Last weekend was one of those running around weekends where you try to catch up on all the things that were not accomplished during the week. Even so, I wanted to take time out for a nature break on this cloudy but warm November day, so I decided to visit the South Shore Nature Center in East Islip for a short walk. This nature center is a successful example of people and organizations coming together to make something happen. The Center was shut down in 2012 due to financial problems in the town of Islip. The town eventually formed a partnership with the Seatuck Environmental Association, where Seatuck agreed to take over the operation of the nature preserve. As a result, the South Shore Nature Center reopened as the Orr Wildlife Learning Center in September 2013.
Autumn was still showing off some fancy attire as I walked by a small pond near the entrance. A bench, strategically located with an open view of the pond and several bird boxes, invited the visitor to pause for some birdwatching. Nearby I found an aster in full bloom, oblivious to the calendar stating that it is time to retire for the winter. After watching a group of ducks for some time, I continued around the pond towards the Woodland Trail.
The North Shore Nature Center is one of those interesting places that take the traveler through several habitats; first upland woods, then wetland woods, followed by freshwater pond and marsh, and finally saltwater marsh. The uplands wood portion exhibited the same brilliant displays I had witnessed by the pond. Another bench was placed in the open woods for those who desired to experience the serenity of this quiet landscape.
Soon, I came upon a boardwalk that made of the marsh trails. The first part of the boardwalk meandered through wet woodlands, a perfect platform to keep from tramping through mud but allowing me to observe the woods around me. I spotted several deer along my wanderings. They were not at all skittish, looking up to keep an on eye on the two legged creatures invading their turf but making no attempt to bolt off into the woods.
Pretty soon, the woods gave way to more marshy ground. Here, the reeds on either side of the boardwalk were six feet high or more. I walked for some time through this tunnel, hearing creatures scurrying through the thick vegetation but not being able to see them. There were one or two side paths that lead me to observation platforms looking out over the water, a perfect spot for watching migrating birds.
After a while, the boardwalk ended, forcing the traveler to continue through some muddy areas. Eventually, the ground became a little drier but the path became a lot narrow. I am sure if I continued on, I would have been able to discover the hidden life near the bay, but given the warm temperatures, the fact that adult ticks peak through November, and the fact that Long Island sees 500 to 700 cases of Lyme disease a year I chose not to venture any further. Instead I turned back towards the boardwalk and selected a turn I had passed on my way.
The boardwalk trail eventually gave way to the Uplands Trail but I came to a junction that indicated the trail was closed. I could go no further. I assumed that with the center having just opened in September, that there must still be a lot of work to do in order to make the trails safe, especially since the center closed just 2 months after Hurricane Sandy.
I turned back and retraced my steps back towards the entrance. As I approached the pond, I noticed that the ducks I had observed earlier had decided to take a stroll on land. I watched the pairs amble nonchalantly back to the pond and continued on my way. I had been able to take a refreshing nature break for about an hour, walking a little over a mile.