Recently, I spent the day in Cold Spring Harbor, a small village located on the north shore of Long Island. In addition to being a quaint little town possessing a main street lined with interesting shops, Cold Spring Harbor is home to a whaling museum, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (known for genetic research) and a fish hatchery. It was the Fish Hatchery that occupied my morning.
The Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery was originally run by the state until it became a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education. On this visit, we had a guide who was very knowledgeable about the fish and animals residing there. He identified the various fish, frogs, toads, turtles and snakes, informing us of those that were native to Long Island and those that were non-native to Long Island but native to New York State. He also educated us on invasive species. Who knew that the house sparrow is an invasive species?
Walking around the grounds, we were also introduced to a variety of plant life. I was intrigued by the way a Red Maple was growing over one of the ponds and admired a fine specimen of Norway Spruce. The edges of the ponds were lined with Jewel-weed, now in bloom. Some sources claim that water beads up on the leaves in such a way that it resemble jewels, hence, the name. As we finished up with our guide, we saw a Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying the colorful flowers to the extent that even I could get a picture of it.
Leaving our guide, we walked towards the back of the parking lot and up a flight of wooden stairs towards a small church. St. John’s Church sits beside a lovely pond bearing the same name as the church. We watched a variety of birds flying around a wooded area opposite where we stood. And then, nature gave us a treat! In the water just below us a muskrat was playing around the edge of the pond, diving for the green vegetation that was to become his lunch. We watched, as the creature came close to dry land in order to enjoy his meal.
In the afternoon we made our way to Cold Spring Harbor State Park, located across the street from the harbor. Because of the fact that this section of the island sits on the Harbor Hills Moraine formed by glacial deposits, the trail was fairly steep and we all complained to our leader about the difficulty of our climb. As a result of our previous class on trail maintenance we observed that the trail was made steeper still as a result of poor trail design. The erosion of the trail had created a situation where hikers were detouring off the trail, causing the trail to spread further into the woods.
Heeding our complaints, our leader gave in and we retraced our steps. Despite the difficulty of this trail, we were rewarded with some beautiful views of the harbor.