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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Photo: Fishing the Tonawanda behind the courthouse

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors

When I left the County Courthouse this afternoon, I spotted a family fishing below the falls of the Tonawanda Creek. Above, Zachary Albright, 11, of Albion, gets ready to recast his lure into the creek.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm

A close up view of the Northern water snake

post by JIM NIGRO in animals, nature, outdoors

I was walking along the edge of a meadow last week hoping for pics of butterflies and wildflowers. The last thing I expected to come across was a pair of water snakes. Very large water snakes. Both specimens stretched over 40 inches in length.

Until this day, all water snakes I've encountered were either in the water or at the edge of a lake, stream or pond, their preferred habitat. These two were more than 20 yards from a pond loaded with frogs. A stone's throw in the opposite direction is a narrow, sluggish, alga-covered stream filled with tidbits on the water snake's menu.

Okay, so this pair of snakes was a bit out of their juristiction. No big deal. But a couple of days later I came across them again in the same location. And a third time less than a week later, same thing. Oddly enough, each time I saw them, the smaller snake, if you could call it that, was nearly stretched out while the darker, obviously older snake, was tightly looped, its head hidden in the meadow grass.

Northern water snakes mate around April - June and give birth between August and October. Could the larger of the two have been a female ready to give birth. Was the other the papa or might it have been hanging around hoping for an easy meal? For what it's worth, once the offspring are born there is no nurturing, young are immediately on their own.  

The Northern water snake is active both during the day and night and their prey list quite extensive. Mice, meadow voles, crayfish, frogs, fish, birds and other snakes just to name a few. In turn, the water snake is preyed upon by hawks, owls, herons, fox and possums. On the other hand, given the size of the water snakes pictured here, they may have little or nothing to fear except man.

The meadow and nearby fallow fields, now rife with wildflowers, were teeming with ground nesting bobolinks less than two months ago. I wouldn't be surprised if this pair of well fed serpents took advantage of the nesting season and helped themselves to eggs, fledglings and perhaps adult bobolinks caught off guard. 

This is the larger of the two doing its best to remain concealed. The cloudy  appearance of its eye indicates its getting ready to shed its skin. With age, the water snake's tell-tale markings begin to fade and eventually they will appear dark brown or black.

Though non-venomous, the northern water snake is a feisty sort, it will strike when cornered and bite repeatedly if handled. The bite of large water snake can be painful and its saliva contains an anticoagulant which will cause the bite to bleed profusely. In the South they are often mistaken for copperheads and water moccassins and as a result are sometimes killed on sight.  

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

August blooms attract a variety of visitors

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly busies itself drawing nectar from the tiny lavender flowers found on teasel.

Its the time of year when roadsides and meadows are prolific with colorful flora. While many species of flowering plants are looked upon merely as weeds, for the insect kingdom they are a means of sustainment.

Here, a hummingbird moth tends to the bloom of a bull thistle. Active during the day, this is one species where the old adage, "like a moth drawn to a flame" doesn't apply.

Like its namesake, the rapid wingbeats of the hummingbird moth produce a slight buzzing sound, yet softer than that of a hummingbird.

A tree cricket explores the interior of a wild morning glory.

A bumble bee at work on a flowering burdock.

A bumble bee no sooner touches down on a Rose of Sharon blossom when it realizes it's a bit late. The bee inside is busy collecting pollen by rubbing itself against the stamen.

Friday, August 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Photo: A finch among the sunflowers

post by Howard B. Owens in animals, outdoors

Pulled into my driveway this afternoon and saw a flash of yellow dancing through my sunflowers. There were two yellow birds -- finches, I think, eating seeds. I managed to get a photo of one before they took flight.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Master Gardener Training

 Beginning September 10, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County will begin training a new class of Master Gardeners through our “Principles of Gardening” program.  Classes will be held at the CCE office at 420 East Main Street, Batavia on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 pm through November 19.  (There will also be a full day session on Saturday, November 8.)  Pre-registration by August 25 is required as the class size is limited.

Participants will enjoy learning about a variety of horticulture topics including: botany, plant pathology, entomology, soils & fertilizers, lawn care, vegetable gardening, weed identification, woody ornamentals, fruit, perennials and annuals.  Each class will focus on a different topic throughout the training.

Anyone interested in learning more about gardening may attend the course.  The fee for training is $225 per person.

This training is the first requirement to becoming a Genesee County Master Gardener.  Genesee county residents who complete the course are then eligible to apply to the Genesee County Master Gardener program.  (Other county residents should contact their local Master Gardener program.)  A Master Gardener volunteer should have a willingness to give back to the community and help put into practice what they learned at training.  Enthusiasm for sharing their skills and knowledge is a must.

