The Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge on Noyac Road in Sag Harbor is a place to experience nature close up. Located on the Jessups Neck peninsula, the 187-acre refuge is notable for its diversity of habitats, which include upland forest, fields, ponds, salt and freshwater marshes, sandy and rocky beaches, 3 miles of shoreline on the bay and also a lagoon. Established in 1954, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s home to a diverse variety of wildlife, and refuge staff are dedicated to conserving the wild population. Deer, wild turkeys, chickadees and black ducks are in residence year-round. In fall and winter there are ducks and other waterfowl. In spring the refuge comes alive with sparrows, cardinals and other songbirds migrating up from southern winter homes to spend the summer. Spring and summer also bring piping plovers to the beach, along with terns and ospreys.
Birdwatching is a favorite activity here during the warm months. And you will also see kids (and grownups) standing patiently along the edges of trails, holding out a handful of sunflower seeds in the hope of enticing a bird to take one. And often they will–it’s pure magic for kids (my son loved it when he was young). In fact, it’s such a popular activity that there are now signs posted along the trails reminding visitors to not leave any uneaten seed behind (it attracts rats and other damaging vermin).
The Morton Wildlife Refuge is a delightful place to visit, and I was happy to see it so well cared for years after my last visit. The Refuge opens a half hour before sunrise and closes a half hour after sunset. For more information, visit fws.gov/refuge/MortonWildlifeRefuge, or just search Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge online. If you go, bring binoculars and bug repellent, and be sure to stay on the trails. And enjoy spending time in nature!