Preserves and Areas of Natural Interest on the North Fork
By Linda Kedenburg, with Rick Kedenburg
Although we are surrounded by nature and breathtaking views throughout the North Fork, there are preserves and special places where we go (natural “hot spots”) for nature hikes and bird walks. The following is a list of many of these special places to investigate when an adventure beyond the back deck or our own garden is planned. Included are some of the species we hope to encounter during these forays into the natural world:
Arshamomaque Preserve, Greenport
Varied habitat from upland meadows, low boggy areas, vernal ponds, and patches of second-growth forest to a small freshwater pond and large freshwater lake with viewing tower. Find migrating land birds, year-round forest birds, nesting Wood Ducks, Ospreys, and Great Horned Owls. Scan the edge of the lake for sunning Painted Turtles. Preserve also hosts butterflies, marsh birds and muskrats. And several years ago, there was a sighting of a River Otter. Well-marked trails maintained by Southold Town.
Trailhead on Chapel Lane north of Main Road (NYS 25) and ¼ mile south of County Road 48.
Arshamomaque (Hashamomuck) Pond Preserve, Southold
A Southold Town preserve. Trail bordering saltwater tidal pond and circling through second-growth forest and low boggy areas. Waterfowl, forest birds, nesting Ospreys, and Great Horned Owls. Foraging terns in summer and wading birds.
Trailhead on north side of Main Road (NYS 25) just east of Port of Egypt.
Cedar Beach County Park, Southold
Open beach, sand plain, and tidal estuary. Site of Cornell Extension Marine Lab researching Peconic Bay shellfish. Nesting Ospreys, views of Shelter Island Sound and Little Peconic Bay. Estuary west of parking lot is the place to see shorebirds during their southward migration from late July through September. Known as a favorite haunt for Willets and Whimbrels. Also a favored location for dragonflies and damselflies.
Take Main Bayview Road south to Cedar Beach Road. Parking lot at south end of Cedar Beach Road.
Down’s Farm Preserve, Cutchogue
A Southold Town preserve. Long and short loop trails through upland forest reaching overview of salt marsh and tidal Down’s creek at southern end. Site of historic Fort Corchaug, Native American encampment. Borders a vineyard on west side. Forest birds, marsh and wading birds, waterfowl. A favorite with Carolina Wrens .
Parking area on south side of Main Road. (NYS 25) near western border of hamlet of Cutchogue.
Goldsmith’s Inlet County Park, Peconic
Saltwater inlet on Long Island Sound. Runs from open beach on Sound up tidal inlet to tidal saltwater pond. A trail crosses a small footbridge at a narrow point of the tidal pond and ascends the forested bluff for a commanding view of Long Island Sound until it descends to the interdunal swale and open beach. The forested bluff contains examples of Maritime Post Oak and dune areas are dotted with Beach Plum and Bayberry. There is a significant Spartina marsh on the east side of the inlet. See foraging Ospreys, terns, and kingfishers. Also shorebirds, wading birds and winter waterfowl. Prairie Warblers nest here. Although there are many crabs and mollusks in the inlet, shellfishing is forbidden due to a pollution problem. The mouth of the inlet is a popular fishing location.
Southold Town parking lot at north end of Mill Lane (Southold Town beach parking permit required.). County trailhead on Soundview Avenue ¼ mile east of Mill Lane – limited parking at this location.
Great Pond, Southold
This large body of fresh water is an excellent place to view waterfowl, foraging Ospreys and other raptors. A large diversity of winter ducks is the norm here, including many Ring-necked Ducks, Canvasbacks and Common Mergansers. Surrounding marsh and woodlands are home to land birds.
Access via Kenny’s Beach Road; turn left onto Lake Drive then left onto Lake Court. Park by NYS Fishing Access ramp.
Husing Preserve TNC, Mattituck
Trail runs north along east side of Horton Creek and is marked by The Nature Conservancy oak leaf. Land birds along trail and Ospreys, wading birds and waterfowl in Horton Creek (especially Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads). A wooden dock off the trail affords a good view of Horton creek and its waterfowl.
Park along entrance road to Mattituck District Park located on south side of Peconic Bay Boulevard ½ mile west of Bay Avenue, Mattituck. Trailhead is located on north side of road about a hundred yards east of the parking spot.
