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- About the Preserve
The preserve consists of 62 acres of glacial moraine covered by forests, thickets, and meadows. There are about five miles of marked nature trails including trails for the visually impaired. Wooded areas, which exhibit various stages of succession, contain over sixty (60) species of trees as well as numerous shrubs, vines and wildflowers. High cliffs along the shoreline display erosional features such as alluvial fans, talus slopes, and slumping caused by ancient multicolored clays oozing from the bluff. Life forms typical of the north shore of Long Island are abundant along the rocky shoreline. The woods and meadows, with their varied plant life, attract more than 140 species of birds, notably, scarlet tanagers and many varieties of warblers. Woodchucks, opossums and raccoons can occasionally be seen in the woods or along a meadow's edge. A trail guide to the preserve is available at the museum.
The plants of this meadow community illustrate a type of plant succession known as "old-field" succession. Succession is the orderly and predictable replacement of one plant community by another with which each community preparing or modifying the site for the next. Eventually, a self-perpetuating assemblage of plants becomes established, and this is called the climax community.
The old-field succession began in this meadow in 1966 when the cleared land was planted with Kentucky bluegrass. This common lawn grass was not maintained and a variety of wild plants began to invade the meadow. Now several stages of old-field succession are present. The center and southwest edge of the meadow show the first stage with beardgrass and herbs, such as goldenrod, dandelion, hawkweed, ragweed, sheep sorrel, and wild lettuce out-competing the bluegrass for light, nutrients, and growing space. This transitory community is important for it begins to provide abundant food and cover for wildlife. The pheasant, quail, robins, cardinals, meadowlarks, sparrows, rabbits, mice, foxes, and other birds and mammals attracted by the diversity of food help bring about the next successional stage.
In this second stage, blueberries, wine berries, dewberries, and occasional small trees like black cherries and black locusts begin to spring up among the herbs and grasses. Many originate from the seeds transported in animal droppings. These new plants develop rapidly in full sunlight, shading out the shorter herbs and grasses.
Eventually, the small trees grow above the berry bushes and shade the sun-loving plants causing them to die back. This can be seen at the south end of the meadow where the small trees have formed a closed canopy to begin the next stage of succession - the pioneer woodland.
New (disturbed) Woodland
This area currently supports a fairly young, uneven-aged stand of mixed hardwoods. The over story (tall trees) is 40% black cherry and in decreasing abundance includes oaks, hickories, sassafras, beech, black locust, ailanthus, black birch, sweet cherry, sycamore, and black walnut. The understory (small trees) is 25% black cherry along with sassafras, dogwood, hickories, Hercules-club, spicebush, oaks, red maple and vines.
The woodland floor contains remnants of prior communities. These remnants are stumps of oaks, chestnut and black locust. The oak and chestnut stumps are the oldest and indicate an oak-chestnut climax forest prior to 1850. Upon removal of the large oaks and chestnuts, the sun-loving black locust either invaded the area or was planted. As they grew to tree size, an understory of mixed hardwoods developed in their shade.
sight trail for the visually impaired
Currently this area supports an over story of black locust, wild black cherry, hickory, oak, tupelo and sassafras with a developing under story of 80% spicebush and with decreasing amounts black locust, hickory, cherry, sassafras, oak, and brambles. In the late 1920s, an untended pasture at this site was dotted with young locust and brambles. This pioneer forest grew normally until a fire occurred, killing the ground cover and thin-barked seedlings and saplings. The heavy bark of the black locust protected it from the fire. The open understory and lack of a shrub layer allowed the hardy sun-loving brambles to re-establish themselves. In turn the black locust and wild black cherry created enough shade for other trees species to thrive including hickories, oaks, and tupelos.
Rabbits, woodchucks, red foxes, squirrels, raccoons, and mice, along with quail, pheasant, cardinals, orioles, catbirds, blackbirds, flycatchers, warblers, jays, tanagers and a host of other migrant and resident birds find food, shelter and protected nesting sites within dense understories. With an abundance of nut producing trees including mainly hickory spp. and oak spp. there will be a wealth of mammals that depend of these masts of food. Spicebush berries are a fall favorite of migrating birds due to their high fat content. Its proximity to water makes it even more attractive to wildlife.
Old Growth Hardwoods
This stand of uneven-aged trees is a remnant of a once larger wood which was reduced in size by housing development. Along the bluffs American beech, normally a tree of more northerly climate, dominates the over story, under story and shrub layer. It is better able to withstand the harsh conditions of this northwesterly exposure than any of our more common native trees. The oaks, hickories, and birch which occupy the more sheltered portions of this stand generally make up the climax woodland community on Long Island's North Shore.
The rocky beach and prominent cliffs exhibit many interesting marine and geological features. At low tide, numerous tidal pools abound with marine
organisms, including several varieties of algae, small fishes, crabs and numerous snails and smooth mussels. Tall stands of cordgrass (Spartinia alterniflora)
dot the shore, providing cover for other shallow water animals like the ribbed mussel and horseshoe crab.
70,000,000 year old clays from the Cretaceous Period are being squeezed from beneath the cliffs by the weight of the overlying sands. This occurs especially after heavy rains causing sections of the cliff to slump or slide. (Notice the small terraces at various elevations as you walk down the beach trail). Ironstone concretions ("Indian paint pots"), red mudstone and sandstone with plant fossils, lignite (immature coal), and iron pyrite (fool's gold), all are found in these clays. Glacial deposits occur near the cliff top and are the source of the many boulders scattered along the beach. Waves erode the clay and sand, and the boulders slide down to the water's edge where they resist further movement.
Read more about the shoreline here