Friday, July 31, 2009

Education Galore- Harborfest and More!! (7/23/09 - 7/29/09)


A new tradition for Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and River Stewards has begun. This year was the very first year the stewards went to Harborfest, and with this year's success we hope to be in attendance in the future. We fine-tuned our wetland demonstration from the Oswego County Fair to help younger children understand what exactly a wetland is, and why they should care about them. A model wetland was constructed using, amongst other things, large sponges and fake vegetation. Children were then asked to pour dirty water over the "wetland" and watch as the wetland seemed to magically filter the water; the dirt was stopped by the sponges and the water that ran through our model wetland was clear. The children were amazed by the result and began to see "those swampy things" (as wetlands are sometimes referred to) as important and relevant to their own lives. For those too young to understand the activity, stewards created a display depicting wetlands wildlife. Both younger and older kids went wild for the wetlands wildlife display! Once the kids recognized an animal, they were eager to share their many animal-related stories (and we were eager to hear them).

Not only were the kids learning, but their were parents too! There was a table set up just brimming with informational literature, covering subjects from the emerald ash borer and the fish disease VHSv to maps of the Salmon River. Over the course of the three days the stewards were in attendance, we talked to hundreds of people and informed a lot of members of the community about many of the local natural resources, including wetlands.

Stacy (pictured above) reviews the wetlands display with a youngster at Harborfest. Photo by Salmon River Steward, Emily Freeman.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards

Dune Steward Liz Wolff has been continuing her efforts to keep Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in beautiful condition by installing another roll of snow-fencing. The snow-fencing helps to prevent dune erosion by protecting the dunes from damaging foot traffic as well as helps to promote dune growth, by capturing blowing sand. Liz also continued working on her one page summary sheet about woodpecker adaptations. Each season, a steward is charged with the creation of a newspaper article, interactive program, and one page summery sheet about a topic of their choice. These ‘one pagers’, as we call them, are yet another way the stewards educate when we distribute them at events such as Harborfest.

At Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area (SPB), Chief Steward Greg Chapman experienced the first "true summer weekend." The high heat, humidity, and a much calmer Lake Ontario, brought crowds of people looking for relief and relaxation. Although the beach was the busiest it's been this season, Greg is glad to report that there was minimal trash left behind. There were, however, the remains of several fires, one still smoldering in an area where many kids and pets play. Visitors are reminded that fires are prohibited at SPB, as they consume driftwood that is valuable in the dune-building process and leave behind the fire pits themselves, which can be not only unsightly but dangerous. Fires also strip the microscopic organisms and what few nutrients that are found in the sand.

Dune Steward Paul Dawson continued to encounter elaborately made structures on the beaches of Lakeview WMA. He wants to once again remind everyone that those structures are not permitted. They remove and impair driftwood's ability to stabilize the dunes and can be dangerous to humans and wildlife if they collapse. Paul also reported seeing a bald eagle at Lakeview WMA.

A structure found at Lakeview WMA. Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward, Paul Dawson.

River Steward Emily Freeman spent most of her time this week at Deer Creek WMA, covering for me, Dune Steward Stacy Furgal, since I was at Harborfest. Emily reported lower numbers of recreational users, but found the remains of fires to be evident at various locations along the beach.

Salmon River Stewards
Only July 27th, River Stewards Jim Katz and Emily Freeman held a Salmon River Falls tour for twenty kids aged 6-12. They educated them about the historical uses of the Falls, how the Salmon River is used for hydropower, why it is important to protect such a unique area, and what types of animals and plants they could find there. The kids were really into it, they especially loved getting to the riverbed and being able to go on a search for frogs, fish, crayfish, or anything else they could see. They were asking all types of questions (What kind of bug is this? What kind of flower is this? Why is there graffiti?), and seemed to retain a lot of the information, particularly the information about why we need to protect these areas, and what they can do to help. One of the stewards most important jobs is to educate, both children and adults, how to responsibly use the natural resources around them.
That Saturday, River Steward Jim Katz was again at work in the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, and he reported people throwing rocks from the top of the falls into the plunge pool below, as well as people swimming in the plunge pool. These activities are dangerous and are prohibited.

At the Salmon River Reservoir River Steward Jim Katz encountered a family from Baldwinsville, NY enjoying a picnic together. The family decided to take the day to enjoy the Salmon River Reservoir while riding motorcycles in the area. Ospreys, fish hunting birds of prey, were out and very active that day.

