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!

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