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!

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