Fourth of July weekend is a great weekend to spend in a State Park or Historic Site. You can build sand castles at Hither Hills State Park to camp on the banks of Lake Erie at Evangola State Park, fish in the St. Lawrence River at Wellesley Island State Park, listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, take a hike, enjoy the forest and more. Find out all that State Parks has to offer this weekend at nysparks.com.
On June 1st in Allegany State Park, the first fireflies of the season were spotted, bringing great excitement. Why? Lots of parks have fireflies, but not the Synchronous Firefly – once thought to exist in only a handful of places in the world, but now known in scattered locations from Georgia to southwestern New York. The (Photinus carolinus), flashes only from late June to mid-July and prefers dark mature forests, over 1200 feet with low vegetation and a water source. Fireflies or lightening bugs are actually a beetle that can produce its own luminescent light. Each species of firefly (there are over 170 species in the US) has its own unique flash pattern. Colors differ too. The male Synchronous Fireflies flash 8 to 10 times all in unison, then they stop for 10-15 seconds depending on the temperature. They wait for the female to flash back, then they repeat the display again and again into the wee hours of the morning. The best time to see this phenomenon is between 10 pm to 2 am.
Once they find each other, they mate, the females lay eggs, and then the adults die. The larvae hatch in a 3-4 weeks and devour worms and slugs. These small, blackish caterpillar-like predators inject their prey with a fluid which causes numbness, then they suck out the gooey innards. The larvae hibernate in small burrows in the soil and emerge as adults in a few months.
Some people ask, “Why don’t we see as many fireflies as we did as children?” Are we just not noticing? Or not outside as much? Unfortunately, firefly populations have declined, mainly due to light pollution, habitat destruction, and pesticides. How can you help? Check out www.firefly.org to find to more information or take part in a Firefly Watch though the Boston Museum of Science. To see what the firefly display looks like, check out Radim Schreiber’s website.
Catching fireflies is a fun summer activity, you can put them in a jar to get a close-up look. But then let them go so they can find their mates and contribute to the next generation for us to enjoy next year.
Allegany State Park will be offering special programs to provide visitors with the opportunity to view the Synchronous Fireflies this June. Please check our Facebook page in mid-June for more information. In the event of severe thunderstorms, the event will be cancelled. However, the fireflies do display in rain and you may still observe them on your own if you wish. Displays of the Synchronous firefly are best observed in a dark mature forest in order to experience the full effect. And if you miss these, you can watch for other more common species of fireflies in your back yard, campsite, or parks across the state from June to August. For information on this and other programs, please check Allegany State Park’s activity schedule on Facebook or call 716-354-9101 ext. 232.
Post by Adele Wellman, OPRHP, Allegany State Park, Lead Naturalist
Each week during the summer, volunteers at 34 State Parks campgrounds across the state assist novice and experienced campers with their camping experience through the Camper Assistance Program, CAP. This help varies from teaching new campers the ways of the woods, assisting with camper check-in, and helping campers learn about activities they can do while camping.
Below describes what could be a typical day for a fictional CAP volunteer:
7:00 am: Quiet hours are over. Some campers are up early, fires are getting started and the air smells good with all of the coffee brewing. I get my breakfast going as it will be a full day ahead.
10:00 am: Patrons that are ending their stay are typically packing to go home at this time. I take a morning walk to offer any assistance, and this morning I help a man and his dog get ready to leave. His dog likes to help him fold his tent, which is not very helpful, so I hold his leash until the tent is packed up.
11:00 am: The park manager asks if I can assist with visitor check-in later in the day. Typically, the busiest time is between 3 and 5 p.m. So for now, she would like me to clear out a flower bed at the entrance of the campground.
The maintenance staff arrives with rakes and shovels and we work together clearing away leaves and weeds. We have new flowers to plant in a wonderful design which creates a very welcoming display to campers at the entrance.
12:30 pm: Time for lunch! I head back to my trailer to clean up, grab a bite to eat, and relax at my camp site, enjoying the lovely day.
1:30 pm: Time for another walk around the campground loops.
