Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rusty Blackbird in WMA

I noticed a surprise bird at the feeding station located in our Wildlife Management Area on the morning after the recent nor'easter.  At first glimpse you might think it was a common grackle, but after years of staring at birds you tend to know right away when something is different.  The eye is just not as brightly yellow.  The beak not quite as robust and the tail not as long as the common grackles that I see about every couple of weeks at the feeding station. 

Rusty Blackbirds are in dire straits.  The population is estimated to have dropped by over 85% the last forty years.  It was a mystery as to why they were so rapidly disappearing from their habitat of swampy and wet woodlands.  As with most declining species today the most common cause purported is habitat loss.  The conversion of wet woodlands to farmland was probably the initial cause.  The continued decline in our time can most likely be attributed to mercury accumulation(their diet is mainly aquatic insects), boreal wetland drying and chemistry changing due to global warming, and peat production, logging, and reservoir formation.    More study is still needed to establish what can be done to save them.  One of the best ways for you to help is to participate in the yearly Great Backyard Bird Count.

-Steve Ricker/Resident Director

Monday, December 3, 2012

Westmoreland upgrades animal enclosures

On November 19th, Westmoreland Sanctuary completed the installation of 12 new animal enclosures to house their live animal collection.  After 8 months of planning, collaboration, and fabrication, over 100sq ft of custom-designed animal habitats were installed in the Westmoreland Sanctuary nature center to display the variety of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that call the center their home.
From left to right are Don Watson, FAIA, CIP of EarthRise design, Jay Nelmes of JWorlds Custom Cage Enclosures, and Westmoreland Sanctuary's Resident Director Steve Ricker

Fabricated and hand-delivered from Tennessee by Jay Nelmes of JWorlds Custom Cage Enclosures, each animal habitat was carefully crafted based on the inspiration of the Westmoreland staff and Board of Directors, along with the professional guidance of Don Watson, FAIA, CIP of EarthRise design. 

To celebrate the newest addition to the nature center, Westmoreland Sanctuary will be hosting a grand opening event on Dec 8th at 11am complete with photo opportunities with the animals, face painting, games, educational programming, and food. 

Additional events taking place at Westmoreland include Sand Candles on Dec 1, Colonial Candlemaking on Dec 2, Animals in Winter on Dec 15, Christmas Bird Count on Dec 16, and Feed the Birds! on Dec 22.  Details and RSVP information for all of these events is available at or by calling the office at 914-666-8448.

For those unable to attend a scheduled program, Westmoreland’s nature center and 640-acre wildlife preserve is open to the public daily.  Inquiries for additional information may be directed to Westmoreland Sanctuary at 914-666-8448 or via email to