Reinstein Reprise

(This column was first published in the September 24, 2001 Buffalo News.)

It was the pileated woodpecker that underscored for me once again the value of Reinstein Woods, one of our most important urban nature enclaves.

The big crow-sized bird with its beautiful bright red, Woody Woodpecker crest called from a dead snag and then, its black and white wings flashing, flew across our path into a grove of ancient trees. To me the species has a kind of prehistoric character, its crooked neck and its slow and deliberate wing beats reminiscent of the way the movies portray that lizard-bird, archaeopteryx.

The pileated woodpecker is a bird of extended forests and open country. I most often find them in less populated areas of the Southern Tier or the Adirondacks. To see one here so near downtown Buffalo signals how unusual is this sanctuary.

I have enjoyed many visits to Reinstein Woods since I first met its DEC refuge manager, Jeff Liddel, eight years ago. It is not only rich in bird life. It is well known for its mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well as its wildflowers, lichens, ferns and mushrooms. There are old-growth forest trees, some with memories extending over a century, and among its finest attractions are the beautiful pink water lilies that blanket several of its ponds.

Jeff has moved on to another assignment now and on this walk I joined the new environmental education assistant, Kristen Buechi, and DEC Citizen Participation Specialist Meaghan Boice-Green. Together with a team of volunteers these enthusiastic young women are arranging many new educational programs that are bringing both adults and school children into contact with the exciting natural history of this well-maintained property.

The Dr. Victor Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, as it is more formally designated, has been since 1989 a state holding that operates under strict guidelines set out by the family of this Cheektowaga medical practitioner, attorney, developer and regional benefactor. Among other restrictions, these guidelines require prior permission to visit the sanctuary.

In early colonial times the 300 acres were part of the Buffalo Creek Indian Reservation. After the Revolutionary War they were passed on to the Seneca Indians who in turn sold their holdings to the Holland Land Company. Early Cheektowaga settlers purchased lots from this corporation. Finally Dr. Reinstein bought the properties in 1932 and developed the resulting acreage into the present sanctuary by adding ponds and marshlands.

This week Reinstein Woods celebrates its fifteenth year as a New York State nature preserve and activities open to the public will occur on each day. This evening at 4:30 p.m., Bruce Kershner will lead a tour of the old-growth forest and point out historical tree carvings. Tomorrow there will be an 8:00 a.m. bird walk. On Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. visitors can learn about the preserve's pond life. Thursday at 2:00 p.m. volunteers will lead wildflower and wild fruit hikes. An evening nature walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

But next Saturday, September 24, will mark the grand celebration. Then there will be many exhibits, special tours, games and talks. The day will begin with the regularly scheduled 10:00 a.m. guided nature hike, but other events will run from noon until 4:00 p.m. Among them will be showings of Sharon Tiburzi's live owls and reptiles from Marion Janusz's Reptile Adoption, Rehabilitation and Education center.

Reinstein Woods may be reached from Como Park Boulevard between Union and Transit. From the boulevard turn south on Honorine Drive. The preserve parking lot is on the left side of that road. (Permission for other group visits to the sanctuary should be obtained by calling 851-7201.) For more information see the website: Gerry Rising