Monday, April 19, 2010

223 lbs

What is 223 lbs?  Here's a short list of what might amount to 223 lbs:
  • 15 Red Foxes, or
  • 99 Red-tailed Hawks, or
  • 178 Gray Squirrels, or
  • 676 Mourning Doves, or
  • 202,359 Monarch Butterflies
All of the above species can be found at Westmoreland Sanctuary, though only one of them may be found in the quanities indicated (Gray Squirrel).

This also weighs 223 lbs:

Why all the garbage?  Well, this is all the garbage we removed from the side of the road this weekend during our Chestnut Ridge Road Clean-up.  The stretch of Chestnut Ridge Road adjacent to the sanctuary is approximately 0.8 miles.  That's a whole lot of garbage in less than one mile of a relatively quiet road.

So what kind of garbage did we pick up?  Well, in addition to the mailbox and hubcaps, there was an assortment of plastic bags, plastic and styrofoam food containers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, paper and styrofoam coffee cups, plastic drink lids, paper bags, cigarette butts, plastic flagging and caution tape, soggy magazines and phonebooks, leather gloves and an 8-track tape.

Obviously most of these items were accidentally, carelessly, or purposely tossed out of the window of passing cars.  What is the purpose of littering?  I really don't know.  Litter doesn't just disappear when its tossed from a moving vehicle.  Where ever it lands, it persists.  And some of these items hang around for a very long time.  For instance, the following items require X amount of years to decompose under ideal conditions:
  • Newspaper - 6 weeks
  • Cigarette butt - 1-50 years
  • Plastic bag - 10-20 years
  • Leather - 50 years
  • Foamed Plastic Cup - 50 years
  • Aluminum Can - 80-200 years
  • Plastic Beverage Bottle - 450 years
  • Glass Bottle - 1 million years to never

This Thursday, April 22 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  I hope everyone can find some small way to say thank you to our planet (the only one we have) by picking up litter, planting a tree, reducing household electricity or water consumption, etc.  Feeling festive?  Visit the Earth Day Network and find an Earth Day celebration near you.

And remember, everyone's least favorite bug is a Litter Bug.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Monday, April 12, 2010

Migration advances

Last weekend I was fortunate to join an all day bird watching excursion in New Jersey with the Bedford Audubon Society.  The focus of our day's adventure was a lap around the Wildlife Drive at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  This 47,000 acre refuge is protected and actively managed for migratory birds like waterfowl, wading birds, terns, plovers, and birds of prey like Osprey and Peregrine Falcon.

We were treated to incredibly beautiful weather and over fifty species of birds along the 7+ mile Wildlife Drive.  A number of the ducks we observed will soon be on their way north to their breeding grounds, and a variety of birds were beginning to show up from points south.  It was very interesting to see the end of one phase of migration and the beginning of another.  From my particular vantage point, I was happy and excited to see signs of passerine migration as indicated by sightings of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Purple Martin.

After lunch, we began our journey back toward Westchester.  Along the way we made a birding detour at Sandy Hook National Recreation Area.  We observed a good variety of birds along the roadways, in the waters around the park, and from the observation platform at the very tip of the park. 

From the observation platform, we had a great view of Coney Island and the Mahattan skyline.  This same vantage point is where thousands of migrating birds pass overhead toward the city and points north during their spring migration.  The Palm Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Towhee, and other birds we observed will likely continue their journey north from that spit of sand jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Here are some photos from Sunday's birding excursion:
Brant flying at E.B. Forsythe NWR

Green-winged Teal at E.B. Forsythe NWR

Northern Shovelers at E.B. Forsythe NWR

Snowy Egret at E.B. Forsythe NWR

Little Blue Heron at E.B. Forsythe NWR

Osprey at Sandy Hook NRA

Red-tailed Hawk at Sandy Hook NRA

Killdeer at Sandy Hook NRA

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Sightings - April 3rd

This morning's Breakfast with the Birds Hike included a large number birds and signs of spring.  Thanks to the thorough drenching from earlier in the week, the soils are sufficiently moist and beginning to warm up.  Many species of trees are breaking bud, and the season's first wildflowers are on their way to blooming.  Along the Easy Loop trail, the thin leaves of Spring Beauty are shooting through the leaf litter.  Trout Lily and the large leaves of Skunk Cabbage can be observed along the inlet stream and banks of Bechtel Lake.

Within the confines of the lake, a pair of Canada Geese have been regularly seen in addition to fleeting glimpses of wary Wood Ducks and a Great Blue Heron during the past few days.  With daytime temperatures well into the 60's and 70's, a number of Painted Turtles can be seen basking on the fallen trees along the lakeshore.

Deer, Gray Squirrels, Chipmunks, 2 Mourning Cloak and 1 Spring Azure Butterfly, and a whole host of other insects were observed during this morning's walk.  As for the birds, 28 different species were observed - many in great abundance.  Lingering winter migrants, early spring migrants, and a whole host of year-round residents filled out this morning's list.  Below is a tally of the individual species with the number of each listed in parenthesis.  FOY indicates first-of-the-year sighting on the sanctuary.

Canda Goose (4), Wild Turkey (1), Mourning Dove (4), Red-bellied Woodpecker (4), Downy Woodpecker (5), Hairy Woodpecker (1), Northern Flicker (4), Eastern Phoebe (1), Blue Jay (8), American Crow (3), Tree Swallow (5), Black-capped Chickadee (9), Tufted Titmouse (10), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), White-breasted Nuthatch (4), Golden-crowned Kinglet (2-FOY), Eastern Bluebird (1), American Robin (16), Cedar Waxwing (1-FOY), Pine Warbler (1-FOY), Song Sparrow (3), White-throated Sparrow (55), Dark-eyed Junco (5), Northern Cardinal (4), Red-winged Blackbird (1), Brown-headed Cowbird (1-FOY), House Finch (6), American Goldfinch (8)

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist