What a great way to show our thankfulness this past weekend as Save The Great South Bay teamed up with the South Shore Audubon Society to remove invasive species at the Michael J. Sperling Bird Sanctuary in North Massapequa. Under the direction of the ecological restoration experts at Spadefoot Design and Construction, volunteers attacked the invasive species Mugwort.

According to Cornell Cooperative’s New York Invasive Species database, Mugwort  (Artemesia vulgaris) is an invasive perennial that is common in the eastern United States. Mugwort is native to Europe and eastern Asia, where it has historically been used as a medicinal herb. Seed may have been first introduced to North America as early as the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries in Canada.

It is a weed of nurseries, turfgrass, vineyards, waste areas, forest edges, and roadsides. Mugwort spreads aggressively through an extensive rhizome system and will readily form large, mono-specific stands.

Frank Piccininni, Director of Habitat Restoration, supported by his colleague Valerie, guided volunteers throughout the morning to help them identify mugwort and properly remove it.  “We love working with volunteers and educating them on the effect of invasive species on the mainland. With no natural enemies, invasives crowd out native plants which serve important ecological functions for our ecosystems,” said Piccininni.

In 2020, the Michael Sperling Bird Sanctuary was created by converting a Nassau County Stormwater Basin into a living tribute of native plants and wildlife habitat. To existing native oaks, cherries, and milkweed,  SSAS added Atlantic White Cedar, blight-resistant American Chestnut, and Hempstead Plains type grasses, all habitats that were once common but are now rare on Long Island.

Using native plants and trees, the Sanctuary provides habitat and food for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It attracts an array of fruit, nectar, and insect-eating birds at different times of the year. It also preserves the balance and beauty of the natural ecosystem and provides a critically needed open space refuge for songbirds that migrate annually along the Atlantic flyway, while reducing flooding in roadways, and channels precipitation back into the groundwater aquifer system.

Thank you to the volunteers who braved the cold to provide support to the Sanctuary.