Today we hear from Gerry Rising about the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge’s annual Spring Into Nature event, which helps connect kids to outdoor recreation and nature. Gerry is a retired University at Buffalo professor, who writes books on math and natural history, and articles for Buffalo Spree. He also is an avid birder, and member of the Friends of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.
“This is a real test!” That was my first thought when I arrived on Saturday, April 28 at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge’s “Spring into Nature”, the keystone annual activity sponsored by the refuge staff and its supportive Friends group. The encouraging forecasts of the beginning of the week had not delivered. I found myself being drenched by a steady rain and shivering in the 38° temperature and by night it had snowed. Despite those challenges, I was proud of the fact that we and our nearly six hundred visitors had passed that test with flying colors.
This was the 34th of these yearly events and the prior experience showed. But this was my own first visit and I was impressed by how everyone, staff and volunteers, were not only so well organized but unphased by Mother Nature’s challenge.
Our visitors appeared unphased as well. Their prior experiences must have told them to expect a fun-filled and educational day outdoors at the Refuge no matter the weather.
Indeed, there was much to offer participants, between the 25 nature-related exhibits and many activities that included build-a-feeder or -nesting platform for birds, a migration maze, face painting, making tree cookies, archery and casting.
Visitors also enjoyed presentations throughout the day on live birds of prey, wildlife rehabilitation, invasive species and pollinator gardening; as well as demonstrations on basic fishing techniques, fly fishing and retriever dogs. Those interested were even bused to the Cayuga Overlook to see the bald eagle nest.
As I toured the grounds and visited with friends both old and new, I thought how much our Refuge owes to the cooperative activities of the small staff and sixty plus volunteers who showed up to help, all of whom love this remarkable nature enclave.
The Friends’ mission — to support and advocate for the Refuge — was evident here. But so too was the more general dedication to wildlife conservation of us, and our visitors.
Other examples of our Friends-Refuge collaboration are the reconstruction of the mile-long Swallow Hollow Trail, and the purchase of a trailer that will be used like a mobile visitor center. The trailer will highlight the Great Lakes watershed, migratory fish and birds, and the Refuge’s many attractions. It will help us bring a piece of the Refuge to children living in urban areas of Buffalo who rarely have opportunities to visit the Refuge. We are all proud to see these remarkable grounds maintained and appropriately managed, and we are equally proud of our efforts to share conservation, recreation and science education with children and their families.
Of course Friends of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge were well represented and their Flyway Bookstore was open. And there was plenty of food – a hot dog grill, Girl Scout Troop 31055’s chili and walking tacos, and the wonderful baked goods of the Alabama Basom United Methodist Church. Everyone left with big smiles! And a few left with some wonderful door prizes.
Come join us next year. We can promise without reservation better weather.