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This 77-acre oasis on the coast is one of the few places where the pine barrens extend all the way to Long Island’s South Shore. The sanctuary’s marked trail system, a loop that takes about an hour and a half to hike, traverses forest, skirts salt marsh and ends up on Shinnecock Bay. It’s a dream come true for birdwatchers and beachcombers.
The sanctuary is the former waterfront estate of Zoe Van Syck DeRopp, who donated 12 acres total to The Nature Conservancy beginning in 1972. The additional acreage was purchased in 2000 through a joint agreement between Southampton Town and the Conservancy.
Pine Neck is a perfect place for a short hike along the coast, for birdwatching and for beachcombing. The 2.4 miles of trails are open for hiking and observing nature from dawn to dusk.
The trail starts out in a woodland topped by pines and oaks. The salt marsh is an excellent example of a Spartina-dominated coastal meadow. The beach is a narrow band of sand that is sometimes covered at high tide.
Bring your binoculars because numerous songbirds and shore birds can be found in the preserve. Shinnecock Bay is regionally significant habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, marsh-nesting birds, migratory shorebirds and songbirds, and raptors.
In March and April, shorebird migrations are at their peak, followed by waves of neotropical songbirds.
In summer, you may see fishing ospreys as well as members of the nesting colonies of terns, gulls and wading birds, including the endangered roseate tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher, glossy ibis and egrets. Look for herons roosting in the silvery skeletons of dead pines.
In autumn, the migratory spectacle recommences. And between November and March, large concentrations of greater and lesser scaup, American black duck, red-breasted merganser, brant, common goldeneye, long-tailed duck, canvasback, and bufflehead, among other species, overwinter in the Bay. If you're lucky, you might also see the state-threatened northern harrier, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, mink and deer.
This 77-acre preserve is located in East Quogue, Long Island.