Nature

Beauty like these spring flowers cannot be enjoyed in a gym. 
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

Making Healthy Choices

A recent editorial in The Post Journal (dated 04/13/2017 and entitled “Make Healthier Choices”) made an impression on me. Some of the statistics used in the editorial were real eye-openers. For example, it stated that Chautauqua County ranked the 54th healthiest county in New York state out ...

One way to learn how to identify an Indigo Bunting is during bird banding. This photo of a young bunting and a mature buntings.
Photo by Jennifer Schlick

Mumbo Jumbo Bird Songs

People who identify birds by song always seemed to inhabit a different world from me. While I tried to see field marks, watching for a white ring around the eye or a yellow patch on the butt of a bird, these people would be shouting out things like “Chestnut-sided Warbler!” and “Was that ...

Springtime In Cape May

For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent at least a week at the Jersey shore every summer. As a boy and later as a young father with two daughters, I loved the sun, the surf and the sandy beaches. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to loathe the heat, the sand, the crowds and the ...

Spring comes in waves of colors, sights and sounds. 
Photo by Jeff Tome

A Spring Blitzkrieg

There may be no other season that is watched as much as spring. People peek out of their windows to see if there are crocuses blooming or if there are daffodil leaves sprouting. The sound of geese migrating overhead causes heads to turn. This spring greening up of the world seems to have more ...

A painted turtle is pictured on a log. 
Photo courtesy Audubon Community Nature Center archives

A Spring Walk To Restore And Repair

Glancing around to ensure that I am alone, I back into an invasive honeysuckle bush, drop my pants and crouch to pee. Before I can, a turkey explodes from the brush behind me, startling me to standing, no doubt my white rump as shocking to her as she is to me. I laugh and finish my ...

Earth Day Words To Live By

Earth Day (April 22) always reminds me of some favorite conservation quotations. Here are some powerful words to live by that guide my life and thinking. “The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues, ...

“There are more than 250 species of shrew worldwide.  The northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) pictured here is one of four shrew species known to inhabit Chautauqua County.

Shrewd Shrews

Shrews are small, mouse-like mammals. They most definitely are not mice, or even rodents. They are largely insectivorous predators in the Sorcidae family, closely related to moles. They are distinguishable from mice by a notable lack of the chisel-like incisors that make mice, rats and ...

Woodchucks begin entering deep hibernation in late September or October, after gorging on clover, grasses, and other vegetation all summer long and laying on a thick layer of fat to sustain them through winter.
Photo courtesy National Park Service, nps.gov

Slumbering Until Springtime

For many weeks now, the squirrels have been scampering about through my backyard trees, chasing each other in wild courtship dances and scurrying in and out of my bird feeders. Chipmunks have been chattering and chipping and stuffing cheek pouches. A yearling woodchuck (aka groundhog) ...

“Rock riffle is a section of stream where the water is very shallow and rocks break the surface, which benefits fish habitat because oxygen is mixed into the water as it flows over the rocks.
Photo by Randall Perry

Breaking Down A Stream Stabilization Project

“Stream stabilization” definitely isn’t part of everyone’s vocabulary, but here at the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, we talk about it on a daily basis. Water Quality Improvement Projects, which are meant to reduce erosion in the Chautauqua Lake Watershed, are the main reason for ...

Many are familiar with the green head of the Mallard Duck, but not the many other ducks that appear during migration, such as the American Wigeon.
 Photo by Jeff Tome

Duck, Duck, Cackling Goose

Ducks, in the right circumstances, can roar. They do not roar alone, but only in company. One duck by itself flies with a special kind of wingbeat, fast and furious, like a racing heartbeat after some great scare. Five ducks whir along with flair. Five thousand whirring duck wings make a roar ...

It’s Time For Ramps And Morels

Though longer days and migrating birds tell me that spring has sprung, two of my favorite signs of the season appear at my feet. Ramps and morels are among nature’s most flavorful foods. Ramps are wild leeks, pungently aromatic members of the lily family. In early April, they form dense ...

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 ...