Nickerson Beach, Long Island, New York
Location Guide to photographing
Full disclosure: This post contains references to products from Amazon.com and I may receive small compensation when you purchase product via included affiliate links.
This is only the remainder of the old version of this free guide, left for future reference.
For the newest version of this guide,
please follow this link:
Slowly, I’ll be removing the information from this site as I continue to work on updated version of this guide.
Newest version ( https://www.greggard.com/blog/nesting-shorebirds-nickerson-beach-long-island-ny-photography-guide ) includes:
Updated information on the Nickerson Beach (with a new map coming shortly)
Updated information on how to time your visit depending on what species you want to photograph
New section - FAQ (frequently asked questions) - where I answer most often asked questions. Didn’t find an answer to your question? Feel free to submit it in the comments section
Original Location Updates from 2016, 2017 seasons. This season updates are available, here: https://www.greggard.com/location-updates/nickerson-beach-ny-2019
Once again, please click on this link:
to read the newest version of this guide:
Before I share the information on this location, I need you to agree to the following:
First and foremost, please respect the birds!
You are just a guest on their property.
Do not cross protective boundaries surrounding the colonies and do not approach adults nor young birds at the close distance, especially when they are close to the waterline and/or walking with chicks along the beach. On hot, summer days, young birds can be very exhausted and any unnecessary disturbance can have fatal consequences.
Do not “chase” the young if found outside the roped off area. Give them some space, and time, to return safely to the colony or their parents. When chicks are alone, outside the colony, they are an easy target for predating gulls. It happen very often.
Be respectful to other photographers that were on the beach before you!
If you see someone lying on their stomach close to the birds, most likely he/she spent time, and effort, to get to this position and to gain the trust of birds that they are photographing. Do not stand run/walk fast towards them nor stand behind them. This will most likely flush the birds they are photographing, ruining the opportunity for all. It can also cause unnecessary arguments. Try to make an eye contact with that person and approach when given the permission, by moving slowly and as low to the ground as possible. You will be rewarded with great opportunity of getting close to the birds, as well as making a new friend :) Most of the people that I've met there are very helpful and are happy to share tips.
Many of us have heard about some famous birding/photography location but never could make a trip there. Either we couldn’t find enough information about it or we couldn’t spend hundreds/thousands of dollars on a photography workshop that would guide us around. Often, these places are in a different state and many of us cannot afford to travel to unknown location just to "waste" valuable time, and money, on research of the location which often ends with coming back home empty handed. One of these locations happens to be the Nickerson Beach, which is located 50 miles from where I live. I made it a summer tradition to visit it several times during the peak season and decided to finally share my thoughts and observations on this spectacular place.
Nickerson Beach is located in Lido Beach, Long Island, New York. (Google Maps: http://bit.ly/29GJyic)
Use this address for directions in your GPS: 880 Lido Blvd, Lido Beach, NY 11561
It is the most popular beach, on the East Coast, to photograph large breeding colonies of Black Skimmers and Common Terns. Additionally, you can find there breeding pairs of American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers and Least Terns. In late Summer, you can also find migrating shorebirds feeding/resting along the beach as well. These are Red Knots, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings just to name a few :)
For breeding colonies, you have excellent opportunity to photograph these birds engaging in courtship, breeding, feeding young, flight etc.
Saving your money on tolls and fees?
If you are coming from another state, you can easily save money on some tolls. Not all, but some MTA bridges like Throgs Neck Bridge or Triborough Bridge (each way costing $8.50) can be avoided by simply selecting "Avoid tolls and highways" in Google Maps app: avoid tolls. In my case, it adds additional 10 minutes in the morning and about 25 minutes on my way back, but saves me $17 per trip! Multiplying this by at least 8 trips a season, I'm able to save over $130 on this simple adjustment ;)
Admission fee of $35 to the beach, is collected between 9AM and 4PM (as of the season 2018). In the previous years, toll booths were open as early as 8AM and as late as 6PM. I will try to keep the hours updated often.
Tips on getting the best photographs:
The "secret" to get the most pleasing photographs of birds, is to photograph them at their eye level (more on this technique coming soon), with the sun still low on the sky and behind you. To achieve this, it is best to arrive early or stay until sunset. Make a plan to be on the parking lot before the sunrise. This will give you time to use a restroom, prepare your gear and head towards the beach. The path to the biggest colony (Area A on the map aka East Colony) is located right next to the restroom. The walk from the parking lot shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to get to the area were the birds are. Most of the walking is on the sand. It may be strenuous for some, so please plan accordingly. Arriving early will allow you to get familiar with a place and to find the best spot along the roped off area. Nesting areas are roped off to protect the birds. Please be sure to respect these boundaries and do not go beyond these demarcations. This is a very special place that we are privileged to be able to visit and photograph, and some of these birds are threatened/endangered. If authorities see disturbance at the nest site, they move the ropes further away from the birds “punishing” us for bad behavior. If you stay low to the ground, and be quiet, most likely birds will get accustomed to you quickly and will get closer. This is the key to get that perfect photograph! Let the bird to know that you are no harm and it will get comfortable with your presence. How comfortable? On many occasions I had a couple days old Common Tern chick walking up to me and resting next to me, taking advantage of the shade created by my body :) It is also possible that you will find some birds outside of the ropes. Please give them a space. Do not approach to close and do not run in their direction! As with any wildlife, it is always best to approach these birds slowly, very low to the ground. If you see any photographers already laying down and photographing birds, please do not walk up to them. Approach slowly, make an eye contact and wait for their permission to approach. You never know how much time they spent to get to this position and you can ruin their efforts in a second.