Osprey in flight. Photo by Salmon River Steward, Jim Katz.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exploration, Education & Recreation (7/16/09 - 7/22/09)

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune & Salmon River Stewards took advantage of this week to present educational programs and explore the natural resource area as well. Exploration of the natural resource area has given us broader experience to draw on for our positions as stewards. It was a lot of fun too!

Special Education Program
Students from the summer Bridge Program at Jefferson Community College (JCC) joined the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune & Salmon River Stewards for a day of learning at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on Thursday, July 16. After breaking up into small groups, students traveled to five different steward-led stations. Dune Steward Stacy Furgal thought that the students who visited her station on aquatic invasives and fish diseases had a good time visualizing a sea lamprey and saw first-hand the effect zebra and quagga muscles have had on the shoreline. Other topics stewards covered included: dune plants, the importance of wetlands, wildlife and proper recreational use of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands Area. The students seemed to enjoy their day in the "outdoor classroom."

Top: River Steward Jim Katz talks about wildlife of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands to the JCC Bridge Program participants. Bottom: Chief Steward Greg Chapman points out some of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune plants and their role in dune succession.
Photos by NY Sea Grant Steward Program Coordinator Mary Penney.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards
The following day, Dune Steward Liz Wolff held her program "Woodpeckers: The Ultimate Drilling Machines" at Black Pond WMA as well. She had 14 participants, many of whom were birders. Her talk focused of the special adaptations woodpeckers have, which allow them to be the successful "forest carpenters" that they are. The program was a success and people had lots of interesting questions about woodpecker behaviors. After the presentation, Liz took a handful of participants on an extended tour, showing them the rest of the site. Unfortunately, they didn't see any woodpeckers during the tour. The best time for birding is in the early morning hours when it's cooler and there is less of a human presence.

Dune Steward Liz Wolff points out a picture of a yellow-bellied sapsucker to program participants.
Photo by NY Sea Grant Steward Program Coordinator Mary Penney.

Dune Steward Paul Dawson will be holding an educational program at Black Pond WMA on August 17th about the importance of dune plants and their role in dune succession. His program will feature a nature walk where participants will learn to identify some of the dune's trees and shrubs and learn the role these interesting plants play in making the dune area so environmentally unique. Look for his article in upcoming editions of the Lure of the Lake and Oswego County Weeklies!

Elsewhere on the dunes, Dune Steward Stacy Furgal has noticed that Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area is looking better and better each day, thanks to the efforts of both stewards and beach goers alike! It is not uncommon to see people bringing their own trash bags to fill with beach litter. Stacy also noticed that the blissfully sunny weekend found many people enjoying the lake's cool waters, and in the case of one child it was the perfect weekend to create a work of sand art. A small boy from Pennsylvania led his family in the construction of a 'sand mansion' as he deemed it. It was just great to see a family outdoors together, enjoying the day and the company.

As for myself, Dune Steward Greg Chapman, I had an opportunity to see a different side of Deer Creek WMA while taking a canoe trip through the protected wetlands behind the dunes. Experiencing the wetlands up close and talking with other canoers and kayakers allowed me to really see why so many spend the day exploring this diverse habitat. A variety of birds, including flycatchers and a great blue heron, were seen along the trip as well as plants such as pickerelweed, white water buttercup and of course the abundance of cattails, creating a perfect home for muskrats and a variety of fish.

View of the backdunes at Deer Creek WMA from the creek itself.
Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

Salmon River Stewards
In the Salmon River corridor, Salmon River Stewards Emily Freeman and Jim Katz spent part of the weekend at Chateaugay State Forest. There, they marked some trails and areas in need of maintenance in preparation for a group that will be doing the work later this summer. The trails are beautiful and very well marked; it's a shame more people don't use it! One of the trails runs parallel to a beautiful stream with some small cascades that are stunning.

River Steward Emily also took some time away from work to experience the resource area from a recreational perspective this past weekend. On Saturday she had the opportunity to join a whitewater group during the whitewater release. Hundreds of paddlers in kayaks, rafts, and canoes came out for the 750 cubic feet per second (CFS) release and the weather couldn't have been better.

Red Eft along the Salmon River.
Photo by River Steward Jim Katz.

