Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving ! ! !

These pictures were taken a few years ago and you can imagine how excited we were when we first saw these wild turkeys in our yard eating the birdseed that other birds scattered to the ground from the feeders (you can see the bird feeder hanging in tree above them).

Turkey tracks all over the yard
Well, we were so excited that we had to take lots of pictures of them. We never had them come this close to the house before. We've seen them out back on the edge of our property, but usually they were just passing through.

Suet feeder in red bag on tree. 

These turkeys hung around our place for several weeks that year. You can tell they were enjoying their free dinners by all the tracks on the ground under the trees. Those are all turkey tracks. We tried not to scare them away when we got close to the windows to photograph them. It was such a delight to watch them. Big majestic birds!

The wild turkey is native to North America. The adult male turkeys are called Toms or Gobblers. They have a featherless reddish head, throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. When a male is excited its head turns blue, when it is ready to fight the head turns red. On each foot is three toes in the front and a rear-facing toe in the back. Males also have a spur behind each of their lower legs. The males are quite a bit larger than the females. Their feathers are very colorful and include areas of red, copper, purple, green, bronze, and gold iridescence. Females turkeys are called hens. Their feathers are a lot duller than the males' and are mostly brown and gray. The turkeys' wing feathers have white bars and overall they have between 5,000-6,000 feathers.

They usually live in open woodland or wooded grasslands. They prefer hardwoods or mixed conifer (cone-bearing trees) and hardwood trees with openings such as pastures, fields, and orchards. You will most likely find them in forests of beech, oak, hickory, red oak, cherry and white ash trees. They will eat seeds, nuts, acorns, berries, insects, and roots. They usually eat in the early morning and late afternoon.

Their predators (both adults and young) are coyotes, red foxes, bobcats, cougars, eagles (except the adult male), great horned owls, and domestic dogs.

Coyote      Photo by Ted Link

Well, that spring we had a mess on our hands from those turkeys. I had some perennials under the trees and ivy. They dug up the perennials from their scratching and just about destroyed all the ivy under that tree. The ivy is finally filling in after a few years, but the perennials never came back. If you have turkeys hanging around- that's great, just try keeping them out of your flower beds and/or move your feeder!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Feel free to leave a message . . .

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Have You Ever Been to a "Unique Area"?

Tinker Falls

Well, sitting here at the keyboard trying to think of something different to write about, and at the same time trying to come up with something that may interest you, I thought I'd share with you some of my husband's photos he took last week while hiking a trail about 30 miles south of Syracuse, New York.

Up until this time, we didn't have any accumulated snowfall, and as I write this issue of my blog we still don't have any on the ground at our house, so when I saw these pictures I was really affected by them. They were so beautiful, peaceful and awe-inspiring. Just in their simplicity and their natural beauty. No words for them.

So often we don't take the time to just look at one simple thing: a blade of grass, a leaf, a tree, a flower, an icicle. We are so preoccupied with outside activities, situations, technology, family, and personal issues. And while we have to prioritize our life situations, we also should take the time to rejuvenate ourselves personally. Even if you can only spare 2 minutes. Shut the computer off and look out the window. Look at a bird, a tree, your cat. We are used to focusing on the "whole" picture. We've been trained to put things into "perspective". Sometimes we need to just take the time and step back to see and appreciate the things that are right before our eyes.

Now how does this pertain to gardening you ask. When we're thinking and planning our landscapes and gardens, it doesn't always have to be a complicated, detailed, perfect plan. Look at the natural features in the pictures. The perfection of rock outcrops, leaning trees, brush. There are no manicured lawns here, but yet there is beauty in it's starkness.

The birds love these areas. There is much understory that provides protection for them. There are nesting materials of mosses, leaves, twigs, weeds, and grasses. There is food in seeds, bugs, and berries. And running water. Water will attract birds to your yards. Birds need water, food and nesting areas.

These photos that my husband took are from a New York State area that's designated as a "Unique Area". It is called Labrador Hollow Unique Area.

This area is popular for hunting, fishing, hiking, trapping, bird watching, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and even hang gliding. There is almost five miles of marked trails.

There is a boardwalk that is almost 2,000 feet long that provides accessibility to a trail back to Labrador Pond. This boardwalk will take you over a wetland area and there is also a short accessible trail to Tinker Falls.

