Wildlife Spotlight: Least Terns

A rare denizen of NYS Parks in Long Island is the least tern. This state-threatened species is challenged by both loss of nesting habitat, as well as predation by rats, dogs, cats, and other birds.

The least tern is so named because it is the smallest member of the gull and tern family, growing to a maximum of only nine inches in body length. These beautiful birds make their homes on the Atlantic coast. In the winter, least terns migrate to the southern United States and the Mexican coast, but once it becomes warmer, they return to the beaches of Long Island to nest. Even though they are small, least terns are mighty. If an intruder crosses a nest, the tern will dive at the possible predator screeching to frighten the danger away. Least terns also make a habit to roosting with larger terns for protection.

The importance of Long Island shoreline habitat to least terns, as well as a plethora of other migratory bird species, is the main reason why some Long Island beaches are off limits to dogs. Even where pets are allowed, be conscious of how your dog might be affecting wildlife and protect the habitat of this small, but magnificent bird.

featured image is a pair of least terns, by Larry Master. Post by Paris Harper

Bees in the Butterfly Garden

It may be some time before we get to see bees and butterflies again, but when spring comes, we know that our friends at Fahnstock State Park will be ready to welcome them back with open arms and bouquets of native flowers. Check out this vibrant post from Native Beeology!

Native Beeology

Anne Odell Butterfly Garden – Fahnestock State Park –

In a recent venture to The Hubbard Lodge in Fahnestock State Park, I explored a butterfly garden flourishing with beautiful native flowering plants. The garden was alive with tired butterflies sporting tattered wings, queen bumblebees fattening up for a long winter hibernation, and a diversity of solitary bees finishing up their nests.  This garden named the Ann Odell Butterfly Garden was created in 2003 in memory of Ann Odell, an art teacher and gardener.  The winding paths in this tranquil place is a fitting tribute, inviting those who enter to explore and discover all things wild and beautiful.  Indeed, this garden is much more than a butterfly garden.

DSC_0218 Gazebo near the Entrance to the Ann Odell Butterfly garden

DSC_0222 Joe-pye-weed

DSC_0237 Asters and goldenrods

The most notable feature of this autumn garden is the purple New England asters that stand tall in the…

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Ganondagan in the News

NBC’s WGRZ recently aired a story on Ontario County’s Ganondagon State Historic Site. Ganondagon is the site of a seventeenth century Seneca town and granary, where over 500,000 bushels of corn were stored until the town, and the corn, were burned by the French-Canadian army in 1687 as part of a series of conflicts between the French, British, and Iroquois called the Beaver Wars.

Today, Ganondagan’s White Corn Project promotes the cultivation of a historical Iroquois corn variety as a way to promote not only good nutrition, but traditional cultural practices as well. Check out the original story by following the link below.

Check out this story on WGRZ.com: http://on.wgrz.com/1xdhBnt

Witch Hazel

Just as we have to say goodbye to the resplendent colors of fall, the last flowering plants of the year put on a final show of color before we resign ourselves to a season of white snow, gray skies, and cold winds.

Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a generally inconspicuous understory species, often overshadowed by the birches and maples of New York’s forests, but when the trees lose their leaves every year, it gives this common shrub and opportunity to take the spotlight.

In early fall, witch-hazel plants begin to disperse their seeds, which have been ripening over the course of the entire year. At this time, the fruits of the plant open up to reveal two glossy black seeds which are explosively ejected away from the plant—this unusual behavior earns it the colloquial name, snapping hazel.

After the seeds have been dispersed, witch-hazel flowers bloom in preparation next year’s fruit. In New York, you’ll see the spidery yellow blooms beginning in mid- to late October and early November. Regional variations in colors range from greenish gold to red, but yellow is the most common color, especially in the Hudson Highlands region.

Photo by Tim Howard
Photo by Tim Howard

Featured image is a witch-hazel blossom. Photo citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org. Post by Paris Harper

Hellbenders: salamanders in peril

As the largest salamander in the Western hemisphere, you wouldn’t think that hellbenders could easily slip under the radar. However, these well-camouflaged, aquatic creatures are rarely seen, and due to loss of suitable habitat, they are being seen with increasing rarity.

In New York, hellbender salamanders live exclusively in the Susquehanna and Allegheny river drainages, including their associated tributaries. Numbers are declining in both of these ranges, particularly in the former, where hellbenders are all but extirpated. A “hellbender head-start program” has focused on the Allegany Region, where earlier this year a number of captive-raised hellbenders were released into the park’s streams. The captive-rearing program has been a collaboration between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Bronx Zoo, the Buffalo Zoo, the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY, and the Seneca Nation of Indians. More information on that project can be found here.

Check out this cool video featuring awesome hellbender action produced by Freshwaters Illustrated, an organization which produces educational media about the life, study and conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

featured image is hellbender habitat in Allgany State Park, by Andrea M. Chaloux. Post by Paris Harper

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