Emily says that it was amazing to see the river from a boat perspective, and it gave her a deeper appreciation for the natural resource. She also spent the night at one of the beautiful, but primitive campsites at the Culvert. There was no one else there and it provided a peaceful evening with plenty of opportunity to see some wildlife and enjoy the Salmon River Reservoir. The campsites on the Culvert always seem to be available, and it's a nice place to get away for some much needed peace and quiet.

An evening camping at the Salmon River Reservoir.
Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Both River Stewards also spent time checking in on the campsites, day use areas and boat launches on the Salmon River Reservoir. There was a group of 11 from Pennsylvania who camp for one week every year along the reservoir. There were also some anglers who were catching smallmouth bass, and a few day-users at Redfield Island swimming and enjoying the sun. The reservoir is a great place to camp, fish and simply spend a day.

We are glad to see people enjoying these beautiful resources and remembering to use them in a safe and an ecologically responsible way. For those of you that would like more information about some of the other areas we patrol, please ask us when you see us!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Change of Scenery (7/10/09 - 7/15/09)

If you took a trip to your favorite dune site this past week you may have been surprised to see an unfamiliar steward monitoring the area. After several weeks of getting acquainted with our primary sites we've now begun swapping resource areas to broaden our experiences and get a taste of new scenery!

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards
Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards Stacy Furgal and Greg Chapman will be alternating between Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area. In Stacy's first few days at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area, she was pleasantly surprised by the amount of regular visitors acting as informal stewards. With large amounts of litter washing up, many people have been contributing to the clean up effort by picking up, not only their own trash, but litter along the shore as well. Stacy was thrilled to see so many recreational users going above and beyond to take care of the resource area.

For Chief Steward Greg Chapman, who is accustomed to the sand beach and high visitor usage at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area, the relatively quiet cobble beach at Deer Creek was a nice change of pace. Greg used the lull in visitors to do some much needed snow fencing repairs.

Boardwalk at El Dorado Nature Preserve. Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards Paul Dawson and I, Liz Wolff, will each be monitoring El Dorado Nature Preserve/Black Pond and Lakeview WMAs for the remainder of the season. During Paul's first day at Black Pond WMA, he was happy to make conversation with many visitors who wanted to know about his duties as a steward. Paul did not have many violations to report from his first day at Black Pond WMA, but he did make note of several people trying to picnic and swim in the bird sanctuary of El Dorado Nature Preserve. From May until the end of September the bird sanctuary and rocky beach of El Dorado Nature Preserve are closed to human use because shorebirds utilize this vital area to feed and rest before their long migration south. Each time visitors disturb the shorebirds they will fly away, slowly depleting the energy reserves necessary for migration. However, visitors are welcome to enter from El Dorado, and then use the string path away from the shoreline to access Black Pond WMA for recreational use. Please note that pets are prohibited from the bird sanctuary and the rest of El Dorado Nature Preserve.

Kiteboarders at Lakeview Wildlife Management Area. Photos by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson.

The weather on Friday (7/10/09) was ideal for boaters. Temperatures in the mid 80s and the calm surf of Lake Ontario invited users from all over to spend a day along the shores of Lakeview Wildlife Management Area. For many boaters, Friday was the first day this summer that lake conditions allowed access to the site. I was excited to meet many people at Lakeview who have been accessing the site for 20 years or more. Beach goers were friendly and curious about organizing a cleanup for Lakeview's southern section which is only reachable by boat. Although a system-wide cleanup is not certain yet, keep an on this blog in case one is announced in the coming weeks!

Salmon River Stewards

Falls along the Salmon River. Photos by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Salmon River Stewards Jim Katz and Emily Freeman
both spent time at the Salmon River Falls Unique Area last week. Jim talked to a couple from Auburn, NY who has been visiting the falls for about 20 years. Emily has been encountering large groups of visitors and is glad to report a tremendous increase in responsible and respectful use of the area.

On the Salmon River in Altmar, Jim saw a lot of Skamania steelhead moving up the river from Lake Ontario. Skamania steelhead are summer-run steelhead that provide sport fishing opportunities for anglers not wanting to venture out during the busy fall Pacific salmon season or the colder winter months for winter-run Washington strain steelhead. He talked to multiple anglers that same day who have spotted steelhead in other areas of the Salmon River as well. Adult Atlantic salmon are also in the Salmon River as well this time of year as well. Atlantic salmon are not found in the numbers as the Pacific salmon during the fall months, but still exciting for those lucky anglers that find them during their fishing trip!

Salmon River Stewards Emily and Jim would also like to encourage people to check out the camping sites at the Culvert which are beautiful, and best of all, free!

