Nature

The Joy Of Gardening

I love gardens. Formal gardens. Wild gardens. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. Elaborate gardens. Simple gardens. Monochromatic or colorful. Cozy or sprawling. Sunny or shady. Each with its own personality, each with its own effect on my senses and my psyche. Sadly, I’m not nearly as ...

Conservation Funding Explained

Sometimes a headline can leave a false impression. Last week, for example, I received a press release announcing that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, will dole out $1.1 billion to state wildlife agencies in Fiscal year 2017. I saw it as great ...

Scientist-astronaut Gene Cernan is shown standing next to a large split lunar boulder during the Apollo 17 mission. The Lunar Roving Vehicle is parked on the right side of the boulder. Take a look at the moon with binoculars or a small telescope this month – it’s amazing what you can see.
 Courtesy NASA, Eugene Cernan

The July Skies

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge” — Carl Sagan, 1934-1996 Approximately 30 minutes after sunset this month, use binoculars to view faint Mercury low to the west-northwest horizon. On the evening of July 25th, the bright star Regulus will shine just ...

This forested area near Mayville helps deliver clean water to Chautauqua Lake. 
Photo by CWC

Land Use And Forest Trends Point To Declining Water Quality

Approximately 8,000 part-time and permanent residents depend upon Chautauqua Lake water for drinking and domestic use. Chautauqua Lake is a public drinking water source for Chautauqua Institution and the Town of Chautauqua Heights Water District. It is also incidental drinking water to ...

Purple fungus by Jeff Tome.

Look Beyond The Purple

I always wanted to make a nature crayon series. The array of hues that color our world is inspiring and perhaps infinite. Often we don’t realize that, or even teach it. I hear myself saying as I teach kids “What colors can you see in that?” and their answers are red, blue, green, yellow ...

Are Cowbirds Bad Parents?

Every spring I get reports from astonished readers describing a small bird feeding a much larger, obviously begging chick. Can you explain this, readers ask. The answer is “brood parasitism.” Brown-headed cowbirds are members of the blackbird family, and they are brood parasites; they ...

More than 1,000 pounds of mixed metals was pulled from the Chadakoin River at the third annual Chautauqua Lake Cleanup held on May 20.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

A Good Day On The Water

A good day on the water doesn’t have to revolve around calm winds and sunshine. My good day revolved around picking up trash and rubbing elbows with some hard working volunteers. I was fortunate to be able to participate in the 3rd annual Chautauqua Lake Cleanup, spearheaded by the Conewango ...

Screech Owls come in both gray and red (rufous) phases. They make a noise similar to a horse whinny.

Dusk To Dark

Nightfall turns everything new. When the dark slowly takes away vision, every sound is magnified. A small animal scurrying through leaves sounds like a bear crashing through the brush. Familiar places turn unfamiliar when they disappear from view. There are many terms for that time of day. ...

Bats Still Struggle With Whitenose Syndrome

Prior to 2006, I could step outside on a warm June evening and count on seeing at least a few bats patrolling the backyard in search of flying insects. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) reports that each bat eats 50 to 100 percent of its body weight every night. That translates into ...

Though it hatched from an egg last spring, this Polyphemus Moth will live only a short time as an adult. 
Photo by Jeff Tome

Short-Lived And Doomed

There is an idea out there that some insects only live for a day or a week. The stories about these amazing short-lived animals go around at this time of year: mayflies, gnats and other insects that live for a day, lay eggs and die. It sounds crazy — one of those stories that is almost ...

The view along the trail.

Nature’s Blanket

As I type, the wind is chasing clouds across a pale blue sky and making the boughs of the Scotch Pine and serviceberry trees outside my window bounce and sway. Now, here’s something a bit weird: Until recently, I don’t know why, I didn’t think of weather when I thought of nature. The ...

Watch A California Condor Nest

With wings spanning 9.5 feet and weighing up to 30 pounds, California condors are the largest vulture in North America and one of the largest flying birds in the world. By comparison, bald eagles weigh less than 10 pounds and have a wingspan of about 6.5 feet. In 1987, California condors ...

While America’s turf collectively covers an area the size of Michigan, most of these mowed and manicured spaces are biologically barren, offering little of value to wildlife. Unless a diversity of wildflowers, native grasses and “weeds” are allowed to grow there, beneficial bees, wasps, beetles, bugs and spiders find it difficult to complete their life cycles, and in turn, so too do songbirds, frogs, bats, and other wild creatures dependent upon them.
Photo by Becky Nystrom

Living Lawns Or Pesticide Peril?

Springtime is here, and the backyard beckons. Our lawns and landscapes grow more lush, lovely and greener with each new day. But green is not necessarily “green” from an environmental standpoint, especially when it comes to lawns. While America’s turf collectively covers an area the ...

Hairy Woodpeckers feed on Emerald Ash Borer larva. 
Photo by Jeff Tome

Nature Can Be Resilient

Small things can have big impacts. Last weekend my extended family gathered on my parent’s eastern Pennsylvania property because of a beetle. They recently cut down over 30 trees in their yard. It seems like a radical and destructive move. As we spent the weekend cutting, splitting and ...

Size Matters

Identifying an unknown bird can be tricky, but there are several key characteristics to look for when trying to identify a bird you’ve never seen before. When you see an unfamiliar bird, study it through binoculars as long as the bird stays in view and mentally note its size, ...

Joey O’Reilly will be working with the Cassadaga Lakes Association to create a “state of the lake” report as well as a comprehensive management plan for the Cassadaga Lakes. 
Submitted photo

Management Plan For The Cassadaga Lakes Underway

A two-year project to create a comprehensive management plan for the Cassadaga Lakes is underway. This project is being headed by SUNY-Oneonta M.S. candidate Joey O’Reilly, a Maryland native who completed his undergraduate degree at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in ...

Deer tracks are one of the most common to find and the easiest to identify, but many people can’t remember how they learned what one looked like.

How Do We Know What We Know About Nature?

Teaching in a school yard the other day, a third-grade boy pointed at the ground and shouted “There’s a deer track!” Another girl thought it was a rabbit track. To prove their points, they simply talked louder. Obviously, if you can talk louder than the other person, that makes you ...

Spring ephemerals, such as this purple trillium, can be negatively impacted by invasive species that are able to colonize and thrive in forested habitats.  
Photo by Jen Maguder

Invasive Species Threaten Our Spring Ephemerals

In our region, this is normally the time of year when the sun has just begun to warm the earth’s surface. The buds on the trees are mounting their swell before bursting into leaves, and the sun is still able to reach the forest floor. This is when the spring ephemeral species abound. By ...

Red-Winged Blackbird nest with nestlings.
Submitted photos

A Place To Call Home

There is both skill and art involved in taking natural materials and fashioning them into a useful object. Humans have done this in the past, harvesting plants and turning them in shelters, clothes, furniture and tools. I can’t help but wonder how they figured it out, and if they watched ...

It’s Baby Season

The hills are alive with wild creatures. In May, white-tailed deer drop fawns, litters of raccoons, and squirrels emerge from dens, and bird nests burst with babies. The temptation to rescue an “abandoned” baby can be overwhelming, but DON’T do it. Wildlife agencies across the country ...