Spring has Sprung at Overmountain Conservation Area!

Sunday April 24, volunteers, trustees, and friends gathered at the soon-to-be-open Overmountain Conservation Area in Ancram for a sneak peek at what is to become CLCs newest and biggest Public Conservation Area.

Everyone was able to finish waking up by enjoying hot coffee and breakfast pastries while hearing about some of the historic use of the property and how it came to be donated to CLC. The group then split into two separate guided hikes lead by Trustee Will Yandik and staff member Ian Schillinger-Brokaw. These hikes delved deeper into the natural history of the area highlighting some of the unique features and critical ecosystems found on the property.

We walked out to a deep farm pond that was believed to have been an old schist quarry where they talked about farm ponds contributions to biodiversity. Even though they are man-made farm ponds have the potential to provide habitat for important macroinvertebrates such as Dragonflys!!! From here we moved onto a conversation about grassland bird habitat and what CLCs plans are to support these birds that are struggling in Columbia County and the greater USA. We then proceeded on to talk about some of the great work that has been done by the Greenagers and SCA crews on the property. These groups in addition to working on trails created many natural deer exclosures to protect small saplings from deer browsing. Being entirely constructed from wood and sticks found on site they proved to stand the test of time and remained mostly un-damaged over the past two years. It was quite heartening to see that inside the protective barriers many small saplings were thriving. These exclosures are an astatically pleasing, economical and effective way to help protect small stands of young trees on your property and are pretty easy to make on a sunny Sunday afternoon!!

There were several unexpected finds during the day. One of the boldest Savannah sparrows any of us had ever seen graced us with his song for several minutes atop the gazebo as we were getting ready to leave for our hikes. We then also found many Goldenrod galls created by gallflys and the wasps that try and eat them, woodpeckers that sounded like “drunk monkeys typing on an old type writer” and even the skeleton of a deer that most likely fell prey to some of the many coyotes in the area.

The event served as a perfect sneak peek into the potential of this new Public Conservation Area and CLC cannot wait to officially open its doors to everyone September 21. We hope to see you there!

Dogs & Public Conservation Areas

With spring just around the corner (we hope!) many of us will soon be hitting the trails with our four-legged friends to enjoy the sites and sounds of CLC’s Public Conservation Areas. While we love our furry pals, and many CLC staff have spoiled dogs of their own, we ask that all visitors to our sites keep their dogs on leash, and pick up after them. Why?

  • Public Conservation Areas are for everyone, and not everyone is a fan of dogs. Unleashed dogs can knock over small children, frighten people who have had traumatic past experiences with dogs, or intimidate submissive dogs who are on-leash.
  • Being on leash keeps your pup safe. Public Conservation Areas are home to porcupines, skunks, and other creatures that may not get along with your dog.
  • Many sites are home to fragile wildlife that can be damaged by dogs off-leash. Several CLC sites include grassland habitat where ground-nesting birds make their homes. Dogs bounding through these open fields can destroy nests, stress birds, or injure baby birds.
  • Dog poop is much easier to find when it’s close to the trail. Dogs generate several billion pounds of poop per year that includes E. coli, parasites, and fecal coliform bacteria that can make people sick, contaminate water, and just generally make for an unpleasant hiking experience if you unwittingly step in it. Check out this article for more information.

Thanks so much for being a considerate site user, leashing your dogs, and picking up after them! CLC owns and manages over 4,000 acres of land with only four full-time staff, and we can’t constantly police our sites. If you notice someone habitually breaking the leash rules, please contact our office at 518.392.5252.

Planting for Pollinators

As winter finally starts to subside, our thoughts turn to gardening. But these thoughts can quickly become overwhelming – what should I plant? When? Where? Should I plant for birds? Butterflies? Wildlife? How do I make sure I’m not buying invasive species, and what are those, anyway?  We’ve compiled a few resources to help you make all of those decisions!

Let’s start with the last question first: invasive species are non-native species that have the potential to harm the economy, environment, or human health. Invasive plants, in particular, often have the ability to grow very quickly, taking over areas dominated by native plants that local wildlife may rely on for food. This is important to keep in mind while planting your garden – gardening and home improvement stores may sell invasive plants, like English ivy or mile-a-minute weed. Learn more about common invasive plants at this website.

Luckily, there are lots of great resources online to help you figure out what you should plant!

If you’ve got an affinity for birds, check out Audubon’s Plants for Birds site. All you do is enter in your zipcode, pick which types of plants you want (trees, shrubs, perennials, etc.), and you’ll be presented with a list of native plants that suit your needs. You can even indicate which species of birds you’d like to attract. The Audubon site also has a lot of great resources about why to plant natives, caring for your plants, and making your yard bird-friendly.

The Xerces Society has a great list of native plants for pollinators in our region, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a beautiful database you can search, as well. You can enter in your site’s light and moisture availability to buy plants that are more likely to survive! If you’re especially interested in milkweed for monarchs, the Xerces Society also has a native milkweed finder site.

Happy planting!

Volunteers Remove Invasive Honeysuckle

On a snowy April Saturday, thirteen volunteers gathered at Siegel-Kline Kill Conservation Area to begin year two of our habitat restoration project, led by Master Gardener volunteers Tim Kennelty and Glenda Berman. Our task was to remove as much invasive Japanese honeysuckle along the roadside as we could in two hours.

Why were we working so hard to get rid of this plant? This invasive plant is bad for a number of reasons. Honeysuckle spreads rapidly, crowding out other native species that birds, pollinators, and other wildlife depend on for food. It is also suspected that honeysuckle produces a chemical in its roots that can make it hard for nearby plants to grow. While birds do eat the small berries honeysuckle produces, they are not the fat-nutrient rich food that birds need. A bird’s diet is much better served from native plants!

Volunteers cleared about 100 feet of honeysuckle along the roadside – what a difference! Once the honeysuckle has been removed, we will plant native trees and shrubs in their place, as part of our process of restoring native habitat at Siegel-Kline Kill. Thank you to all of the volunteers who came to help out!

If you want to join our next volunteer outing, please contact John Horton at john.horton@clctrust.org

If you’re interested in volunteering in another capacity (assisting at events, taking photos, maintaining trails), check out our Volunteer page to sign up.

Spring Fruit Tree Sale at Full Circus Farm Supports CLC

In 2014, the CLC’s Farmer Landowner Match Program helped Mark and Miriam find landowners in Pine Plains to start their vegetable farm and fruit tree nursery, Full Circus Farm.  The farm, still happily on that same piece of land, now grows organic produce to feed 40 to 50 local CSA families, as well as local markets and restaurants.  They also supply fruit trees to gardeners and orchardists across the Hudson Valley.

Full Circus Farm is having a Spring Fruit Tree Sale on April 15th from 10am to 2pm.  Their apple, pear and asian pear trees saplings and are certified organic and are both grafted and grown right on the farm.  Mark and Miriam will donate 15% of their sales to CLC if you tell them you found them through us!

One of the exciting apple tree varieties they have this spring is Esopus Spitzenburg– an heirloom dessert apple that hails from the town of Esopus, right here in the Hudson Valley and it is rumored to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.  In addition to fresh eating apples and pears, Mark and Miriam also grow apple varieties that are rich in tannins and ideal for pressing into hard cider.

Mark and Miriam use a team of draft horses to plow, spread compost and cultivate the soil.  The horses are lighter on the land than a tractor, add fertility to the farm system, but most of all, they are just a joy to work with!  Sandy and Sunshine, their pair of Haflinger ponies, are finally getting some exercise again now after a long and restful winter.  They also have a small herd of cows, including a family dairy cow, and a small flock of hens.

April Showers Bring… May Frogs and Salamanders!

Before the birds come back from their tropical vacations, and before many spring flowers have poked their heads through the cold ground, there’s a raucous party happening in the woods that you might not be aware of!

Some people may have heard a peep or two from their first spring peeper on one of the warmer days recently, or what they thought was a duck quacking back in the woods (probably a brave wood frog waking up). This is just a hint of what’s to come, though – what we’re really waiting for is the Big Night.

What’s Big Night? It’s the night (or several nights) when the conditions are right and mother nature gives the signal to some amphibians, like wood frogs, spring peepers, and mole salamanders to wake up from their frosty slumber in the leaf litter and get moving! In order to do so the conditions must be right: a warmish rainy evening when the temperatures are above 40 make for the perfect conditions for these sensitive critters to move. The frogs and salamanders often travel up to a half mile to get to woodland pools for breeding.

Some species, like the wood frogs and spotted salamanders, are dependent on very specialized temporary wetlands to breed in. These small wetlands are created when the winter thaw and the spring rains fill up depressions in the woods. Because these wetlands generally don’t have an inlet or an outlet, they do not support fish, so they are essentially little nurseries for the frogs and salamanders that are successful in making their way there to lay eggs.

Unfortunately, these habitats are often fragmented by roads, and it can be a dangerous expedition for these small amphibians to make. But you can help the frogs and salamanders by being a citizen science road crossing guard, with the Amphibian Migration and Road Crossing project! If you have seen a stretch of road where on a rainy night it looks like a wave of frogs coming out of the woods, please think about taking some time to stop and help these little critters safely find spring love! For more information on the project watch this video and contact John Horton for an informational packet.

Here are some other interesting tidbits:

  • The male frogs are the ones making all the noise, trying to attract females to the pools
  • Spring peepers are the smallest frog we have, at about an inch, yet the females can lay between 750-1500 eggs each year
  • Wood frogs are typically between 1.5 to 3 inches in length, and lay up to 3000 eggs in a season
  • Once they breed and lay their eggs they move back to the forest where they spend the majority of the rest of the year, you might be lucking enough to find a spring peeper hanging out in trees and shrubs or wood frogs and spotted salamanders might be found in the leaf litter or under a log
  • In winter they dig down into the leaf litter or under logs and they have an anti-freeze like substance in their system which allows them to endure freezing winter temperatures
  • The secretive spotted salamander, a 6-8 inch long dark grey salamander with bright yellow spots; these chubby creatures spend most of their adult lives underground in mixed hardwood forests, laying around 100 eggs.

Click here for more information, or join us for our Full Pink Moon Walk at Hand Hollow April 28!