Finding Feathers Long Island

Makamah Nature Preserve

Hi everyone, Sorry, I know I have been MIA for a little while but sometimes life just gets in the way. After my last article, my husband and I left for a two-week vacation to central Maine (article to come) but shortly after returning I became sick and was avoiding electronics for a week or so. But, fear not, I have returned and have plenty to catch you all up on! Let’s start with a recent trip to Makamah Nature Preserve in Fort Salonga, New York. Now right off the bat let me be upfront in saying that I had high hopes for this location that simply did not pay off; however, after exploring the preserve I am confident that this is not the fault of the park but rather the day’s conditions and therefore deserves a re-visit.

Steven and I headed out to the preserve bright and early and yet the temperature was already skyrocketing. By the time we arrived, it was so hot and humid that our glasses were fogged over with steam and my camera lens dripped streaks of humidity. The trail, though very well marked, was primarily uphill with areas of erosion that required careful attention to avoid losing footing. I would not recommend this trail for those of you who are not looking for a somewhat intense hike. On the plus side, the trees where so dense that our entire time in the preserve was shielded in shade. A juvenile Gray Catbird was our first resident to introduce itself, calling relentlessly from the thick cluster of leaves adorning a closeby tree.  After that the sightings were stunningly slow, even calls seemed to disappear from the air.  The woods, however, made up for the lack of activity with their exquisite beauty. Intensely dense and emerald green, few spots on Long Island have managed to give me the illusion of being so secluded from the outside world, at times reminding me of a tropical rainforest as opposed to a section of woods along a busy road.  Harsh calls of Blue Jays soon became the only sound at all besides the relentless buzzing of mosquitoes and Deer Flies, their magnificent blue feathers streaking the green backdrop that had encompassed our world.

Park sign marks the entrance/parking area

trail markings guide

Park map posted at the trail entrance

Juvenile Gray Catbird

Blue Jay

Finally leveling out the trail bent left leading us to the reasons I was so excited to visit this park in the first place, a small runoff pond, and saltmarsh! The pond came along first, nearly invisible behind a wall of saplings and brush. Eager for a view I probed the perimeter of the pond, searching for an access point. While there was never an opportunity for an ideal view a few thin areas could be found to allow for sectional viewing. A Hairy woodpecker searched for lunch amongst the trees but overall the pond sat lonely and still, beautifully secret from the world around it. Not even a Mallard or Canada Goose waking its mirror surface.

Only a few steps further and the strong smell of low tide filled our noses, a smell only an Islander could find nostalgic and lovely. Though not the most pleasant smell to most it is almost always a sign of a great birding site. Finding a small clearing we slipped through the brush to a breathtaking view of the marsh, a pair of blaze red Northern Cardinals popped out from the lush green and crystal blue waters painting the horizon. Smiles spread across our faces as the buzz of insects droned out beneath the beautifully familiar song of Red-winged Blackbirds hiding within the tall beach grasses and cattails. A distinct silhouette soon cut across the sky above us, lowering towards the pond. Eager to identify the new visitor I raced back to the pond, hoping to spot it before losing it to the camouflage of the brush. An elegant Black-crowned Night-heron now waded along the edge of the water, quickly slipping away into the cover of tall grass, visible for merely a second; luckily long enough for a photo! Back to the marsh, a pair of Mallard Ducks cruised along the shallow maze of clear water between the plants. A group of Barn Swallows flitted in and out of view, zipping like tiny jets through the sky. At our side a vacant nesting box hung from a large tree, a small weathered shelter stood half collapsed close by and a crude wood plank perch clung to a precarious tree reaching along the water (perhaps set up by a more daring wildlife viewer).

View of the Saltmarsh from the trail

View of the pond

A short trail separates the marsh and pond

View of the marsh from the clearing

Male and female Northern Cardinals

Red-Winged Blackbird sits atop some beachgrass

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

remnants of a small wooden viewing area

A nesting box hanging closeby

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Barn Swallow

Red-winged Blackbird

A pair of Mallards descend, camouflaged in the trees

After a long while admiring the sights we hopped back onto the trail, continuing along the loop back towards the entrance. Only a short distance along, still along the marsh but out of view, a twisted leafless tree housed a pair of Mourning Doves, basking in the sunlight. Northern Mockingbirds cried from the forest around us, darting from one branch to the next along the way. A White Breasted Nuthatch clung precariously upside-down along the bark of a large tree and off in the distance a beautiful White-Tailed Deer pranced through the woods. As we approached the beginning of the trail once again steven and I looked as though we had just escaped the treacheries of the Amazon, sweat-soaked with shirts tied over our hair and ears to shield us from the bugs. Almost poetically, a Gray Catbird sat by the exit on a low hanging tree branch, the first bird of our trip and now the last.

Mourning Doves

Northern Mockingbird

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-Tailed Deer

Gray Catbird

This was not the ideal day for birding, not for the birds and not for us. That being said, this park has so much potential! True, I did not have any amazing sightings on this trip but with these perfect habitats all contained in one space, it had to be the heat that slowed the action. I eagerly await returning to this location, perhaps this fall, for a second try! Until next time my friends, Happy Birding!

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