Spring Wildflowers!

The woodland floor is beginning to burst with beautiful little flowers that are in a race with the trees overhead to get as much sunlight for growth as possible before the forest leaf canopy closes in above.

Rue anemone wildflower, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), in the buttercup family, emerges on a dry woodland ridge in Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY.

Watch this one-minute Walk in the Park video about our early spring wildflowers!

(Note: the link to owlgorge.com referred to in the video is temporarily unavailable, in the process of transfer to a new website.)

Go Ravens!

As we Americans prepare our couch potato chips, wings, and beer for Super Bowl Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, how many of us really know what a raven is? Well, yes, there is that creepy Poe poem we read in high school.

“But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking ‘Nevermore.'”

Common ravens are in the family Corvidae that includes crows and jays. As the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology describes them, “Not just large but massive, with a thick neck, shaggy throat feathers, and a Bowie knife of a beak. In flight, ravens have long, wedge-shaped tails. They’re more slender than crows, with longer, narrower wings, and longer, thinner ‘fingers’ at the wingtips.”

Raven perches on a tree on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

A raven perches on a tree on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Ravens are one of the most commonly seen and heard birds in the national park.

Common ravens, or Corvus corax, are not so common in the eastern U.S. as the Cornell range map shows. They are common in the western U.S. and in much of Canada and do venture down into the upper Midwest, upstate New York, northern New England, and farther south along the Appalachians. I remember “Raven’s Roost,” a stop at a cliff top on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

Years ago, one did not notice ravens around Ithaca, NY, though they had been here historically. But with the regrowth of forests on abandoned agricultural land, ravens are returning to our landscape. For the last 20 years or so, one has been able to hear their croaking squawks over our gorges. For ravens love to nest on cliffs, and many of the gorges of the Finger Lakes region provide secure ledges, safe from predators, where they can raise the year’s new brood of these large, black, corvids.

Waterfall at Sweedler Lick Brook Preserve of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, Ithaca, NY

Some years, ravens nest on the far cliff near the high falls in the Finger Lakes Land Trust's Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook in the Town of Ithaca, NY.

Are ravens common around Baltimore? Maybe not, and fewer still, perhaps, in New Orleans, this year’s Super Bowl venue. But I don’t expect that will stop them today!

Read more about ravens on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology webpages.

 

Groundhog Day at Owl Gorge

What’s all this hype about “Groundhog Day” and woodchucks emerging to see their shadows? (Groundhog and woodchuck are the same rodent, Marmota monax.)

A woodchuck hole by Owl Gorge in Buttermilk Falls State Park shows no sign of activity on Groundhog Day.

Well, I’ve been watching my local woodchuck hole in Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY over the years, and there has never been any sign of activity on February 2. Chances are, my neighbor is still asleep with its heart beating  about 4 times per minute and with a body temperature maybe around 40 degrees F. Maybe they emerge by this date in southern Pennsylvania where all the fuss originated, but they seem to be still snoozing here in the cold woods of upstate New York.

Groundhog or woodchuck, Marmota monax

A groundhog eats during a more benign season. Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson

Groundhog Day seems to have originated with the Pennsylvania Deutsch. It occurs on the same day as Candlemas, a Christian holiday celebrating an event in the early life of Jesus, the “Presentation of Jesus at the Temple,” when Mary and Joseph took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem for Mary’s “ritual purification” and “redemption of the first born” according to the Law of Moses.

But Groundhog Day also may have arisen from Pagan festivals regarding the changing of the seasons, such as the Celtic Imbolc, that marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox and was considered the beginning of spring. Perhaps Candlemas was a Christianization of a Pagan weather holiday, and maybe Groundhog Day is a Pennsylvanification of Candlemas.

In any case, folks, we’re about half way to spring!

Watch my silly 92-second video from February 2, 2011 checking this same woodchuck burrow in Buttermilk Falls State Park:

 

Some Winter Walks Near Ithaca

This episode (#35, recorded January 23, 2013) of Walk in the Park TV features a hike in the red pine forest on the Finger Lakes Trail in Danby State Forest south of Ithaca, NY; a stroll on the paths through the sculpture gardens in the F. R. Newman Arboretum of Cornell Plantations; walking the East Ithaca Recreation Way and the East Ithaca Nature Preserve; and finally a wintry look at Lucifer Falls from the Rim Trail in Robert H. Treman State Park. We also look at some photographs of Buttermilk Falls in the 1800s when a saw mill stood beside the waterfall. See it here below or watch it on Ithaca’s public access TV channel 13; next cablecasts: Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.

