Northeast Coastal Areas Study
Significant Coastal Habitats
Site 12 (NY)
I. SITE NAME: Noyack Bay Beaches
II. LOCATION: This beach complex is located on the inner South Fork bay shoreline of eastern Long Island on Noyack Bay, west of the Village of Sag Harbor.
STATE: New York
USGS 7.5 MIN QUADS: Greenport, NY 41072-13; Southold, NY 41072-14; Sag Harbor, NY 40072-83
USGS 30x60 MIN QUADS: Long Island, East 40072-E1; New Haven 41072-A1
III. GENERAL BOUNDARY: This habitat complex essentially consists of the narrow beach shoreline area, associated tidal wetlands and adjacent nearshore waters of Noyack Bay and a small area of Little Peconic Bay out to approximately 0.25 miles (0.4 km) from the shoreline from Jessup Neck (Morton National Wildlife Refuge) east to Short Beach on the North Haven Peninsula, an east-west distance of approximately 3 miles (5 km). There are 5 distinct beach units comprising this complex. These are, from west to east: 1) Jessup Neck; 2) Clam Island; 3) Pine Neck; 4) Long Beach; and 5) Short Beach.
IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTED STATUS: Mostly public lands, including Federal, County and Town ownership and Public Trust waters.
V. GENERAL HABITAT DESCRIPTION: Primary wildlife habitats in this complex are linear stretches of sparsely to moderately vegetated sand, gravel or pebble beaches and dredge spoil deposits. There are also small acreages of salt marsh dominated by cordgrasses (Spartina alterniflora and S. patens) as well as upland woodlands and shrublands along the beach and marsh borders. There is considerable residential development in this area, particularly in the vicinity of Pine Neck and Long Beach. Tidal range in Noyack Bay is 2.3 feet (0.7 meters).
VI. SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF AREA: The beaches are of regional significance as nesting habitat for piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a U.S. Threatened species, and least tern (Sterna antillarum), although in recent years the concentration of and use of these areas by least terns on these beaches has been quite variable, perhaps the result of disturbance or vegetation changes, or some combination of these. Jessup Neck is used by common terns (Sterna hirundo) and roseate terns (Sterna dougallii), a U.S. Endangered species, as a staging area in the spring, though neither has nested in recent years. Sea-beach knotweed (Polygonum glaucum) occurs on these same beaches in a few areas, often in large numbers. The marshes and nearshore waters of Noyack Bay support nesting osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and Northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys t. terrapin), and there is moderate use of this area by American black duck (Anas rubripes), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) and oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis). Recent studies have indicated that the waters and bay bottom between the two forks of eastern Long Island may serve as important summer feeding and nursery areas for juvenile Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), a U.S. Endangered species and one of the rarest sea turtle species. More work is needed, however, to determine the extent and significance of these areas to Kemp's ridley and other sea turtle species.
VII. THREATS: Of greatest concern to significant wildlife in this area are human-related disturbances at nesting beaches of piping plover and least terns during the critical nesting season (mid-April to August). These disturbances include trampling of eggs and nests from picnickers, beach walking and boat landings, off-road vehicle use and unleashed pets. The beaches are heavily used recreational areas, except at the National Wildlife Refuge at Jessup Neck. Vegetation changes at some beaches may also be contributing to unsuitability of the sites for nesting. Heavy beach use may also be expected to impact populations of sea-beach knotweed as well.
VIII. CONSERVATION CONSIDERATIONS: High priority should be given by governmental officials and resource managers, in cooperation with private landowners and conservation organizations, to protection of the nesting beaches identified in this complex, including those which have not been recently occupied even though suitable habitat appears to still be present. It is especially important to maintain the full continuum of beaches in this complex and similar nearby beach complexes as part of a regional or subregional metapopulation, or a larger group of interactive and interbreeding small local populations and associated habitats. Protection of these sites during the critical nesting period should employ all available means of excluding humans and pets from these areas, including fenced exclosures, posting, warden patrols, pet/predator removal and public education. Efforts should be made to identify and implement those tasks and objectives of the piping plover recovery plan that may be applicable to the beaches in this area, including habitat restoration and identification/protection of important feeding areas. Protection and maintenance of the water quality of Noyack Bay and adjacent wetlands through diligent monitoring is necessary to ensure the continued high value of these areas to fish, wildlife and plant populations dependent upon them.
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