Warm days in April are some of the best times to walk the trails of the Arshamomaque nature preserve on Chapel Lane in Greenport, Long Island, a two minute drive from the Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast on the way to Greenport village.
The preserve is 51 acres, part of the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve and listed for protection because of its exceptional scenic, biological and recreational resources and at this time of year offers a rare and brief opportunity to see and photograph the Vernal ponds .
This week the weather was perfect, mild but with a crispness in the air, and as the trees had not yet leafed out there was nothing to restrict the view of the magical reflections in the ponds, which cover a large area of the preserve at the end of winter.
These expanses of water which only exist for a short time as a result of the snows and rains of winter will dry up entirely as the weather warms but not before the many animals that depend on them, especially for breeding will have completed one important cycle of their lives. Most of these animals such as frogs, toads, turtles, and salamanders spend a majority of their life in the nearby wetlands but migrate to breed or feed in these productive vernal pools. Fingernail clams and air-breathing snails live their entire life in vernal pools and must burrow beneath leaves and mud when the pool dries until the water returns. Fairy shrimp produce eggs that remain in the dry pool after the adult’s death and hatch after the pool refills.
Arial photographs indicate that sixty percent of the preserve was once farmed. Over time fields were left fallow and resulted in the mixed stages of plant succession that you can see as you pass along the trails. Some meadow like areas are at early stages of development and still dominated by grasses and perennial herbs, providing food and cover for white tailed deer, bobwhite quail and eastern cottontails.
A large area is at the shrub land stage where eastern red cedar and northern bayberry prevail, providing cover for animals to sleep, roost and escape predators. Finally stands of black locusts, a fast growing deciduous tree represent a more advanced stage of succession, and these will eventually, in many years give way to beeches, oaks and hickories.
The preserve also includes an example of a swamp cottonwood forest, rare in NY State, also mixed with other swamp hardwoods which support specialized bird and animal populations.
The blue trail will take you to the bird observation tower, a tree house like structure with a view over the marsh.
I brought my iphone with the ‘chirp!USA’ app, a bird song and photograph identification tool that I have used in my back yard to attract different species to my feeders. This time I played the Redwing blackbird song and sure enough, within minutes an interested male of the species was checking out the source – of a rival or possible mate? – not being a bird, I really had no way to tell!
Arshamomaque is only one of many preserves on the North Fork which offer such quiet and tranquil beauty all year round including the National Audubon Society preserve just a few minutes from the Shorecrest . I will be writing about the others soon in this blog and reporting back as they change with the season.
I hope you will find the time to visit and enjoy them too, and ask us about our special discounts for National Audubon and Garden Conservancy members for off season and mid week stays, and a private tour of the Shorecrest gardens.
The Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast gardens are predominantly planted up with perennials and a generous dose of annuals, mostly self seeded from the previous year, to maintain color and fill in gaps when the perrenial borders aren’t quite up to par.
I’ll be writing about them in my next blog post and following up with progressive articles as they change throughout the year
We look forward to welcoming you to Shorecrest soon and would love to be your guide and helper as you explore the natural beauty of the North Fork.