Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Power

The recent rain/snow/rain/sleet/snow storm during Feb 25-26 has cut power to the sanctuary.  The museum is closed until further notice.  On the bright side...I have tons of pictures of the damage and the beautiful snowscape I can share once the power comes back on in the museum and naturalist's cottage.

Until then, stay warm.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bobcats in Westchester

The following is an article printed in our Winter/Spring 2010 Newsletter:

Bobcat Sightings Requested
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a small to medium sized feline native to much of the North American continent. It is currently the only confirmed resident wild feline in New York. Other felines with suspected transient or non-breeding populations in the state are cougars and Canadian lynx.

The average size of a bobcat is generally described to be twice that of a normal house cat. Average weight of individuals is 20 and 26 pounds for females and males, respectively. The fur is dense, short, and spotted, generally appearing reddish in the summer and grayish in the winter. They are usually solitary with exceptions during the breeding season and when females are rearing young.

Critical habitat features include places for refuge and protection, which may include rock ledges, rock piles, brush piles, and hollow trees and logs. Evergreen bogs, swamps, and other secluded places fulfill many of the critical habitat elements needed for survival. These habitats also provide access to prey species like mice, voles, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and deer (especially in winter) which make up a large portion of their diet in our state.

Over the last 4 years, the Westmoreland staff has been recording area bobcat sightings. Many of the recorded sightings are personal accounts described to the staff by phone, email, or in person by area residents. Additional sightings have been added to our small, but growing, database from other accounts submitted to local news sources and other conservation organizations.

The first recorded account came to us in October 2005 from a family living just south of the sanctuary. A few months later, in February 2006, Westmoreland staff members photographed and followed a clear set of bobcat tracks in the snow in the southern portion of the sanctuary around Cole Kettle. The following May, Westmoreland’s naturalist, Adam Zorn, saw a single bobcat in front of the Naturalist’s Cottage and near the graveyard by the sanctuary’s Chestnut Ridge Road entrance.

After a year of no recorded sightings in 2007, 2 more reports came to us in December 2008. A total of 7 reports were recorded in 2009, the most recent one (pictured below) from a family on Sarles St. in Armonk on December 14, 2009.
Bobcat photographed in an Armonk, NY resident's backyard in Dec 2009 (Photo credit/L.Ilany)

Bobcat photographed in an Armonk, NY resident's backyard in Dec 2009 (Photo credit/L.Ilany)

Click here for a map that indicates the 13 total sightings recorded since 2005.

The presence of these elusive felines is of great interest to the sanctuary staff. Please contact us regarding bobcat sightings from anywhere in northern Westchester County. We are especially interested in sightings from anyone living in the mapped area. With the wealth of open space and potential habitat in the Towns of North Castle and Bedford, we would like to fill in this map with additional sightings from area residents. Please send sightings with pictures/descriptions via email to or call our office at (914)666-8448.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maple Sugaring in the News

This past Sunday, February 21, we conducted a public program for folks interested in backyard maple sugaring.  Maple syrup is a sweet treat for many folks all around the country, but few people realize that it's possible for anyone with a maple tree in their yard to make their own syrup. 

The previous post covered the basic details of how to make maple syrup at home.  For all that attended this past weekend's program, they experienced the first steps in the process first-hand.  We identified, tapped, and hung collection buckets on 6 trees Saturday and 6 more trees on Sunday.  Suday's event was well attended (thanks to all of you who may have been there) and was covered by two reporters.  Click on here to see the article posted from the The Journal News and here to see the article from the Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch.

If you'd like to learn more about making maple syrup, please attend one of the programs listed in the menu section to the right.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Friday, February 19, 2010

Making Maple Syrup


- Drill (electric or hand-powered)           - Fire, stove, or other heat source
- 7/16” drill bit                                       - Large pot or kettle
- Spile w/                                               - Thermometer
- Hammer                                              - Cheesecloth or other fine filtering medium
- Bucket or collection container


When to Tap: Approximately the end of February, when temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.

