Jointly owned by Southold Town and Suffolk County, Ruth Olivia Preserve at Dam Pond spans over 25 acres of woodlands and substantial wetlands. The Preserve’s wetlands fringe Dam Pond, a large 41 1/2-acre brackish pond to the east. Shepherded by the Peconic Land Trust, the Ruth Olivia Preserve is part of a larger public/private conservation effort through which nearly 85 acres of land adjacent to the Preserve has also been protected. Hiking, Birdwatching, nature photography and nature study are among the many passive recreational uses visitors may pursue.
The Preserve’s two trails showcase the property’s natural treasures. The Old Farm Trail meanders through abandoned agricultural land that is now in its later stages of ecological succession whereby grasslands have given way to shrubs and trees. These types of old field ecological communities are common on Long Island. The Peninsula Trail follows the shoreline of Dam Pond, providing stunning views of the water and fringing salt marsh.
Dam Pond is a birding hotspot. during the spring, summer, and fall months, visitors may catch glimpses of osprey, egrets, herons, terns, warblers, and other neotropical migrants. In the winter months, waterfowl migrate from the North to southern climes including Dam Pond in search of reliable food supplies. Common Loons can be seen diving underwater for up to 3 minutes to spear prey with their sharp beaks. Seaducks such as the Hooded Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser dive and grasp fish with their long, narrow serrated bills. Also in the seaduck family, groups of Common Goldenye can be seen diving at the same time in search of food. Buffleheads are also frequent visitors to Dam Pond. As they are North America’s smallest sea duck, Buffleheads are commonly nicknamed bumblebee ducks! Dabbling ducks including the Mallard can be seen dabbling (moving their bills around the water while feeding) and upending (feeding upside down in water) to feed on submerged plants and small invertebrates.