Category Archives: WNY (preserves)

Wildlife Reserves, Preserves, Management Areas, etc., in Western New York State [WNY]

New Dragonfly & New Moth at Tillman Road

A last-minute change of plans took us back to our old stamping ground in Western New York State at the weekend, so I grabbed a couple of hours to re-visit the Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area, at Clarence.  The WMA is described by the NYS DEC as “a wet lowland with an emergent marsh, open water, grassy fields, a deciduous swamp and hardwood forest.”

A male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly
A male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly

Tillman’s greatest appeal to me, over the last 12-or-so years that I have been a regular visitor, is that one never knows quite what will be found on any visit and ‘drawing a blank’ is rare.

Carolina Saddlebags, rear view to show wing detail
Carolina Saddlebags, rear view to show wing detail

This time, I turned up two new insect species I had never before  seen or photographed:  a male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly  (Tramea Carolina), and what – to the best of my very limited ability with moths – I believe to be a White Spring moth (Lomographa vestaliata).  The latter sat motionless on a leaf, to the extent that I wrongly presumed that it would be some sort of ‘bird dropping moth’ but the former was on high-speed patrol along the margin of a pond and settled only briefly, each time, before doing another lap of its territory.

I believe this to be a White Spring moth
I believe this to be a White Spring moth

I’ve been very careful in identifying the dragonfly because it is very similar, in both appearance and range, to the Red Saddlebags (T. onusta) but I’m fairly confident I’ve got it right… However, as is always the case on my blogs, if anyone recognizes that I’ve made a mistake please do add a    comment below to put me right, and I will correct any error.

The various species of ‘saddlebags’ dragonflies get their name from the dark patches on the inner section of their wings, and when seen – usually in silhouette – from below, this creates an outline that looks like what the name says.

A Red Admiral butterfly, laying an egg
A Red Admiral butterfly, laying an egg

Up where we were, close to Lake Ontario, the Carolina is fairly close to the northern limit of its range, which is over the border in southern Ontario province. Even in this part of New York State, it is further north than its usual breeding range.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

 

My other insect of the day was a rather worn-looking Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atlanta) which – to my surprise – was laying eggs in low, rough vegetation where I could see no trace of any of the future caterpillars’ necessary food plants.  Does a first-brood adult lay eggs randomly around an area in the hope that at least some of their offspring will find suitable food after the plants all grow?  Or was this one operating by smell (chemical sensing) and by that means actually knew the right places to leave eggs?

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow

As for the other photographs, well I’m always a sucker for violets and I’m not going to walk past a ‘posing’ Tree Swallow, either!

More Photos from the WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois N.W.R. on 13 April, 2014

Esther Kowal-Bukata has kindly sent me some photos to add the the Iroquois ‘collection’, as posted below.  (The the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs may be viewed here.)

Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluebird.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Eastern Bluebird. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Shoveller.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Northern Shoveller. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs here.

WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Alabama, NY

As we are still in the height of the spring migration of waterfowl, today was a follow-up from our visit last week to the Montezuma NWR, which is about 100 miles E.S.E. from Iroquois.  These two preserves, however, do tend to have a different complexion to each other.

The southwest corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois NWR.  Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
The s.w. corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Iroquois NWR on a fairly regular basis for the past 12 years or so, which has let me see the seasonal variations in a little detail, and so we met this morning at the Cayuga Pool Overlook.  The downside of Cayuga is that the birds tend to be quite distant, which drastically reduces the photographic opportunities, but the upside is the wealth of species that can be viewed, using binoculars, spotting scopes or — of course — longer lenses on one’s camera.

Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

My own species list from today is as follows, but I hope anyone in the group who saw other birds will e-mail me so they can be added here:

Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  •  Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagles (at nest)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • American Goldfinch
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.

One of the commonest but many would say most delightful birds to be seen arriving at ponds and lakes each April is the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).  The “bicolor” part of its scientific name refers to the fact that the refractive sheen on this bird’s back changes from typically being more blue in spring to green in fall.

In spring, however, some birds appear to have only the back of their head showing colour, with their back being a drabber brown. These are first-year females that are just coming up to their ‘first birthday’.

Tree Swallows at nestbox. CVopyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nestbox. Copyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.

As at least two of our group photographed tree swallows during this outing, I’ve included some photographs here.

I’ve also added an older photo of my own, taken in May 2011 at the same location (Cayuga Pool), just to make the point that even pocket-sized, point-and-shoot cameras can occasionally be used to get acceptably pleasing bird photos.

Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The shot in question (below left), of a tree swallow emerging from a nest hole in an old post, was taken with a Pentax Optio 80 camera, and despite the angle may show one of the first-year females I referred to above.

More photographs from this visit to the Iroquois NWR will be posted on the next page of this write-up [link to follow shortly], but for anyone wanting to visit the refuge on their own, you can be sure it is well worthwhile (otherwise it wouldn’t have that “national” importance in its title!).

