A Salute to Readers in 2012


(This 1136th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on December 30, 2012.)


I write to thank my 2012 readers for their interesting and informative communications, each of which has enriched my knowledge of the natural history of the Niagara Frontier. I summarize here only a few responses and update some columns.


Based on the number of messages, the two that captured the most interest were about animals at opposite ends of our wildlife spectrum in size: a tiny insect and one of our largest mammals.


Readers Eleanore MacKenzie and Mary Jean Lorigo wrote to say that they had experiences similar to that of Patricia Modlewski with crippled monarch butterflies. They too kept, fed and even named individual flightless monarchs. Their experiences with "Flutter" and "Monnie" taught them, as Lorigo says, about "perseverance and the beauty and fragility of nature."


Connecting the dots between South Dakota and Connecticut was the subject of my October column about the peregrinations of the mountain lion I named Odysseus. I conjectured the possibility that this puma, born in the Black Hills in 2008 or 2009 and finally killed by a car in a town on Long Island Sound in June of 2011, had passed through western New York.


Many readers provided evidence in support of this hypothesis. Terry Lorenc wrote about a number of unconfirmed sightings in the Randolph area in the spring of 2010 and Andrew Baczek wrote about having seen photo of "a good sized mountain lion taken at night near Cassadaga. It was a few miles away from where I witnessed one cross the road near Stockton."


An unidentified reader wrote about "a horse attacked in Chautauqua County. Claw marks were not bear but very feline in nature." He went on, "Then in Alleghany County near Angelica a calf was killed and part of the carcass was elevated in an apple tree. Next a cougar was seen down the road in West Almond in Turnpike State Forest but its tracks in the snow were dismissed by a doubting conservation officer. Then there were many sightings in north-central Pennsylvania all along their state route 6. All of these reports and sightings were in consecutive order from west to east. From these you can assume that the cat most likely walked south of the Great Lakes generally following the I-90, then our I-86 (Southern Tier Expressway) then possibly route 19 into Pennsylvania and from there generally between routes 6 and I-86 toward Connecticut."


Finally, Nate Wilson of Sinclairville wrote about a "posse" of local farmers observing and chasing a large animal with a long tail that left tracks in the snow that were "clearly those of a cat." He added the prediction: "I fully expect one of these guys will bring a girlfriend along at some point and will settle into some of our wilder spots in the Appalachians. As long as they stay clear of grazing livestock, people's backyards, their dogs and grandchildren I don't see much harm in them."


This evidence certainly supports adding this feline visitor to our regional megafauna.


The state report on 2012 bat studies to which Chuck Rosenburg and I contributed our June acoustic surveys is, as expected, a mix of good and bad news. White-nose syndrome was first detected in Western New York a year ago but it is already affecting our counts, especially of smaller bats. However, although the larger big-browned and silver-haired bats are also susceptible to the fungus, their numbers appear stable. This is also useful knowledge because these two species are often killed by wind turbines.


Bob Collins forwarded an Adirondack Mountain Club resolution thanking Erie County parks commissioner, Troy Schinzel, for removing the disc golf course from the Shale Creek-Eternal Flame section of Chestnut Ridge Park, thus protecting this environmentally sensitive area.


Several readers wrote about experiences with crows that again characterize the rich personalities of these birds. Michele Z. wrote about a young crow responding to an oriole's harassing: "It looked like the Crow was saying, 'Hey Buddy, what's up with you? I just want to get a peanut or two.'" It is very difficult not to anthropomorphize these remarkable birds.


Other readers wrote about wasps, mink, snowy owls, their love of maps, and most often their affection for the natural world.-- Gerry Rising


My thanks to all.