Program on Aquatic Nuisance Invasive Species with Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman (left). Photo by New York Sea Grant Dune/Salmon River Steward Coordinator Mary Penney.

The Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards are still in the process of presenting their public education programs. On Saturday (7/11/09) Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman presented a program on Aquatic Nuisance Invasive Species and the Nuisance Invasive Species Disposal Stations that are installed at State boat launches along the Salmon River Reservoir. Emily explained that the purpose of the stations is to allow boaters, anglers, and other recreationalists to dispose of nuisance invasive species safely without spreading them to other water bodies. She also gave a brief history and description of some local aquatic nuisance invasive species, helping attendees to recognize species that should be disposed of in these stations. Although the weather was threatening thunderstorms on Saturday, a few brave souls still attended Emily's program and learned some valuable information!

A recreationalist placing aquatic vegetation in a Nuisance Invasive Species Disposal Station at County Route 17 in Redfield, NY. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

There are still two educational programs remaining in the steward series! Keep checking the blog for more details about dates and locations!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend! (7/02/09 - 7/08/09)

Despite the weather this past Fourth of July weekend, people continued to use the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands Area as well as the Salmon River corridor. The Fourth provided many people who don't normally use the natural resource area with a reason to go out and enjoy mother nature's raw beauty.

Canada Lily (Black Pond)

Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards
Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff spent the weekend at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA)/ El Dorado Nature Preserve. There was an increase in non-local visitors and many of them were interested in the resource area and learning about what we stewards do. Liz met a couple from Arizona who visited Black Pond WMA twice during their vacation, stopping both times to help pick up litter as they walked the beach. The strong winds were causing all sorts of debris to wash onto the beach from the lake. The strong waves also attracted kayakers and swimmers to Black Pond WMA as well. The waves were washing all the way up to the snowfencing installed by Liz and previous stewards. Snowfencing is used to stabilize the dunes. Although the water level seems high, it has gone down some from June.

Kayakers taking advantage of the waves on July 4th

Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes Steward Greg Chapman was patrolling Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area as the unsettled weather continued from heavy winds on Friday to even stronger winds on the July 4th. Although the sustained winds and the accompanying high waves may not have been ideal for a July 4th at the beach, they did provide a great demonstration of the sheltering ability of the dunes. Though the constant waves battered the lakeside of Sandy Pond Beach relentlessly, North Sandy Pond itself was protected by the dunes and was quite smooth. Waves and winds that could have been quite damaging to pond-side homes and camps were effectively dissipated - Sand dunes at Deer Creek Marsh WMA, Lakeview and Black Pond WMA, and El Dorado Nature Preserve provide similar benefit for the important wetlands that lie behind them.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes Steward Paul Dawson spent his holiday weekend at Lakeview WMA where attendance was surprising slow until Sunday - which turned out to be the busiest day at Lakeview WMA this summer. Paul found two groups of campers along his stretch of beach. As a reminder, camping is not allowed at Deer Creek Marsh WMA, Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area, Lakeview and Black Pond WMA, and El Dorado Nature Preserve. Tents and foot traffic kill vegetation, which plays a key role in dune stabilization. It is important to know and understand the regulations for the resource areas. Public use of State Wildlife Management Areas regulations can be found at and regulations for the public use of Lakeview Wildlife Management Area designates as natural beach can be found at

Boaters, kayakers and canoers enjoying Lakeview WMA.

Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson.

Salmon River Stewards
This holiday weekend was one of the many pre-determined whitewater releases on the Salmon River. These releases raise the flow of the Salmon River so that kayakers, canoers and rafters can enjoy the resource. The flow was raised to 750 cubic feet/second (cfs). Salmon River Stewards Jim Katz and Emily Freeman talked to people throughout the weekend who had ventured from all across the state and even out of state just to take on the rapids of the Salmon River. Emily talked to a gentleman who hailed from Letchworth State Park who said that he liked the Salmon River because it's interesting enough for experienced kayakers, but a perfect river for beginners to learn on as well.

Kayaks and rafts enjoying the Salmon River.

