Welcome back, everyone! Today I am going to talk to you all about a trip I took back on April 30, 2019, to a place I’m sure all Long Islanders are very familiar with, Robert Moses State Park! I’m sorry, I try to be very neutral with my opinions on here because I want to encourage people to visit all the amazing places that this amazing island has to offer but Robert Moses is hands down my favorite beach in New York that I have been to so far! However, that being said, it is just far too big to talk about in one article or explore in one trip. So, today we will be focusing on one of the highlights, Field 5’s boardwalk lighthouse walk through the dunes!
This is a walk that I highly recommend for all seasons which is not something I get to say very often. The unique setting lends itself to year-round visitors from white-tailed deer, rabbits, raptors, owls (or so I have been told) songbirds and a huge array of shorebirds not to mention breathtaking sunsets, landscapes and views of the beautiful lighthouse!
This “trail” is wonderful because the boardwalk begins right at the curb of the parking lot which means you are not trudging hiking boots through soft sand on your way to start your hike and you’re not meandering a mile through a park to find the trail you came to hike. It is always very well maintained, regardless of how many times I have gone here there are always fresh repairs, clean walkways and next to no graffiti or litter. I really do have to acknowledge this because I almost never get to comment on a park’s cleanliness and upkeep. The boardwalk it flat and even making it an easy and accessible undertaking for all with frequent places to rest and handrails for those in need of support. The scenery is truly perfect for birding as you have opportunities to pass grassy areas of sand, dunes, views of the ocean as well as marshy areas and a small stream.
There are multiple opportunities for deer sightings throughout this hike but your best bet is right at the very beginning of the trail where you will see a strange green object in a clearing off to the left. While many think this is a feeding station it is actually a set of scented rollers that attract deer in and helps brush ticks away and also coat their face and neck with tickicide. Yes, there are ticks, Lots of them! no matter what time of year you go but they are definitely at their worst in summer and fall. Never leave the boardwalk, you will get ticks but also this is a sensitive nesting area for many birds. The familiar call of Red-winged Blackbirds echoed all around me as I walked along, lingering close by to watch the deer for longer than I probably would have had I not been there alone. Thin trees stretched out eager armfuls of baby bright green buds waiting to burst open in the coming warmth of spring. Large groups of House Sparrows congregated atop rich green bushes and American Robins sang from clearing further off beyond the thicket. The bright colors of Butterflies danced through the air and sat upon the sand shining like gems in the morning sun. A Gray Catbird watched intently from a treetop as I passed by and took in my first glimpses of the lighthouse off in the distance.
Excitedly I continued on, a Song Sparrow singing from a cluster of bushes at my right. Unidentifiable Gulls circled around the crystal sky overhead and American Robins hopped about the floor in search of brunch. A large variety of informational signs hang from the boardwalk’s railing every few yards, mostly geared to birders and wildlife but also discussing park events, history, and more making for a very enjoyable experience. A short distance ahead I passed over a paved access road ( the only section without boardwalk) where a Herring Gull fought with some “food?” Song Sparrows basked in the sun and I returned to the boardwalk which for the next short while went without handrails through a section of small trees and high grasses. Again I would like to stress, DO NOT LEAVE THE BOARDWALK! Only a few feet ahead you come out to see how close you are to the lighthouse base and under the boards beneath your feet is now marshy water and walls of reeds on both sides.
From the lighthouse platform, there is a beautiful view of the beach as well as plenty of benches and historic information, even remnants of the original lighthouse which no longer stands. Although beautiful this is the destination for most people so it is often quite busy- basically what I’m saying is your not likely to spot many birds over here unless someone is feeding House Sparrows or Rock Pigeons. But, if you continue to walk around the lighthouse the boardwalk continues down to a very secluded area of beach which is a great spot to see some shorebirds. Having been to the lighthouse several times before I quickly made my way down to the shore, after all, I was here with a mission! A beautiful Northern Cardinal hid in a section of thorny tangles and a large Herring Gull floated atop the calm waters surface. A short walk down the beach I came upon a long pier which was off-limits to walk on past a few feet but still allowed for enough room for a few photos and a beautiful view. A Double-Crested Cormorant flew by just inches above the water while gulls came and went from the pier’s railing. Two beautiful Common Terns lounged around taking in the sights besides another Herring Gull and off ahead beach continued on and on, including a Great Black-backed Gull amongst others in the distance, but being alone I figured it best not to stray too far from the boardwalk. Turning around I started walking back towards the lighthouse still keeping my eyes peeled for any new sightings. Seeing little more than Song Sparrows I made my way back up the boardwalk, past the lighthouse and back towards the parking lot.
American Robins and Northern Mockingbirds watched on from outstretched branches as I passed, the boardwalk growing busier in the later morning. Excitement rose within me as the shimmer of ruby red shone through a section of dense shrubs and trees, a pair of House Finches perched together enjoying the growing warmth. Not uncommon to New York but none the less a species I seldom get to see in my travels. Nearly back to the parking lot, the deer “tick station” in view, and a new visitor appears before the trip comes to an end; a White-throated Sparrow hopping about the ground with a Common Grackle close behind.
One of the most iconic parts of Long Island is its many beaches, and Robert Moses State Park is just one of the best if you ask me. I highly recommend giving this hike a try for yourself. It’s easy and popular enough to feel comfortable going on your own but offers enough variety to make a family outing out of it, pack a lunch and blanket and spend the day. Every time I visit I know I am in for a treat, with a constant variety of species and sightings. Have you gone anywhere good or seen some exciting birds lately? Please tell me about it in the comments! Until next time my friends, Happy Birding!