How to Tap: Find a suitable sugar maple tree with a diameter of at least 12 inches. Using the drill and 7/16” drill bit, make a hole approximately 3 inches deep into the tree at a slight upward angle. Be sure shavings are out of the hole before driving in the spile. Drive the spile (with a hook) gently into the hole with a few firm taps with the hammer. Be careful not to hit so hard as to deform or damage the spile. Hang the bucket or other suitable collection container from the spile’s hook to begin collecting sap.

Number of Taps and Trees: A good rule is no tree less than 12 inches in diameter and one tap for every 12 inches thereafter. For example, a 24 inch-wide tree may support two spiles, but this depends on the health and vitality of the tree. When in doubt, use only one spile per tree. In an average year, one tree may produce 10-15 gallons of sap. This will translate to about 1 quart of syrup. The amount of syrup you would like to make and the number of suitable sugar maples on your property will ultimately determine how much syrup you will actually produce.

Gathering Sap: Sap must be collected daily when it is running, and may be stored up to a week in a cool, dark container. If the sap appears cloudy in your buckets or storage vessel, it has spoiled and must be discarded.
Evaporating: It takes a lot of boiling to convert the sap into syrup. You will need a large pot or kettle to boil as much sap as possible. Add sap to the pot until all the sap in your storage vessel is gone. The bulk of the evaporating should be done outdoors or in an extremely well ventilated area since the boiling sap will release a large volume of steam. Remember: 1 gallon of syrup is produced by removing 39 gallons of water from the original volume of 40 gallons of sap!

Creating Syrup: Continue to boil the sap until it reaches a temperature of 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. In our area of NY that’s 219 degrees F. This is best done indoors on the stove so the sap/syrup can be monitored closely. The overall volume of the liquid is much less than when you started, so a heavy stockpot and a digital or candy thermometer work well for this finishing step.

Strain and Store: Maple syrup has a natural grittiness that should be filtered out. It is created by naturally occurring minerals present in the sap that solidify and fall out of the sap solution during the boiling process. Strain your syrup through several layers of cheesecloth while the syrup is still hot. Any remaining particles will settle to the bottom of your storage jars. Your syrup will store best in glass jars in the refrigerator.

For more information about making maple syrup, join an upcoming sugaring program at Westmorland Sanctuary on Feb 21, Feb 27, March 7, or March 13.  Click here to get program times and details from our website.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

GBBC Wrap-up

This past weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was a fun-filled 4 day event over the President's Day weekend.  The staff here at the sanctuary took time on each of the 4 days to count birds visiting our feeding station behind the museum.  This is always a great time thanks to the beautiful view, the numerous birds, and the hot coffee and snacks we enjoy while counting our feathered friends.
A thank you goes out to all of those who stopped by the museum this weekend to count with us as well.  We hope you enjoyed the GBBC as much as we did.  For anyone who is interested, here is a summary of the 19 species observed and the highest number observed during the GBBC count period:

Wild Turkey -2
Mourning Dove -2
Pileated Woodpecker -1
Red-bellied Woodpecker -1
Hairy Woodpecker -1
Downy Woodpecker -2
Blue Jay -7
Black-capped Chickadee -3
Tufted Titmouse -7
White-breasted Nuthatch -3
Red-breasted Nuthatch -2
Carolina Wren -1
Northern Cardinal -3
Purple Finch -3
House Finch -4
American Goldfinch -4
Dark-eyed Junco -32
White-throated Sparrow -9
Song Sparrow -2

Though the GBBC is over, anyone can continue to count birds visiting their yard or birdfeeders and submit them online via Ebird.  Click the Ebird logo on the menu bar down the right side of this page and submit bird sightings from anywhere at anytime.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Join Westmoreland Sanctuary as a participant in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count on Feb 12-15, 2010.  A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

It's so easy to take part, just follow these easy steps:
  1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count.
  2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time
  3. When you are finished, enter your results through the GBBC website.
Anyone can take part, from novice bird watchers to experts, by counting birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at  Participants can also explore what birds others are finding in their backyards—whether in their own neighborhood or thousands of miles away.