Here is a description of the History of Labrador Hollow Unique Area as posted on the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) webpage:


Labrador Hollow Unique Area was acquired with funds provided by the Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1972 as a means to protect areas of great natural beauty, wilderness, and/or historical, geological or ecological significance. This includes rare plant life and scarce animal habitats. Labrador Hollow's topography is responsible for its unique character. The area is located in the middle of a valley running north to south that was dug out by glacial movement that occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch. Massive ice sheets from the last glaciation episode (Wisconsinan glaciation episode) retreated from the area approximately ten thousand years ago. They left behind numerous sedimentary deposits and superficial features, some of which filled with water and are now called the Finger Lakes, while others became known as valleys. The floor of Labrador Hollow's valley is only about one-half mile wide, but its walls rise abruptly for several hundred feet. Today, this unique and attractive area provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services for many New York residents and visitors alike.

Because this area is shaded most of the day from the surrounding forests, the plant life that you will find here will be similar to the plants you would find in the high, boggy areas of the Adirondack Mountains. Over 100 different bird species have been identified as inhabiting Labrador Hollow including the rare Kentucky Warbler which is also protected by the NY Natural Heritage Program.

Near the north end of the valley there is a steep hill which occasionally has conditions that are flyable for hang gliders. When there is a west wind that crosses the valley floor, thermals are carried up to the launch site of a 700 foot hill. All hang gliding conducted at this site is with a permit obtained from the state only, and only non-motorized hang gliders are permitted. Also, if you do get a permit, you will have to carry your hang glider up a fairly steep trail through the woods to the top.

Thanks for sharing your pictures with us Ted!

*     *      *      *      *      *     *      *      *      *

On the way home from his hike he spotted this coyote about one mile from our house!

Link to Labrador Hollow Unique Area: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/37070.html

Feel free to leave a comment! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fall Departures & Arrivals!

Fall is about half way over on the calendar, but for us Northern New Yorkers it's winding down pretty fast. It seemed to me like the leaves were slow in changing, but when they did we got a lot of rain and wind that knocked most of them down.


Yellow-shafted Flicker

Last week I spotted a few flocks of robins in the yard and a northern (yellow-shafted) flicker woodpecker. The northern  flicker is not your usual woodpecker that you see pounding away way up in the trees. They mainly eat ants and beetles so you are more likely to see them on the ground or at the base of trees. They will dig in the ground with their beak.

Male Yellow-shafted flicker

When they fly you will see color on the wings: yellow if you are in the East and red if you are in the West. You can also notice a bright white spot on their rump. The photo above shows the male which has a black "mustache" on both sides of the beak. The female yellow-shafted flicker does not have that black marking. We are right on the border of their summer residency which is why you will rarely see them in the winter. If you are interested in hearing their calls or seeing a map of their range you can click on this link: http://birds.audubon.org/birds/northern-flicker


Snow Buntings

Another rare sighting for me this week, and also the first time I've ever been able to photograph them, was a flock of snow buntings. The birds fly in flocks and they blend in very well with their surroundings especially in the winter with snow on the ground. Most of the time when I've spotted these birds it has been in winter on the side of the road. And because they are so light colored you usually don't spot them until you get close to them, and then they take off and are gone. There is a lot of white in their plumage. 

Snow Buntings

The snow buntings' summers are spent in the tundra in Alaska, northern Canada, and coastal Greenland.
For more information on the snow buntings click here: Snow buntings

Male Red-bellied woodpecker and Blue jay visiting the suet feeder

The sighting of the male red-bellied woodpecker was a nice surprise for me yesterday as well. We haven't seen these woodpeckers since last winter. Of course it's probably because we just started putting the suet cakes back out. We usually take the suet down in the summer because they attract too many raccoons.  We have had the suet cakes up in summer in the past and it was great because the woodpeckers would bring their babies to the suet feeders. The red-bellied woodpeckers are common in the east and live in forests. They will occasionally visit a feeder outside of the woods as well, but they are usually very wary. If you live near the edge of a wooded area you might be able to attract them with suet in the winter or peanuts and sometimes sunflower seeds in the spring and summer. Dead trees may also encourage them to your area as well. They may feed on berries of hawthorn or mountain ash in the fall and winter. It took quite a few years before they started coming more frequently to our suet feeders. The males red markings' on the back of the head are the distinguishable characteristic that differentiates the male from the female. The female has the red marking on the back of the head, but it's not as long as it is on the male.

Blue Jay on suet feeder
In the winter, suet and suet cakes will attract birds to your yards. You can purchase any variety of suet cakes. They are offered with seeds, nuts, corn, milo, wheat, millet, sunflower seeds and even fruit. You can buy them anywhere birdseed is sold. Or you can even get plain suet from the butcher at your local grocery store. The feeder shown above has a suet cake in it, but it will also hold the suet blocks you can get from your grocery store. My husband made this suet feeder several years ago and it has held up well considering all the wildlife we've had visiting it like raccoons and "cats".  Birds eat suet in the winter because it's nutritious, and provides them with a good source of fat and calories that helps them to survive the harsh, cold winters. Other birds that have visited our suet feeders in the past includ include chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, and other woodpeckers.

Another bird that winters here from the Arctic is the Junco. I've seen them in our yard, but haven't photographed them yet. It will be a long winter so I'm sure they will be around for awhile.

Appledale Orchards, Mexico, NY

New Apples!

New York is the second largest apple producing state in the United States.Central New York is one of the major production areas in the State. There are approximately 694 commercial apple growers in NY. Some of the most popular varieties grown in New York are MacIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome, Idared, Crispin, Paula Red, Gala, Jonagold, and Jonamac. New York State grows and markets more commercial eating apples than any other area of the country.
Behlings Orchards, Mexico, NY

NY State Apple growers are developing new planting systems for growing the trees such as Y-shaped trellises or posts and wires to support the trees. This allows more sunlight to filter into the trees which improves the color and flavor of the apples.

Other news in the apple orchards is the involvement of horticulture and research Professor of Agriculture, Susan Brown, from Cornell University, in the development of two new varieties of apples. They are being introduced this year as SnapDragon and RubyFrost. It can take up to four years before a tree seedling produces fruit. The horticulture department at Cornell University cross breed different varieties of apples for select traits. Those include: sweetness, disease resistance, insect resistance, texture, firmness, and other desirable traits.

SnapDragon is a cross between Honeycrisp with a Jonagold-like hybrid. It is an early ripening variety that is crisp and sweet. I have had these this year and they are excellent. You will not be disappointed. Both delicious and great in pies. RubyFrost ripens later in the fall, is tart, juicy, has a high Vitamin C content, disease resistant, and resists browning. This last trait would be attractive to retailers selling apple slices. Both these apple varieties were bred to withstand a long time in storage. Expect to find them more available in 2015.

Here are additional articles and a video on the new varieties of apples:

Syracuse/The Post Standard article & video: Cornell University Growing New Apple Varieties


NY Apples New York Apple Association

New Paltz Times: Two New Apple Varieties

*      *      *      *      *     *      *      *      *     *      *      *      *     *

Thought I would share with you some of the last images of our fall scene before the snow piles up. As I look out the window it's now starting to snow. . . .

Selkirk Shores State Park

Taken across the road from our house by my husband Ted

The Conservationist Magazine

If you are interested in a free trial issue of the New York State Conservationist magazine you can call 1-800-678-6399. Mention Code Q12PVB. They are having a Super Cyber sale November 29, 2013 through December 2, 2013. Six issues for $6.00. This publication features information on fish, birds, wildlife and natural resources. The photos are beautiful and the articles very informative, and there is no advertising. Here is the link to their site: http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/conservationist.html

I welcome your comments. Hope you enjoyed your visit!

#woodpeckers #snowbuntings #NYApples

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Water, Water, Every Where, Nor Any A Drop to Drink

Eastern Lake Ontario

Southwick Beach State Park

As gardeners we have a responsibility to take care of our natural resources and water is one of them, and probably the most important. Without an abundant supply of water our gardens would wither and die.

I stopped by Southwick Beach State Park early in October for some pictures for this issue of the blog. The park was still open for visitors and camping.

On any weekday (except holidays) if you are a New York state resident age 62 or older, you can obtain free vehicle access to any state park or state boat launch with a few exceptions. See Golden Park Program link: NY State Admission- Golden Park Program

We are fortunate enough to have one of the largest, freshwater Great Lakes in the WORLD border part of our State. Lake Ontario connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River. They were formed by melting glaciers about 10,000 years ago.

Ontario Dune Coalition

This area of Lake Ontario features a 17 mile long area of barrier beaches of dunes, marshes, and ponds that are home to endangered plants and animals. This is the only freshwater dune ecosystem in New York State. More than eight miles of this area is owned and protected by New York State, The Nature Conservancy and Oswego County. Because the dunes are fragile they could possibly be destroyed by overuse of summer tourists to the beaches.

As pictured above in the first picture of this blog post, wooden dune walk-overs have been constructed to protect the dunes from further erosion by use of visitors. Also, in some areas of the wetlands, the dunes have been damaged by past storms, water erosion, and overuse of visitors. The major problem has been from wind-blown waves.

Nursery-grown beach grass has been planted to keep the dunes from further erosion.

Dune stewards have also been hired to monitor the dunes, provide personal communication with visitors, observations of conditions, collection of data from recreational use, and placement of signs and barriers between the beach and sand dunes including snow fencing, where recreation is not permitted.
Snow fencing installed by dune stewards to protect the dunes from recreational use
 and wind-blown waves at Southwick Beach.

Nursery-grown beach grass planted to protect the dunes

Another thing we must be mindful of is the release of mylar balloons or any other helium-filled balloons for public activities. While it's a nice way to remember an event or honor a loved one, they do pose a threat to wildlife. Waterfowl can get tangled in the strings and the balloons are not biodegradable.

Certain pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers should not be used near any body of water or ponds.  They pose a danger to the fresh water because runoff from them can harm the natural balance of the lake. Read the labels before you purchase, use or dispose of a pesticide. They can also harm your wells if they get in the groundwater. Avoid mixing, storing or disposing pesticides within 100' of a well.

The monarch butterflies' fall migration south for the winter follows
 along the shoreline and lays its eggs on the milkweed.

All the photographs in this post were taken in Southwick Beach State Park. They have 28 campsites on the water and several other additional campsites. Hiking, swimming, nature trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and playing fields are available as well. Cross-country skiing & snowmobiling in the winter. See link below for additional information.

"Water, Water, Every Where, But Nary A Drop to Drink"*

Sadly, the following pictures were taken a few years ago off the eastern end of Lake Ontario (just north of Southwick Beach). One of the largest freshwater lakes on earth, and yes, there is pollution in it. Don't know where this came from. . . city storm sewers, fishing boats, lake freighters, cities like Oswego, Rochester, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Detroit, or even Canada ? ? ? All the great lakes empty into Lake Ontario.

This mess came in after a big storm on the lake which also contained a lot of seaweed. This time of year (which was in August 2009), in this specific little bay, it is normal to get this type of seaweed because the sun and heat speeds up the growth of algae.

There is so much plastic that washes up on the beaches on the eastern end of the lake in the spring and summer. The wind is predominately out of the west so that is why a lot of this garbage ends up here. You see people in the spring bringing bags with them to the beach to help pick up the trash that washes in.

Another threat to the Great Lakes are tiny bits of plastic or "micro beads". These plastics bits may be coming from storm sewers or city wastewaters. It hasn't been determined yet if fish are eating the plastic pieces. It they are these pieces could very well be in the food chain. The tiny bits of plastic appear to be coming from facial scrubs, body washes, toothpaste and other items containing "micro beads". Here is an article about tiny bits of plastic in the Great Lakes. Tiny Bits of Plastic Threat to Great Lakes.

We have been recycling for several years now in our county. I know I am guilty of forgetting to use my reusable shopping bags when I head out to the store. I need to be more mindful myself and make more of a conscientious effort lessen my use of plastic bags.

It's so sad to think that in the 21st century we still have these pollution problems in our fresh waters. . .

* Water, Water, Every Where, Nor Any Drop to Drink - from the Rime of the Ancient Marnier by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Great Lakes- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Lakes

Ontario Dune Coalition: http://www.cooperativeconservation.org/viewproject.asp?pid=644

Journal of Extension: http://www.joe.org/joe/2007june/rb5.php

New York State Parks- Southwick Beach: http://nysparks.com/parks/36/

Lake Ontario most stressed of all Great Lakes: Lake Ontario's Troubled Water

This is a large [pdf] file, but there are beautiful aerial pictures of the dunes, beaches, and wetlands. New York's Eastern Lake Ontario Wetland System: Guidelines for Resource Management of the 21st Century http://www.dos.ny.gov/communitieswaterfronts/pdfs/Lake%20OntarioDune.pdf

#LakeOntario #NYStateParks #waterpollution