Friday, June 5, 2009

In the Meantime: Waiting for “Summer” to Arrive (5/28/09 – 6/3/09)

The cool, windy weather last week left only the brave to venture out to local Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), Natural Areas, Nature Preserves, public fishing access sites and State Forests/Unique Areas.

We, the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards, took advantage of these quiet days by working on some beginning-of-the-year maintenance projects. On the dunes each year, we install new snow-fencing at areas providing public access along the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes in an effort to stabilize the dunes and discourage foot traffic. Some of our time was spent measuring to replace damaged fencing and for areas where new fencing is necessary. We also replaced missing or damaged signs at sites to prepare for the busy season ahead.

Quiet days are a great time to observe a variety of wildlife as well. From the walkover at Black Pond WMA, I counted six bird nests of varying sizes and shapes, among them, nests of the Baltimore oriole, yellow warbler (image above, top), and gray catbird (image above, bottom). Bird nests were identified with the help of local birders. Water birds at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area and Black Pond WMA (image below) feasted on small fish and other small organisms that have washed ashore. Painted turtles at Black Pond WMA and water snakes on the Salmon River relished what warmth they could while sunbathing on dead logs. The best way to observe birds and other wildlife at any of these sites is to walk quietly and speak in hushed voices. Many animals are easily scared away by noise!

Photos above by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, Liz Wolff.

Along the Salmon River corridor, river stewards reported meeting anglers and unscheduled groups during outings. On the river, anglers have been catching the freshly-stocked landlocked Atlantic salmon and steelhead. They are small, but are still fun to catch. At the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, stewards are seeing a noticeable number of groups from the Syracuse area enjoying the easing walking trails and learning about the area. People have begun camping at the designated campsites on the Salmon River Reservoir. One group of campers had good luck with rock bass during their stay.
Salmon River Falls photo by Salmon River Steward (2008), Luke Connor

Along with spending time at our individual sites, we attended the June meeting of The Ontario Dune Coalition (TODC). The meeting was a fantastic opportunity to see a diverse group of organizations, including NY Sea Grant, The Nature Conservancy, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Friends of Sandy Pond, and NYS Parks and Recreation working on projects to educate and inform the public about Eastern Lake Ontario’s unique resources.

As part of our effort to educate, we create an annual media project including a newspaper article, interpretive community outreach program, and project impact summary sheet. The research for this season’s articles is well underway! In addition to the media projects, we will be leading an interactive activity about Lake Ontario and Dune Formation at this year’s Dune Fest (June 10th at Southwick Beach State Park). Local 7th (Belleville/Henderson) and 8th (Sandy Creek) grade students will spend the day rotating through fun and informational stations about the dunes, wetlands and water safety, among others. Keep an eye out for an update about Dune Fest and our media project progress in the coming weeks!

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