For anyone interested in participating in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, Westmoreland Sanctuary will be offering free programs sponsored, in part, by Wild Birds Unlimited in Bedford Hills, NY:

  • February 13 at 9:30am - Breakfast with the Birds
  • February 14 at 1:00pm - Lunch with the Birds
  • February 15 at 9:00am - Feeder Watching and Bird Walk
Please see our website for more details about these programs.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Spring Newsletter available soon

Our latest newsletter is finished and will be available soon.  Our members will be receiving their copies shortly via mail or email, and everyone else is welcome to stop in the museum and pick one up.  For those who have browsed our previous publications, you'll notice the newest edition is a little different.  This and future editions will include more news and information from the sanctuary staff in addition to a complete list of all our upcoming weekend programs and events.
Spring's issue (Feb-May) includes:
  • All of our spring programs
  • An expanded Director's letter
  • A concise summary of recent wildlife sightings
  • Animal Spotlight: Eastern Box Turtle
  • An article requesting local Bobcat sightings
  • Information about winter bird feeding
We are also excited to announce Wild Birds Unlimited's support of Westmoreland's bird-focused programming this spring.  Owners Joe and Pat Warren are generously providing assistance with promoting our weekend programs as well as contributing donations and materials in support of our various programs like:
  • Breakfast with the Birds
  • Great Backyard Bird Count events
  • Bluebird House Construction
  • Bird Banding Demonstrations
Also, they've invited us to talk All About Bluebirds in their store on March 21 at 4pm.  Click on the Wild Birds Unlimited logo down on the right side of this page to visit them online.  Stop in their Bedford Hills, NY store to say hi and see all the great bird feeding products they have in stock.  I know the birds at Westmoreland would recommend a cranberry seed log if they could speak English.  Once again, thank you Wild Birds Unlimited.
Check the list of February programs on the right side of this page for something you may be interested in attending.  Alternatively, sign up to receive program updates in your email Inbox through our YahooGroups page.  We look forward to seeing you at one or more of our spring programs.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Waterfowl

This past weekend's extraordinarily cold weather was a little brutal for anyone spending extended periods of time outdoors.  As the mercury reached 12 degrees Fahrenheit, I bundled up and headed over to the Saw Mill River Audubon's Pryun Sanctuary to catch a glimpse of the Yellow-headed Blackbird.  This stray from the Midwest has taken up residence at the Pryun Sanctuary's feeding station for the last couple weeks and has caused quite a stir in the local birding community.  After about 15 minutes of searching through a huge flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds, the lemon-headed bird was finally spotted.  Unfortunately the bird sat well back into a tangle of bittersweet vines and gave only a distant view, but it was enough to confirm his presence and secure a new "life bird" for two other visitors watching along side me.
See that speck of yellow in the very center of the picture?  That's the YHBL as I described it above.  The view through my 8x power binoculars was slightly better and a lot more in focus.  Total distance between bird and observer was at least 40 yards...through dense vegetion.  Click here for better pictures and more information on this unique visitor to our area.

After moving on from the YHBL and running a few errands, I stopped along Rt 116 near the Purdys train station.  This area of the local reservoirs is still largely unfrozen due to the moving water.  An excellent collection of waterfowl was present and highly active.  The following birds were observed: Canada Geese, Mute Swans, American Black Ducks, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, and 1 American Coot.  Below are some pictures of the birds I observed from the bridge on Rt 116.

A collection of Mute Swans, Ring-necked Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers

A Mute Swan in flight

American Coot resting in the icy water

Ring-necked Duck paddling through the water

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist