Wilson Tuscarora State Park, located on Lake Ontario in northern Niagara County, is just 12 miles east of historic Fort Niagara State Park and the mouth of the Niagara River. Established in 1965, the park, encompasses 386 acres bordered by the east and west branches of Twelve Mile Creek, and has approximately four miles of trails.
When you choose to hike the red Interpretive Trail at Wilson Tuscarora, you will experience several amazing things, particularly if you choose to visit in late spring. Along the trail, you will hike through many different habitats, including wetlands, successional fields (a field transitioning to a forest), shrub lands, ending in a mature beech-hemlock forest.
Your journey begins at the marina parking lot heading toward the large weeping willow tree, with its bright yellow green leaves drooping toward the ground.
Once past the old weeping willow tree you will find the trail and the real journey begins through a successional field and into shrub lands as you follow the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek. Along the trail, you will notice red-osier dogwood shrubs forming thickets on each side. Quaking aspen trees are found along the way as well, revealing their name’s origin as each breeze cause the tree’s leaves to quiver or quake in the wind.
Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides
Keep your eyes on the wetlands too. You may see a beaver, or at least signs that they are active in the area. If you are lucky enough you may catch a glimpse of the pileated woodpecker. Look for pileated woodpeckers in the mature beech-hemlock forest area of the park. Chances are you will hear them before you see them. Listen for a deep, loud drumming and shrill, whinnying call.
This trail is best known for its spring wildflowers; especially trillium. New York’s largest flowered trillium, the white trillium, blankets the forest floor in May. The name trillium refers to three, the number of leaves, sepals (bud covers), and petals.
If you haven’t gone down Wilson Tuscarora’s Interpretative Trail yet, be sure to head there this late spring to see these unique natural features!
On May 5, 2018, the first Saturday of May, over 8,000 volunteers helped New York State Parks celebrate its sixth annual ‘I Love My Parks Day’ at 250 projects and 125 parks across the state.
Saturday morning was met with the fresh smell of a well overdue Spring. Birds were singing and bees were buzzing. The weather could not have been nicer with blue skies and a sun to warm your skin. In Horseheads, NY, volunteers came out to the Catharine Valley trailhead to help create a pollinator garden and clear brush and invasive plants to promote native species beneficial to birds. (About 50 small pollinator plants were purchased by the Audubon Society to create a pollinator garden.
About 50 volunteers showed up to do their part – from energetic toddlers, to a girl scout troop, to seasoned gardeners and everyone in-between. Three NYS parks Environmental Educators and SCA Parks Corps members – Tamara Beal, Lizzy Hawk, and Kyle Gallaher – also stepped in as volunteers and environmental educators.
Over 400 different species of bees call NY home. The role they play in pollinating plants is irreplaceable. It is estimated that 1 in every 3 bites of food deserves thanks in part to pollinators. In other words, if you like to eat, you have to like your pollinators! With so many helping hands, this seemingly large task was completed in no time. Holes were dug with shovels or towels, or even by hand and what started as a barren landscape was quickly transformed to a vibrant garden, ripe for pollinating.
Planting the pollinator garden., photo by Lizzie Hawk, Audubon NY.
I Love My Park Day is a great family day.
Finished pollinator garden, ready to grow.
Besides the pollinator garden, different parts of the birding trails were also attended to. Dead brush was raked, honey suckle was pulled, and sticks and branches were piled high. The birding trails at the head of the Catharine Valley Trail, on Huck Finn Road, are a well kept secret. A birding lover’s delight, these trails attract birds by providing an irresistible combination of shelter, food, and peaceful atmosphere. If you are able to walk quietly enough to become a part of nature, all sorts of creatures become noticeable on these trails. Volunteers were spread out in every direction creating a green space more attractive and enticing to our feathered friends.
In the last part of the event, some time was taken to appreciate and get up close with some of the wildlife in the area. Environmental educators Kyle, Lizzy, and Tamara took about 30 of the volunteers on a short walk to a nearby turtle nesting ground. The sandy soil of these manmade nesting gardens allows the turtles to easily bury their eggs for safe keeping. SCA members helped to clean up these nesting areas earlier in the year.
A young garter snake, reminder: it is best to watch wildlife from a distance.
SCA members after clearing the turtle nesting gardens.
A mini program about snakes was also made possible when environmental educator Tamara Beal came across a garter snake in the grass (see featured photo).
