Thursday, August 27, 2009

Observation Points (8/20/09 - 8/26/09)

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards are primarily educators. As educators, we strive to interact with the public by making ourselves available to answer questions and listen to concerns. Yet we, the stewards of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands Area and Salmon River corridor, have another important role as master observers. We spend many hours in our respective natural resource areas observing public use, and changes in each of these areas over time. We are fortunate enough to perceive the shifting sands or alternating flows of the river. On a smaller scale, we may also catch the metamorphosis from larva, to pupa, to butterfly or track maple leaves as they shift from green in the summer to orange and red in the fall.

Pictured above: Monarch Butterfly larva at El Dorado Nature Preserve. Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff.

The past week has been filled with signs of one season fading, and another being ushered in with new sights and sounds. Yet the cooler temperatures haven't driven away those devoted to Sand Pond Beach. Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards have observed that people are still out enjoying the sun and the remainder of their summer vacations, and what better place to do that than at the beach?

At Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area, the sundial maintained by Ron and Emmy Fisher of the Friends of Sandy Pond was dismantled for the summer. The sundial was a curious addition to the beach area that piqued the interest of many first time visitors.

Sundial at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Champan.

Sandbars are one of August's signatures. Along the shores of Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA), sandbars provide a prime location for a variety of shorebirds including greater black-backed gulls. These birds are much larger, and less common, than herring and ring-billed gulls. One steward also spotted a Virginia rail, a crow-sized bird that is usually found in wetlands. The Virginia rail has a distinctive long, curved bill that makes it stand out in a crowd of gulls and terns. As the fall migration begins, the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands Area becomes restful stopover for many birds heading south.Unfortunately, not everything the stewards observe is an example of nature's brilliance. Sometimes when walking through the natural resource areas Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards see examples of how human impacts can alter the natural landscape, posing threats to the surrounding wildlife. On the southern section of Lakeview Wildlife Management Area (WMA), primarily accessible by boat, litter that washes ashore doesn't take very long to accumulate. One litter item that might be over-looked is the occasional balloon and piece of ribbon. However, this week one steward decided to see just how many balloons and ribbons had washed up on a small half mile section of beach at Lakeview WMA. When all the ribbons and balloons were tied together the result created a visual impact that shocked visitors to the area. Ribbon poses a large threat to fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife who can easily become entangled. Mylar balloons are a non-biodegradable product that will remain as part of the landscape for generations to come. Releasing balloons into the air after a celebration may be beautiful, but those balloons will fall somewhere, changing the natural landscape.

Greater black-backed gulls at Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

Balloons and ribbon collected and tied together over about a half-mile stretch at Lakeview WMA. Photo by Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Liz Wolff.

At Black Pond WMA the approach of autumn is easily visible. Taking a stroll down the boardwalk through the deciduous forest will be increasingly colorful in the coming weeks as fall foliage emerges. Many visitors speed through the woodlands at Black Pond WMA in a rush to see the beach, yet the wetland is a thriving habitat that will prove to be bustling with activity for those who are patient enough to watch and wait.

Salmon River stewards can attest that the Salmon River corridor always has something new to see if you pay close attention to your surroundings. Take for example the tiny crab spider. These creatures may go unnoticed most of the time, but that's because they are skilled at blending in with their surroundings. Crab spiders will literally change color as their wait to catch unsuspecting prey on a leaf of flower. They do not spin webs, but rather ambush their prey and immobilize it with a dose of venom.

Crab spiders on the Salmon River. Photos by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

Watching these spiders hunt, observing changing foliage, noticing the amount of balloons on the shoreline, and checking off new birds during their migration are just some of the things we Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards do while we are in the natural resource areas that are available to you too while we are completing some of our other duties!

While along the lowest public access section of the mainstem of the Salmon River, a Salmon River Steward noticed some interesting remnants from long ago. In addition to the arches pictured below, there are remnants of trestles and foundations along the river, making the Salmon River an interesting area to walk.

Structure near Staircase fishing access on the Salmon River. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Being able to see so many amazing things every day is part of what makes our positions as Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards so unique. We hope people will take advantage of the last few weeks of summer and enjoy the resource areas in the way we get to all summer long!

