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Long Island: Animals of Mashomack

A birder and botanist's paradise alike, there's no doubt that the biological diversity on Mashomack Preserve is stunning.  Its combination of interlacing tidal creeks, woodlands, fields and coastline makes it a superb wildlife habitat for many rare and endangered species.

The extensive salt marshes of Mashomack provide breeding grounds and nursery habitat for the smallest links in the marine chain of life.  The Pine Swamp complex at the western edge of the preserve has been desiginated a freshwater wetland of unique local importance.  Fourteen hundred acres of upland oak and beech forest are now being allowed to develop into an old-growth forest, a habitat scarce in the Northeast.  Open, grassy meadows provide the sunnier conditions preferred by some wildflowers and birds.  All of these areas are protected and managed to provide a safe haven for native species.

Read on to learn more about the different bird, plant, and animal species that call Mashomack home.

What to See: Birds

Since 1980, over 200 species of birds, including 79 nesting species, have been recorded at Mashomack Preserve.  No matter what season or time of day you decide to visit, you’re sure to witness something amazing. 

In the summer, look for towhees in the understory, scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles in the canopy, and red-tailed hawks along the edges of open, grassy meadows.  In the fall, Mashomack serves as a popular migration stopover point for many birds. Black duck, Canada geese, hooded mergansers and other waterfowl winter in our salt marshes and surrounding bays. 

Together with nearby Gardiners Island, Mashomack also supports one of the East Coast's largest concentrations of nesting osprey.  The coastal areas and salt marshes are great places to view other birds as well, such as great blue herons, great and snowy egrets, green herons and black-crowned night herons.

What to See: Animals

Mashomack’s many habitats harbor a plethora of animal life. Painted turtles basking on a sunny log or spring peepers chirping their amorous intentions may be found in the freshwater wetlands, along with a shy muskrat. A summer’s day is alive with the sights and sounds of insects: monarch and swallowtail butterflies, dazzling dragonflies, or buzzing cicadas. The common grey squirrel and cheeky chipmunk are almost always sighted, while occasional reports of a black racer or other harmless snake also surface.

Salt marshes shelter a multitude of marine species including clams, blue claw crabs, and a variety of fishes. The night brings little brown bats and moths, including the beautiful luna and rare Imperial. Other nocturnal creatures may leave footprints, scat, or rubbings to signal that a fox, raccoon, or deer passed by.

What to See: Plants

The only natural community of its kind on Long Island, the Pine Swamp Complex is comprised of plants rooted in a floating mat of sphagnum moss. Probes have found organic accumulations ten feet thick dated to be 3,900 years old. Fringed by water willows and a diverse shrub layer including swamp azalea, highbush blueberry, white alder, winterberry and mountain holly, the swamp also includes a stand of white pines that shelter two state-protected orchids-the whorled pogonia and the pink lady slipper. The Usnea lichen grows on shrubs and trees here, attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds, which use the lichen in their nests.

 

 

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