Copyright 2013 Owl Gorge Productions

Paper birch at Cornell Plantations, Ithaca, NY

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) in the F.R. Newman Arboretum at Cornell Plantations

Watch the whole show here!

You can see all Walk in the Park TV episodes and short videos here.

 

Forest, Garden, Trail, Gorge

Highlights from this week’s upcoming Walk in the Park TV public access TV show on Ithaca, NY cable channel 13. See brief video below for times. First showing Thursday, 1/24 at 9:00 p.m. I will also post it online on this blog as soon as possible!

Hiking on the Finger Lakes Trail in Danby State Forest near Ithaca, NY, Finger Lakes.

Hikers walk through a red pine plantation on the Finger Lakes Trail in Danby State Forest. Photo by S. Hesse.

Ponds at Newman Arboretum, Cornell Plantations, Ithaca, NY.

Late afternoon sun reflects off ponds in Newman Arboretum in the Cornell Plantations, Ithaca, NY.

Deer buck rub in East Ithaca Nature Preserve, Ithaca, NY near Cornell University.

A "buck rub" in the East Ithaca Nature Preserve

Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca, NY, in winter

Lucifer Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park as viewed from the Rim Trail

See the schedule for Ithaca public access TV channel 13 showings:

This episode will appear on this blog online soon!

Buckroe to Dismal Swamp


Gulls at Virginia Beach

Great black-backed gulls work the surf at Virginia Beach.

In this episode of Walk in the Park TV (#30, Nov. 28, 2012), we return to southeast Virginia, site of the earliest English-speaking settlements in America.  I show you Buckroe Beach in the City of Hampton on the Chesapeake Bay, the first beach I knew as a little kid. What was the unusual hazard discovered on this beach after its sand was replenished in the 1990s?

After a visit to Newport News, we go to Virginia Beach, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and False Cape State Park on the Atlantic Ocean, just two miles north of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And finally, we follow a boardwalk in Dismal Swamp State Park just over the border into North Carolina, on the edge of one of the largest remaining lowland wetlands in the East. See it all online here

Or, if you live in the Ithaca, NY area and have a cable TV connection, you can see Walk in the Park during the next week on public access cable channel 13 according to the following schedule:

Thursday,  9:00 p.m.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Sunday,    10:30 a.m.

Tuesday,    8:00 p.m.

It also is shown at other times as the station manager chooses.

See all my Walk in the Park TV episodes and short videos by clicking here.

Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes

Episode 25 of Walk in the Park TV, “Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes,” is now showing on television and online. It begins Thursday evening at 9:00 p.m. on Ithaca’s public access cable TV channel 13 and continues for the next week according to the schedule below. Meanwhile, you can see “Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes” online.

Cornell University Fall Creek Gorge Cascadilla Ithaca NY Fall Colors aerial photograph

Most of the Cornell campus is bounded on the north and south by gorges: Fall Creek Gorge on the north (left) and Cascadilla Glen on the south (right). Photograph by Bill Hecht

Join me, Tony Ingraham, in this visual trip around the Finger Lakes region, from the ground and in the air, marveling at the fall foliage extravaganza nature has put on for us in October. Visit Taughannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls State Parks, Cascadilla Gorge, Ithaca Falls and Fall Creek Gorge, Cornell University campus, Cayuga Lake, Myers Park and Salmon Creek, Seneca County, Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Watkins Glen State Park, Sixmile Creek in Ithaca, and more. Photographer Bill Hecht’s views of Taughannock Gorge from the air are incomparable, as are his views of the Cornell campus situated between Fall Creek Gorge and Cascadilla Glen and other aerial vistas around the region. We also visit Cesar Chavez National Monument in California, Fishlake National Forest and Zion National Park in Utah, and Glacier National Park in Montana.

See the show right here!

Or, you can catch the show on Time Warner Cable public access television channel 13 in the Ithaca area:

Thursday,  9:00 p.m.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m.

Sunday,    10:00 a.m.

Tuesday,    8:00 p.m.

It also is shown at other times as the station manager chooses.

Fillmore Glen State Park

“Ithaca is Gorges” they say in this town at the south end of Cayuga Lake. But there are lots of other beautiful gorges in New York’s Finger Lakes region, including Fillmore Glen by the little village of Moravia in Cayuga County south of Owasco Lake, the next Finger Lake to the east of Cayuga Lake. This lush and scenic gorge is preserved in Fillmore Glen State Park, due to the efforts of Dr. Charles Atwood, a local physician and amateur botanist, who advocated for its protection and establishment of the park in the 1920s. The new episode of “Walk in the Park,” our public access TV show in the Ithaca area, features Fillmore Glen with photographs and video taken recently.

