Bird Banding at TOEC

The Taconic Outdoor Education Center (TOEC), at Fahnestock State Park, invited the community to celebrate National Get Outdoors Day and National Kids to Parks Day on May 18th this year at the TOEC Outdoor RecFest. The day started with a bird banding demonstration led by Eric Lind of the Audubon Constitution March Sanctuary.

Bird banding is a way to gain valuable knowledge about migratory birds, including data used in studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth. The data can be used in both research and management projects.

At the RecFest, bird banding was also a great tool for education and getting kids introduced to and interested in outdoor science and the variety of songbirds that make Fahnstock State Park their home. It was also a special opportunity for kids to get up close and personal with a migratory bird. Participants learned about mist nets, band sizes, bird measurements, and data recording.

Other events of the day included a bird walk led by naturalist Peter Salmansohn of Putnam Highland’s Audubon and workshops in orienteering and canoeing. The Event was supported by the Putnam Highland Audubon chapter, and Audubon New York’s Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, with the help of TOEC outdoor Educators.

The presenters delicately attach a band to the leg of a small veery before releasing it. Photo by Gerry Katzban.
The presenters delicately attach a band to the leg of a small veery before releasing it. Photo by Gerry Katzban.

For more information on bird banding: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/homepage/whyband.cfm

Featured image of a veery in a mist net by Gerry Katzban. Post by Paris Harper.

Welcome, Daryle the Turtle!

There’s a new critter at the Moreau Lakes Nature Center in Saratoga County – Daryle the eastern box turtle!

Moreau turtle Daryle eastern box turtle

For now, Daryle is staying behind the scenes as he gets used to his new home and lifestyle, but this summer he will star in educational programming out of the Nature Center.

Box turtles are named for the special, hinged plastron that allow these turtles to close their shell almost completely. Box turtles live in open woodlands, pastures, and marshy meadows. They are often found near streams and ponds, where they like to enter the shallow water (although they are not aquatic).

Daryle found his way to Moreau Lakes through Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society (MATTS). MATTS is dedicated to protecting habitat for turtles and tortoises and educating the public on proper care for pet turtles and tortoises.

Daryle was attacked by a dog, and his subsequent injuries meant that he would never be able to close up his shell again. He would not have been able to survive in the wild, and so he was relocated to the nature center. However, Daryle won’t be lonely at Moreau – another turtle from MATTS rescue is already resident at the nature center. Berlin, the painted turtle, was an abandoned pet who has also found a new home at Moreau Lakes.

Moreau turtle Berlin painted turtle

The painted turtle is one of the most common turtle species in North America. In fact, it’s the only turtle that naturally occurs across the whole continent. They are often seen basking in groups on logs in the water and along the shore. They are omnivores, dining on plants, slugs, snails, insects, algae, as well as carrion and small fish.

Painted turtles and box turtles are cute, but don’t take one home! Capturing native NY species as pets is illegal. Fortunately, the Moreau Lakes Nature Center has educated, caring staff that will make sure these unreleasable turtles live in comfort the rest of their days.

Photos by Rebecca Mullins, Moreau Lake State Park. Post by Paris Harper

Wetland Mitigation at Evangola State Park

In 2010, the NYS Thruway Authority planned to make much needed improvements to I-90 near Irving, NY, a project which would inadvertently affect about 2 acres of emergent marsh wetlands in the area.

In order to mitigate these adverse impacts on the marsh habitat, the NYS Thruway Authority teamed up with Evangola State Park and Watts Architecture & Engineering by reclaiming a dry, rocky, flat fill area and transforming it into a valuable and productive habitat.

July 28, 2010 - the project area at the beginning of construction - not very impressive, is it?

July 28, 2010 – the project area at the beginning of construction – not very impressive, is it?
The project, well underway!
The project, well underway!

Taking advantage of the area’s natural hydrology and terrain, landscape engineers created a three acre wetland along Evangola’s entrance parkway. This new habitat feature is home to various amphibian, reptile, and fish species, as well as a nesting and foraging site for a variety of birds and ducks.

Wetlands play a very important role in the environment, including ecosystems services that are valuable to humans. Wetlands act as water purification system, flood control, and they improve the stability of shoreline. Wetlands are also often the most biologically diverse ecosystems in a region, serving as home to a wide range of plants and animals. In New York, wetlands are used as stopovers for migrating birds, as a breeding habitat for migratory birds and other birds that nest in wetlands, and as a winter home for many amphibian species.

