Fine Day for a Walk

The only bad thing about a day like today is knowing how to dress. Highs predicted to be in the upper thirties with the “real feel” the same. When in doubt – go with layers.  I picked well.  The extra layers I carried in my pack were never needed.  Go me.

We had to pick a section of the park north of France Brook Road to avoid the hunters.  The Park used to always be “no hunting” on Sundays.  This year, though, hunting IS allowed on the Quaker side, south of France Brook.

We parked at a new (or at least new to me) marker commemorating the location of the first capture and release program of turkeys in the park.


According to the plaque, this is the site of the first trap and transfer program.  The sign reads, “Allegany State Park – Founding site for the N.Y.S. Conservation Dept. Wild Turkey Transfer Program. Birds trapped at this site helped reintroduce the Eastern Wild Turkey to the northeastern U.S. & southeastern Canada. 1959.”

DSC03058 Roads.jpg

We walked France Brook to the Horse/”Jeep” trail, then headed uphill.  After getting tired of walking roads, we headed toward the sound of a gurgling creek and followed that all the way down to Horse Trail 11 up above Camps 10 and 12, then followed it to Camp 12, and roads back to the truck.


There was no snow down at France Brook.  But as we climbed, the hills were covered.  Saw lots of colorful fungi, as well as some deer and coyote tracks.  But my favorite was the bear:

DSC03064 Bear Footprint.jpg

The walk was about 5 and 1/2 miles.  It was a good day.

And my new thermos worked!  Hot soup for lunch.

DSC03068 Lunch.jpg

(No, the color isn’t off.  It’s vegetarian borscht!)



P.S.  I love the new GPS I bought myself for my birthday last month.  It’s fun to turn it on and track my hikes.

Elk Field Trip Coming Up at Audubon!

Watch for this article in the Jamestown, Dunkirk, and Warren papers:


2012 Field Trip participants – viewing Elk

Visit the Elk with Audubon
by Jennifer Schlick

Every Discovery Walk at Audubon includes a visit with Liberty, our non-releasable Bald Eagle.  The children are always fascinated by her and full of questions.  Once I’ve answered their questions, I ask one of my own:  “How many of you have ever seen a Bald Eagle in the wild?”  Several hands go up.  It is now common to see Bald Eagles in our area; it was not when I was the age of these students.  It took habitat restoration, conservation laws, and reintroduction to bring the populations back up to sustainable levels.  With some groups, Liberty becomes the jumping off point for discussion of other species whose populations have fluctuated over the last few centuries.


It’s hard to believe that male elk shed and regrow a new set of antlers every year!

We talk about the fact that human activity is part of the cause for the fluctuations.  For example, cutting some timber while leaving stands of forest creates “edge habitat” that is ideal for some species such as Eastern Bluebirds, though tough on species that need large expanses of uninterrupted forest, like Scarlet Tanagers.  Cutting all the timber makes life tough on species that love edges and ideal for those that love wide open fields and meadows – like Brown-headed Cowbirds.  Every action has its consequences.

Next I might ask if any of the students have relatives or friends who hunt.  Again, several hands go up.  Do the hunters you know ever have any trouble finding deer?  No!  Most of the students have seen deer – often in their own backyards – even if they live in the city!  I tell them there was a time when that was not the case.  We talk about the kind of work done by conservation offices to make sure there will always be deer and other wildlife for our enjoyment and use, for observation and photography.  We talk about the fact that sometimes, the populations become too large and may cause damage to our crops or forests and that hunting is one way to keep the populations at a level that is good for the overall ecosystem.


Male elk keep a “harem” during mating season. Here, two females with one bull.

This history of Elk in Pennsylvania is another great example of how human activity led to the extirpation of the species – and how human activity brought Elk back to the area.  An article on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website by wildlife education specialist Joe Kosack begins by noting that “Eastern Elk once ranged… from New York to central Georgia.”  By the late 1870s the species was extirpated.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission was created in 1895 “to replenish and provide protection to many of the state’s low wildlife populations.”  In the beginning the commission concentrated on deer and turkey.  In 1913, attention was turned to Elk and the first shipment of Yellowstone Elk was brought to Pennsylvania.  Additional shipments from the west combined with strict hunting laws and limits have led to a healthy, sustainable population.