The three primary habitats to be found at Iroquois are:

  • emergent marsh
  • forested wetlands
  • grasslands

On this occasion, our own WWNP group visit focussed almost entirely on the areas of open water but we will certainly be going back to look at the other environments, including a ‘warbler walk’ in May. To contact the WWNP group and potentially join us for various outings, please e-mail wwnp [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — replacing the ‘at’ and the ‘dot’ with the relevant symbols and leaving no spaces. (This is done to cut down on spam e-mails.)

You may view more photos from this visit to Iroquios, by Esther Kowal-Bukata, here.

Useful web  pages are here:

Plan your Visit

Wildlife and Habitat

Seasons of Wildlife (i.e. what you might see)

The best map of the Iroquois Refuge (pdf)

Eddie

 

A 3-minute PBS video about Tifft Urban Nature Preserve, Buffalo, NY

Presumaby shot as a filler for use in between various programs on the WNED television channel, I’ve just happened across a 3m 20s video about Tifft that is well worth watching.

In it, Lauren Makeyenko talks about the history and achievements of Tifft.  It would have been nice if there could have been mention of  — for example — the fact that the current bird list has 264 species named on it but I’m very aware of how editors often chop important information from news and documentary clips!

View it for yourself at: http://video.wned.org/video/2365212936/

A Couple of Gems at Tifft Yesterday

After recently shaking off the tedium of a bad back that I’ve suffered virtually right through the winter, I took advantage of a few free hours yesterday to have a walk around the Tifft urban nature preserve.

Canada Goose in flight
Canada Goose in flight

When I arrived, at 8:00am, the temperature was just 18F (minus 8 Celsius) and there were no other cars in the parking lot.  On the small patches of open water, at Lake Kirsty, adjacent to the preserve offices, were four Herring Gulls, a solitary male Red-breasted Merganser, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and a dozen Canada Geese.

Black-capped Chickadee foraging
Black-capped Chickadee foraging

Anyway, wrapped up like the Michelin man, I set off through the woods on my way to the South Viewing Blind (hide) to look at a frozen lake!

Northern Shrike (first year bird). The hooked upper mandible is an unmissable clue to identity.
Northern Shrike (first year bird). The hooked upper mandible is an unmistakable clue to identity.

On the way there, I came across a few resting White-tailed Deer and stalked them carefully so I could get some shots of them lying down.

Downy Woodpecker (female)
Downy Woodpecker (female)

At the south blind there were only a couple of Canada Geese walking around on the ice and yelling at my intrusion, plus a few Black-capped Chickadees feasting on sunflower seeds that someone had left on the hand-rail (something Tifft staff ask people not to do).

It was while I was watching the chickadees, however, that I saw one of the day’s two gems.  A first-year Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) settled in a tree above me — its youthfulness given away by some mottled coloration on its breast and belly.  The sharply hooked upper beak — very like some hawks and eagles — gives this genus of fairly small birds away in an instant but, as its name says, this is the northern species.  Its cousin, the Loggerhead Shrike (L. ludovicianus), spends its winters in the southern states.  After identifying the bird, through my binoculars, I only had time for one distant ‘identification’ shot with my camera before it flew off, so while there’s a photograph of it in this post, it certainly isn’t a masterpiece! {:-)

For the British people who read this blog, you may have noticed that the scientific name of the Northern Shrike is the same as that for the Great Grey Shrike that is found in Europe — in other words, it’s the same species.  Europe’s other shrike, the Red-backed (L. collurio) isn’t found in North America.

As my walk continued, I saw several other species of birds — all ones that could be expected here in late March.

Coyote crossing frozen lake
Coyote crossing frozen lake

At the other main blind, however — unsurprisingly called the North Blind — I was delighted to see a Coyote (Canis latrans) appear from behind the actual blind and walk away, over the ice on the lake, to the cat-tail bed on the far shore.  Again, I was rather distant but I was certainly able to get a few pleasing photos.  Coyotes certainly aren’t rare, they’re actually widespread, but getting to see one in broad daylight in such a photogenic setting is much less common.  My own question is whether or not this could have been one of the “Coywolf” hybrids that have been spreading out from northern Ontario for the past few decades.  Does anyone know the answer in relation to Western New York?

It annoys me intensely that I used to under-rate Tifft as a place to go.  I now know it to be a very well-worthwhile preserve to visit and I do so as often as I can.  It is rare that it doesn’t turn up something special.

Get further information about Tifft Nature Preserve here.

Anyone wishing to come along on any of the walks (weekly, except in winter) of the ‘Wildlife Watchers and Nature Photographers’ group, please e-mail:           wwnp [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com   (just replace the [AT] and the [DOT] with what they say, and leave no spaces.  This is done to reduce spam to that e-mail address).

27 March 2014  —  Eddie Wren

 

Birding at Buckhorn (Grand Island, NY), 16 March 2014

About a week ahead of the walk, meteorologists had forecast a realtively balmy 25F for the day of our Buckhorn Island State Park birding trip, but as each day went by, the promised temperature dropped by about a degree until — on the day of the walk — it was a mere 18F…. a little too chilly for some.  Even so, a few moderately intrepid individuals were still “up for it,” and we were rewarded with plenty sunshine even though its warmth was completely overcome by the breeze.

