Ah, Labor Day Weekend, a perfect weekend to take a hike through your favorite state park. If you do take a hike, try the Symbols of New York State Scavenger Hunt – let us know how you did.
Red-Spotted Admiral or White Admiral butterflies are one our newest state symbol, they were designated as the state butterfly in 2008. These butterflies are polytypic – meaning that there are different coloration patterns for this butterfly depending on where it lives. The white admiral variation has blackish blue wings with wide white band.
The red-spotted admiral lacks the wide white bands and sometimes has a row of red spots along the top of the wing. Overall the wings are a dark blue color with a light blue dusting on the hindwing.
If you are hiking in northern New York, you will only see the white admiral. If you are hiking in any other part of the state, you will see either the red-spotted or white admiral.
Look for Eastern Bluebirds in Park grasslands and on utility wires. These birds are primarily cavity nesters, utilizing hollowed out holes in trees and man-made nest boxes to lay their eggs. Bright blue males are easy to spot while females are a bit more challenging with blueish grey plumage. Both have rust-colored chests and white bellies. Eastern bluebirds have been our state bird since 1970.
New York’s largest rodent, the Beaver, can be found in wooded streams, marshes, and along the edge of ponds and lakes. When you are walking near these wetlands, tree cuttings and chewed trees or shrubs near the shore is a great indicator that beavers are live nearby. If you hear a slap on a pond or marsh, the beaver has spotted you and has slapped its tail on the water to warn other beavers that you are around. If you can find a spot to hide and have time to wait, you might get a glimpse of these shy animals. Beavers have been our state mammal since 1975.
Snapping Turtles can be found in marshes, rivers, streams, lakes, and even in urban waterways. Our largest turtle, their shells can be upwards of 20” long and they can weigh up to 35 lbs. The upper part of the snapping turtle shell or carapace has three keels or ridges. The turtle’s shell can vary in color from tan, brown, olive gray or black. They have a long tail with saw-toothed ridges. Interestingly, snapping turtles have the smallest plastron (or bottom part of their shell) in proportion to their body of any turtle in New York State. Most of their defense strategy is their large size. Look for these turtles swimming slowly through the water with their head poking out of the surface or perched on rocks near the water’s edge. Remember to keep your distance from these turtles; their jaws have a powerful snap! Snapping turtles became our state reptile in 2006.
The rare Nine-Spotted Ladybug has been our state insect since 1989. Slightly bigger than a dime, these oval-shaped insects typically have nine-spots on their backs. If you think you found one, please take a photo, record where you found it and send all the information to The Lost Ladybug Project.
The Sugar Maple was designated as our state tree in 1956. The bark of a young sugar maple is smooth and dark gray; as the tree ages the bark becomes furrowed in uneven long plates. Sugar maples have easily recognized leaves that are between 3”-5” long and 3”-5” wide, usually with 5 shallow ‘u-shaped” lobes. Perhaps you will see the leaves a few of these beautiful trees turning red or yellow during your walk.
And remember to stop and smell the Roses during your hike. If you do, perhaps you will see some late flowers on some of our native roses such as this Common Wild Rose. The flowers can be observed either individually or in small bunches. Look for the common wild rose along roadsides, fields, and salt marshes. Roses were designed our state flower in 1955; they are our oldest state symbol.
When you are done, why not enjoy some New York state goodies: milk, the state beverage (designated 1981); apple muffin, the state muffin (designated 1987); apple, the state fruit (designated 1976); or yogurt, the state snack (designated 2014.).
Post by Susan Carver, OPRHP.
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