A fall day on Long Island
Pine Neck Nature Sanctuary A fall day on Long Island © © A. Graziano Photography

Places We Protect

Pine Neck Sanctuary

New York

Where Pine Barrens Forest Meets the Shore

This 77-acre oasis is situated along the Shinnecock Bay coastline and 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 to hike, traverses forest, skirts salt marsh and ends up at a viewpoint on the north side of Shinnecock Bay. It’s an excellent location for birdwatching, hiking and photography.

Before you visit, download a trail map.

Beachfront Property

The sanctuary is the former waterfront estate of Zoe Van Wyck DeRopp, who donated 12-acres to The Nature Conservancy in 1972. The additional acreage was purchased in 2000 through a joint agreement between Southampton Town and The Nature Conservancy.

 

Pine Neck is a perfect place for a short hike along the coast, for birdwatching and for tranquil, scenic view of Shinnecock Bay. The 2.4 miles of trails are open for hiking and observing nature from dawn to dusk. 

Pine Neck Sanctuary is also part of Southampton Town’s popular Bay to Bay Trail, one that begins at Squiretown Park along the Peconic Bay and winds south to where it ends at Pine Neck Sanctuary along Shinnecock Bay.

The preserve is open for hiking and observing nature from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week. The Nature Conservancy does not currently allow dogs or other pets on our preserves.

Parking lot available for a maximum of 6 vehicles. Please inquire with the East Hampton field office before bringing large groups. 631-329-3981.

Tick Safety: Please be cautious when hiking at Pine Neck Sanctuary throughout the year, but especially during peak tick activity (April through October). Deer and Lone Star Ticks are commonplace at this Sanctuary and proper protection measures should help to ensure an enjoyable experience throughout the year. Find more information about tick safety here.

The trail begins in a forest which resembles a typical Long Island pine barrens-type habitat. The canopy is dominated by pitch pine and oak while blueberry and huckleberry comprise much of the understory. The trail eventually meanders along coastal saltmarsh where fields of green Spartina grasses, also known as saltmarsh cordgrass buffer the mainland and forest from the open waters of Shinnecock Bay. Intact, coastal marsh systems such as this one can serve as important natural protection barriers during intense coastal storms such as tropical storms or hurricanes. They are nature’s own way of protecting us from damaging storm surges and large flood events. The coastal trail also passes an overlook along a small sliver of beach that is accessible at low tide.  Bring your binoculars because a diverse array of bird species can be found in the preserve throughout the year. Shinnecock Bay is regionally significant habitat for migratory waterfowl, marsh-nesting birds like Saltmarsh Sparrow and Marsh Wren, as well as migratory and resident shorebirds and songbirds.

Spring shorebird and songbird migration are their peaks in April and May. Check the upland areas for warblers, vireos, orioles and tanagers. The viewpoint along Shinnecock Bay is a good location to watch for migrating and resident shorebirds as they land along the beach or within the edges of the saltmarsh. Listen for calling Eastern Willets, Clapper Rails and the subtle, insect-like call notes of Saltmarsh Sparrows. Throughout the summer, you’ll see fishing Ospreys as well as foraging tern species, dispersing from nearby breeding colonies. Common, Forster’s, Least and Royal Terns, the latter species being more common in late summer, are regularly spotted off the shores of the sanctuary. Long-legged wading birds such as Snowy and Great Egret are also regular here and Tricolored Heron has also been spotted on the preserve during summer.   

Fall migration continues as early as late July for a variety of shorebird species and continues through autumn. Look for Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, and both Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers. Neotropical songbird migrants also begin their southbound push and August through October is a good time to search for warblers offering a fun opportunity to see them in non-breeding and juvenile plumage. Nelson’s Sparrow has been found here on a number of occasions during the month of October.

Winter is also a fun time to visit Pine Neck. The cold, frozen landscape offers a different perspective and the colorful, summer songbirds are replaced with various species of waterfowl. Look for American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Brant and many others. Northern Harriers commonly hunt along the main marsh and Iceland Gulls have been seen at the mouth of Weesuck Creek along the west side of the preserve. Both Common and Red-throated Loons can be observed diving for prey along the shoreline.

Check out this complete, up-to-date checklist of birds that have been documented at the Pine Neck Sanctuary.

This 77-acre preserve is located in East Quogue, Long Island.