Are you feeling cooped up, fed up? Are the kids making you crazy and you need to get out? After such a long winter, I confess that daily I watch the weather report with a glimmer of hope and a fear of snow. But until the birds are chirping, the flowers are budding and the morning air is mild, I think back to this winter and am appreciative that my family has had the Quogue Wildlife Refuge as a cheerful escape.
A place so close and so great to visit in any season, my husband, myself and our children are all happy to go and visit the animals that we have come to call by name, all while enjoying beautiful scenery and surroundings. And sometimes we bump into a few friends.
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge, founded in 1934 and located at 3 Old Country Road in Quogue, is 305 acres of protected land, with over seven miles of trails. It is a breathtaking backdrop in our own backyard. Along the trails and throughout the property you can explore a variety of habitats, including Pine Barrens, bogs, wetlands, a field, and a tidal estuary. An added bonus is that the main trail is wheelchair and stroller friendly, which allows toddlers in snow gear to be taken along for the adventure. As you walk along in winter, you may even see people on cross-country skis or snowshoes, which are rented free to members.
I admit that while my family is not always up for the hike, (although we are sure to hit the main trail for the fall foliage), we are sure to visit the Distressed Wildlife Complex.
This complex, which is located at the entrance of the QWR, houses animals that have been injured and would not be able to survive in the wild. My children adore visiting the Bald Eagle, Red Fox, Red-tailed Hawk, Bobcat, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, and the Peregrine Falcon. There are actually days when my son and daughter will wake and say, “I want to go to the “Owl-Life,” as they call it.
In addition to those winged friends, we are also always greeted by ducks and swans, and often chickens. In the warmer weather, my own personal favorite is the small pond near the entrence, which is home to large, camouflaged frogs that can be spotted through vigilant observation.
Especially, this time of year, when you need to warm up, you do not need to sacrifice gorgeous landscape by entering The Charles Banks Belt Nature Center. There, you will find a warm and friendly environment where you can observe wildlife through huge windows that overlook Old Ice Pond. You can watch the ducks and geese meander in and above the pond, view the two tortoises as they eat and sleep, and see the many swimming turtles, fish and crabs.
While inside, you can also enjoy a glimpse of “Paco” the chinchilla, or the bearded dragon, snake or lizards and caged insects.
QWR’s staff members are always eager to answer any questions.
The Refuge trails and Distressed Wildlife Complex are open every day from sunrise to sunset. The Nature Center has posted hours on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is often open all week.
Additionally, the QWR offers programs all year long including camps, hikes, lectures and the opportunity to adopt or become a pen pal with your favorite animal, which my own children and kindergarten class have really enjoyed.
There is no charge to enjoy this gem in our community, which we are so fortunate to have. Once you enjoy the QWR, I predict you’ll want to investigate how you can support their continued efforts to bring families together and to learn about and enjoy nature in their own backyard.