Nature

While skunk cabbage is often regarded as a smelly nuisance, it is in fact a remarkable plant and an important part of a wetland ecosystem.
Photo by Nicki Eckstrom

The Earliest Wildflower

As winter stretches into March, with its seemingly endless cold and snow, walking outside and encountering blooming wildflowers seems like a dream that will never come true. But even as the snow continues to fall, the largest woodland wildflower is beginning to bloom. What is this mysterious ...

Skunk Cabbage leaves uncurling. 
Photo by Jennifer Schlick

Look Closer, Learn, Wonder

Ptyxis is a strange word, one that looks foreign and hard to pronounce yet once learned, rolls off the tongue as if you’ve always known it. Pronounced “tik-sis” it refers to the pattern of a folded leaf within a bud of a tree. Tree species have specific ptyxis and can be identified by it. ...

Weasels- A Deadly Bunch

Imagine a chipmunk weighing three ounces sound asleep in a small chamber about 24 inches below ground. The den is lined with finely chewed leaves. It’s safe and secure… until a least weasel, the smallest carnivore in North America (less than two ounces), explores the tunnel leading to ...

Sunrises on Chautauqua Lake are breathtaking. 
Photo by D. Arlene Bonnett

Hurray For Spring! Boo To Daylight Savings Time!

March is a month of change. Tired of winter, most of us relish the thoughts of spring coming and bringing with her warmer weather and longer hours of daylight. The earth starts preparing itself for a new cycle of life after a period of dormancy. The plants and the animals know it is the time to ...

Black Squirrels are melanistic Gray Squirrels. Melanism is a condition of having more color in the fur than normal. Point Gratiot in Dunkirk has black squirrels with orange tails.

Unusual Things

How do you know what you saw is what you saw? There are some animals that everyone just seems to know, such as robins, Blue Jays and Raccoons. But what defines the essential “raccoon-ness” of a raccoon? Would you recognize one if it was completely or partially white? Would you know for sure ...

The Uncertainty Of March

Never trust March. Though it’s always part winter and part spring, it never seems sure which path to take. One day there can be blue skies and 70 degrees; the next it’s 25 degrees and snowing. Eventually, spring wins. Longer, warmer days always win. But rather than watch the weather, ...

A blob on a tree leads to tales of flightless moths and flying caterpillars in our local forests.
Photo by Jeff Tome

A Tale Of Blobs And Flying Caterpillars

Sometimes the most unremarkable looking things are the ones that are truly remarkable. It can be hard to remember that outside. There is a human tendency to dwell on the brightest, biggest and most unique things that are seen. Attention is easily drawn to the bright red cardinal in the snow, ...

Molting male goldfinch. 
Photo by Jeff Tome

Males Starting To Show Their True Colors

Since the unusually warm days in late February — when turtles basked in the sun, fuzzy Pussy Willows peeked out of their hard brown buds and green spikes of daylilies pierced the unfrozen ground — I’ve been looking for more signs of spring. A friend of mine said spring in Western NY ...

The ‘Hole’ Story

Although cavity-nesting songbirds such as bluebirds and chickadees don’t begin nesting until late March or early April, the search for a suitable nest site has already begun. Historically, cavity-nesters have nested in natural cavities and old woodpecker holes in trees and fence posts. When ...

American Woodcock.
Photo by Wil Herschberger.

February Surprised Us All

On Feb. 25 I heard the first American Woodcock of 2017. Last year they arrived on March 6. The year prior to that they arrived on March 25. In the backyard pond on Monday, a small flock of Northern Shovelers landed for a moment before changing their minds and flying off again. The Pied-billed ...

Nest Cams Getting Busy

After a week of unseasonably warm weather, the thermometer on my porch read 80 degrees on Feb. 24. The daffodils were six inches high. The buds on the lilacs were swollen. And bluebirds, Carolina wrens, song sparrows, and chickadees sang their hearts out. Spring seemed four weeks ...

Weasels belong to the Mustelidae Family, and there are six members of this family living here in NYS.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Weasels — Evolved To Hunt

Weasels belong to the Mustelidae Family, and there are six members of this family living here in New York state. Weasels possess amazing morphological characteristics that are unique to mustelids. They have elongated necks to enable them to carry large prey. Their legs are short and powerful, ...

Squirrels, like this Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) are key contributors to the regeneration of forests. 
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.org

Chautauqua Watershed Notes

A Society Of Squirrels Most mornings this winter, I’ve delighted in the antics of up to thirteen eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) hopping, leaping, and scampering among my backyard apple and cedar trees, eagerly gathering peanuts and sunflower seeds from my feeders, burying ...

Last year’s leaves, this year’s flower. Hepatica blooms are quite small.

Hepatica Blossoms

More than one person has asked about the picture on the front of Audubon’s March-April newsletter. “It’s not a crocus,” they say. Correct. It’s not a crocus, but it blooms equally early in spring. One of the questioners remarked that he had never seen this flower before. That ...

Pittsburgh Bald Eagles Bounce Back

In 2013 a pair of bald eagles set up housekeeping along the Monongahela River in the Hays neighborhood of Pittsburgh just five miles from downtown. The nest sat high in a tall tree, and a single egg was laid on March 11; it hatched on April 14. That June, strong winds dislodged that young ...

Stone toe protection in Prendergast Creek uses large limestone blocks to protect the banks from heavy flows. 
Photo by Jen Maguder

Update On WQIPs

Have you ever tried to drive a motorboat up Goose Creek? Two CWC volunteers tried last summer when they were on a mission to examine the banks of our Loomis Goose Creek Lakeshore Wetland Preserve. While still more than 100 yards from the creek’s mouth, our volunteers nearly got stuck. The ...

Odd and interesting ducks, like this White-winged Scoter, appear on Lake Erie harbors in the winter.

Mysteries Of Nature Can Be Found All Around

The wind off of the lake carries a special kind of cold with it. This cold pushes through every crack in your clothing, freezes nostrils shut and burning the lungs in a way that only a lake wind can. Hands freeze into claws while awareness of toes fades and is replaced by an odd, icy burning in ...

Woodland Stinkers

A few days ago I took my wife to the Pittsburgh airport, a distance of about 78 miles. The first 43 miles wind through rural country, and along the way we passed three road-killed skunks. We counted another four just by the odor they left behind. It’s that time of year. Skunks are on the ...

Winter at the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s Outlet Greenway Preserve. 
CWC photo

Water In Winter

Water has many unusual properties that make it suitable as the medium for life. Water’s ability to dissolve substances and to occur as a liquid where living things can absorb it are, in fact, much of the reason why life can exist on earth. At this time of year much of the water we see in ...

Vole scurrying through the grass. 
Photo by Katie Finch

Snowy Landscape Explorations

On a recent exploration of the snowy landscape with day campers, animal sightings were few, but evidence that animals were there was abundant. We followed deer tracks, poked at holes and investigated scratches. Almost overlooked were very tiny tracks. Just a light impression made on the freshly ...