Important Bird Areas

Orient Point and Plum Island

New York

This site includes land and water on the North Fork of Long Island,
extending from Orient Harbor to Plum Island and including Orient Beach
State Park. Between Orient Point and Plum Island lies Plum Gut, a deep
open water channel that links the waters of Gardiners Bay with the waters
of eastern Long Island Sound. The habitats of particular significance to
birds and other wildlife include barrier beaches, salt marshes, shallow
bays, and maritime forests. Plum Island has a mixture of rocky shoreline,
sand beaches, wetlands, and various upland shrub, grassland, and forest
habitats. Several regionally rare plant species occur here, including Scotch
loveage (Ligusticum scothicum), slender knotweed (Polygonum tenue),
and sea-beach knotweed (Polygonum glaucum). A stand of blackjack oak
(Quercus marilandica) represents the northernmost extent of the range of
the species. Orient Harbor supports a significant bay scallop (Aequipecten
irradians) commercial shellfishery and is an important spawning, nursery,
and feeding area for a variety of fish. The offshore waters, especially of
Plum Gut, host large concentrations of striped bass (Morone saxatilis),
bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), tautog (Tautoga onitis), summer flounder
(Paralichthys dentatus), and others. Plum Gut is a major migration corridor
for striped bass and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Ornithological Summary

Colonial breeding birds documented here during the 1995 NYS DEC
LICWPP survey included Great Egrets (18 pairs), Snowy Egrets (five
pairs), Black-crowned Night-Herons (14 pairs), Piping Plovers (five
pairs), American Oystercatchers (five pairs), Herring Gulls (2,608 pairs),
Great Black-backed Gulls (1,691 pairs), and Least Terns (23 pairs).
There were also 27 pairs of Double-crested Cormorants. Plum Gut,
between Orient Point and Plum Island, is a nutrient-rich upwelling
that is an important feeding area for Roseate and Common Terns
from the nearby Great Gull Island colony. Ospreys nest and forage in
the marshes here, and the area is an important waterfowl wintering
area with substantial numbers of Canada Geese, American Black
Ducks, Mallards, Canvasbacks, scaup, Long-tailed Ducks, scoters,
Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Red-breasted Mergansers.
Congregations-Waterbirds Terns
300+ Common and Roseate Terns courting and fishing in the area between Plum Island and Orient Point

Conservation Issues

This site is listed in the 2002 Open Space Conservation Plan as a priority
site under the project name Long Island Sound Coastal Area. Intensive
management efforts are needed to eliminate or minimize human
disturbance and intrusions into nesting colonies of terns and Piping
Plovers at Orient Point during the critical nesting season (mid-April
to August). Means to accomplish this include fencing, beach closures,
posting, beach warden patrols, and public education. In those colonies
where predation is a significant problem, whether from pets, feral
animals, or native species such as raccoons or gulls, predator control
programs should be undertaken. NYS OPRHP should continue
its stewardship program for Piping Plovers in cooperation with
The Nature Conservancy. Management plans should be developed
and implemented by state, town, and private conservation groups.
Increased development of the shoreline in the Orient Harbor area
could degrade water quality and the suitability of these waters and
habitats. Monitoring of at-risk species and waterfowl is needed.