(This column first appeared in the October 12, 1998 Buffalo News.)
A collection of items that have accumulated on my desk:
- Our State Department of Environmental Conservation has distributed a brochure, Wildlife Viewing Sites in Western New York, which includes ten that are within an easy drive of Buffalo. With fall colors reaching their peak, this would be a good t
ime to visit some of them.
Here they are. In Erie County: Tifft Nature Preserve and Tillman Road
Wildlife Management Area. In Niagara County: the Niagara River Corridor.
In Orleans and Genesee Counties: Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and
Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area.
In Wyoming County: Beaver Meadow Nature Center. In Livingston County:
Letchworth State Park. In Allegany County: Moss Lake Preserve. And in
Chautauqua County: Dunkirk Harbor, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and
the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center.
For more detailed descriptions of these and other nearby places to
enjoy, I recommend four regional guides: David Lawrence Reade's Beyond
Buffalo! Bruce Kershner's Secret Places, the Adirondack
Mountain Club's Wilderness Weekends in Western New York and
William P. Ehling's Fifty Hikes in Western New York.
- Three signs posted on the English countryside: "Quicksand: Any Person
Passing This Point Will Be Drowned. By Order of the District Council."
"The Farmer Allows Walkers to Cross This Field for Free. But the Bull
Charges." And "Horse Manure: 50 p Pre-packed Bag; 20 p Do It Yourself."
- At this time of year I receive inquiries about tent caterpillar nests seen in roadside trees. But these are not the nests of the tent caterpillars that built nests in tree crotches last spring. These unsightly, excrement-filled silken bags hanging at
the ends of limbs were until recently the homes of fall webworms -- caterpillar relatives of woolybears. They have now abandoned those bags and are spinning cocoons in the leaf litter. Next spring they will emerge as two-inch white moths with orange abdom
- An article in the Summer 1998 Foreign Policy magazine describes government research thankfully still on the drawing board. Of particular interest is the so-called Entomopter, defined as a micro air vehicle. Its design characteristics: Insect-li
ke, four by six inches, four ounces, equipped with legs for crawling through buildings or ventilation ducts and flapping wings for airborne reconnaissance. It is to be adapted for civilian as well as military purposes.
I leave to your imagination the many possible uses for such a device.
In any event, if it is ever produced, goodbye to the last remaining
shreds of our privacy.
- Attention golf course managers. A report from a Naval Air Force installation indicates "unqualified success" using a border collie to keep geese away. "When the geese land,
the dog goes out the door like she was shot from a cannon. Geese take of
f in all directions."
Of course there are attendant problems. Trained dogs cost $5000 and handlers must be trained as well. Annual refresher sessions are necessary for both handlers and dog. The dog's usefulness is short-term and it must be replaced after five years. The Ai
r Force can justify these costs because they reduce the number of bird-plane strikes, each of which costs them "tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars."
- A list of suggested (tongue-in-cheek) state mottoes includes my
favorite, Indiana: Two Billion Years Tidal Wave Free.
- Finally, there is this true story picked up from the news wire. To
protect the identity of the mid-western hero, I do not disclose his name.
Plagued with gophers, he sought to drown out the pesky critters by
running his garden hose down their burrow entrance. Six hours after he
turned on the hose, his wife called him in to bail out two feet of water
from their basement. -- Gerry Rising