These Canada geese were some of the first creatures checking out the new real estate
These Canada geese were some of the first creatures checking out the new real estate

The human-made wetland at Evangola also presents various opportunities for educational ecological study to school groups, summer camps, and scout troops that visit the park. A hands-on outdoor classroom allows students to gain first hand experiential knowledge of this important ecosystem type.

The beautiful wetlands, finally completed.
The beautiful wetlands, finally completed.

The project’s overwhelming success prompted the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York to Award the Wetland Mitigation project at Evangola State Park the Gold Award for Engineering Excellence to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, the first landscape project to ever win this prestigious award. The award was a nod to the project’s excellent design, and the educational opportunities it created.

photos by NYS Parks

The Battle to Save our Bats

Bats are a fascinating component of many New York State Parks across the state. Although we can rarely get a good look at them, often only as fast-moving silhouettes at dusk, they form a critical component of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, acting as pollinators, seed dispersers and as predators regulating insect populations. A single little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour.

But our bats are in grave danger. In February 2006, a new contagion was identified in New York, and has since spread to 23 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. This fungal infection which grows on the noses of bats is called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) and it has killed millions of bats and is one of the most pressing ecological issues of our time.

What we have learned so far about the white-nose fungus is distressingly limited. It appears that bat-to-bat transmission is the primary means of infection, particularly in bat species that form large hibernacula, roosts where hundreds of bats hibernate through the winter together. Although we still don’t understand how WNS kills bats, it is clear that the infection somehow interrupts normal hibernation behavior. Infected bats wake up far too early from their winter sleep, depleting their fat reserves and consequently starving or freezing to death in the cold.

The species which have been most affected by this affliction are the big brown bat, little brown bat and the tri-colored bat, but other New York bat species including the hoary bat, the eastern red bat and the small-footed bat are also threatened. However, even the hardest-hit species have survived in small groups, compounding the importance of protecting bat habitats.

To learn more about White Nose Syndrome and the U.S. bat situation, we recommend the following video:

Battle for Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome

This video was produced for the USDA Forest Service by Ravenswood Media. It shows how government and private agencies have come together to search for solutions to help our bat populations overcome WNS. The public can also play a role in the future of bats by providing habitat and surveying their populations. Bats are a critical component in a healthy forest ecosystem, plus they provide significant agricultural pest control and pollination. Their survival is essential for a sustainable natural environment.

For more information

Bat Conservation International’s White Nose Syndrome Factsheet

University of California Museum of Paleontology factsheet, Chiroptera: Life History and Ecology.

The featured photo is Myotis sodalis, the Indiana Bat. Photo by Alan Hicks, DEC. Post by Paris Harper.

NYS Parks Wins Great Lakes Grant

GLRI

On February 25th, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the winners of 11 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants totaling more than $5 million for projects to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin.

The GLRI is a task force of 11 federal agencies targeting pollution, habitat restoration, invasive species, and establishing partnerships between agencies. Since 2010, the EPA has awarded more than 70 projects totaling over $40 million to combat terrestrial and aquatic invasives and to prevent the introduction of new invasive species.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is honored to receive a $410,000 grant to establish a new boat stewardship and invasive species prevention program which will also create 17 new jobs while educating tens of thousands of boaters.

The boat steward program will be an education based initiative to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives in the Great Lakes watershed. Over the 18 month grant period, NYS Parks will send boat stewards to 15 previously unmonitored boat launches and marinas along the Lake Erie shoreline, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. The boat stewards will perform boat inspections while educating the public on the impacts of aquatic invasives and the methods for their management and control. Stewards will also participate in team projects as a CORPS to implement rapid response measures to reduce already established populations of aquatic invasives.

At NYS Parks, we have the unique opportunity to manage and protect a large geographic area of the Great Lakes watershed and fill in the gaps not currently covered by other states or groups. This project will complement and support boat stewardship programs already established in New York State, including Paul Smith’s College, the Finger Lakes Institute, and New York Sea Grant. By building upon these successful programs, we will be spreading a standardized message all across the state that patrons should “Clean, Drain, Dry” their boats.

Check out the other award winners at the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

For more information on boating, visit the NYS Parks Marine Services site.

The official blog for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

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