This spring, attractive new web-based resources have become available for those of us in the Niagara Region interested in natural history.
The first is Chuck Rosenburg’s Buffalo-Niagara Nature Almanac at bnnatureblog.com. Although the website subtitle is “Weekly reviews of what’s happening in our natural world, to help you focus your outdoor explorations,” those reviews constitute only a fraction of the site’s value. Although it is still a work in progress, the amount of information already based there is quite remarkable.
There are extensive listings of nature locales that provide addresses and information about the type of area – stream, wetland, meadow, woodland – as well as type of use – hiking, hunting, fishing – and whether there is an associated nature center.
Species lists are provided for mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians; lists for insects, trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are in preparation. Useful features of these lists are the associated checklists that can be downloaded for personal use in the field.
A resources section lists Web addresses for nature viewing sites, bird sighting information, organizations that offer nature or conservation activities, general fish and wildlife topics, how to improve habitat where you live and schoolyard and farmland habitat enhancement. You can also post your own sightings with text and photos.
But most valuable are those weekly summaries. Chuck draws upon his strong biological training, which includes a master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, and his day-to-day experiences as a regional Department of Environmental Conservation employee. Even more important, however, is his local field experience. As he notes: he “has studied plants, animals and their habitats in the Buffalo Niagara Region for more than 30 years” and he is able to “capitalize on over 20,000 records from those studies in preparing these blog entries.”
I have been fortunate to have known Chuck for most of those years. I’ve attended his famous owl-prowls and we have conducted censuses together. (On one of those each spring we drive around East Aurora with a dome on top of my car that serves as a sonar receiver. With it, Chuck is able to record with his laptop computer the tiny squeaks of bats to count them, following a DEC survey protocol. Those squeaks serve the bats as echolocation of prey and we are simply tuning in on their sonar.) Every time we’re together, I learn something new from him.
Here is a sampling of entries from Chuck’s April 30 to May 6 summary: “With warming temperatures and southerly winds, the first substantial wave of neotropical migrant songbirds [those that overwinter primarily in tropical areas such as Central & South America] is finally reaching the Buffalo-Niagara Region, and spring ephemeral wildflowers [woodland species that bloom fleetingly before trees leaf out] are blooming abundantly. Fiddleheads [furled leaf fronds coiled like the scroll of a violin head] can now be found for many species of ferns, including Christmas, ostrich, cinnamon, royal, sensitive and spinulose wood ferns. The leaves of wild leek and yellow trout lily adorn the forest floor of many of our woodlands. The former smells like onion and the latter is mottled, resembling a brook trout. Huge schools of rainbow smelt are moving from Lake Ontario into the Lower Niagara River to spawn. Coyote, red fox and gray fox are now denning, as are raccoon and striped skunk.”
Another resource worth your attention is Jay Burney’s postings in the new local journal, the Daily Public at dailypublic.com. (Search with Burney to find his columns.) Readers of this newspaper should be familiar with Jay’s conservation articles; he’s the closest we have come to the outstanding former News conservation reporter, Paul MacClennan.
One of Jay’s recent articles carried a warning about bee losses: “A survey of 6,000 beekeepers across the U.S. reveals that colony loss in the 12-month period ending in April was 42.1 percent. The report indicates that across New York State, commercial beekeepers lost approximately 50 percent of colonies.” Many of Jay’s essays and photos also appear on his Facebook and YouTube postings.
These are welcome new sites, well worth visiting. They join others like Sue Barth’s Chirps and Cheeps Bird Blog at chirpsandcheeps.com. Sue serves as a model for beginning birders. She has gone from a neophyte to a top regional observer in just two years.