Several females – one sporting a radio collar.

Last year, I was lucky to attend Jamestown Audubon’s first field trip to Elk County to see the new Elk Visitor Center in Benezette.  It is a trip I will never forget.  First of all, the Visitor Center is beautiful and packed with lots of information about Elk and other wildlife of our region.  The highlight, though was driving along the roads at dusk and coming upon a herd.  We were close enough to hear the eerie “bugling” of the bull males as they called to females and announced their dominance over the other males.  It was fascinating to watch the males herd their females, sometimes “stealing” from other groups.  And you could notice different personalities among the males. Most seemed gruff and matter-of-fact, but one earned the name “The Gentleman” for the way he nuzzled the females in his group.  We stayed watching the herd until it was almost too dark to see them before heading back to Audubon.

Rick Rupprecht was our host last year.  A former resident of Elk country in PA, he now lives and works in Chautauqua County and volunteers for Audubon.  He’ll be leading the trip again this year on Wednesday, September 18, 2013.  Because Elk are most active at dusk, participants will leave Audubon at noon and return at approximately 10:30pm.  The cost to ride in the Audubon van is $35, or $30 if you are a Friend of the Nature Center.  Reservations are required by September 13 and you can register either by phone or online. Space is limited so call promptly.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.

Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.  For more information call (716) 569‑2345 or visit The Center is open daily from 10:00am until 4:30pm except Sundays when we open at 1:00pm. Trails are currently open from 9:00am until 6:00pm to avoid peak mosquito activity. Please use insect repellent.

ASP – Day Two

On my second day at the Park I decided to try a more challenging chunk of trail.  After all my troubles with my back and knees this winter, I was a little worried, but I managed OK!  I started at ASP 3 and hiked north along the North Country / Finger Lakes Trail.  This section of trail is very rocky at the beginning and very steep.  My heart was pumping hard!  Toward the crest the snow became deeper and covered the trail making my footing a bit unstable, so I turned back.  Still, I was on the trail for three and a half hours, taking loads of pictures – many of which I’m not ready to show… yet!

If hikes have themes, this hike was all about macros, scat, and butterflies.

Honey Mushroom rhizomorphs (Armillaria mellea)

A fallen log, covered with sapsucker holes that were beginning to be covered with moss.

I’m pretty sure this was fox scat.

And this is probably from a coyote.

I have no idea what this is, but there were at least a couple of piles of it and Lolli felt obliged to roll in it.  Very odoriferous!

There was also plenty of deer and turkey scat, which I didn’t photograph…

As the sun warmed up the air, the Mourning Cloaks began their bouncy flight all around me. Most of them teased and would not allow a photo. This poor tattered thing rested long enough for me to close.



Last week, long time friend and dedicated Audubon volunteer Rick led a fieldtrip to Elk County, Pennsylvania.  Rick grew up in St. Mary’s where we stopped to meet his parents and take a pit stop!  Then it was on to the (relatively) new Elk County Visitor Center in Benezette, PA, designed by Jamestown architects at Habiterra.  (Click a photo for a larger view.)

We were at the visitor center for only about an hour and a half – not nearly enough time to see everything there.  I never got into the Discovery Room, nor the gift store.  I didn’t have time to read all the amazing interpretation, or take the green building tour.  Rick treated us to the 20-minute movie about Elk in the object theatre – a little bit corny, but worth every penny and every minute.  It is a multi-sensory experience.  If you go, be sure to include it in your plans.  I’d love to say more – but no spoilers here!

After the movie, we headed down to the Benezette Hotel for a fine dinner and conversation.  We also met Eric there.  Eric is employed as a wildlife technician who tags calves and puts radio collars on adult elk.  He had secured permission from his supervisor to take us on some of the back roads where the public is not generally allowed, so that we could get a close look at some elk.








It was a day I will not soon forget! Many thanks to Rick, Eric, and to all the participants who filled the Audubon van and made the day so special!

Watts Flats Wildlife Management Area

Watts Flats WMA SignOne of the bird walks for Audubon’s spring birding series will be at the Watts Flats Wildlife Mangement Area. I decided to check it out today. I’m frankly kind of suprised I’ve never run upon it before this. It is so close, and so accessible.

