentally conscious people gets involved, Ms. O’Kane warned, “we’re going to lose our naturalists.”

Both women have long been involved in environmental causes. Ms. O’Kane, an Orient resident, is a former executive director of the North Fork Environmental Council. Ms. Klahre is an area beekeeper living in Southold who has been active with Nature Conservancy, the Long Island Native Grass Initiative and the Peconic Estuary. “Nature’s always been in my blood,” she said.

The roundtable gets under way at the Red House at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21.

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