Most campers have done this all before. However, today I helped a family who has arrived with a new camping trailer. Dad tries to back it in, but it’s clear that this is not a simple procedure, so I offer my assistance. After 20 minutes, we have successfully backed the trailer to the most level spot on his site. He thanks me for the help and they begin their week-long vacation at the campground.
3:00 pm: I head to the camping office and help with check-in. While the campers wait their turn, it’s my job to make sure they have their paperwork ready. This will help with a quick check-in, to get campers on their way to enjoying their stay.
I answer many questions; Yes, we sell ice. I can verify you have a reservation. Here is your site number. Patrons with dogs… Do you have the rabies certificate? Swimming begins at 10am each day. No, we can’t guarantee the weather but we do post the forecast each day.
5:00 pm. The rush is over and I walk back to my site and start my cooking fire for the evening.
5:30 pm. But wait. A patron walks over to my site and asks if I can help. They’ve broken one of their tent poles. I can help! I grab my tool bin and find duct tape…anything can be fixed with duct tape! Another camping disaster avoided.
6:15 pm settle in to my site for the evening.
The Camper Assistance Program (CAP) offers seasoned campers an opportunity to share their expertise and love of the outdoors with other people at campgrounds in parks throughout New York operated by State Parks. In return, CAP volunteers receive a free camping site.
You too can participate in the CAP program if you are a seasoned camper, at least 18 years of age, enjoy helping others, and are able to spend a minimum of two weeks at one of the participating state park campgrounds. CAP volunteers serve for a minimum of two, maximum of four weeks, usually between Memorial Day and Labor Day at the park manager’s discretion. They are on duty five days per week, including weekends and holidays. CAPs will be asked to work only two to five hours per day, but they may be on call at all times. In return for their services, they receive a free camping site during their duty. Additional campers may accompany the volunteer, within normal park rules.
CAP volunteers receive an orientation where they learn more about the State Parks and the CAP program and receive suggestions as to how they best can serve campers.
Learn more about the CAP program here.
I Love My Park Day (ILMPD) started in 2012 when 49 New York state parks and historic sites were helped by thousands of volunteers, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. These volunteers worked on a variety of projects including cleaning up park lands and beaches, planting trees and gardens, restoring trails and wildlife habitat, removing invasive species, and working on various site-improvement projects. In 2015 ILMPD grew to 6,500 volunteers who helped with 200 projects in 95 state parks and historic sites across the state.
In 2016, I Love My Park Day is Saturday May 7 with events planned at 110 parks and historic sites across the state. Find a place to help here (or at nysparks.com/events). From Hither Hills State Park in eastern Long Island, to Point au Roche State Park on Lake Champlain, Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Site in the Finger Lakes, Mine Kill State Park in the Catskills, Two Rivers State Park Recreation Area in the southern tier, Walkway Over The Hudson State Historic Park in the Hudson Valley, and more – there is something for everyone. ILMPD also expanded this year to include DEC properties in the Adirondacks and Catskills as well as local and federal parks in New York. ILMPD is a great opportunity to get outside, enjoy the camaraderie of old and new friends, and give back to your favorite park.
We hope to see you on May 7 for a day of fun and stewardship in New York’s backyard that is open to everyone – State Parks!
In this second year of Nature Times we have gotten to know snapping turtles, carnivorous plants, black squirrels, and Sammi, Trailside Museums’ 36 year old bald eagle. We’ve learned how trails are mapped, how a flock of sheep and goats have become one of State Parks’ 21st century mowing crews, and ways to explore State Parks on foot, in kayaks, on snowmobiles, and on frozen lakes. The stories have featured all kinds of work that State Parks staff and volunteers do throughout the year to help preserve and protect some of New York’s unique and exceptional places. These range from protecting sand dunes on Lake Ontario and old-growth forest at Allegany, to creating native grasslands at Ganondagan State Historic Site, and monitoring invasive species infestations and removing invasive species both on land and water.
We mark this second birthday with 61 new followers and over 24,000 page hits! And we thank the 32 staff, interns, and partner organizations who have shared their passion for State Parks through the blogs that they have written. We also want to recognize our partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program who helped in initiating this feature and continues to provide support.
We look forward to continuing our celebration of State Parks in the months to come in Nature Times. Hope to see you soon at one of our Parks or Historic Sites!