Ahh, that indefinable morning sensory assault that gets the grey matter thinking that spring is here and summer’s on the way. Yes, folks, the usual mix of winter horrors we anticipated were a no-show this year (I’m writing this on St. Patrick’s Day – hope I don’t jinx anything), so it’s time to clean the screens, air out the house and get the cover off the boat and pool. Here are some spring activities that’ll get you in shape for the coming summer fun.
The season for spotting these pinnipeds is almost over but there’s still time. While any quiet beach walk (look for places with large rock formations) is a likely place for these critters to show up, head out to Montauk and the Montauk Point State Park concession stand. State-park-sponsored three-mile hikes coincide with low tide. Fees are $5 per person, $3 for children, and a $6 parking fee is charged. Dress warm, no matter the air temp, and bring binoculars if you have them. Visit nysparks.com or call 631-668-3781 for more information.
All of Long Island intersects what is known as the Atlantic Flyway, a main corridor — a super highway — for avian travel extending from the Bahamas and south to Labrador and north. And the East End is where the birds make their jump from New Jersey to New England, and thus is a great place for spotting nearly everything that flies; and spring through late May is some of the best times to do it. While anyone with a good pair of binoculars and a guidebook can participate just about anywhere, check out the Arshamomaque Preserve outside Greenport. If you’d prefer guided excursions, try Bridgehampton’s South Fork Natural History Museum (631-537-9735; sofo.org).
A wealth of local birding info can be found at:
Mattituck’s North Fork Audubon Society, northforkaudubon.org.
East Quogue’s Eastern Long Island Audubon Society, easternlongislandaudubonsociety.org.
No, not nudism. If you’re not a nature lover then you may not be aware of what goes on about us in the world of flora and fauna. But Long Island is one of the best places to learn about this oft hidden world, simply because everything is relatively condensed in space. Like turtles? How about frogs? Want a tour of the Pine Barrens (what is a pine barren, anyway, you ask)? Why are bats the best critters to have around your home? Want to see deer, fox, etc., in their natural habitats? All this can be done in easy hikes, suitable for almost everyone. Best way is via guide and one of the best places for this on the South Fork is the Quogue Wildlife Refuge (631-653-4771; quoguewildliferefuge.org).
Bridgehampton’s Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, 631-745-0689; longpondgreenbelt.org.
Learn to Flyfish
Ever since 1992’s A River Runs Through It, the 130-plus-year-old sport, has had another resurgence in popularity (I think Brad Pitt may have had something to do with it). If you fish, you want to try fly fishing. And if you don’t fish, you sure as hell want to impress someone by mastering — at least — the lovely arcing casts. The spring run of bluefish, striped bass, and flounder is upon us, so now’s as good a time as any. Want lessons and want to actually catch something? Try Capt. Amanda Switzer on the South Fork (516-901-2639; risefishing.com; firstname.lastname@example.org), and on the North Fork, try Capt. Joe Blados (631-765-3670; maverickfly.com; email@example.com). E-mail is the best way to get these folks once the spring gets here.
Check noreast.com, for a listing of more guides specializing in fly fishing on both forks.
Learn to Dive
While not necessarily a sport you connect with spring, if you think you’ll want to try out SCUBA diving this year (c’mon, you know you do!), spring is a good time to start because it’ll have you certified in time for our warm weather and the winter’s trips to the Carib. Convenient to both forks is the Hampton Dive Center on Flanders Road (Route 24) in Riverhead. They have their own 80-degree pool (just like the Caribbean) and you can start the course online. Check them out at hamptondive.com (631-727-7578).
If you’ve even a passing interest in what goes on in the ether above us, take a trip to the Custer Institute (631-765-2626; custerobservatory.org; 1115 Main Bayview Road, Southold). It’s Long Island’s oldest public observatory and open to the public every Saturday evening from 7 p.m. to midnight. The volunteers are a helpful lot and will show you sights that’ll dazzle. You’ll want to check out the Lyrid Meteor Shower Party on April 21.
There’re a lot of things to do outdoors on the East End, spring is the time to start and there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t find something you like to do. If you’re looking for something and can’t find the right place or people, get in touch and we’ll hook you up.