We parked at a lot at the corner of Swede Road and Green Flats Road.

Before getting to the parking lot, we saw a mink bound over Swede Road in front of us. Later we would also see a muskrat, and plenty of evidence of beaver activity:

Beaver Activity

We parked close to Swede Road and walked Green Flats Road to the second parking lot. It looked as Green Flats Road is supposed to continue as a grassy trail.

Path to bridge

But the bridge and much of the trail was under water!

Bridge - flooded

We turned left instead and into the woods. The trail was wet – even covered with water in some places. But I could see it would be a very nice trail when the water goes down a bit. We hiked out until we got to a spot where the trail was covered with two feet of water, then turned around and back out to the car.

Along the way, we saw plenty of wildlife.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Garter Snake
Eastern Garter Snake

Canada Goose
Canada Goose

We also saw robins and crows, a red-tailed hawk, a pair of frisky kingfishers, and a very large bird that we could not identify. I swear it was shaped like a cormorant, but it was a light brown color. I heard red-winged blackbirds, but never saw one. Dozens of frogs jumped into the water before we could see what they were. And we even saw dragonflies – one was definitely a Common Green Darner. I suspect the other one was, too, but I couldn’t get a good look.

Plants were also plentiful, though not many in bloom yet.

Pussy Willows
Pussy Willow

Colt's Foot
Colt’s Foot

Ground Pine
Ground Pine

It was a very pleasant afternoon walk. I look forward to going back early in the morning in a few weeks as part of the birding classes. Hopefully the water will be down and we can hike around that pond.

Green Flats Road
Walking back to the car…

Gretchen Update

I wrote in December about a White-tailed doe that lives at Audubon, dubbed by one of our volunteers “Gretchen.”  I hadn’t seen her in a while and began to worry that she might have succumbed to our rather long and cold winter.


Can you see the long hoof? (Click for a larger view.)

Friday, I had to stay at the Center into the evening, and as I was setting up for a program, I saw her through the back window, cleaning out the bird feeders with her two youngsters.  Something strange caught my eye, and despite poor light conditions and fear that I would spook her, I tried to get a photo.  The hoof on her atrophied foot seemed long, like an untrimmed fingernail.

I took the first photo through the back window from near the stairs at the front of the building.  Then I started inching closer to the back window, hoping to get a clearer shot of the hoof.  Alas, she never turned just right to give me a proper view.  But I did snap these:

Gretchen stares me down.

"Gretchen" stares me down while one of her fawns cleans out the feeder behind me.

Our “three-legged deer” was at the feeders with two yearlings.  (Only one is pictured above.)  This seemed strange.  Earlier in the spring, we rarely saw her with two and suspected one of her twins had perished.  Maybe these two youngsters were not both hers?


"Gretchen" gives me one last wary glance before heading back to the brush.

Getting to Know (a) Deer

I remember getting off the plane as a 17 year old exchange student to Japan in the mid-1970s. I looked out onto a sea of people all wearing white shirts or blouses, black or navy trousers or skirts, all with black hair and dark eyes… If the person I was supposed to meet had not been holding a sign with my name on it, I would never have found him. There were no individuals… just a sea of sameness.

It took me several months of attendance in a college preparatory high school where everyone wore the same school uniform and carried the same book bag to train myself to see individuals. I had to learn to describe people not by hair color, but by the shape of the face… not by what they wore, but by the nature of a smile or personality or the sound of laughter. Learning to “see” people in this way was transforming for me.

Fast forward to 2010 when a note appeared on Audubon’s front door: “Wounded doe (left front leg) on Maple West Trail.”

I appreciated the visitor’s concern, and still I chuckled when I read the note which I realized had to refer to one particular white-tailed deer. Plenty of deer visit our bird feeders in winter at dusk to lick up the seed left uneaten by the birds and squirrels. It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between one individual and another. There is one, however, that we all know and love.

Three-Legged Deer

We first became aware of this doe in late 2006. We don’t know how old she was then – but she was certainly not a youngster. She was at least two, making her at least six now, but she could be older. White-tailed deer can live as long as fifteen years, though the average is two years for males and three years for females. We suspect “our” doe broke her left front leg attempting to get around in the unusually deep snow we had that winter. The leg dangled, useless and she hobbled around on her three remaining good legs. We were sure she would succumb to the elements or a pack of hungry coyotes.

