Allegany Nature Pilgrimage (Sort Of) – Bird Banding!

Sunday, June 1, 2008 – Bird Banding with Tom at CLDC (MAPS banding station)

Net CheckI (now) know that there is bird banding right at the Pilgrimage – right at Camp Allegany.  Ha ha…  Instead, we drove out to Tom LeBlanc’s (a.k.a. Mon@rch‘s) CLDC banding site… the long way through the park… I hadn’t had coffee yet to realize that going through the park would add several miles to our trip).  We took a wrong turn and drove places a 15-passenger van should never go.  Just don’t tell my boss…  or the parents of the children who went with me…

Tom is a great teacher and always let’s the kids have a hands-on experience.  Each of “my” kids got to release at least one bird.  Here they all are:

Karen and the Veery
Karen and Veery

Abbey Has a Towhee
Abbey and Towhee

Liz has a House Wren That Won't come out
Liz and House Wren

Eric and Common Yellowthroat
Eric and Common Yellowthroat

Emily and Goldfinch
Emily and Goldfinch

Emily's Goldfinch Won't Fly
Emily’s bird won’t fly…  I think she thought it was dead… But it wasn’t.  It eventually flew!

Jacob and Red-eyed Vireo
Jacob and Red-Eyed Vireo

The Red-eyed Vireo sat for while then nipped at Jacob before it flew
Jacob’s bird wouldn’t fly at first either.  Just before it finally DID fly, it turned and gave Jacob a little nip!

For Tom’s version of this story, click here:

Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Dragons!

May 31, 2008 – Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Dragonflies

Participants Posed for this PictureI couldn’t resist an afternoon looking for Dragons with Jeremy Martin.  I first met him at the Audubon when he was in the shop purchasing a dragonfly book…  We happened to be starting a new project with the Natural Heritage Program – a collaboration with the New York State DEC to do a state-wide Odonata Survey.  I found out that he already knew a good deal about dragons and damsels and he has turned out to be quite an asset to the project!  An engineer by trade, he does the dragoning on the side… and he does it with gusto. I wish I knew a tenth of what he knows!

Emerging DragonAnd I wish I had his luck:  As he was setting his books and equipment down near the site where the program was being held, there, right in front of his eyes, was a dragonfly emerging from the exo-skeleton of the larva.

Where some insects exhibit complete metamorphosis, dragonflies and damselflies (and several other aquatic invertebrates) exhibit incomplete metamorphosis.  In the complete version, an insect starts as an egg, hatches out as a larva, goes into a pupa, and emerges as an adult.  This is the classic insect life cycle that kids learn in school.  Insects that exhibit incomplete metamorphosis skip the pupal phase.  The last molt of the larva is not a pupa but the adult insect.

Exuviae - Three SpeciesThe shed exoskeletons are called exuviae (singular: exuvia).  We found several around the site – at least three different species: Common Baskettail, Springtime Darner, and Common Green Darner.

Jeremy was great about engaging even the youngest learner at his program.  Here, a young naturalist is using a landing net to scoop vegetation from the bottom of the lake.  He picks through the plants to find dragonfly larva:

Catching Dragonfly Babies

The Wings Popped Open While I was Taking PicturesAs I was kneeling down to take a few more shots of our emerging dragon, its wings popped open.  Then, everybody wanted a picture.
Then Everyone Wanted Pictures
Poor Toni.  The darned darner flew before she got her turn!

Luckily, Jeremy nearly netted another a few moments later.  Nearly netted?  Yeah… he knocked it into the water, then scooped it up with the landing net… not the normal way to catch a flying dragon!  Lucky, though, because it was stunned and allowed us to put it on some plants and take loads of pictures before it recovered and flew off.  And this time, Toni got her turn!

Toni at Work

Here’s my shot of the Springtime Darner:

Springtime Darner

Thanks, Jeremy, for a great workshop!  Apparently, Jeremy had emerging dragons on his second program of the weekend, too.  I wonder if he contracts with Odonata Central and how much he has to pay to get larva to emerge on command?…

There are many sides to every story.  Pop on over to read other accounts of this same event:



Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Old Growth Forest Walk

May 31, 2008 – Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Old Growth Forest Walk

Tom Tells about a Very Old Beech Tree - But we're not in the Old Growth Forest yet...Tom LeBlanc (a.k.a. Mon@rch) led a walk to an Old Growth Forest on Saturday morning at the Pilgrimage.  It was a pleasure to attend a program by a friend and fellow blogger, and to meet another fellow blogger who also participated – Toni from “A Spattering“.

The approach took us past some very large and fairly old trees, including some Striped Maples that were far larger than most Striped Maples ever get.  But this was not the Old Growth Forest!  Eventually, we got to a place where there used to be a ski slope until about the 1960s.