Tundra Swans (with a couple of Canada Geese) resting on an island in the Niagara River
Tundra Swans (with a couple of Canada Geese) resting on an island in the Niagara River

New person Donna, plus myself and Andrea were the first to arrive at Woods Creek canoe launch parking lot and we were all promptly caught napping when a small flock of birds was spotted in a nearby tree, stunningly highlighted in gold by the sunshine.  I think we must all have been momentarily mesmerised by what can genuinely be called a beautiful moment, to the extent that the cedar waxwings in question all flew away before any of us had the sense to “get the shot!”  Yes, “only” cedar waxwings, but you should have seen that light on them!

Donna and Andrea at work
Donna and Andrea at work

After the short walk through the woods to the river, it took only a few moments to pick out over 40 distant Tundra Swans, huddled down with their heads tucked in, for warmth.  A couple of them later lifted their heads and an additional swan flew in, and these two little incidents gave us a somewhat better look (see above).

Male and female Bufflehead
Male and female Bufflehead

With the vast majority of the waterbirds being well out into the Niagara River, it was inevitably longer lenses that were most useful.  However, courtesy of Andrea, I was trying out her Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM zoom lens and I’ve posted a few of the cropped results on this page. (Thanks, Andrea!)

Red-breasted Merganser - male
Red-breasted Merganser – male

For any birders not from this area on the US/Canadian border, it is worth adding that the Niagara River is classed as an Important Bird Area [IBA] by both countries.  Indeed, in winter, the Niagara River hosts up to 20 percent of the world population of Bonaparte’s Gulls, making it a globally significant IBA.

A male Common Goldeneye and a female Red-breasted Merganser
A male Common Goldeneye and a female Red-breasted Merganser

More information about the Niagara River IBA may be found at http://www.ibacanada.ca%2Fconservationplans%2Fonniagrarivercorridor.pdf

Three male Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) - a.k.a. just 'Scaup' in Britain
Three male Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) – a.k.a. just ‘Scaup’ in Britain

At the bridge over Woods Creek, right where the creek hits the Niagara, a few Greater Scaup, some Bufflehead and some Red-breasted Mergansers had come in closer to the shore, which made the challenge easier.  At this location, many of the photos here could have been taken with a pocket-sized camera (subject to cropping) — something which doesn’t happen as often as one might like.

Two Red-breasted Mergansers -- a definite female in the foreground, with an apparent first-winter bird behind.
Two Red-breasted Mergansers — a definite female in the foreground, with an apparent first-winter bird behind.

The bird species I noted during this walk were as follows (but anyone else that can add to the list, please let me know what you saw, and I’ll include them):

  • Tundra Swan (>40)
  • Canada Goose
  • Canvasback
  • Greater Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Greater Black-backed Gull
  • Rock Dove
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal

Andrea-Burke_140316-1442_ice-&-tree

Finally, on our way back to the cars, it would appear that neither Andrea nor I could resist being distracted for a few moments by what will hopefully be the last of the winter woodland sights for this year: Andrea by a water- and ice-bound dead tree and myself by one of one of my own favourite winter subjects — red  berries!

Just as the warlord in the movie 'Last of the Samurai' allegedly spent his life looking for the one perfect cherry blossom, I think I'm equally addicted to red berries! {:-)
Just as the warlord in the movie ‘Last of the Samurai’ allegedly spent his life looking for the one perfect cherry blossom, I think I’m equally addicted to red berries! {:-)

As for our Wildlife Watchers and Nature Photographers group, anyone in the WNY or South Ontario areas who might be interested in coming on some of our walks please just e-mail me on wwnp [at] eddiewren [dot] com

From the first of April until Nov/Dec, we will be out somewhere most weekends.

Eddie Wren

 

West Seneca Oxbow Wetland Restoration, WNY

As someone who is not exactly from Western New York originally — {:-) — I had no idea that there even were any old oxbow lakes in the area, let alone one on which restoration efforts had been made, but there is and its in West Seneca.

The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper [BNRK] website states that “West Seneca’s oxbow wetland on Buffalo Creek is just a few miles upstream from the industrialized Buffalo River, a Great Lakes ‘Area of Concern’. As one of only three major wetlands in the lower Buffalo River watershed, it is considered a source area for future habitat and species restoration in the AOC.  Planning studies over the past 40 years have recommended that the oxbow site be protected.”

According to the  ERIE [Ecosystem Restoration through Interdisciplinary Exchange] webpage, “the restoration of the  oxbow wetland began in 2008 as part of the Buffalo River Watershed and AOC  restoration effort.  The project was led by BNRK and funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“In Fall 2009, six ERIE trainees became involved  in the restoration project… [and] donated over  1000 hours in fieldwork and analysis of flora, fauna, soils and groundwater.  The trainees developed a habitat restoration  and management plan for the 14-acre parcel of the oxbow. The plan used an  adaptive management framework to control invasive plant species and reintroduce  native plants to the site based on historical and nearby reference  communities. ”

To see pictures of the Oxbow and ERIE trainees working on the project (courtesy of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper), click here.

IfI can establish that there is public access to this site, or get us permission to visit, then this seems like a good venue for one of our ‘Wildlife Watchers & Nature Photographers’ group walks.  I’ll let you know the outcome of this.