Inlet Pond County Park, Greenport
North Fork Audubon Society is the steward for the preserve and the Red House Nature Center, where meetings and events are held. Well marked trail system through second-growth woodlands, open areas of shrubs and vines, and mature oak forest. A trail leads to freshwater Inlet Pond that has an observation platform with seats. In late summer, hundreds of Bull Frog tadpoles inhabit the freshwater pond. Herons and egrets forage around the edge. A pair of Mute Swans lay claim to the pond each spring for nesting and raising their cygnets. Tree Swallows and Red-winged Blackbirds nest around the pond. Beyond is a Soundfront beach with wintering sea ducks, loons and Horned Grebes diving in the waters. Butterfly garden behind Red House hosts many butterflies during August and September. Bird feeders at Red House are popular with winter seed-eaters. Orioles nest around Red House in spring, and tangles bordering trails provide protection for nesting Catbirds, Carolina Wrens, Towhees, Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. Woodpeckers and migrating warblers favor the oak forest.
Located at 65275 Route 48, Greenport. Entrance is on the north side of road. Ample parking. Here’s a trail map.
Laurel Lake Preserve, Laurel
A Southold Town preserve, the freshwater lake attracts both nesting and migrating birds, as well as waterfowl. Trails wind through hardwood forest and an open grassland habitat surrounding the water authority facilities. A meadow behind the large parking area and picnic area is a good place to begin a bird walk or hike as many interesting birds can be observed in the surrounding treetops. A short trail to the lake is afforded by using the NYS Fishing Access just west of the preserve entrance.
Located on the north side of Main Road. (NYS 25) in Laurel.
Maratooka Lake, Mattituck
The number one spot for freshwater ducks and other waterfowl, especially in winter. Although Canada Geese predominate, surveying the far north side of the lake will reveal a wide diversity of waterfowl not normally seen on the North Fork.
Located on New Suffolk Avenue south of Main Road. Park along New Suffolk Avenue to access the grassy park area.
Moore’s Woods, Greenport
The go-to place for Wood Warblers, Great-crested Flycatchers, vireos, thrushes and Scarlet Tanagers in the spring. Some nest here, and many year-round birds (chickadees, titmice, nuthatches , woodpeckers and sparrows) can also be found. Trails are old roads that follow a man-made watercourse surrounded by mature forest.
On Moore’s Lane in Greenport between Main Road and Route 48. Entrance just north of the skateboard park.
Orient Beach State Park
Orient Bordered on the north by the marshes of Long Beach Bay and on the south by the rocky beaches and groins of Gardiners Bay. Birds to be seen here are both bay and sea ducks, as well as loons and grebes, wading birds, shorebirds, (especially Ruddy Turnstones), gulls, and possible Alcids. For land birds, take the Roy Latham Trail through the Maritime scrub oak forest. Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and Redpolls are also possibilities. Heated year-round restrooms and snack bar; kayak rentals in season.
Entrance on south side of NYS 25 just before Orient-by-the-Sea Marina. (Note: East of Greenport, County Road 48 becomes NYS 25.) Parking fee collected in season.
Orient County Park, Orient
Trail winds through upland meadow grassland to Long Island Sound, where it runs along the beach to the tip of the North Fork at Orient Point. View of Plum Island across the channel known as Plum Gut. Winter sea ducks – eiders, scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Brant, Red-breasted Mergansers, and the occasional Razorbill – can be observed here, as well as seals – the park is a local mini-Montauk. Hawks, Ospreys and sometimes Bald Eagles might be spotted here both in summer and during raptor migration. Excellent views of Orient Light and the historic Plum Island Lighthouse. If returning via the dirt road, be on the lookout for land birds in the brush.
Entrance and small parking lot at end of NYS 25, north side, opposite entrance to Cross Sound Ferry.
Ruth Oliva Preserve at Dam Pond, East Marion
A mixed habitat of grasslands with interspersed shrubs, Old Field Cedar and small trees as well as second-growth woodlands and a hardwood oak-hickory forest. The tidal estuary that forms Dam Pond hosts waterfowl, Ospreys, shorebirds, wading birds, kingfishers, and cormorants, and many land birds are attracted to the varied habitat. A bird-banding station, operated by a master bander, has added many species to the preserve list. Look for the information board explaining the banding program. This is a particularly good spot for early spring migrants such as Eastern Phoebes and Black and White Warblers as well as woodpeckers and fall sparrows and finches.
Entrance and parking area located on the north side of NYS 25 just west of the East Marion Causeway.
Southold Town Beach, Southold
Views of Long Island Sound and its bird life. Large numbers of gulls, with occasional rare species among them. Terns in summer and shorebirds, especially during fall migration. Wintering sea ducks can be seen here and at most Soundfront beaches. Check for scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads, loons, and Horned Grebes. Scan the horizon for gliding and diving Northern Gannets. A point of interest is Whale Rock, just west of the beach. Terns and cormorants perch on it in summer, while Purple Sandpipers often forage over it in winter. Seals have been known to haul out on surrounding rocks.
Located on north side of County Road 48 just east of Soundview Avenue, where the road has an unrestricted view of Long Island Sound. (Southold Town beach parking permit required.)