This event was just one of the number of events that were hosted this “I Love my Park Day” throughout the state. Thank you to the thousands of volunteers who came out on May 5th to support their local parks! It is inspiring to see the number of people that show up for these kinds of events.
Join us for the eighth annual ‘I Love My Park Day’ on May 4.
Post by Tamara Beal, 2018 SCA Finger Lakes Region intern
The ground is thawing out and the skunk cabbage is up – it’s time to start searching for the purple rock cress (Cardamine douglassii), a state-threatened plant. You may also find its more common cousins, all members of the mustard family – yes, like the mustard you eat, but with white to pink flowers rather than yellow. Moist woodlands with oak, hickory, and maple are a good place to look, including forests with vernal (spring) pools. Perhaps you might be out looking for frogs and salamanders around this time of year, if so -keep an eye out for these early flowering plants, too. Woodland rock cresses tend to be small, only about 3 to 8 inches tall, so they are easy to miss. If you see some patches of green that are not mosses or mounds of sedges (grass-like plants), take a closer look – you may be rewarded with some delicate flowers.
Forests with vernal pools or small streams or wetlands are a good place to look for these cresses.
Look for patches of green on the forest floor and take a closer look. You might find some flowers.
A close-up of that woodland patch of green reveals this beautiful plant, the cut-leaved rock cress or cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), a common woodland wildflower. This used to go by the name Cardamine laciniata or Dentaria laciniata. It is easy to identify by its lacy leaves that look a bit like bird tracks.
Several of the other rock cresses, including the purple rock cress, have smaller and less complex leaves like this or just small roundish leaves on the stem or at the base of the plant (see in background).
Spring cress (Cardamine bulbosa) is another common cress that blooms very early. The flowers can range from white to pink, and it can be hard to tell this apart from the rare purple rock cress. Note that all of the flowers in the mustard family have 4 petals regardless of their color.
Here is the rare Cardamine douglassii, so similar to the spring cress above. One has to consult the botanical keys in order to figure out which species you have. Some trout lilies are coming up too (leaves at upper left).
NY Natural Heritage and State Parks staff discovered two new locations for this rare species in State Parks in the past few years and hope that more are found in this year’s early spring surveys.
The flowers of the cresses don’t last long, only until the trees leaf out. Once in fruit, you can still recognize them by their elongate seed pods, which give rise to yet another common name for this group of plants, the “rockets”.
Post written by Julie Lundgren, NY Natural Heritage Program
Featured image by Kyle Webster, State Parks
NY Natural Heritage Program is affiliated with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) and works in close partnership with NYS Parks and NYS DEC. NYNHP conducts many kinds of surveys and studies to provide guidance and tools for conservation of native biodiversity across New York State.
Recommended references for identifying the rock cresses:
You may have heard the name iMapInvasives before, but if you have not been exposed to this magnificent mapping tool, I recommend you check it out! iMapInvasives, New York State’s online invasive species database, could be compared to a modern-day hero. A robust and helpful resource- thanks to its devoted observers.
Citizen Scientists, Educators, Students and Dedicated Natural Resource Professionals…. You can be an observer too and you can help protect our natural areas.
As we all know, every hero needs an extraordinary sidekick. In this case, it’s the Certified Trainers Network (CTN). The iMapInvasives CTN does its part by hosting trainings for people, located far and wide, about invasive species and how to report them. Established in October 2017, the network has already hosted over 75 in-person trainings across New York State and taught over 900 attendees about iMapInvasives’ capabilities.
iMapInvasives training for the 2018 State Parks Boat Steward Program. Photo By: Brittney Rogers, iMapInvasives Research Project Assistant
Capturing an image of an invasive species, photo by : Brittney Rogers, iMapInvasives Research Project Assistant
If you have a desire to teach your community about iMapInvasives, you can become a certified trainer. All you have to do is:
100 years ago this summer, a little girl received a lovely present from her grandmother.
A leather-bound notebook, perfectly sized for small hands. The paper was heavy, to thwart ink from pooling and bleeding through. The pages were lined, to keep unsteady handwriting neat. The gilded edges indicate the importance and timeless elegance of its owner, a daughter of one of New York’s first families. Her name was emblazoned on the cover— Honoria Alice Livingston.
