For those who enjoy viewing and photographing Long Island’s wildlife, the pursuit of that next glimpse or snapshot can become an obsession.
Some of the more dedicated follow the credo of getting as far off the beaten track as possible in the hopes of encountering a bald eagle, big-racked buck, red fox, elegant wood duck or snowy owl. A few have even been known to crawl on their bellies for 200 yards or more alongside ocean dunes, or hike miles into the Pine Barrens braving deer ticks and mosquito swarms to reach superior vantage points.
“But it doesn’t have to be that hard,” says Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt in Sagaponack. Check out a few local parklands and you’ll probably find a wildlife blind or observation platform nearby. Often, these are all you need to get a great glimpse of fauna in the wild.”
WHERE TO GO
While there’s certainly something to be said for breaking away from the crowd, agrees Ann Marie Chapman, visitors services manager for the Island’s National Wildlife Refuges, there’s no need to overlook the obvious. Viewing stations, overlooks and observation blinds are purposely positioned where wild things roam while being set back far enough for animals to act naturally.
“We have a viewing platform on the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, where people see anything from ducks and songbirds to eagles, wild turkey and deer,” Chapman says. Visitors at the Elizabeth Morton refuge in Sag Harbor, Chapman says, have been treated to the sight of both red-throated and common loons, bald eagles, deer and songbirds galore.
Several Suffolk County parklands also feature wildlife viewing stations, notes Emily Lauri, Suffolk County Parks community relations director.
Dayton favors Poxabogue County Park for her wildlife viewing. “Often, I’ll hike the grasslands trail of the Long Pond Greenbelt and end up at the box blind on Poxabogue Lake. It’s on the northwest corner and offers a full view of the water,” she says. “Sit here quietly and you’ll see all kinds of ducks, geese and stalking birds like heron and egret. We find raccoon tracks along the shoreline, so I guess those are around, too. There are also plenty of deer.”
Some town parks also have blinds and viewing areas. In Southold, for example, Arshamomaque Preserve has a box blind situated on a vernal pond where waterfowl are easy to spot. Go there in March and you might even catch a glimpse of nesting wood ducks. An otter was reported to have been observed here several years ago and both owls and woodpeckers reside on the premises.
Note that the western end of Long Island doesn’t have many dedicated blinds or wildlife observation platforms these days. Most have been ravaged by the storms and floods of recent years and have yet to be replaced.