It was the pileated woodpecker that underscored for me once again the value of Reinstein Woods, one of our most important urban nature enclaves.
The big crow-sized bird with its beautiful bright red, Woody Woodpecker crest called from a dead snag and then, its black and white wings flashing, flew across our path into a grove of ancient trees. To me, the species has a kind of prehistoric character, its crooked neck and its slow and deliberate wing beats reminiscent of the way the movies portray that lizard-bird, archaeopteryx.
The pileated woodpecker is a bird of extended forests and open country. I most often find them in less-populated areas of the Southern Tier or the Adirondacks. To see one here so near downtown Buffalo signals how unusual is this sanctuary.
I have enjoyed many visits to Reinstein Woods since I first met its state Department of Environmental Conservation refuge manager, Jeff Liddel, eight years ago. It is not only rich in bird life. It is well known for its mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well as its wildflowers, lichens, ferns and mushrooms. There are old-growth forest trees, some with memories extending over a century, and among its finest attractions are the beautiful pink water lilies that blanket several of its ponds.
Jeff has moved on to another assignment now, and on this walk I joined the new environmental education assistant, Kristen Buechi, and DEC Citizen Participation Specialist Meaghan Boice-Green. Together with a team of volunteers, these enthusiastic young women are arranging many new educational programs that are bringing both adults and schoolchildren into contact with the exciting natural history of this well-maintained property.
The Dr. Victor Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, as it has been more formally designated since 1989, has been a state holding since 1986 and operates under strict guidelines set out by the family of the Cheektowaga medical practitioner, attorney, developer and regional benefactor. Among other restrictions, these guidelines require prior permission to visit the sanctuary.
In early Colonial times, the 300 acres were part of the Buffalo Creek Indian Reservation. After the Revolutionary War, they were passed on to the Seneca Indians, who in turn sold their holdings to the Holland Land Company. Early Cheektowaga settlers purchased lots from this corporation. Finally, Reinstein bought the properties in 1932 and developed the resulting acreage into the present sanctuary by adding ponds and marshlands.
This week, Reinstein Woods celebrates its 15th year as a New York State nature preserve, and activities open to the public will occur on each day. This afternoon at 4:30, Bruce Kershner will lead a tour of the old-growth forest and point out historical tree carvings. Tuesday, there will be an 8 a.m. bird walk. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, visitors can learn about the preserve's pond life. At 2 p.m. Thursday, volunteers will lead wildflower and wild fruit hikes. An evening nature walk will begin at 5:30 Friday.
But Saturday will mark the grand celebration. Then there will be many exhibits, special tours, games and talks. The day will begin with the regularly scheduled 10 a.m. guided nature hike, but other events will run from noon until 4 p.m. Among them will be showings of Sharon Tiburzi's live owls and reptiles from Marion Janusz's Reptile Adoption, Rehabilitation and Education Center.
Reinstein Woods may be reached from Como Park Boulevard between Union and Transit roads. From the boulevard, turn south on Honorine Drive. The preserve parking lot is on the left side of that road. (Permission for other group visits to the sanctuary should be obtained by calling 851-7201.)
For more information, see the Web site: www.dec.state.ny.us/website/reg9/reinstein/.