Heading Down an Old Ski Slope

There’s another part in the park where a tornado went through in the 1980s and knocked down a big section of woods.  That section is recovering rather well.  It's Hard to Photograph a 400 year old Tree in an Old Growth ForestThis ski slope, on the other hand, while changing slowly over time, has not caught up to the Tornado blow-down, even though it has had at least 20 years more to work on it.  We tossed around some ideas on why that might be…  Nothing conclusive…

At the bottom of the hill we found the old White Pines…  estimated to be in the neighborhood of 400 years old.  It’s not easy to take a photograph of these giants and give you any sort of sense of what it is like to stand under them.  You cannot see the tops of them.  In some cases, you cannot even see the lowest branch.  They are amazing.

Old growth forests are characterized by big trees, lots of diversity, a very high canopy, a forest floor that includes decomposition spawning new life, and several other layers of life in between.

One of my favorite finds was this porcupine tree:

The Porcupine Tree

A Porcupine Quill Makes a Great MemoryNo, there’s no tree called a porcupine tree!  This is a tree where a porcupine lives!  At the bottom of the tree was an enormous pile of scat with a few quills scattered about.  A couple dozen feet up was a hole where we assume the porcupine sleeps.  Look how proud this little girl is of the quill she found!

I made a mental list of the flowers we found along the way including White and Red Trilliums, Starflower, Mayapple, Canada Mayflower, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Dwarf Ginseng, Bluets, and Lowbush Blueberry.  I’m sure there were others… but that’s all I can remember now.

 I love Toni’s rendering of hike memories. I wish I could paint like this:

by Toni!

Anyway, it was a great hike (thanks, Tom!) and I plan to go back to this spot to explore more of the Old Growth Forest.  Just beautiful!!!

Read Tom’s version of the story here:

Read Toni’s version of the story here:

Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Fish!

May 30, 2008 – Introduction to the Fish of Allegany State Park

Tim Shows Northern HogsuckerTim Strakosh is a biology professor at SUNY Fredonia.  He is also husband to our part-time naturalist, so we at Audubon have had the pleasure of getting to know Tim a bit over the last couple of years.  Tim led a fish program at the Pilgrimage this year which I attended after the Plant Lore program.

As a fish biologist, Tim uses an electro-shock unit to stun fish temporarily.  Stunned fish are collected and identified, and certain data about each individual are recorded.  Tim and company (Suzi and Daniel) demonstrated how this is done.

Who You Gonna Call?

Aren’t they just stylin’ with their waders, gloves, hats and polarized shades?  I think they look like an aquatic Ghostbusters team.  Who you gonna call?

They caught several varieties of little fishes, whose names I cannot remember.  I attempted some photos through the plastic containers:

Little Fish 1

Little Fish 2

I was stunned, not by the electro shock machine, but by the realization that there a lot more kinds of fish than I ever realized.

The fish that surprised me the most was large.  I had never seen anything like it and was really almost shocked to think that it lives in the streams where I hike and splash and even swim!  Why have I never seen one before?

Northern Hog Sucker

Look at that mouth, will you!??!  And with a name like Northern Hog Sucker, I think I’ll be able to remember it!  It lives in fast-moving water and likes to eat aquatic invertebrates.  Isn’t it cool?

More on the Pilgrimage tomorrow!

Allegany Nature Pilgrimage – Plant Lore

May 30, 2008 – Plant Lore

I ate some of the new, tender leaves of Sheep SorrelAfter bird-banding with Tom, I managed to get to Camp Allegany just in time to be late for a “Plant Lore” walk with Kim Alexander-Thomson.  I missed the introduction, so I don’t know much about Kim’s background.  I googled her and found she leads nature programs in the Buffalo area…  That’s all I know.

The walk was very pleasant, informative, and delicious.  We learned about several common plants, their food and medicinal uses, and folklore about them.  Unfortunately, because I attended many programs after this one, I can remember very few of the stories…  if any…

English PlantainI jumped out of the car so fast that I didn’t even think about grabbing my camera.  I wish I had.  I wish I could show you a picture of the little one who kept asking Mom if he could please eat more of those Sheep Sorrel leaves.  He scraped up the side of his finger, or broke a blister or something…  He asked his mom if she had a bandaid in her wallet.  She said she didn’t, but she had just learned from Kim about nature’s bandaids.  She pulled up a leaf of Plaintain, squashed it a bit and wrapped it around his finger.  He was slightly disturbed that it didn’t stick like a real bandaid… But soon he was distracted by something else… and so it goes.

I think the best part of the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage is watching the kids learn and relate to Nature.