Jul 29, 2014

No. 76: Uplands Farm Nature Sanctuary

Grassy, open fields attract birds and butterflies as former dairy farm becomes a wildlife sanctuary.

The open fields and gently rolling hills of the Uplands Farm Sanctuary on Lawrence Hill Road give visitors a taste of quiet farm life in years past, when chirping birds provided the counterpoint to the day’s hard labor.

The fields of the former cattle and dairy farm are populated by grasses, wildflowers, butterflies, milkweed, raspberry canes and nesting boxes to encourage the Eastern bluebird to call the fields home. In late summer, visitors will see Monarch butterflies, and in spring the mountain laurel blooms.

The Long Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy has its offices in the former barn and farm outbuildings. The 92-acre Nichols dairy farm also sits next to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Agricultural Field Station.

According to a brief history on the Uplands Farm site, the farm’s gravelly, acidic soils are hard to fertilize, so raising livestock seems to have been preferable to cultivation. In Colonial times, the land was most likely used for sheep ranching for wool. In 1920, the Nichols family began raising cattle and then ran a dairy at Uplands Farm until 1962. Jane Nichols, a long-time resident and owner of Uplands Farm, donated three parcels of the preserve to the Conservancy. The sanctuary is dedicated to her memory.

When you turn into the farm, take the long, straight drive between weathered split-rail fences; the other left turn is a winding driveway that leads to the lab’s agricultural station.

A double-loop trail winds through the sanctuary, running from bird and butterfly meadows through deciduous forests into a ravine shaded by white pine.

As you walk along the wide, mowed paths, butterflies flit around the milkweed plants and rabbits hop out of the way. This is manicured nature. The marked, mostly level trail (2.41 miles) makes this a good place for family-friendly hikes.

The one-mile Daniel P. Davison Trail is a gentle walk with some slight hills that winds through the forest and along the open fields, bringing hikers to a stretch that runs along a split-rail fence that borders Lawrence Hill Road.

The longer West Loop is somewhat hillier and winds through woods and past a private residence. It connects with the 20-mile National Recreation Trail that is part of the Long Island Greenbelt, so ambitious hikers could take it to the Massapequa Preserve.

Along the side of the trails are fallen trees, called snags, which provide cover for animals. The Conservancy also is working to thin hedgerows to control invasive plants, and improve habitat for grassland birds such as the bobolink and meadowlark. Red-tail hawks, spotted salamanders, turtles and wood frogs populate the woods and fields as well.

Trees include red maple, tulip trees, black cherry, red cedar, oak, ash and hickory, along with a stand of white pines that shade a ravine.

Wear proper shoes for hilking, bring sunscreen, water and insect repellent, and bring binoculars if you have them. Admission is free.

The preserve, at 250 Lawrence Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor, is open dawn to dusk, for hiking only. No pets, horses or bikes are allowed.

The trail brochure notes that it’s advisable to do a tick check at the end of your ramble. A brief history, directions and links to the trail map are available here.

Stay tuned for No. 75 next week, same time same place, as Huntington Patch explores the places and activities in town.

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