For an application or to register contact Brandie Schultz at 585-343-3040, ext. 101 or stop by the Extension office at 420 East Main Street in Batavia.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

DEC to offer waterfowl hunter informational meeting on Aug. 28 in Alabama

post by Billie Owens in outdoors, sports

Press release:

As part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold two waterfowl hunter informational meetings. One of these will be in Genesee County.

It will take place on Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters located on Casey Road in Alabama. It will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and focus on topics of interest to waterfowl hunters in Western New York and the Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuges areas.

Topics will include:

  • Highlights of waterfowl management and research programs at two National Wildlife Refuges, Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge; and four of the state Wildlife Management Areas -- Tonawanda, Braddock Bay, Oak Orchard and Northern Montezuma.
  • Regional and statewide waterfowl news and updates;
  • Atlantic Flyway news;
  • Waterfowl population status survey results;
  • New York waterfowl hunting season-setting process; and tentative 2014-15 duck and goose hunting seasons.

Wildlife biologists from DEC and the two National Wildlife Refuges will discuss items of interest to waterfowl hunters in an informational and interactive forum.

They will present results of local and international surveys of waterfowl breeding populations and discuss habitat conditions and habitat management efforts. Updates of waterfowl management issues in the Atlantic Flyway will be presented, and this year’s tentative waterfowl hunting seasons and bag limits will be discussed.

The NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.

In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have not reached their full potential. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.

This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

Directions to Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge at 1101 Casey Road, in Basom:

From the New York State Thruway, take Exit 48A (Pembroke) and travel north on Route 77 to Alabama Center. Continue north on Route 63 for approximately 1 mile, turn left on Casey Road. The office is about a mile down the road on the right.

Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

Wednesday Wanders

post by Judy Spring in nature, outdoors, park, recreation, walk

Discover what’s happening at Genesee County Park & Forest. We’ll walk on a variety of trails, see what flora and fauna are about, and enjoy being outdoors. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.

Wednesdays in September 10am -11:30am (Adult Program)

Cost: $5/person/walk or $16 for all 4 walks (paid at first walk)

Pre-Registration Required. Genesee County Park & Forest 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany

For More Information and To Register, Call #585-344-1122

Event Date and Time

September 24, 2014 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:19 am

Wednesday Wanders

post by Judy Spring in nature, outdoors, park, recreation, walk

Discover what’s happening at Genesee County Park & Forest. We’ll walk on a variety of trails, see what flora and fauna are about, and enjoy being outdoors. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.

Wednesdays in September 10am -11:30am (Adult Program)

Cost: $5/person/walk or $16 for all 4 walks (paid at first walk)

Pre-Registration Required.

Genesee County Park & Forest 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany

For More Information and To Register, Call #585-344-1122

Event Date and Time

September 17, 2014 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:19 am

Wednesday Wanders

post by Judy Spring in nature, outdoors, park, recreation, walk

Discover what’s happening at Genesee County Park & Forest. We’ll walk on a variety of trails, see what flora and fauna are about, and enjoy being outdoors. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.

Wednesdays in September 10am -11:30am (Adult Program)

Cost: $5/person/walk or $16 for all 4 walks (paid at first walk)

Pre-Registration Required.

Genesee County Park & Forest 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany

For More Information and To Register, Call #585-344-1122

Event Date and Time

September 17, 2014 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Friday, July 4, 2014 at 9:25 am

Bobolinks: summer visitors from south of the equator

post by JIM NIGRO in bobolinks, nature, outdoors

The bobolinks have returned from their South American wintering grounds and once again nearby meadows and fallow fields are filled with their bubbly serenade. They've come from as far away as Argentina, arriving in the northern U.S. and southern Canada to raise a single brood.

Their preferred habitat provides both nesting and foraging. Here they construct their nests on the ground, well concealed amid tall grasses. And it is in these same confines where they dine on seeds and insects.

Once the mating season is over the males will molt and, like the female pictured above, will take on a more sparrow-like appearance and will migrate south in such fashion. Unlike the spring migration, the bobolink's return flight to its wintering grounds is done in much larger flocks.

Back in the day the southward migration of the bobolink included a stopover on South Carolina rice plantations where the birds gorged themselves on grain until they became plump "little butterballs." Because the males had molted, folks thought they were seeing a different species of bird and the now drab-colored bobolinks were called "butterbirds" and were shot by the tens of thousands each fall as a food source.

The bobolink was all but eradicated then, but today most of the rice fields are gone and the bobolink, like all songbirds, is a protected species.

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