Friday, July 23, 2010

Emerald Ash Borer Alert!

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has announced two new invasion sites of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) on private properties in Bath, NY (Steuben County) and Saugerties, NY (Ulster County).  These two locations are in addition to the original detection site in the town of Randolph, NY (Cattaraugus County) found in June 2009.

Marianne Prue, Ohio Department of Natural Resources - Division of Forestry,
The Steuben County location was discovered on July 12, 2010 and the Ulster County location on July 15, 2010.  Both sites have been monitored consistently by NYSDEC and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), respectively, since the initial NY invasion in June 2009.  The EAB is monitored by the use of nearly 7,500 EAB purple traps hoisted into ash trees in various high-risk locations.  In the lastest discovery, one EAB was located in a single trap in each location.  

Map showing EAB has been found in Cattaraugus, Steuben, Livingston, Monroe, Genesee, Ulster and Greene Counties.
In the NYSDEC press release, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis is quoted:
"DEC, the landowners, and our federal, state and local partners will work closely to study the extent of EAB's presence in the newly-confirmed area and take the appropriate steps to protect the state's ash resources. We have reason to believe that the movement of EAB to these new areas was due to the movement of firewood, and as summer is now in full swing, we again remind campers throughout the state that they too can help prevent the spread of harmful invasives by not hauling firewood to campgrounds and instead buying firewood locally."

The press release goes on to say:
"Since its discovery in southeastern Michigan in 2002, the EAB is responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. Today the beetle has been detected in 14 states and two neighboring Canadian provinces. The primary way this insect spreads is when firewood and wood products are moved from one place to another. Many of New York State's forests and parklands are high-risk areas due to firewood movement."

This is a very pressing matter and an issue more of the public needs to take note of, even here in southern NY.  The majority of the Hudson Valley is forested, and the spread of this little insect puts many of our natural resources and wild places at risk of severe degradation.  The Saugerties location is a mere 80 miles from Westmoreland's location near Mt.Kisco, NY.

To read the entire press release, for more information about the EAB invasion, and to learn how you can help in the detection and prevention of this harmful forest pest, please click on any of the above links.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hummingbird Nest

This summer there are at least 3 Ruby-throated hummingbirds (two female and one male) frequently visiting the gardens and nectar feeders around the museum and naturalist's cottage.  Its always a joy to watch these tiniest of birds zipping through the air visiting flower after flower, taking sips from the nectar feeders, and chasing each other around during a territorial dispute.  Despite all the collective hours spent casually observing these winged wonders, one aspect of their life has always remained a mystery to us.  Where do they build their nest?

Having a keen interest in birds and unprecedented time/access to a wonderful place like Westmoreland, I've been lucky enough to observe an assortment of rarely seen wildlife and animal behavior.  One of the most difficult things to do during spring/summer is to locate the secretive locations of bird's nests.  I've witnessed chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers excavating nesting cavities in trees.  I've seen plenty of birds nesting in the many nesting boxes around the sanctuary, including chickadees, House wrens, bluebirds, Tree swallows, and Wood ducks.  I've even been fortunate enough to find active nests of phoebes, pewees, orioles, vireos, Blue Jays, Great-crested flycatchers, Mallards, and Yellow warblers.  Unfortunately, the hummingbirds so common in the summer garden have proven far more difficult to observe at the nest...until now.

The lichen covered bump in the above photo is the nest of a Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Its about 2-inches wide and about half as deep.  The majority of the nest is comprised of plant down and spider's web ( while the exterior is decorated with patches of lichen as you can see in the photo.  I have no knowledge as to what may be inside (eggs or young), but I know that it is an active nest.  The female actively defends the nest when other birds get too close, which is what led me to accidentally find it. 

While I was observing a small group of chickadees and titmice foraging in a nearby tree, I suddenly noticed a hummer appear from nowhere to whack a titmouse with the full force of her tiny little body.  After the titmouse retreated, I observed her flying back and settling on top of the nest.  Prior to the sudden attack, I (and likely the titmouse) had no idea the nest was even there.  What luck!

As you can see above, the female has settled onto the nest.  I'll keep visiting during the coming days/weeks to continue to observe the little bird's nesting progress.  If all goes well, we'll likely see 2-3 fledgling hummers visiting the garden and nectar feeders in the weeks to come.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cottage Garden...Progress Report

A few weeks back, I wrote about the new landscape plan designed for the front of the Naturalist's Cottage.  Since that time, we've made a few minor changes to the layout and narrowed down our plant selections based on color, bloom time, and growth habit.  As it stands now, the landscape plan looks like this:

After a couple weeks of being on hold (due to our busy educational programming schedule), I finally started to plot out the location of the fence posts and began to dig holes.  Lots of holes.  33 to be exact.  And after a lot of sweat equity, the posts were in place and the "deer" fence went up.

The next step involved removing all of the existing fencing from around the various plant beds - split rail around the pond garden, picket fence in front of the cottage, and various installations of plastic fencing to fend off deer browse.

This past Thursday, Margi (our excellent landscape designer) marked the layout of the new planting beds and path as shown in the landscape plan above.  The following day, I was able to rent a sod cutter in town to remove the large quantity of grass that existed within the planting beds.  In just a few hours time, I was able to cut and roll all of the unwanted sod.  As the photos illustrate, the new landscape is begining to take shape.

The above photos were taken from the roof of the Naturalist's Cottage on July 3.  Since then, all the sod has been carted off the site and I've started to cover the bare soil with a layer of wood chips to conserve soil moisture and prepare the beds for planting.

As it stands now, we have a number of shrubs to begin planting once the weather breaks a bit.  Specimens we're currently prepared to plant include 10 inkberry, 4 highbush blueberry, 3 summersweet clethra, 3 fothergilla, 1 smooth witherrod, 1 oakleaf hydrangea, and 1 blue hydrangea.  For complete list of the plants we intend to use, click on the Cottage Garden Project tab above.

If you are at all interested in this project, feel free to stop by the sanctuary and see it for yourself.  If you'd like to help us complete the project, contact the sanctuary office and let us know how you'd like to help.  We can use some helping hands (i.e. spreading wood chips, planting, transplanting, etc), plant donations (nursery stock or your garden transplants), or a monetary donation.  Donations of funds and supplies are tax deductible!

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist