Two New Nature Trails


(This 789th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on May 14, 2006.)


Good news! Just in time for the height of the spring bird migration, two wonderful new nature trails, the Times Beach Trail on Buffalo's Lake Erie waterfront and the Swallow Hollow Trail at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, have recently opened.


If you haven't already had a chance to visit their over two miles of trails, I urge you to do so. As a bonus: they are both well constructed for handicapped access.


Last week I spent several pleasant hours walking these trails to record the birds seen along them. I'll share with you a few of my notes.


Times Beach. Before we even pass through the green fence marking the reserve, we begin recording new species for the year. The rich whistle of a Baltimore Oriole announces its arrival and we soon see this handsome orange and black bird singing from one of the willows. Yellow warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, house wrens and warbling vireos serenade us.


Fortunately much down timber remains and birds are easily seen at eye level among these logs. We notice a black-and-white warbler typically making its way along one of them and spot our first yellow-throat there as well. We find several hermit thrushes and an early Swainson's thrush flies below the boardwalk.


Most waterfowl have already moved on north leaving only a pair of mallards but from one of the blinds we watch a common tern flying over the breakwall. From another we spot a killdeer and a lesser yellowlegs on the mudflat at water's edge. As we watch those shorebirds, dozens of barn and tree swallows race past just overhead. Dave Friedrich picks out one rough-winged swallow among them.


On our way back we find a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers in a tree that also sports a white-breasted nuthatch and a brown creeper.


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Birders on the Swallow Hollow Trail


Swallow Hollow. We enter the woods to the robin-like but even more cheerful singing of several rose-breasted grosbeaks. A scarlet tanager's hoarse phrasing and chip burr call join the chorus and a crested flycatcher wheeps and churrs from a treetop.


When we leave the boardwalk we find white-throated and white-crowned sparrows along the trail. A Northern water-thrush sings from the marsh edge and a sora and a Virginia rail call from among the cattails. Back in the woods again, we listen to the organ-like song of a nearby wood thrush and observe a small flock of yellow-rumped, palm and black-throated green warblers in the treetops.


I salute the many volunteers whose time and energy have brought these trails to completion. Such projects don't just happen. For example, the gestation period for Times Beach has been almost thirty years. Here is a list of some of those, most of them volunteers, who have made these two trails possible (with apologies to those I will surely miss):


Robert Andrle, George Arthur, Jay Burney, Steve Call, Ed Fiorino, Ann and Chuck Fourtner, Ellen Gibson, Mike Greer, Jeff Graves, Mike Hamilton, Tom Hersey, Brian Higgins, Morgan Jones, Bob Lamoy, Richard Leonard, Paul MacClennan, Sally Metzger, Mike Noonan, Mike Raab, Blake Reeves, Mary Rossi, Tom Roster, Bob Schmidt, Jay Schroeder, Paul Shkilnyj, Tony Wagner and Carl Zenger.


Also Mike Wisor and the student workers fom the Iroquois Job Corps Center. And Mrs. Albertson, Mrs. Pellegrino, Mr. Webb and their students of Albion Elementary School. The sign these youngsters contributed -- "What Every Kid Should Know about Wetlands" -- includes the delightful warning: "Don't hug the trees with poison ivy."


I urge you to congratulate and thank any of these people whenever you meet them.


Directions to the Times Beach Trail: Cross the Skyway and follow the signs back to the Coast Guard Station. Trail access is just before the station entrance.


Directions to the Swallow Hollow Trail: Take the Thruway to the Pembroke exit and follow Route 77 north to Lewiston Road in the little Village of Alabama. Turn right there to take Lewiston Road east to Knowlesville Road, then left on Knowlesville north to the trail entrance.


Sadly, I must add a postscript to this good news. Already thoughtless people are discarding soft drink bottles and beer cans along these trails. I cannot understand this behavior.-- Gerry Rising