West Meadow Beach - Stony Brook, New York
Text and Photography by Wolfgang Wander
West Meadow beach, a peninsula located north-west of Stony Brook Village, was the site of a long legal struggle between residents of Brookhaven and occupants of 92 summer homes built during the 20th century on public park land. With the end of 2004 the most of the old make-shift cottages have been removed and the public land is yet again available to the public and more importantly to nature which seems to quickly take a firm grip on this beautiful park land.
The western part of the peninsula on the Long-Island-Sound is characterized by long (and rather rocky) beaches that extend long into the sound during low tides. The old access road to the former cottages (Trustees Road) is closed to all motorized traffic and is used by hikers, joggers, and cyclists for outdoor activities. The road travels along the old cottage lots that currently are either sandy or grown over with low bushes. Towards the east the area consists of mud-flats and marsh land along the West Meadow Creek. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization also offers boat cruises through these wetlands.
The park(ing-lot) is open to all Brookhaven residents during daylight hours, a rule that is rather strictly enforced during hot summer days, when the beach is heavily used by local residents. Photographers on the other hand arrive and leave early in the day and park officers probably will not ask for proof of residency during these hours.
Coming from the LI Expressway, take exit 62 onto CR-97-N (Nicholls Road) to its very end. Turn left onto Route 25a and right again after 0.5 miles onto Quaker Path. Follow Quaker Path for 1.2 miles and turn slightly left onto Mount Grey Road. After 0.7 miles turn left onto West Meadow Road which turns into Trustees Road after about half a mile. The parking lot is now on your right. (Google Maps).
As always, traveling along the roads of Stony Brook and Old Field will give you the opportunity to experience the finest in radar-based speed measuring equipment. Please obey the local speed limits and drive carefully.
Given the different habitats both a large variety of songbirds and shorebirds can be observed at West Meadow Beach. In the early morning hours you'll share the park with some fishermen but human activity is at its minimum while the light is golden anyhow.
Arrive about two hours before low tide for the shore birds. Black-Crowned Night Herons, Snowy and Great-White Egrets are flying in during that time to land around the southern tip of the northern sand bank that will rise from the water during low tide. Lots of small fish and sand worms seem to attract the birds to this spot.
In June you'll also be able to witness the mating of a bazillion of Horse Shoe Crabs and might stumble over one or the other turtle.
The southern flat extends deep into the sound and rises a little later than the northern ones. Since it's located next to a rather large protected nesting site you'll find Common and Least Terns and Piping and Semipalmated Plovers in this area.
Further south you might see some Canada Geese families and one or another Double Crested Cormorants coming from their nesting colonies at the Stony Brook Duck Pond.
The sandy bush areas along Trustees Road are populated with a large variety of song birds: Observed so far were
- Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows
- Yellow, Blue Winged and Prairie Warblers
- House and Carolina Wrens
- Yellow and Black Billed Cuckoos
- Brown Thrashers, Mockingbirds and Grey Catbirds
- House and Gold Finches
- Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers
- Baltimore Orioles
- Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Kingbird
While the mud-flats and marshlands around the creek are probably full of breeding birds, signs do advise us not to enter them. Instead about halfway down the road you'll pass a small building of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization followed by a direct view into the West Meadow Creek: Look for Herons and Egrets.
Also at the very end of Trustees Road one gets another clear view into the Creek with Herons and Egrets taking advantage of the tides.