Although there are many areas that are available open to public use, the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards wish to remind visitors when exploring these natural resource areas, please be respectful of private property owner rights. We hope to see you along the eastern shore or the river corridor soon!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tours, Tours, and More Tours! (8/13/09 - 8/19/09)

One of our favorite things to do as Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards is educate the public about these fabulous natural resources. Sometimes we educate informally (one-on-one), and other times we plan formal education programs for various groups upon request or as part of our media projects. To learn more about steward media projects visit This week we had a great time with formal education about various topics from beachgrass vs. turf grass to the height of the Salmon River Falls. Does this sound exciting to you? Well, keep reading....

"Team Erosion's" Educational Program
Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Greg Chapman and myself, Salmon River Steward Jim Katz were at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) educating tour attendees about topics such as common causes of streambank erosion, the importance of native and natural vegetation to prevent erosive forces, how to minimize negative impacts when recreating along the Salmon River, beachgrass as a tool for preventing lake shore erosion and comparing and contrasting beachgrass and turf grass.

River Steward Jim Katz gives a demonstration on the importance of natural vegetation in preventing streambank erosion. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, NY Sea Grant.

Invasive species purple loosestrife. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

Although attendance was low, those who did turn out had a lot of great questions! The tour became a much larger conversation about many of the issues affecting the Eastern Lake Ontario shore from the invasive species purple loosestrife to lake level issues.

Dune Building Plants Program

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Steward Paul Dawson led a nature walk at Black Pond WMA that focused on plants that build dunes and their role in dune succession. He also showed participants how to identify many of the trees that are found along Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes and Wetlands Area. Paul had a great time educating people about the area. He had a great turn out of people that were eager to learn, and hope that they were happy with the tour he prepared for them!

Dune Steward Paul Dawson points out leaf patterns during his educational program. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, NY Sea Grant.

Fort Drum tours the Eastern Lake Ontario dunes and Salmon River corridor!
Most of our time this week (and part of the following week) was spent educating groups of children from Fort Drum, that ranged in age from 6 - 12. Each of the four groups toured Black Pond WMA with Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards Liz Wolff and Greg Chapman. Then they spent 45 minutes in a school bus and rode to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery for lunch followed by a brief lesson in the history of Salmon River fishery. Their tour was completed by an educational meander along the Falls Trail at the Salmon River Falls Unique Area with Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Dune Steward Greg Chapman talks about how the sand dunes buffer the inland wetlands from Lake Ontario's storm energy. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator for NY Sea Grant.

A helicopter gets everyone's attention! Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator for NY Sea Grant.

Dune Steward Liz Wolff talks about some of the interesting critters found in the woodland habitat protected by the sheltering and buffering dunes. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator for NY Sea Grant.

The kids (and chaperons alike) loved the tour! They were very attentive and asked FANTASTIC questions. At Black Pond WMA the children were absolutely distraught to see that people had thrown garbage in a place (wetland)that according to the kids "so many plants and animals call home". They soon learned that at Black Pond WMA and other similar areas people are supposed to carry out whatever they carry in. The children had no problem understanding this concept. The children even went a step further and said not to throw all items away, but to recycle them.

Top: The children learn about the types of salmon and trout in Lake Ontario. Bottom: River Steward Emily Freeman describes how the Salmon River Falls were formed. Photos by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator for NY Sea Grant.

It was great to see young kids being brought up with a positive attitude toward the environment. The kids also had tons of well thought out questions. One little boy asked during the wetland discussion, "isn't this where mosquitoes lay their eggs?" The boy was right, ponds are perfect breeding grounds for insects like mosquitoes.

Although there was a threat of rain on the last day, all of the days were a success! All groups were great, well behaved, and asked a ton of surprisingly good questions. It was great to see so many kids excited to be outdoors. Although this was the first time we had hosted youngsters from Fort Drum, we certainly hope to see them again!

