Last week I went to Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge located on the North Shore of Long Island in Lloyd Neck. Originally owned by the Eberstadt family, this 80 acre piece of land was donated to the government in 1967. There is a large rock located offshore at the north end of the property. The name of the refuge supposedly gets its name from the idea that this large rock was used as target practice by British warships during the Revolutionary War.
This particular visit was part of the first session of the Master Naturalist Program offered by Quality Parks. The mission of the Quality Parks organization is “to sponsor projects to improve both business and environmental conditions by balancing social, economic and environmental concerns”. During the day we were introduced to a variety of field guides, learned about different park designations and jurisdictions, learned the identification of some of the plants there and the difference between some of those plants that are very similar to others, and had a lesson in nature journaling. Since I can’t even draw stick figures well, this was not my favorite part of the day. Let’s just say, my feeble attempts well not earn any awards or even a place on a parent’s refrigerator.
We began our walk on the straight trail leading down to the beach. Along the way, there were a few Norway Maples. I learned that you can tell them apart from a Sugar Maple by the fact that there is a milky sap on the stem when you break off a leaf. Later I discovered that the shape of the winged seed pods (samara) is very different with the Norway Maple being flatter and the Sugar Maple being more horseshoe shaped.
Just before the beach there was a brackish pond. There was a blind here where we stopped and observed the pond. I spied an egret in the grass area just beyond where the pond met the grass in a point.
Once on the beach, the group practiced nature journaling. After I was done with this activity, I walked along the beach looking out on the harbor. There were quite a few sailboats grouped together and I wandered if there was a race going on.
At the edge of the beach and the woods I saw quite a few of a particular interesting plant. The instructor for the day identified it as a Wooly Mullein. I discovered that this plant takes 2 years to become a mature flowering plant.
When everyone was done we walked along the beach in search of Prickly Cactus. There was an occupied osprey platform pretty close to the sand. This parent was not at all happy with people moving too close to her nest, so we gave her plenty of room by strolling near the water. After locating a patch of Prickly Cactus in full bloom, we headed back to the wooded trail. Before we left the beach I noticed some pretty pink flowers, which I believe are Purple Crown-Vetch.
On our return trip to the parking area we traveled a different trail. This wooded area was filled with ferns and some rather large leaved plants. We spent some time with a variety of field guides before someone identified it as a May-Apple.