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Caumsett Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The Caumsett BCA is within Caumsett State Historic Park and is part of Audubon's Huntington and Northport Bays Important Bird Area. It is located on Lloyd Neck, a peninsula on the north shore of Long Island that extends out into Long Island Sound. About two-thirds of the 1,255 acre Caumsett BCA is predominately oak-tulip tree forest. Other habitats include successional old field, low salt marsh, marine eelgrass meadow, maritime beach, successional shrubland and salt shrub (Evans et. al., 2002). This site supports a high diversity of migratory birds, including several species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern in New York State.

Breeding birds at Caumsett include several species of conservation concern in New York such as osprey (special concern), piping plover (state endangered and federal threatened), common tern (threatened) and least tern (threatened). Other state-listed species observed at Caumsett include common loon (special concern), bald eagle (threatened), northern harrier (threatened), sharp-shinned hawk (special concern), Cooper's hawk (special concern), northern goshawk (special concern), red-shouldered hawk (special concern), golden eagle (endangered), peregrine falcon (endangered), short-eared owl (endangered), whip-poor-will (special concern), red-headed woodpecker (special concern), vesper sparrow (special concern) and grasshopper sparrow (special concern).

Caumsett State Historic Park is a natural area, historic site and educational facility. The Historic Park was formerly the estate of Marshall Field III. It served as a country club, hunting preserve, farm, and home. It offers a variety of education and recreation programs including fishing, hiking, birding, nature photography, nature study and guided tours. Caumsett also houses the Nassau BOCES Outdoor and Environmental Education Program, the Volunteers for Wildlife Hospital and Education Center, Willow Tree Farm Equestrian Center, and the Lloyd Harbor Historical Society.

Caumsett BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Caumsett BCA

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Location: Suffolk County, Town of Huntington

Size of Area: ~1,255 acres

DEC Region: 1 OPRHP Region: Long Island

Vision Statement: Recreational and educational opportunities and access will continue in a manner consistent with conservation of the diverse assemblage of bird species using the area for breeding or during migration. This area will also serve as an important resource for research into the conservation of endangered and threatened species and for environmental interpretation and education.

Key BCA Criteria: Migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; and species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.e-h). The site supports a high diversity of migratory birds, especially forest dwelling Neotropical migrants. Breeding birds include several species listed in New York as endangered, threatened or of special concern: osprey (special concern), piping plover (state endangered and federal threatened), common tern (state threatened) and least tern (state threatened). Other state-listed species observed at Caumsett include common loon (special concern), bald eagle (state and federal threatened), northern harrier (threatened), sharp-shinned hawk (special concern), Cooper's hawk (special concern), northern goshawk (special concern), red-shouldered hawk (special concern), golden eagle (endangered), peregrine falcon (endangered), short-eared owl (endangered), whip-poor-will (special concern), red-headed woodpecker (special concern), vesper sparrow (special concern) and grasshopper sparrow (special concern). Piping plovers have nested at Lloyd Point since at least 1988 with up to 13 nesting pairs. Least terns have nested nearly every year since at least 1977 with up to 100 pairs breeding at the Point. Common terns first nested in 1998. Protection and management of nestlings and fledglings of these species at risk is done by State Parks. All three of these species are surveyed annually as part of the Long Island Colonial Waterbird and Piping Plover Survey.

Critical Habitat Types: Significant ecological community types have been identified by the scientists within the New York Natural Heritage Program, including coastal oak-hickory forest, oak-tulip tree forest, maritime beach and low salt marsh. The maritime beach is the fourth largest of six documented in the state and is a high quality example of this habitat. It is also the nesting area for piping plovers and least terns. The oak-tulip tree forest within the park is outstanding; the occurrence at Caumsett is likely the state exemplary of this type (Evans et. al., 2002). These communities contribute to the diversity of breeding and migratory birds at Caumsett and to the presence of several species of state and federally listed endangered, threatened and special concern birds.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Management of the BCA will safeguard and enhance populations of wild birds and the habitats that the birds depend upon for breeding, migration, shelter, and sustenance.

    Some areas of beach at Lloyd Point are becoming heavily vegetated with seaside goldenrod, resulting in less suitable habitat for nesting by piping plovers, least and common terns. Research to determine and map the extent to which vegetation has encroached upon the habitat over time will be encouraged. Steps will be taken to restore habitat to its historic condition. Where appropriate, enhancements will be made to improve the area of suitable habitat.

    The establishment and spread of invasive species is considered the greatest threat to natural communities within the Caumsett BCA. State Parks will monitor and control the spread of exotic species within the natural communities of the area (Evans et. al., 2002) with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy's volunteer Weed Watchers program. Control to protect habitats critical for breeding and migratory birds will consist of mechanical means. Other means necessary may be considered in consultation with the Environmental Management Bureau. In particular, steps will be taken to control the encroachment of vegetation into feeding and nesting areas of piping plovers and common and least terns along the state owned portion of the cobble/sand spit extending south and west from the mainland. The region's plover stewards should continue to monitor the adjacent private land with the permission of the landowner.

