Intergenerational Elderhostel

This is Jamestown Audubon’s first experience offering an intergenerational Elderhostel program.  The theme is insects, but participants will also take general nature walks and birding walks.  They will kayak in two different locations and take a ride on Chautauqua Lake on the Summer Wind.

I got to spend Sunday evening and a good chunk of Monday with our small but pleasant group.  Here are some highlights:

Sarah came along and calmed a Water Snake for a Close Encounter and some snake education:

Water Snakes have keeled scales which makes for a rough texture on top:

The belly is as smooth as can be:
The belly of the Water Snake is smooth as can be

We also saw a Garter Snake, Leopard Frogs, and Grasshoppers along the way, along with lots of funky fungi and strange parasitic wildflowers.

In the afternoon, the group proved to be rather adept at catching dragonflies. Here’s a Halloween Pennant:

And check out this mating pair of Eastern Forktails, caught in midflight:

So, welcome Elderhostel participants.  I hope you have a great week.  More pictures from the Elderhostel experience can be found here and will be updated throughout the week: FLICKR PIX

It’s Baby Animal Time

It’s baby animal time at Audubon!  And we’ve been finding many.  Last weekend, our first batch of goslings hatched during 60-80 degree weather.  Today, with temperatures back down in the 40s, they must be wondering what they were thinking hatching out this early!  Lucky for them, mom’s wings and warm body will provide protection.

Goose Family - there are six goslings!
Canada Goose Family


That really IS a baby turtle in Sarah's hand...

And what about those Painted Turtles?  How do they manage to stay underground all winter long, then find water once they hatch out of holes that are often rather far from the ponds?  They’ve been making a mad dash for the backyard pond over the last few days.

Baby Painted Turtle

They’re just so perfectly round when they first hatch out, aren’t they?

Two Baby Turtles

What Is Awesome?

ChipmunkSome of the children who come to Audubon live in rural settings not unlike what they will see on their field trip.  In addition, some come with their school classes every year.  It can be challenging to try to find something new and different, to elicit a “Wow!”

Yesterday I had a group that just made me smile.  It was the ESL (English as a Second Language) class from a local public school.  A couple of the students came last year.  Most had not been in the US for even a year yet.  One girl had just arrived from Puerto Rico earlier this week.

To these kids, everything was new.  Things that other kids consider common place were absolutely fascinating to them and elicited plenty of giggles and squeals and exclamations of “Wow!”

Before we even left the building we had already seen many of the usual backyard critters:  chipmunks, rabbits, and Canada Goose families.  The local kids nearly yawn at these…  Not so with this group:  pure delight at each discovery.

BullfrogThe herps at the pond were the biggest draw.  This poor frog was eventually caught and treated to high-pitched human screams.  After the students made several failed attempts to remove the frog from the net and hold him in their hands, the rather large fellow managed to escape back into the pond.

One of the boys was determined to catch and hold a snake.  At the spillway of Spatterdock Pond, we found several Northern Water Snakes.  Carlos asked if he could pick one up.  I explained that he could if he wanted, but…  Northern Water Snakes almost always bite when handled, and they have an anticoagulant in their saliva.  If one bites, you are likely to make quite a mess bleeding all over the place.  Northern Water SnakeHe decided to take his chances…  The female sat quite still, sunning herself on the branch throughout the entire effort.  She was very large and apparently intimidating because Carlos ignored her and tried for one of the smaller, though more active males.  Fortunately (for  the snakes) he was not successful in catching one.

Everyone loves to check the bird boxes.  One of the Tree Swallow boxes had 3 cold eggs.  The kids were astounded that I allowed them to hold one in their hands.  “They look like jelly beans,” I was told.

A good chunk of my job involves writing reports, keeping statistics, assisting with grants, recruiting and training volunteers, setting up programs, cleaning up programs…  The most satisfying part by far is taking the kids outside and showing them cool stuff.  The ones who find it familar aren’t quite as fun as the ones who find everything new, New, NEW…  but sharing nature with children…  it can’t be beat.
Checking the Tree Swallow Box

Botanist? Me?

Egg Masses in the PuddleA friend sent an email that accused me of being a botanist (…not that there’s anything wrong with that…)  because of all the pictures of flowers on my Flickr account.  I like flowers, but I’m afraid it would take an awful lot of study for me to become a botanist.

I’m not a herpetologist, either, but today, let me give you a couple of herp photos.  While walking the dogs in the woods, I ran across one of those amazing tire-track puddles that often teem with life at this time of year.  Garter Snake With Tongue OutIt was full of egg masses and tadpoles.  Boy is it ever hard to photograph through the surface of the water!

A little later on the trail, a fairly long garter snake appeared to be making its first appearance of spring.  Lethargic or stunned, it lay there so still I thought it might be dead.  When Lolli came near, the red tongue started sampling the air for scent particles.  I hoped for a photo as good as Jeremy Martin’s…  Alas, it was not to be, though mine isn’t terrible.  Lolli’s boyfriend, Mozart, was funny.  He has seen me with my camera before.  He acts as though he is terribly put out over having to wait while I snap a few shots.  He lay down right next to the snake and ignored it.

DecisionsWhen we reached the field we had to make a decision – home by the road, or through the horse pasture.  We chose the horse pasture… which meant I had to give Lolli a full bath with shampoo, and a breath mint.  What is it that makes her feel compelled to roll in that stuff?  And eat it?

There… a whole blog posting, and not a single flower!  Have a great day.

Just a Nice Spring Day

Maple BlossomYesterday made me irritable.  Don’t know why.  It was too hot for one thing.  I really like cooler weather.  Today was cooler, so I took a long leisurely walk after work with camera and no particular mission.

I wish I could record sounds for you.  The sanctuary was full of peepers, wood frogs, and plenty of birds – all calling “This is my territory!”  or “How about me, babe?”

Each day, something new is out…  plants sprouting, insects emerging, birds returning…  Today was a day that made me long for a longer lens.  So much I didn’t capture, except in my memory…  The ground bees bubbling up out of underground winter shelters, a groundhog ambling through the woods, a phoebe, hairy woodpecker, chickadees, a muskrat.

It was warm enough for a few turtles to be out basking.  Most dove into the water before I could get a decent shot.  But this one…Painted Turtle  I took a shot from several yards away.  Then I sneaked in closer.  I took another shot, then sneaked closer still.  Repeat.  Repeat.  This final shot was taken from less than a foot away.  The sound of my shutter didn’t seem to bother it at all.  And as I looked, I realized, the left eye was missing!  The shell was rather beat up, too.  Eventually, he turned his head toward me, looked right into the lens of the camera, then turned and dove into the water.  It was a nice close encounter.

Conewango FloodingIt bothers me that the Conewango River is still so high, backing water up into our woods.  The vernal pool is literally connected to the river because of the high water.  Uh oh… am I going to get irritable again over not being able to see the salamanders and their eggs?  I had better stop dwelling on it!