Such was not the case.

Over time, the leg atrophied and now it looks as if she holds it folded up close to her body. She does not seem the least bit hampered by her “disability.” She gets around like any four-legged doe. A staff member saw her jump over the split-rail fence one morning when he drove in and startled her. And she doesn’t JUST get around. She GETS AROUND, if you know what I mean: She manages to give birth to twin fawns every spring.

Gretchen with one of her fawns - June 2010 - Photo by Terry LeBaron

Audubon volunteer and photographer Terry LeBaron has been observing “Gretchen” since 2007 when he gave her the name. Terry notes that she frequents the same spots and that he can find her in just about the same location each time he visits Audubon. That location? Maple West Trail – the same location noted by our concerned visitor. Deer tend to stay within territories of two to three square miles and use the same system of trails from feeding areas to bedding areas. As long as food and shelter remain constant, they will use the same territories or “deeryards” for years at a time.

We’ve grown rather fond of “Gretchen” and watch for her each winter. We delight in seeing her fawns each spring. She’s still around, and while she was injured at one time, rest assured, she is not wounded. A deer, made unique by injury, has become an individual to us and not just another face in a sea of faces. We are all better for knowing this particular deer.

When you walk the woods in winter, keep your eyes open for the many signs of white-tailed deer activity. Two-toed heart-shaped prints, sometimes punctuated with a couple of dots from the dew claws in the back. Torn twigs – the result of browsing when you have only bottom and no top incisors. Melted indentations in the snow where a deer slept. Buck-rubs – trees with bark removed by bucks rubbing the velvet off their antlers.

Animal Signs 1 December (13 of 74)
Left: Deer Browse; Right: Deer Bed

Audubon’s trails are open from dawn until dusk daily free of charge to the public, though donations are gratefully accepted. The nature center building is generally open Mondays and Saturdays from 10 until 4:30 when members and children are admitted free of charge and non-member adults pay only $5. Everyone is admitted free of charge on Sundays from 1 until 4:30.

Gretchen with her Fawn - September 2010 - photo by Terry Lebaron

We will observe special holiday hours Monday through Thursday, December 27th through the 30th from 10am until 4:30pm. Join us Wednesday from 10 until noon at Christmas for the Critters – a chance to meet our education animals up close and personal. Admission is $5 per person or an item from the animals’ wish list which you can find at our website

Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, NY and Warren PA. For more information call 716-569-2345.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon and never tires of looking for animal signs while out tramping in the woods.

Cross posted at Audubon’s Website.

Also: I used the same two opening paragraphs a while back to introduce another species. Did you read that post? Brownie points to the first person to list it in a comment below!

Guest Post

Well, friends, here is the final post in the Squirrel Saga, and an announcment! My friend finally has his own blog. Check it out:

Squirrel Wars – Part III

Well, friends, I have run headlong into Occam’s Razor. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a scientific theory which states that in a complex problem the simplest answer is most often the correct one. Now, I thought about all sorts of sophisticated solutions to my squirrel problem: new traps, different bait, further adjustments to the trap I already had. Thankfully, I never once thought of poison for these beautiful creatures of God. They are the acrobats of our Great Lakes ecosystem, after all.

Pha, a.k.a. Frankencat

Instead, I have created Frankencat. As you may recall, my last act of desperation was to tie my cat, Pha, on a short leash outside. Well, she is now totally spoiled and the leash has lengthened to about 12 feet. With this heat wave she has become so totally spoiled that she spends all day out there. She’s not interested in the birds, and they come and go as they please; she couldn’t reach them up on the feeders anyway. But the chipmunks and squirrels, which are ground travelers, are in total shock. I hear their angry chittering from the trees and bushes, and believe me, so does Frankencat. While she’s out, not a single mammal has dared step foot in my garden or the bird feeders. I’m sure they steal down after dark for a snack, but it’s nothing like it was, for me or for Pha.

So there you have it. The simplest answer was to put something higher on the food chain in their way, but we humans think we’re smarter than that. I’m not sure who Occam was, but I think he was a very wise man.