National Wildlife Refuge
North Sea, NY
Phone Number: 631-286-0485
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|Migratory birds like this egret rely on the protection of Conscience Point's shoreline and wetland habitats for survival. (courtesy Sheldon Pollack)|
Continued . . . Uplands The refuge preserves and maintains one of the best examples of a maritime grassland left on Long Island. Little bluestem, switch grass, and poverty grass dominate the grassland. Prickly pear cactus occurs throughout. The tidal wetlands serve as important habitat for black ducks and a host of other waterbirds.
Conscience Point's maritime grasslands represent a globally rare plant community found on outwash plains near oceans or bays. Few such grasslands remain on Long Island. Dominant vegetation include little bluestem, common hairgrass, and poverty grass. Prickly pear cactus is also common. Two species of regional endemic vegetation occur in Long Island's maritime grasslands. They include bushy rockrose and Nantucket serviceberry, the latter a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (Northeast Coastal Areas Study). The rarity of the maritime grassland habitat type on Long Island is partly due to the speed at which they develop into maritime shrubland and the lack of disturbance factors to slow the growth of shrubs and trees.
Wetlands The extensive salt and brackish tidal marshes include a number of tidal creeks, ponds and coves. The marshes are characteristically comprised of low and high marsh areas, dominated by saltmarsh cordgrass and saltmeadow cordgrass, respectively, along with glasswort, spikegrass, black grass and sea lavender, among others. The upland shrubby edges are often dominated by groundsel-bush, marsh elder and bayberry, grading into upland forest of red maple and white oak.
Fish and Wildlife More than 150 species of birds and 20 species of mammals can be found at Conscience Point. The refuge only supports a limited number of breeding bird species largely due to its small size and minimal forest cover, but does support a variety of bird species dependent on grasslands, shrub and edge habitats, and salt marsh. The salt marsh at the refuge provides habitat for a variety of waterbirds, including critical winter habitat for black ducks.
Raptors--Species of raptors observed at Conscience Point include osprey, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, eastern screech owl, great horned owl, sharp shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier, and rough-legged hawk.
Waterfowl--The Cow Neck area is known for its high concentration of black ducks. Waterfowl numbers are highest during the colder months. The area is considered to be regionally significant for black ducks, both as breeding and wintering habitat; wintering black duck densities are among the highest for Long Island. Other common waterfowl species using Conscience Point include bufflehead, Canada goose, red-breasted merganser, and mallard.
Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns and Allied Species--During the winter months, double-crested cormorants and horned grebe are the most common waterbird species on the refuge. The most common long legged waders are snowy egrets, great blue herons, great egrets and green herons.
Gulls and terns are frequently observed at the refuge. Herring and great black-backed gulls are the most common gull species and least terns are the most common terns observed. The most common shorebirds on the refuge include greater and lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitchers, and willet.
Other Migratory Birds--Neotropical birds are a common component of the wildlife community, especially prairie, yellow, yellowthroat, and blue-winged warblers. The most common birds at the refuge include catbird, yellowthroat, tree swallow, red-winged blackbird, prairie warbler, yellow warbler, mourning dove, common crow, robin, grackle, blue jay, and song sparrow. Forty species of neo-tropical migrant birds have been documented on the refuge, including a male rose-breasted grosbeak,an uncommon species during the breeding season on Long Island.
Other Resident Wildlife--The most common species detected in order of abundance are white-tailed deer, gray squirrel, eastern cottontail, and red fox. Bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasants are also observed on the refuge. Conscience Point has one of the highest quail populations compared to the other refuges of the Long Island Complex.
Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species--Least terns and common terns, New York State designated threatened species, are frequently observed foraging at the refuge's aquatic habitats. Peak numbers occur in May.
Osprey, a New York State species of concern, are commonly observed from March through August roosting in trees and foraging in aquatic habitats on the refuge. Several nesting platforms exist on the refuge for osprey nesting use. Northern harriers, a New York State designated threatened species, are observed infrequently foraging along the refuge's grasslands and marshes.
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