Let's Clean the Beach!
Although Dune and River Steward Coordinator for NY Sea Grant Mary Penney had received numerous e-mails and phones calls from people expressing their interest in a second annual system-wide beach cleanup, there was lack of participation at the actual event. Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards Liz Wolff and Stacy Furgal were stationed at Black Pond WMA with Mary for the day while Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards Greg Chapman and Paul Dawson were at Southwick Beach State Park/Lakeview WMA. The crew of five were able to remove over nine large bags of litter from the eastern shoreline in just two hours. The most common items were unidentifiable pieces of plastic, cigarette butts, and recyclable and returnable cans/bottles (those are worth money!). Many beach-goers were intrigued by our work and would even stop to ask us questions like "why was there so much trash" and "why there aren't trash receptacles"? Much of the trash washes up and on the shoreline from Lake Ontario, but much is also left behind by beach-goers. Although NY Sate Parks does have trash receptacles at their facilities, WMAs, Nature Preserves and Natural Areas are not managed as state parks, which is why beach-goers are reminded to abide by the carry-in, carry-out regulation. Overall, the day was still a GREAT success!

All in a day's work! The crew from Black Pond WMA stands proudly over their collection of trash. Pictured left to right: Mary Penney, Stacy Furgal, and Liz Wolff. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

With all of these great and successful educational opportunities to keep us busy, you can bet our work week flew by! If your group has a need for a tour or program in the resource area, please contact the New York Sea Grant Oswego office at 315.312.3042. We hope to see you soon, on the beach or along the river!

Rain stop recreation? Not here! (8/6/09 - 8/12/09)

Although there were raindrops in the area, we continue to see more and more recreational users in both the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River corridor areas. We are happy to see more people and encourage people to get outside to see a new area each day!

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards
This week, Dune Steward Liz Wolff observed several people at Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) sliding down the dunes. All the people who were sliding down the sand dunes were educated about the negative impacts their activities were having on the area. Traffic, foot or vehicle, on the dunes can cause erosion. Visitors of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes are reminded to use designated walkways, boardwalks and dune walkovers when visiting the area. It is important for visitors to be observant when you are visiting the area because many areas are posted as restricted areas. Rules and regulations are posted at all area that are open for public access. It is recommended that visitors read the regulations for the area they are using for their own knowledge and the protection of the dune area.

Although bicycles are not permitted on the trail from the parking lot to the beach, peddlers venture from the Seaway Trail to Black Pond WMA to relax along the Lake Ontario shoreline before the next leg of their journey.

Cyclists reading educational panel at Black Pond WMA. Photo by Dune Steward Liz Wolff

At Lakeview WMA this week, Liz encountered an eyed elater. Eyed elater, members of the clock beetle family, have a special hinged joint between their head and thorax. The beetle arches its back, which activates a joint creating a "click" sound, when they are flipped on their back by a predator. The beetle is then propelled several inches into the air and able to land back on its feet. Eyed elaters are common across the United States. If you look and listen closely you may see them at local WMAs, nature preserves or natural areas.

Eyed elater. Photo by Dune Steward Liz Wolff

More people are visiting Lakeview WMA. As for me, Dune Steward Paul Dawson, I continued to see a Bald Eagle at Lakeview WMA just about every day.

Wetlands in Lakeview WMA. Photo by Dune Steward Paul Dawson

Dune Steward Greg Chapman reports that Deer Creek WMA's inner-dunal trail was mowed by NYSDEC on Monday, August 10. Portions of the trail that had been choked out by encroaching plants, including an unsettling amount of poison ivy, are now much more passable. Poison ivy remains in the general area of the trail, however, so visitors should familiarize themselves with this plant and keep an eye out for it. Poison ivy can be recognized by its compound leaves, each containing three leaflets. These leaves give rise to the saying "Leaves of three, leave it be." Many plants also have clusters of small, greenish-white berries at this time of year. All parts of this plant can potentially cause allergic reaction characterized by intense burning and itching sensations and blistering of the skin, often within 24 to 48 hours of exposure to the plant. Although a portion of the population maybe truly immune, a sensitivity to poison ivy can develop overtime. Even if you think poison ivy doesn't affect you, it is still best to avoid this noxious plant. If you suspect contact with poison ivy, immediately washing with soap and lukewarm water may prevent a reaction from developing. Pets and clothing that have come in contact with the oils of poison ivy can cause reaction for some individuals. Poison ivy is bad stuff! It is best to avoid the plant all together. Poison ivy is another reminder for visitors of the dune and river areas to stay on designated trails, walkways, and formal walking structures!

