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Oct 25, 2016 10:15 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Mid-October Nature Sightings

This young otter was accidentally caught at Connetquot State Park earlier this month ANNIE MCINTYRE
Oct 25, 2016 10:25 AM

Early this week, a cold front pushed the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been enjoying all fall out of the region, replacing it with our first nighttime temps in the 30s since last winter, and some very brisk wind.On Sunday, the sudden temperature shift seemed to somehow impact some of our migratory fish, even though ocean water temps remained relatively warm, in the low-to-mid-60-degree range. Surfcasters were busy reeling in large blues and stripers from the turbulent nearshore surf zone, and those same schools of fish chased 10-to-12-inch-long bunker landward into the swash, where the big surf gathered them up and deposited them on the high intertidal. There, the opportunistic gulls swooped down to peck out a few high-fat and -protein morsels before the next wave swept the struggling fish back into the sea to run the gauntlet of both finned and rod-wielding predators.

Among the unusual and interesting sightings this month was the deer photographed by Susan Colledge near Edge of Woods Road in Water Mill. The doe had a white muzzle and “socks,” tan leggings and back, and a white belly and rump.

This condition, called “piebaldism,” has been noted in many other species. It is a rare inherited characteristic resulting from a genetic mutation that inhibits the development of melanocyte cells in certain areas of the skin and hair. Some references state that 1 percent of white-tailed deer are born with the condition. In humans, piebaldism most often manifests itself as a patch of white hair directly above the forehead—a white forelock.

We’re into the peak of hawk migration right now. Hearing quite a raucous among the crows along a section of Town Lane, in Amagansett’s farm fields, Juliana Duryea looked around and spotted a large raptor standing on the ground with a crow gripped in its talons. As she moved closer to identify the predator, it spooked and took flight, at which time she was able to see that it was a peregrine falcon. Not long after, the crow also took to the air, seemingly unharmed, and flew toward its kindred.

My 2008 Long Island river otter survey was not able to document any maintained otter home ranges, in the form of otter scent stations or latrines, on our south shore. Since then, I’ve managed to document evidence of successful breeding in a few new areas, and range expansion of this charismatic species on the island.

Earlier this month, a park visitor walked into the Connetquot State Park office in Oakdale with a river otter in a Havahart trap. Park staff did not get the visitor’s name or contact info, but his story was that he found the otter entangled in line and managed to somehow get it into the trap and remove the line. From the photos, and using the scale of the roughly 1-foot-by-1-foot height and width of the trap, it appears to be a juvenile and in good shape.

It’s possible that this is one of the young-of-the-year spotted in the Lake Ronkonkoma area last fall. If so, it may not be long before otters colonize the south shore by way of the Connetquot watershed.

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