Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your mothers day! This week I will be talking about my recent trip to one of my favorite Suffolk County birding spots, Lily Pond County Park in Nesconset, NY. Similarly to my feelings about Gibbs Pond, I almost hesitate to talk about this location because it truely is such a well-kept secret. The park entrance is on Smithtown Boulevard across from the iconic Lake Ronkonkoma. There is a very small parking area, really more of a wide driveway, that can fit 2-3 cars at most. If the lot happens to be full, which it rarely is, visitors can always park at the Lake Ronkonkoma parking area and walk the short distance to the Lilly Pond Park entrance. When you first arrive the park appears to be closed off but this is just to prevent cars and motored vehicles from entering, which is strictly prohibited. There is a small walk-in entrance just to the right side of the fence. Once inside visitors will truely feal transported into another world, into a small winding and twisting secret garden; and the fact that it is often empty of visitors there is a good chance you will have the place to yourself, which in my opinion only adds to its appeal!
Steven and I arrived for a later in the day visit, around 4:30 pm, and had the park to ourselves for the most part. After entering we followed the trail to the right and ducked onto a narrow footpath to view a small stream. The water was blanketed with emerald green lilypads contrasted with the straw color of the jutting reeds all along the water’s edge. The relentless calls of dozens of Red-Winged Blackbirds did their best to drown out the hum of cars on the road just beyond the water. A small island marked the center of the stream, complete with a few leafless trees scattered with Red-Winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows. In the water swam a pair of Canada Geese (In the past I have been lucky enough to spot families of deer swimming in this area of the park). Across the water, just in front of the dense wall of reeds swam a beautiful Lone duck that nearly took my breath away; a Blue-Winged Teal. Though not a remarkably rare duck this was a Lifer for me and I could not have been more thrilled!
Back on the main trail the beautiful pond rested at our left and, through the trees and shrubs, the stream followed along on our right. Every few yards another small footpath opened up to allow a view of the stream, (some sub-trails are more accessible then others. Some are fairly straightforward while others may be overgrown, very narrow or involve going over or under branches or fallen trees. Be careful to watch for ticks and Poison Ivy/oak!) The majority of the trail is thick on one side with tangles of thorns and viney brambles making great hiding for dozens of noisy songbirds. Multiple times as we walked we caught the flash of blue of tiny Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, flitting about with a small group of Palm Warblers and a lone Yellow-Rumped Warbler. A tall leafless tree held a group of Cedar Waxwings and the coo of a pair of Mourning Doves echoed further down the trail. Just before th trail bent left to follow around the pond there stood the clearing to another sub trail and a gnarled tree dotted with the bright crimson of a solitary Northern Cardinal.
The sub trail led to a small access point to the stream just before the water split into a fork ahead. A maze a reeds hid our view from the calls of songbirds and nesting ducks. A pair of Mallard ducks swam along between the lily pads covering the water and a hungry Downy Woodpecker drilled away at a thin golden reed. Returning to the main trail we followed it around the curve of the pond revealing yet another view of the stream at our right, this one visible right from the path. After watching on for a few moments we spotted a startled female Wood Duck take flight and the beautiful iridescent plumage of a few Common Grackles.
We followed the trail in a loop back towards the parking area spotting a few yellow warblers through the thicket and the loud screeching call of a group of Blue Jays. Alone for the most part on the trip up until now, the trail back was scattered with people walking their dogs and a few people looking to get in some fishing before nightfall. We spotted more of the same sights along the way back and honestly wished we could have had more time to explore before leaving, but my photos were turning to silhouettes against the lowering sun and we knew it was time to head out.
Despite Its small size and unassuming view from the road, Lily Pond is a fantastic hidden Gem nestled in the middle of a busy area and completely overshadowed by the infamous Lake Ronkonkoma across the street. There is never a shortage of birds, calls and activity every time I visit. There are no amenities, but if you are looking to for a quality birding spot without the crowds and distractions then this really is a perfect location. Needless to say I will be revisiting this spot for a long time to come. Until next time everyone, Happy Birding!