Planning a longer stay?
Unfortunately, I do not have any personal experiences and at the moment I don't have any recommendations for hotel stays in the area. I'm hoping to get this info up here soon though. At the moment, I would advise to use your favorite hotel chains or/and use the Trip Advisor or Yelpfor hotel reviews. Or if you prefer, Airbnb. Also don't forget to use Yelp for food recommendations in the area ;) There are some great seafood restaurants nearby with two at the Point Lookout, NY (just 10 minutes from the beach).
Keep in mind that there is a campground on the premises. I only see RVs there, I've never saw a tent though. If you are interested in camping, call the park office for more information: https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/2802/Nickerson-Beach-Park
Need personal guidance?
If you would like to have more guidance with your visit to the beach and more help with your photography, I know couple of excellent photographers that would gladly provide/conduct a workshop for you. Just keep in mind that the average rate is $300 for half a day or +$80 per hour (3 hours minimum). Some photographers offer multiday workshops but these start at +$1000. If you are interested in any workshops, let me know via email (greggardphoto at gmail.com)
By not buying this guide (~$50), by not paying admission fee ($35), by avoiding tolls (at least $8.50 one way) I saved you at least $93. If you come more than once, you will save a lot on just not paying admission fee. I hope you will appreciate these savings :) In return, I would appreciate if you could share this post with everyone that may be interested in photographing or watching these nesting shorebirds. Share it on any social media outlet you use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, anywhere you like. Don't forget to tag me so I can see your shots :)
Additionally, I would like you to make it a habit of purchasing any items on Amazon via my affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2alLCx2 Just save it in your bookmarks/favorites and shop away :) Remember, that the cost for you stays the same. I will simply receive a small percentage of a total you pay. No personal data is shared with me either. Not only you will help me to update this post more often, to create more helpful content but also you will help me to make a bigger donation to The Raptor Trust at the end of the year!
Please tag me in your social media posts from Nickerson Beach! I want to see your photographs :)
You can find me on:
- Instagram: greggardphoto
- Facebook: greg.gard.9
- Twitter: newtobirding
- Flickr: greggard
If you are not an Amazon Prime member yet, I would strongly recommend trying it out! With Prime membership you are getting not only free 2-day shipping but also free video and music streaming, free electronic versions of many books and magazines and one very important feature for photographers: free unlimited photo storage.
You can try it out for 30 days, absolutely free!, by using this link: amzn.to/2hE7sTL- I highly recommend it! It is absolutely amazing what you are getting with this membership. Think about it, you can backup all your photographs to the cloud! I bet you won't find an Unlimited photo storage at this price with so many other benefits 😊
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Have more time and want to discover new birding spots in New York City and on Long Island? Check out this book "Birdwatching in New York City and on Long Island" - http://amzn.to/2f9mEHt It covers the latest information on many birdwatching locations in the area: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County.
Did you find this guide helpful? What should I change?
What did you see interesting at the Nickerson Beach today?
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If you are interested in discovering new locations in NJ/NY area, check out my other Locations Guides below
After receiving numerous requests over last couple of years, from all over the world (yes, I had people contacting me from countries across the Atlantic Ocean :) ), on when, where and how to shoot at the Nickerson Beach, I decided to finally share my knowledge on this location. I debated for long time if I should write it. I know that some local photographers will be against it. Truth to be told, Nickerson Beach is a very well known place to photograph nesting shorebirds and it is not a secret place that one may think it is. It is a beach that sees heavy foot traffic every day during summer days. Additionally, nesting areas are well protected, and frequented by volunteers. All these people keep a watchful eye on birds and intervene quickly in case of any misbehavior. Knowing that there are many people around at all times, I believe that there will be no harm nor foul play caused by this blog post. Actually, I hope that it will bring some education and more respect for birds, and will help those making once in a lifetime journey, to this spectacular place, to me more fruitful.
The main goal of this blog post is to create the best guide on photographing breeding colonies at the Nickerson Beach! To accomplish this, it will be run in an “open source” style, meaning, everyone can contribute to it! I’ll be glad to hear what you saw on your recent visit there. I will be updating it after each visit, so please come back often to see what we all have seen there.
Contrary to all other guides/ebooks that you can find online, I won’t be charging any fees for this information. The common price for a 10-15 page ebook, where 70% of the content are just photographs, is at least $50! Most of them are written several years ago and are not being updated! Believe me, I was burnt multiple times by purchasing an ebook from a well known photographers only to find out that the information in their guides was from 5-8 years ago and no longer valid! And since this was an ebook/electronic file, there were no refunds! Shame on them...
My guide is completely free and will be updated frequently during the peak season. Additionally, the more people contribute, the more up to date it will be! Do not worry, I will be updating it at least 8 times per season myself. Here, you will find the latest news, on what it is seen and what is happening at the Nickerson Beach. I can make this happen only with your help. Please come back often and leave your observations in the comments section or simply email me (greggardphoto at gmail.com). If you find this information useful, and would like to help me create more content like this, you can shop on Amazon via my affiliate link. By doing so, I will receive a small portion of the total off your purchase. You will not pay more than regular price. All prices stay the same! Be assured that no private information is shared with me either. Amazon does it for millions of people and charities!
I would appreciate if you'll make it a habit of shopping on Amazon via my link from now on: http://amzn.to/2alLCx2 It doesn’t matter what you buy and how much you spend. It all counts! Keep in mind that large portion of the proceedings from this link, I will be donating this year to The Raptor Trust (http://theraptortrust.org)