Poison ivy. Photo by Dune Steward Greg Chapman

Dune Steward Stacy Furgal is pleased to report that with the warmer weather people have been staying out of the dunes and in the water. Stacy has been busy installing new signs at Deer Creek WMA near and around the newly constructed dune walkover and fishing platform. She has also recycled snowfence to close the gaps between the dunes and the boardwalk. This was done in order to prevent further traffic into the restricted area.

Salmon River Stewards
Salmon River Steward Jim Katz was at Chateaugay State Forest helping a Youth Conservation Corp crew with trail maintenance. He reports that it's a really cool place for a hike even on a really hot day. The trees provide nice shade, but to watch out for the bugs!

River Steward Emily Freeman spent part of the week at Chateaugay State Forest. One of the days was spent replacing incorrect trail markers with correct ones with Assistant Forest Ranger Caitlin Smilgeski. It will be much easier for hikers to navigate through the State Forest!

Assistant Forest Ranger Smilgeski attaching a trail marker. Photo by River Steward Emily Freeman.

Woodpecker hole with hammer for reference. Photo by River Steward Emily Freeman.

Emily reports that the Salmon River Falls Unique Area continues to be a popular place to visit in the Salmon River corridor. Although ATVs are not permitted on the trails at the Falls, many ATVs parked in the parking lot and walked the trails during a charity drive. The Falls was one of the group's "checkpoints" for the event.

Smallmouth bass continue to be the catch at the Salmon River Reservoir, with multiple anglers reporting they're having great luck catching them. There are some parts of the reservoir that have some thick vegetation, which is perfect protection for the bass to hide and grow in. Even in the rain, you can see people fishing at the free camping areas along the reservoir. If you are planning your next camping trip along the Salmon River Reservoir, remember your fishing tackle!
Little America State Forest Land after rainfall. Photo by River Steward Emily Freeman.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer...Is that you...? (7/30/09 - 8/05/09)

The first week of August brought with it some more summery days, as well as those with severe thunderstorms. We stewards are keeping our fingers crossed for the rest of August to bring us warm days with plenty of sun.

Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Stewards

Black Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
On the more summery days this week, Dune Steward Liz Wolff reports many visitors at Black Pond WMA. Liz counted several hundred visitors this past Saturday. The parking area at Black Pond WMA is reasonably sized, but still fills to capacity on a regular basis. Rather than park in marked "No Parking" zones, visitors are encouraged to explore the other WMAs and State Parks in the area. While Black Pond WMA is one of the area with many recreational opportunities, its main function is a wildlife management area, and overuse can be damaging to the animals, birds, and insects that made it their home first!

For those looking for beaches with similar recreational opportunities, Liz recommends Wescott Beach State Park, Southwick Beach State Park, and Lakeview Wildlife Management Area.

Visitors enjoying Black Pond. Photo by Dune Steward Liz Wolff

Deer Creek WMA
Dune Steward Stacy Furgal met with the land manager of Deer Creek WMA this week. Stacy now has multiple new signs, posts, and snowfence to install. She will also be kept busy pulling Phragmites, or common reed, (an unwanted invasive species). All of these efforts will help keep Deer Creek WMA looking beautiful and also encourage proper use of the cobble beach and back dunes. Like Black Pond WMA, Deer Creek WMA is a free beach that is open to the public. We encourage people to visit there when places like Black Pond WMA are busy and the parking lot is full to capacity.