Honoria was the eldest daughter of John Henry Livingston and Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston. Her great-great grandfather was Chancellor Robert R Livingston, one of the 5 drafters of the Declaration of Independence, the Minster to France under Jefferson, and the co-inventor of the first practical steamboat, just to name a few accomplishments. The Livingston mansion, Clermont, was decorated in 7 generations of familiar excellence. Honoria grew up at Clermont surrounded by her family’s achievements and with the love her parents, her younger sister Janet, their beloved nurse Ollie, a dozen or so servants, and a menagerie of pets.
Her maternal grandparents, Howard and Alice Clarkson, lived just up the road and visited often. Grannie Alice and Mom Alice were both prolific poets and journal writers in their own right, so it’s no surprise that young Honoria was showing an interest and a talent for creative writing herself. Grannie christened the notebook with a special poem for her young granddaughter.
When Grannie was a little girl
She made a little book,
And many times with joy and pride,
Did in its pages look.
And here she wrote her little tales,
And sometimes verses too;
For airy fondness came to her
Just as they come to you.
And now you write such pretty tales,
And little verses too;
So Grannie thought perhaps this book
To hold them all, would do.
The very day she received the book, Honoria took to work. On the next page, in her very best 10-year-old handwriting, she titled the contents “The Poetry I Made My-Self.” She wrote three poems that day and several more throughout the week.
Comb and brush
I hear a thrush.
Comb and brush
I want to wash.
Brush and comb
Gobi is home
Brush and comb
Away I rome.
Honoria A. Livingston. Aug 3rd 1919
Early poems reference her family, her beloved dog Gobi, and strict rhyming schemes, even if she had to bend the rules a bit to make it work. The following year, the little notebook traveled with the Livingston family as they moved abroad to continue their daughters’ education. Honoria’s repertoire of subject matter grew beyond family life at Clermont and started to include the French countryside, German soldiers, English fairies, and Italian friends.
The Livingstons lived in Europe for the next 6 years. Honoria became a teenager and her subjects became more mature and dramatic:
There’s a road that leads to nowhere good,
There’s a road that leads to Hell;
But there’s also a road to Paradise,
and on that road I dwell.
-Honoria A. Livingston Oct. 5th 1924
Her structures became more experimental and modern:
Of the Universe!
Tell us, I pray thee
Where do the sunsets go when dead?
-Honoria A. Livingston December 2nd 1924
But even so, more than half of her poems are about her beloved pets and many about the comings and goings of her family and friends. Some of her poems are even in French and Italian! She loved to write about the moon and sunsets over Florence, where the family called home for her teenage years.
A week before her 17th birthday in 1926, she wrote a poem to herself, remarking on the occasion and how much she had grown since starting the notebook:
From a very little child
Into a stately maiden dark,
she has grown.
Guicciardini, Florence. January 25th 1926
The rest of her poems in 1926 play out as her previous years in Italy had— pets, family, and beautiful evenings at the family’s Villa. But in November, something happens. The family suddenly rushes back to the States, leaving precious friends and belongings behind. Honoria’s handwriting becomes rushed, the ink is half washed away in big drips, and pages are torn out. The end of 1926 and the beginning of 1927 do not exist.
This is when Honoria’s father, John Henry, passed away.
After JH’s passing, the family settled back in at Clermont. Honoria writes in the notebook for another year and then sets it aside— a memento of her childhood and teenage years. She grew up, had her debut in New York City, and married a charming Irishman named Rex McVitty.
They spent their lives at Clermont in Sylvan cottage, even after the mansion and grounds were deeded to The People of the State of New York. They enjoyed meeting park visitors and actively took part in site events. Honoria lived in the cottage until her passing in 2000— her tin mailbox and Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper box were only recently removed from the driveway.
But even as Honoria grew up, from a 10-year-old girl with her first important grown-up possession, to a beautiful debutant, to an accomplished writer, golfer, gardener, and the Lady of the Estate, she never forgot about her notebook. She came back to it “many times with joy and pride,” just as her Grandmother had before her. As an adult, she even edited and typed some of her early work.
From a historian’s perspective, Honoria’s poetry journal is a fascinating artifact. Not just a chronical of a young girl growing up, but a chronical of life for an American family and a window into post WWI Europe. Not just flights of fancy, but a collection of popular culture influences of the time. Not just cute pets, but little family moments that tell us so much about the last generation of Livingstons of Clermont. It’s a lovely little book, a scrapbook of experiences, and we are lucky to have it.