This site is a wildlife sanctuary located in a heavily urbanized area
along the north shore of Long Island Sound. The central habitat
feature is the 80-acre Playland Lake, a brackish lake located within
Rye Playland amusement park. The area also includes a one-quarter
mile stretch of shore with a rocky intertidal community on Long
Island Sound, two miles of walking trails through various successional
states of maritime forest woodlands, wetland and open field habitats,
and informal gardens. The site is owned by the Westchester County
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation.
The site hosts a remarkable diversity of migrant and wintering birds.
The lake is an important wintering area for waterfowl, harboring
thousands of birds in mixed species flocks. The area is particularly
important as a wintering area for Greater Scaup, supporting 8-10% of
the state?s wintering population of the species (5,500 in December 2004).
Other waterfowl species observed include White-winged Scoters, Surf
Scoters, and Northern Gannets (100 individuals offshore in 2004).
The site is used as a foraging area for healthy numbers of wading
birds (50-100 individuals at a time), including Great Blue Herons,
Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons (8
pairs). More than 290 species have been recorded here, and the site is a
migrant songbird stopover with records of many unusual species. Atrisk
species supported here include Common Loons (six in December 1994), Pied-billed Grebes (two in November 1996), Northern Harriers
(one in May 1995), Red-shouldered Hawks (one in November 1994),
American Woodcocks (at least three pairs), Common Terns (12 in July
1995), Black Terns (three in May 1995), Black Skimmers (two in June
1995), Willow Flycatchers (breed), and Yellow-breasted Chats (breed;
one in December 1995).
This site is listed in the 2002 Open Space Conservation Plan as a priority
site under the project name Westchester Marine Corridor. Overuse
by patrons of Rye Playland is a concern, and steps have been taken
to develop a more cooperative approach between the sanctuary and
the amusement park to increase sensitivity to the natural importance
of the sanctuary. A project led by the Army Corps of Engineers to
reintroduce tidal flow to the lake is being considered. Recent habitat
enhancements include dune restoration, spartina re-introduction,
invasive species management, and meadow restoration. Monitoring of
waterfowl and at-risk species should continue.