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YOUNGS ISLAND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA: A manmade island featuring shoreline and migratory birds, and hunting & fishing.

In the middle of Porpoise Channel, in the Three Village area of Long Island (Setauket, Stony Brook, and Old Field), lies a 21-acre dredge spoil island that has become a haven for local and migratory birds. The Youngs Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) provides an escape from the bustle of a busy downtown--a place where people can enjoy wildlife-related activities such as fishing and waterfowl hunting.

Access to the island is by boat only (typically kayaks) and should be limited to the fall and winter seasons when local birds are not breeding on the island. Though relatively small, this WMA expands to nearly 100 acres when its adjacent mudflats are exposed at low tide, providing excellent wildlife foraging opportunities. Youngs Island WMA is part of an Audubon Important Bird Area (Nissequogue River Watershed and Smithtown Bay), and is a great location to spot long-legged waders, shorebirds, and most gull species. Seals have also been known to forage in the waters just off the shore.

Youngs Island was originally formed in the late 1950s when a channel was dredged out on the east side of the island to allow a second opening to Stony Brook Harbor. Because it was created through years of dredge placement, the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) initially had ownership and jurisdiction of the island. In 2010, after many years of monitoring bird activity there, DEC approached OGS to request a transfer of jurisdiction to ensure the protection of the species that utilize the island throughout the year. In 2011, the transfer was completed. This also allowed DEC staff to make habitat improvements, and Stony Brook University to initiate scientific research projects here.

The island consists of approximately 15 acres of woody vegetation, such as native red cedar and the invasive tree-of-heaven. The remaining 6 acres are broken up into open sand dunes with seaside goldenrod and low coastal shrubs, such as poison ivy and beach rose. DEC has taken an active role in improving the habitat by cutting and removing invasive woody species and providing more open sandy habitat for shore-nesting birds that use the island during the breeding season.

The island's proximity to Stony Brook Village and a local boat ramp makes it an ideal location for quality birding. The use of a good spotting scope can reveal a large array of bird species that utilize the island and associated bays throughout the year.

In winter, Youngs Island is an important resting stop for migrating waterfowl, particularly several species of special interest, including American black duck, lesser and greater scaup, mallard, canvasback, Canada goose, long-tailed duck, bufflehead, common goldeneye, American wigeon, and red-breasted merganser. Ice cover in the bays can influence the number of waterfowl species that use the bay complex.

During spring, the federally-listed piping plover (see sidebar) can be found using the significant nesting habitat located on the island. Youngs Island also provides habitat for nesting colonies of state-listed least and common terns, as well as hosting large nesting colonies of herring gulls, great black-backed gulls, great egrets, snowy egrets, and black- and yellow-crowned night-herons.

Youngs Island WMA is small in area, but big in diversity, and it's a great example of what a coastal dredge island can become with strong management and stewardship. This WMA will be providing quality opportunities for the public to view some of the island's iconic coastal species for years to come, and, if you love to watch piping plovers and other birds, it's well worth a trip.

If You Visit

Youngs Island WMA is only accessible by boat (primarily kayak). There are no amenities, but visitors can observe a number of wildlife species, including the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), which is endangered in New York and federally listed as threatened.

The piping plover is one of Long Island's most important shore-nesting birds. Spread out on coastal beaches and bay front areas, there are approximately 380 breeding pairs each year on Long Island, and their iconic call is a harbinger of the summer months. In the past, Youngs Island and the associated beaches and mud flats have provided productive foraging and nesting habitat for piping plovers. Two nesting pairs have consistently called Youngs Island home.

On warm summer days, kaykers can expect to see piping plovers and other shorebirds foraging out on the open mudflats that surround the island. DEC staff has taken on the management goal of increasing the open sandy areas where the piping plovers nest on the northeastern part of the island, which will improve nesting success.

For more information on piping plovers, check out www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7086.html.

And for more information about Youngs Island, call DEC's wildlife office at (631) 444-0310.

LOCATED OFF THE NORTH COAST OF SUFFOLK COUNTY, LONG ISLAND; SIZE: 21 ACRES

Caption: The island features 15 acres of woody vegetation and six acres of sand dunes.

Caption: Lesser Scaup

Caption: Bufflehead

Caption: Chip Hamilton is a Wildlife Biologist in DEC's Stony Brook office.

Caption: Yellow-crowned night-heron

Caption: Endangered piping plover

Caption: A visit to Youngs Island is an opportunity to see a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl species.
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Author:Hamilton, Chip
Publication:New York State Conservationist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2019
Words:854
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