    Predation by gulls and crows has become a problem for nesting piping plovers and least terns. State Park plover stewards educate boaters who access this site about the importance of removing garbage and food items that attract avian predators, from the beach when they leave. Continue to use exclosures to deter aerial and terrestrial predators. Plover and tern protection will continue by State Park stewards, DEC and the USFWS. Protection measures will be done in a manner consistent with the Piping Plover Atlantic Coast Population Revised Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996).

    There is a small population (2-3) of feral cats at the equestrian center about two miles from the piping plover nesting area. Parks staff has monitored the range of the feral cats (initial monitoring indicates a range of approximately ¼ mile) and their potential impact on wildlife including birds. If it is documented that they are causing adverse impacts in areas remote from the equestrian center, steps will be taken for their removal/management, in consultation with appropriate agencies.

    Continue to protect shorebird habitat.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    90% of all fields are left unmowed for birds and other wildlife habitat. In the fall, 50% of the fields are mowed on a two year rotation. To the extent possible, mowing will not occur until after birds have fledged their broods, preferably after August 15th.

  • Identify state activities or operations that may pose a threat to the critical habitat types identified above; recommend alternatives to existing and future operations which may pose threats to those habitats.
    Whenever possible State Parks will allow beaches and dunes to undergo changes due to natural processes that occur with storms and high tides. Implementation of appropriate restoration projects could raise the overall quality of this area (Evans, 2002). Plank Road is in a significantly deteriorated condition. Restoration of this historic feature will ensure the historic integrity of this area, as well as allow access by park and emergency personnel. It also offers park users an alternative to walking along the shoreline, thereby reducing pedestrian traffic near nesting areas of plovers and terns.

    State Parks will minimize activities that alter the natural hydrological processes of the salt marsh communities. We will avoid filling, draining and ditching activities in and around the salt marsh communities. Restoration activities will be considered where practical. (Evans, 2002)

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    Colonial waterbird surveyors have noted a high incidence of boaters coming ashore in the "Sand Hole" area, sometimes bringing their dogs and/or walking within fenced off areas. (Evans, 2002) State Parks' current efforts have kept encroachment to a minimum and plover productivity has remained high. If monitoring of activities in this area reveals that plovers or other species are being disturbed, additional efforts will be made to discourage encroachment. We will encourage the establishment of a volunteer program to assist plover stewards in the monitoring of endangered and threatened species and the education of the general public using those areas.

    The impact of environmental education activities in the saltmarsh is kept to a minimum through a permit system for access to the marsh. There has been some erosion and compaction of soils in the salt marsh due to use by numerous school groups each year. If necessary, additional steps should be taken to minimize impacts to this fragile area.

    Current and traditional uses will continue, including those uses and services provided by any concessionaires pursuant to existing contracts.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Current park regulations do not allow vehicles on trails or roads except by special permit. The park is open from sunrise to sunset daily.

    Symbolic string fencing is put up along the beach area before the plovers return for the nesting season. Continue to put up string fencing in a manner that allows public access. The string fencing may be moved during the season to best accommodate both plovers and park users. The Regional Environmental office is looking into designing a boardwalk trail into the saltmarsh and dune areas to protect and interpret this ecosystem.

    Contact the town of Huntington to request that pump boats visit the Sand Hole on a routine basis.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Educate park users about the sensitive nature of endangered and threatened nesting birds in order to provide better protection for the piping plovers and least and common terns that use the site. Encourage stewardship to protect the dunes and beach areas.

    Education by plover stewards is key to reducing incidents between plovers and boating activities. Continue distribution of informational brochure on piping plovers and colonial waterbirds at Long Island State Parks that support protection of these species.

    Interpretive materials about the diverse bird species will be developed. Develop informational/interpretive signs that can be placed next to sensitive areas. Update existing bird checklist. State Parks will partner with Audubon New York and local bird clubs on interpretive programs and inventories.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Consider the addition of a staff person for endangered species research and monitoring on a regional basis.

    Monitor and control the spread of exotic species within the natural communities of the area. Control will consist of mechanical means or other means necessary to protect habitats critical for breeding and migratory birds.

    Inventory of bird species is important to establishing a baseline. Periodic inventory will serve as a comparison with this baseline. Monitoring will have a focus on federally and/or state-listed species.

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Ray Perry, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Gary Lawton, OPRHP, Long Island, phone: 631-581-1072
Leonard Krauss, OPRHP, Caumsett State Historic Park, phone: 631- 423-1770

Burger, M.F. and J.L. Liner, 2005. Important Bird Areas of New York, 2nd Edition, Habitats Worth Protecting. Audubon New, Albany, NY

Evans, D.J., P. G. Novak and T.W. Weldy, 2002. Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Caumsett State Park. New York Natural Heritage Program, Latham, NY.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) Atlantic Coast Population Revised Recovery Plan.

Wells, J. V. 1998. Important Bird Areas in New York State. National Audubon Society, Albany, New York.

Date Designated: 09/25/06