Photos by, Mary Penney, New York Sea Grant

Oswego County Fair

Stewards Greg Chapman, Jim Katz and Stacy Furgal each spent a day at the Oswego County Fair (County Tourism Building). There, they encouraged fair-goers to take a day to enjoy the local resource areas, which we are fortunate to have so close. They also conducted a children's wetland activity used to express the function and importance of wetlands via an interactive replication. The kids poured dirty water (representing water with pollutants and sediment in it) over sponges (wetland vegetation) in an aluminum pan. After the water passed through the sponges it came out cleaner than before it was poured because the vegetation absorbed it, acting as a filter. Our time at the fair was worth while, and we look forward to seeing you all at the fair again next year!

Check out our educational programs under "Upcoming Events" to the right!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer is here!! (6/25/09 - 7/1/09)

Summer is here! With the increase in temperature over the last week recreational users have started to come out in full force to all locations along eastern Lake Ontario and the Salmon River corridor. Summer temperatures bring the threat of thunder storms and rain showers. We want to remind everyone to keep an eye on the weather. Storms can move off the lake quickly.

This week Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Stacy Furgal lead a wetlands wildlife walk at Lakeview Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Stacy reports that although it was a hot day on the walk they did get a chance to spot an oriole, a great blue heron, longnose gar, sunfish, remnants of a turtle nest, and signs that were left behind by a beaver. This is first of a series of free educational programs being run this summer by the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards.

Snapping turtles can often be seen in wetlands along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and other local bodies of water. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freedman.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Greg Chapman reports that attendance at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area (SPB) continued to increase as we approach the Fourth of July weekend. Although the weather around eastern Lake Ontario looked to be unstable, the sunshine held for the most part at SPB and afforded us with some excellent views of nearby thunderheads.

Gulls at Sandy Pond Beach by Chief Steward Greg Chapman

Although beach goers prefer no footwear at SPB and at other beaches, there are a number of items that should be watched out for, such as broken glass or fishing lures that occasionally wash onto the shore. This week also saw an increase in the number of water chestnut seeds, or nutlets, found along the beach. These black seeds have a number of sharp points and can definitely hurt an unprotected foot. Water chestnut is an invasive aquatic plant found in some area ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams. Thankfully, once the seeds are black and begin to float, they are biologically dead and can be removed and disposed of without worrying about spreading this invasive plant.

Photos of Water chestnut by Chief Steward Greg Chapman

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff reports Black Pond WMA/ El Dorado Natural Area has also seen an increase in usage over the last week. As a result, there has been a lot of litter in the area. Many visitors ask why there are not trash receptacles provided. This is because Black Pond WMA and all other WMA's, nature preserves, and natural areas are free facilities and not State Parks (which include trash removal services in park entry fees). Although there are not trash receptacles in these more primitive locations, they all have carry-in, carry-out policies. Visitors can do their part to be good stewards of these areas; help to keep them in their natural state so they may be enjoyed for years to come.

Lakeview WMA has also seen the same increase in visitors as the other sites. Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson reports that Sunday was the busiest day at Lakeview so far this summer. With the increase in users Paul has seen more structures (temporary creations of piled drift wood and other debris), and wants to remind everyone that they are not permitted. The reason for this is they move the driftwood which is a very important dune stabilizer. Structures can also be dangerous if they collapse.

Structure found at Lakeview; by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson .

Lakeview WMA; by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson

Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman also reports an increase in visitor use. Over the weekend, one of the camping areas on the Salmon River Reservoir called Little America (CCC Rd) was full. Visitors brought canoes, kayaks, rowboats and even caught some bass for dinner. Emily wants to remind visitors that there are other places to camp on the Salmon River Reservoir such as the Culvert, which has six campsites and dikes. Both of these areas have had low use this year. If anyone is curious about where there are campsites just look for the River Stewards who will be happy to help and have maps available. Campers are reminded to burn ONLY local firewood since the Emerald ash borer (invasive forest pest) has been found in NYS that can easily be spread through firewood (for more on this invasive, click over to New York Sea Grant's Web Site).

View from Culvert on the Salmon River Reservoir Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman

With the nice weather over the weekend people covered the shore of Redfield Island where they were swimming, barbecuing and simply enjoying a day of sun. Salmon River Steward Jim Katz wants to remind everyone of the importance of carry-in, carry-out so that everyone can enjoy the area. He also talked to a group of men from Rome, NY who had just finished an impromptu smallmouth bass fishing "competition." They reported catching a lot of smallmouth however all were small in size. They released all of their captured fish. Size and limit regulations often change with water body, so please be sure to check local regulations before starting your fishing trip.

All stewards have continued working hard on their educational programs, check our upcoming events for dates!