Sailboat on Eastern Lake Ontario. Photo by Dune Steward Liz Wolff

Lakeview WMA
Dune Steward Liz Wolff a variety of wildlife at Lakeview WMA this past week. Liz reports watching a pair of green herons stalk their prey. Green herons are unique because they are one of the only birds that use bait to catch fish. The bird will drop insects, twigs, or feathers onto water's surface. As a fish rises to investigate, the heron darts its bill into the water and grabs the unsuspecting fish. Liz also saw semipalmated sandpipers foraging for insects along the sandy shores of Lakeview WMA.

Left: Crayfish at Lakeview WMA
Right: Sandpiper at Lakeview WMA
Both photos by Dune Steward Liz Wolff

Saturday seemed to be the nicest of the week, and Dune Steward Paul Dawson reported that visitor usage at Lakeview was especially high with beach users and paddlers. Consequently, there was an especially high amount of garbage left over on Sunday from the busy Saturday. Dune stewards spent a considerable amount of time picking up garbage that was washed up or left behind, and ask that visitors lend a hand and take out what they carry in. Most of the areas along the eastern shore that are open for public use are managed for wildlife use. Litter that is left behind can pose a threat to the wildlife that is in the area, and makes the areas less inviting for future recreational use.

Paddlers at Lakeview WMA. Photo by Dune Steward Paul Dawson

Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area
Dune Steward Greg Chapman replaced some missing string fence posts at Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area. He is happy to report that there simply isn’t much to report, as the locals and visitors of this particular location take it upon themselves to really care about the beach and its appearance. Many beach goers stopped to pick up some trash and wanted to help him with snowfence repairs. He hopes that soon all the Natural Areas and WMA’s will be just as self-sufficient as SPB seems to be!

Sandy Pond Beach Natural Area. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.

Salmon River Stewards
Chateaugay State Forest

Left: Chateaugay State Forest after the rain.
Right: One of the many cascades in Chateaugay State Forest.
Both photos by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman

Chief Steward Greg Chapman and myself, River Steward Emily Freeman went to beautiful Chateaugay State Forest in Orwell, NY to scout the trail for obstructions and wash-outs which were marked with a GPS for a Youth Conservation Corp. They will be doing trail maintenance in the State Forest next week. River Steward Jim Katz assisted the youth conservation group on Monday and reported a significant amount of progress after just one day of work!

While it was a work assignment, Greg and I were reminded of just how pristine and peaceful Chateaugay State Forest is. There are trails that run along a beautiful flowing creek, complete with cascades and all types of river creatures like fish, frogs and crayfish. It seemed like we saw a different wildflower on each trail. The trails of Chateaugay State Forest are not open to ATV’s, but are available for hiking and mountain biking. Once the trails are cleared, I can’t wait to get my bike out and take the trails for a test run.

Left: Spring Peeper. Photo by Chief Steward Greg Chapman.
Right: Mushrooms growing on the forest floor. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Salmon River
We had another whitewater release last weekend! The beautiful Saturday weather brought the paddlers out in droves. Many people from the Pulaski area were enticed by whitewater rafting companies that were offering trips down the river all day. It was as easy as showing up, paying, and jumping into a raft to have a blast! Everyone we talked to was thrilled with the conditions and the weather. We heard time and time again how grateful the paddlers are for the water releases. Although the weather on Sunday was not as pleasant, some brave paddlers came out in the torrential rain. They said the rain just makes the rapids more fun! The weather cleared up Sunday evening. After duty I was able to try out some kayaks and play around in the rapids for a bit. People were enjoying the river throughout the week by fishing, swimming, and getting some sun.

Left: Purple Loosestrife by Public Fishing Parking Access Site Altmar North.
Right: Kids enjoying the Salmon River
Both photos by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman

Salmon River Falls

Salmon River Falls. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

Wildflowers on the Riverbed Trail. Photo by Salmon River Steward Emily Freeman.

The falls continue to get a steady stream of visitors. River Stewards Jim Katz and Emily Freeman, I, are always surprised to hear the stories of those who live no more than 10 or 20 miles away and didn't know the falls existed! Because the trail is ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliant, it is a beautiful natural resource that almost anyone can enjoy. It is also a very popular spot for motorcyclists to take a leisure ride to. We encourage those who haven’t gotten out there this summer to take a day and see just how beautiful it really is!