Tag Archives: iroquois national wildlife refuge

Spring into Nature

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.

Puddles with Job Corps volunteers

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.

Fish Biologist and volunteer, James Trometer set up the fish-friendly culvert activity.

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.

Casey learns to cast with Brent Long Outdoors

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.

Volunteers, Phyllis Zenger and Ann Fourtner, greeted visitors all day at the Friends Flyway Bookstore

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.

Abbie won the kids backyard refuge kit].

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.

All smiles at Spring Into Nature

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.

Cayuga Overlook

Come join us next year. We can promise without reservation better weather.

Seeds for Spring

Fall is in full swing; leaves are falling and monarch butterflies have arrived in Mexico for the winter.   In preparation for their return, National Wildlife Refuges and Fish Hatcheries throughout the Northeast are busy as bees preparing for pollinators this coming spring. Some of the great pollinator projects happening the fall include gardens and schoolyard habitats, outreach events, and planning summer camps, but these only begin to scratch the surface of the magnitude of the efforts to conserve these iconic species. Below is a map identifying field stations in the Northeast that received pollinator seeds and materials to begin projects or continue existing projects this fall.

Like many refuges across the region, Iroquois NWR has been fervently engaged in enhancing pollinator awareness.  Not only do they perform extensive pollinator outreach, sharing with young people the miraculous journey that monarchs make each year and their fundamental role in plant reproduction, but they also host student research that focuses on the impact of habitat management actions on monarch populations. Iroquois NWR is happy to announce that late October should give rise to a new and improved garden for pollinators when visiting administrative staff from the Northeast will reclaim and enhance the space using seed donated from the Monarch Conservation Initiative.  This will allow us to expand our efforts, using it as a teaching tool and garnering more support for these invertebrates that we hold dear!

In New Jersey, Cape May National Wildlife Refuge plans to plant a pollinator garden at the Two Mile Beach Unit in Wildwood Crest this fall so that the plants are ready to burst into growth in early spring. The garden will be strategically placed along the bike path and visible from the Dune Trail so hundreds of walkers and bikers alike can easily view the area. Interpretive signage will be utilized to convey the importance and purpose of pollinator gardens and grown plants will be labeled so interested individuals can know what beneficial plants to grow in their own backyard. The chosen area is surrounded by the marshland, grassland, maritime forest, and beach habitats on the Two Mile Beach Unit so the garden will lend itself to the already diverse array of habitats and pollinators will likely seek out the area. The Refuge looks forward to being a small haven for pollinators come spring and sharing that with visitors.

At the New England Field Office, Endangered Species Biologist Susi von​ ​Oettingen​ and Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Ted Kendziora​ are teaming up with ​​the New England Hemophilia Association ​to bring pollinators to ​NEHA’s Family Summer ​Camp ​​​​and the Geneva Point Conference Center next year. With ​​monarchs and bees on the decline, seeds will be used to create a pollinator garden with native wildflowers to benefit all pollinators. Students will have the opportunity to get hands on with seed and planting activities to create new habitat while learning the important ties these species have to agriculture and native ecosystems. The pollinator garden will be a permanent feature of the Center for visitors from other camps, conferences, school groups and special events to see and learn about.

Are you interested in helping create habitat at home or in your local community? Learn more about how you can help protect monarchs and pollinators.

Summer at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

This post is part of of short summer series featuring blog posts from our Hispanic Access Foundation interns. Today, we are hearing from Ariel Martinez, who spent the summer at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York. Read more posts in the series here

Ariel, after banding a purple martin.

For Latino Conservation Week back in July, I partnered with three different Boys and Girls Club locations, as well as two community centers. Because the refuge is positioned in between Buffalo and Rochester, I wanted to make sure we were reaching both cities. For my very first event, I worked with kids from the STEM program in the Rochester Boys and Girls Club. We went to the nearby Genesee Valley Park and did a nature photography program. The kids enjoyed it and got to pick their favorite nature photo to be framed.

The second event was at the Belle Center in Buffalo. It was a large event, and staff from the refuge helped support me. It was a blast, and the kids had a lot of fun doing things like making plaster casts of animal tracks, learning about food webs and looking at insects. The other three events were pelts and skulls lessons. I went to the Massachusetts Ave. Boys and Girls Club, the Beecher Boys and Girls Club, and the West Side Community Center in Buffalo. I taught kids about the local mammals using furs and replica skulls. There was also a voluntary wildlife ID quiz I laid out that many kids decided to try on their own. It was an amazing experience to see what things kids knew, or what they imagined about the things they saw.

My personal favorites how many people guess that the deer skull is a dinosaur and that the beaver pelt is a bear! I’ve also gotten the chance to work with monitoring and banding birds. Some of the birds I’ve gotten to work with are purple martins, Eastern bluebirds, and tree swallows. It has been really busy, but really fun and I enjoyed my time at Iroquois!