Fillmore Glen State Park waterfall Gorge Trail Moravia, NY Cayuga County

A small waterfall about a mile up the Gorge Trail in Fillmore Glen

Fillmore Glen is named for Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States, who was born in 1800 in a cabin a few miles east of the park. He was the first “log cabin president” and the first president born in the nineteenth century. He was also the first president who rose from modest means to the middle class. Find out more about Millard Fillmore in our Walk in the Park video episode, “Fillmore Glen State Park.”

Official White House painting of President Millard Fillmore

Official White House painting of President Millard Fillmore, by G.P.A. Healy 1857

The climax of Fillmore Glen, and also the part most easily viewed, is the Cowsheds, a waterfall, rock amphitheater, and overhanging rock formation just a short walk from the picnic pavilion and swimming area in the mouth of the gorge.

Waterfall Cowsheds Fillmore Glen State Park gorge Moravia, NY, Cayuga County, Finger Lakes

The Cowsheds is the scenic star of Fillmore Glen.

In the photograph above, large slabs of limestone have fallen from the overhanging roof-like ledge up to the left. Freezing, thawing, wetting, drying, and high water have weathered and eroded out the Cowsheds.

For a full photo essay see our earlier posting, Fillmore Glen in Fall.

Our show on PEGASYS, “Fillmore Glen State Park,” also includes scenery from Cayuga Lake, Lick Brook Glen, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and culminates with photographs and video of fall foliage in Fall Creek Gorge, Ithaca Falls, and Cascadilla Glen in Ithaca and next to Cornell University. Watch our show on Ithaca’s cable access channel 13 at the schedule below or right here online.

View over Ithaca Falls and the city of Ithaca

Looking over Ithaca Falls and the city

Watch the show right here without leaving this page:

This episode, “Fillmore Glen State Park,” will premier on Ithaca’s channel 13 this evening at 9:00 p.m. It will be shown again according to the following schedule.

Walk in the Park, the TV show, airs weekly on Ithaca, NY’s public access cable TV channel 13:

Thursday,  9:00 p.m.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Sunday,    10:30 a.m.

Tuesday,    8:00 p.m.

It also is shown at other times as the station manager chooses.

Walk in the Park, TV show, Episode 14

Our newest episode is now on Ithaca public access TV cable channel 13, recorded August 1, and is available here online. See the cablecast schedule here.

Taughannock Falls State Park gorge and Cayuga Lake

Taughannock Gorge on its way to Cayuga Lake. Photo by Bill Hecht

Host Tony Ingraham takes us from airplane views of Taughannock Falls, to an old growth forest, to Cayuga Inlet lighthouses, music on the Cornell Arts Quadrangle, to potholes, trees, and reflections in Buttermilk Glen, and finally to Glassmine Falls, over 800 feet high, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Smith Woods Old Growth

Smith Woods Trumansburg NY old growth forest ecology environmental education

An old hemlock tree in Smith Woods

On the edge of the Village of Trumansburg, NY near Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, Smith Woods is a 32 acre woodland with “old growth” trees, some that pre-date European settlement. Cayuga Nature Center took over the preserve from a local trust organization that had protected this small forest from destruction for a century. Smith Woods is a valuable local resource for environmental education and forest ecological studies.

Watch this 3 1/2 minute video for more about Smith Woods.

From a press release from FingerLakes1.com, 4/24/2009:

“Smith Woods is a magnificent, diverse tract of old growth forest located across from the fairgrounds, just south of the village of Trumansburg. Some of the trees are more than 200 years old, with a recently fallen hemlock dating back to 1663.

“The earliest records (1817) indicate that the tract was owned by Nicoll Halsey, a U.S. congressman who built a grist mill along Taughannock Creek. Mr. Halsey cleared lots of land south of Trumansburg, but for some reason, Smith Woods was left mostly intact. Halsey eventually sold the land to the local bank for debt repayment. After a few years, it was purchased by Henry Smith, a wallpaper manufacturer from New York City who vacationed in the area. When Smith died, he passed the tract on to his son, Arthur. A. Smith, who did not wish to vacation in the area but was a conservationist. He established a trust and sold the land to it for $1.00… [in]…1909.

“For …100 years, the woods [were] managed by community members serving as trustees of the trust. However, the Smith Woods board was not associated with an institution, so the property was not fully used for “educational and recreational purposes” as established in the charter. In 2005 the Smith Woods board began searching for a partner to help with the management of the property. [In 2009], the Cayuga Nature Center enthusiastically embraced the opportunity as the missions of both entities are nearly identical. A loop trail was established, school groups, scouts and community groups began using the woods for educational purposes, and invasive species were removed.”