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Big weekend upcoming for nature lovers

This coming weekend, Sept. 16 to 18, will be an unusually busy one for Niagara Frontier families interested in natural history and the out-of-doors. Three major events will take place: the International Beach Sweep, the Buffalo Audubon Society's auction and the Western New York Herpetological Society's Reptile and Amphibian Show.

With the additional detritus left by Hurricane Katrina, the annual Beach Sweep on Friday and Saturday should prove of special interest this year. I took a walk along Lake Erie last week with Sharen Trembath, the organizer of this operation for the past 18 years and found that, although the storm clearly had an effect, there is still much to be cleared.

Sharen tells me, however, that the program has had a strong positive influence, the beaches staying far cleaner than in the early years.

To serve as a site captain, help with volunteer recruitment, donate refreshments or simply to register and participate in this activity, contact the group serving your area. Sharen (549-4330) retains responsibility for Erie County beaches from Lackawanna to Fredonia. Others and the areas they cover are:

* Friends of the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers, 881-1217: those rivers as well as South Park Lake and Cazenovia, Scajaquada, Buffalo, Ellicott and Cayuga creeks.

* Quality Quest and Riverside Salem United Church of Christ, 773-7621: Grand Island.

* Niagara Falls Aquarium, (800) 500-4609, ext. 209: the Falls area and Lake Ontario shores in Niagara County.

* Amy Smith, 763-7058: Dunkirk and Chautauqua County.

* Cattaraugus Creek Watershed Task Force, 228-1430: beaches of that county.

The Buffalo Audubon Society's Sixth Annual Auction for Nature will be held at the Gow School at 2491 Emery Road in South Wales (follow signs a short distance from the south end of Route 400) on Saturday. A social hour with hors d'oeuvres, liquid refreshments and previews for the silent and Chinese auctions will begin at 6 p.m. with the live auction commencing at 7.

Last week Beaver Meadow Nature Center Director Bill Hudson showed me the ivory-billed woodpecker he is carving to serve as just one of the auction items. It will be spectacular. Among the many other valuable prizes already on hand are handmade quilts and wall-hangings; guided family trips for fishing and nature study; an NFL football autographed by Jim Kelly and some of his teammates; drag race driving lessons; vouchers for kayak and canoe use; fine furniture; collectible books and antiques including a set of rare Royal Albert china; theater, concert and other entertainment tickets and gift certificates.

Admission to this event designed to support Audubon activities is $20 for early registrants and $25 at the door. To purchase tickets, contribute an item or make a donation, call (800) 377-1520.

The animals studied by herpetologists - vertebrates referred to by specialists as herps - include all reptiles and amphibians and thus snakes, turtles, salamanders, lizards, toads, frogs and even crocodiles, alligators and caimans. On Sunday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., many of these species will be on view and some for sale at the Hearthstone Manor at 333 Dick Road in Depew.

Jerod Miller, director of the Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton, will speak at this sixth annual Reptile and Amphibian Show of our regional Herpetological Society. A much-sought-after speaker, Miller has appeared with his animals on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" and the "Tony Danza Show."

I attended last year's event and was impressed with the number of herps on exhibit and the attractive way they were displayed. This is the kind of show that should prove especially exciting for youngsters interested in these remarkable vertebrates. Ticket prices: $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 5-12, free for children under 5.

A final note: The Buffalo Forecast Office has initiated a delightful regional weather newsletter called "The Lake Breeze." Copies of the first issue may be downloaded at www.wbuf.noaa.gov or one of the few remaining printed copies can be picked up at the Weather Service office at 587 Aero Drive. I salute editor Judith Levan and meteorologist Tom Niziol for this excellent new publication.

e-mail: insrisg@buffalo.edu

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