Point Preserve Nature Trails and Habitats
Year, 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Admission: Starting April 25, 2009:
$5.00 per car. No charge on Thursdays
on one of 6 marked trails through diverse habitats
of woods, fields, pond, and beach on the L.I.
sound. Trail maps and schedule of guided nature
walks are available.
The 216 acre Sands Point
Preserve is an interesting mixture
and landscaped areas. Forests, meadows, beach and cliffs, lawns, gardens
and a freshwater pond provide habitats for a variety of plants and
animals. The proximity of different habitats affords the visitor a
varied outdoor experience within a relatively limited area. Nature
Trails provide access to the preserve and highlight specific points
of interest in self-guiding literature.
GUIDE TO PRESERVE HABITATS
Land undisturbed by estate development supports a mature oak forest where trees
up to 80 feet tall and 175 years old can be found. Chestnut oak, white oak,
black oak, and northern red oak occur with other native Long Island trees like
red maple, sweet birch, American beech, sassafras, and white ash as the dominant
forest trees. Introduced trees such as Norway maple and sweet cherry have naturalized
and now grow wild in the forest.
Numerous smaller trees and shrubs grow beneath the canopy of tall trees. Flowering
dogwood is not only attractive; its bright red fruit provides valuable food for
squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and a wide variety of birds. Viburnums and spicebush
are the most common forest shrubs. In moist soils, the spicebush is the dominant
understory shrub. Named for its aromatic leaves, it produces red berries in the
fall, and was once used as a substitute for allspice. The lower-growing mapleleaf
viburnum covers the drier hills and slopes with maple-shaped leaves. Its clusters
of dark berries are food for a wide variety of birds and mammals.
Wildflowers and ferns abound in wooded areas. In the spring, Canada mayflower,
may-apple, jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon's seal, and wild geranium are in flower.
Common fall flowers are aster, bluestem goldenrod, and snakeroot. New York fern,
lady fern, Christmas fern, and marginal woodfern are among the local woodland
representatives of this primitive but fascinating plant group.
Raccoons, opossums, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, moles, and shrews are among
the common small mammals that inhabit the forests and adjacent meadows.
II. Lawns, Meadows and Young Woodlands
When the land was developed as a Gold Coast estate in the early 1900s, much
of the original forest was removed and replaced with lawns and landscaped
areas. Several acres of lawn are still maintained, but large grassland areas
have reverted to a natural state. Most of the meadows and young woods were
formerly a nine-hole golf course. Abandoned years ago, the fairways, greens,
and sand traps are barely visible today. Lawns, shade trees, ornamental shrubs,
and potted palms once surrounded the man-made pond; overgrown shrubs now
provide a dense thicket.
Lawn areas like those between Castlegould and Hempstead House provide attractive
feeding sites for flickers, robins, and geese during the summer. The less common
bluebird, meadowlark and bobolink may be observed here during spring and fall
Untended lawns quickly become grassy meadows filled with wildflowers. Within
a few years, shrubs and small trees eventually shade the sun-loving grasses
and flowers. As the trees spread and grow, meadows change into young or pioneer
woodlands. This natural process of predictably changing plant communities is
called succession, and the preserve exhibits its various stages from open lawn
to climax (self-perpetuating) forest. These diverse habitats provide homes
and feeding sites for a wide variety of birds and small mammals. Fringe zones
between fields and woods are especially rich in animal life.
III. The Pond
Around the pond, large shrub honeysuckles, fast-growing trees like black cherry,
ailanthus and black locust, and thick vines of bittersweet, wisteria, porcelainberry,
and Japanese honeysuckle combine to form a dense protective underbrush. Insect-eating
birds abound during most of the warm months while fruit-loving species are
seen in greater numbers in the late summer and fall. Warblers migrating in
the spring and fall are a particular attraction as they dart about in their
bright plumage catching flying insects. Cedar waxwings, scarlet tanagers, and
robins are abundant during the fall migration. Summer resident birds of the
pond include the northern waterthrush (a warbler), eastern kingbird, various
flycatchers, belted kingfisher, mallard, black duck, Canada goose, and an occasional
family of wood ducks.
Between the pond and the shoreline, look for remnant meadow wildflowers such
as soapwort, yarrow, wild parsnip, goldenrod, trumpet creeper, mullein, heath
aster, and multiflora rose. Thick sumac and bramble patches provide both food
and cover for wildlife including rabbits, catbirds and song sparrows.
Over three-quarters of a mile of shoreline meets Long Island. Sound where high
cliffs of glacial outwash and till suffer relentless erosion by winter waves.
A thick concrete sea-wall which once protected the entire beach front has
been reduced to rubble. Once exposed, the loose sand and gravel, deposited
by glacial meltwater streams some 20,000 years ago, are easily removed by
heavy waves and high tides. The firmer ice-deposited till layer of boulders,
sand, and clay at the top of the cliff slides slowly down to the beach as
the softer outwash is removed. Many of the large boulders on the beach and
offshore fell from this eroded till.
The clayey till east of the pilings is home for a colony of bank swallows that
dig nest burrows as deep as three feet into the cliff. They dive and soar over
the summer beach, plucking insects from the air. Cormorants, large dark-colored
sea-birds that swim underwater to catch small fish, are usually seen on the
old pier sunning and drying their wings. Gulls, terns, ducks, and sandpipers
are abundant during much of the year. Hawks, including an occasional osprey,
often soar over the beach or perch on cliff-top trees, while egrets and herons
wade in the low-tide shallows, grabbing fish in their long bills.
Horseshoe crabs, calico crabs, spider crabs, moon snails, razor clams, and
whelk egg cases are among the varied life forms found in the inter-tidal beach
zone. Shoreline plants include saltwort, sea-rocket, seaside goldenrod and
beach clotbur. Above the high tide, beach grass, switch grass, crown vetch,
and Japanese black pines help slow erosion and provide food and cover for wildlife.
here to view/print nature trail guide
here to view/print Trail 4 self guided tour
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