Nature

Ferns, Fronds, Fiddleheads Are Diverse

The local woodlands, wetlands and streambanks of the Chautauqua watershed beckon us to explore their gifts of natural beauty and biological diversity, and the complex community of creatures living there has much to teach us. One lovely but often over-looked group of organisms, the ferns, ...

Peace In The Pond

It was peaceful out in the middle of the pond. The wind rustled the cattails, creating a rippling rush of sound that whooshed in from the distance and faded off behind me. The occasional loud monkey-like call of a nesting Common Gallinule echoed out of the deep grass. Geese honked in the ...

Life On A Sandy Beach

Cool sea breezes... Breaking waves playing tag with shorebirds on sandy beaches… Laughing gulls braying like hyenas… Sandy feet… These are a few of the images that dominate memories from long ago summer vacations at the Jersey shore. Near constant winds shape the seashore’s ...

‘Zooming In’

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has been advocating for the establishment of buffers along waterbodies for decades. A “buffer” refers to a vegetated section of land that is set aside along a lake, stream or wetland in order to protect the sensitive habitats that are often found in ...

Beauty Is Everywhere

When you search for “beauty in nature,” you get a lot of results. Most of them are pictures of far off places — mountains, lagoons, rolling hills. Everyone has a different opinion of what is or is not beautiful, but I think what we can all agree on is that beauty is all around us, we ...

Monitoring Nest Boxes: An Update On Fate

About a month ago I described an active nest box in my grandson’s backyard. A pair of tufted titmice had built a nest and incubated and hatched five eggs. I promised an update on the nest’s fate; all five young titmice fledged successfully. That’s the definition of “nest ...

Assessing Your Yard’s Water Contributions

Millions of people downhill from us drink the waters that are shed from our roofs, parking lots, streets and lawns. As watershed residents, it is the responsibility of each of us to take care of the waters that land on our homes and yards. Rainfall and snow can contain dust, ash and ...

‘Ridiculously Smooth’

It is an otherworldly sound – it both belongs and doesn’t. At once it instills a fear that renders you motionless, but also attracts you with a deep rooted thrill fueled by adrenaline. Rattlesnake. I remember my first wild Pennsylvania rattlesnake. Black phase female, basking on a rock ...

Frog Voices On A Summer Night

Drive slowly by a farm pond, a lake, or a wetland on a warm summer evening, and you’re likely to hear two distinctive voices. A deep, booming, “Jug-o’-rummm!” betrays a male bullfrog. On a lake the sound can travel up to a mile across open water. As darkness falls, dozens of bullfrog ...

Land Conservation

The lakes and streams in Chautauqua County have been impacted for decades by human uses in the landscapes which “shed” water to them. These waterways are some of our most valuable assets, and they need your action to protect them! How is your community managing your watershed? Is your ...

‘Most Beautiful Place’

At this time last year, I found myself ready to leave one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. We had just found what appeared to be the last parking spot in Zion National Park and were walking to what looked like a never ending line for the tram to go into the valley. And it was ...

Summer Brings The Wrath Of Poison Ivy

This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. That means little league games, swimming pools, and maybe some beach time. But summer also brings sunburn, sweltering heat, and biting/stinging insects. Today, however, let’s focus on the botanical scourge called poison ivy, which ...

Wildflower Show

May is a season of fast changes. Storm clouds boil up over the hills to the west and sweep rain across the region. Days of baking sun are followed by mornings where winter coats are more appropriate. Most of the changes, though, are quiet. The forest fills slowly with life. Ferns ...

A Child’s Perspective

One of my favorite parts of being a naturalist is watching kids discover things they have never seen before. So many children simply don’t get the opportunity to explore outdoors or don’t even know that exploring outside is an option. Audubon does a lot of programs for schools in ...

The Key To Incubation And Nesting Season

The nesting season for birds shifts into high gear in May. Geography, weather, and each species’ biology affect the precise timing of the nesting season, but one constant is the role of the incredible egg. Think of an egg as an avian gestation chamber, or the functional equivalent of a ...

‘Walk The Walk’

Everyone loves a good neighbor, especially one that comes to your house to clean. Chautauqua Lake has a good neighbor — the Conewango Creek Watershed Association. For the last four years, they have come to help clean up the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, and they are set to do it for a ...

Visiting Friends

When I was in college I usually ate my lunch at the Trailhead CafÈ, a little cafÈ just inside ESF’s campus center. The Trailhead doesn’t look like much to a random stranger just wandering through, but to the students at ESF the Trailhead was the closest thing we had to a dining hall ...

Building A Ballantyne Bird List

It’s been almost a year since my wife and I moved from West Virginia to Western North Carolina. Since then many readers have written to wish us well. We truly appreciate your thoughtful cards and emails. Thank you. Moving from a large old house on 95 rural acres to a suburban ...

Invasive Forest

An invasive species is an organism that has been introduced to an environment it is not native to and damages or impacts ecosystems, economies and/or human health. It can be plant, animal, fungal, viral or bacterial in nature. The negative impacts of these species can be extremely severe ...

‘Birding, Chatting, Meeting’

This is the time of year that I fully understand the value of basking. Lying on the ground, cushioned by the newly growing grass, the kiss of the sun on my winter skin is deep and satisfying. I can feel my muscles relax and my mind wander. When I close my eyes, the season truly transforms. ...