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News from MRG

Have you seen this bear?

Last April, MRG brought together numerous partners including Highstead, Great Hollow Preserve, and Teatown Lake Reservation, and coordinated an effort to place 45 remote infrared cameras around northern Westchester and eastern Putnam, and western Fairfield County in CT (please see map) in hopes of capturing images of black bears. MRG Staff Biologist Budd Veverka and WTP student Will Maynard have been rewarded with hundreds of clear, action photos of numerous bears displaying what you might imagine to be typical bear behavior—scratching their backs against tree trunks, tumbling and wrestling, and demonstrating their natural curiosity. (Click here for slide show.)

 

Prior to European settlement, black bears were abundant throughout New York and Connecticut. By the mid-1800s, however, due to forest clearing for farming and unregulated hunting, populations declined dramatically.  In the past 40 years, the forested habitat of New York and Connecticut has recovered and black bears have made a significant comeback. Today, there are an estimated 7, 000 black bears in New York and 650 black bears in Connecticut.

 

With bear sightings becoming more frequent in recent years, the “Exurban/Suburban Black Bear Occurrence and Activity,” or “bear project” for short, is a black bear monitoring and research project that simultaneously provides a unique opportunity for conservationists to proactively educate the community about this large, charismatic mammal.The study intends to document the expanding distribution of black bears in southern NY and southwestern CT, including analyzing how areas transition from initial transient activity, to permanent occupancy, and then breeding activity.

In the last 15 years, bears have begun expanding into areas not typically thought of as “bear county”, adapting to higher human densities, and taking advantage of new food sources – bird feeders, outdoor pet food, and even compost piles. This has led to more interactions with people, and in turn, the sightings and reports we see on the news each spring.

Like MRG’s Gotham Coyote Project, the bear project is intended to help scientists and managers understand how these animals are changing our area as they expand their range into new ecological and human communities. In addition, knowledge of how humans relate or how our local human community values wildlife or biological communities is an important field of research. With an increase in bear sightings in suburban areas, many people are concerned about negative interactions between human activities and bears. Education on bear ecology, how to minimize risk, and best practices regarding coexistence can minimize the already low risks.

Budd recently participated in a Wolf Conservation Center event at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation that afforded him the opportunity to talk with visitors about the research study that will ultimately inform a campaign to educate the public how to coexist with bears as they move into the suburban community. He encouraged them to help our study by reporting bear sightings by downloading the iNaturalist app and finding our project at inaturalist.org/projects/hudson-to-housatonic-bears, emailing H2Hbears@gmail.com, or calling 812-929-9970. The very next day, someone did!

Visit our media page to see more photos from MRG’s ongoing bear project, “Exurban/Suburban Black Bear Occurrence and Activity,” funded in part by the Camp Fire Conservation Fund. Thank you!

2017 College Internship in Suburban Ecology students wrap up at Mianus River Gorge

2017 College Internship in Suburban Ecology students wrap up at Mianus River Gorge

Each summer, Mianus River Gorge offers a highly sought-after internship for undergraduate college students with an interest in ecology. Under the tutelage of MRG staff scientists and graduate research assistants, the interns contribute to the Gorge’s on-going research in and around the Preserve.

This year, four students were selected among a pool of talented applicants from colleges across the country.  Mianus River Gorge hosted Morgan Berman of Tufts University,  Veronica Berger, also of Tufts University, Maria Juran of Yale University, and Brandon Shea of SUNY ESF.

Mianus River Gorge is engaged in several research initiatives and on-going stewardship of the Preserve and its environs.

For example, the students assisted Chris Nagy and Budd Veverka with camera trap deployment for the Gotham Coyote Project and Exurban/Suburban Black Bear Occurrence and Activity project. On rainy days, they helped with data entry for camera trap studies that consisted of recording the following metadata from each photograph: what species was observed, which camera took the photo, and where and when the photo occurred. MRG partners with scientists from other organizations throughout the region to share data, develop best practices, and address fundamental questions about how wildlife adapts (or fails to adapt) to urbanization.

At the beginning of the summer, the students assisted new RAP student Zach Gajewski, our Ph.D. student from Virginia Tech. The interns, along with WTP high school student Will Cranier, helped Zach with his research on the distribution of the pathogenic chytrid fungus that affects frogs and other amphibians (they especially enjoying helping him catch frogs).

The college students also worked on Source to Sound (Phase II), an initiative funded by Westchester Community Foundation and Patagonia. The Mianus River Watershed comprises over 30 major wetlands, each with a varying level of health and functionality. In Phase II of this project, MRG is completing the assessment of the individual wetlands within the lower watershed after having undertaken the assessment of the wetlands in the upper watershed last year. After on-the-ground visits to note visible threats, the interns learned how scientists use a unique computer model to evaluate the functions and values provided by a wetland.

Stewardship was a major focus of the students’ internship this summer. They helped remove invasive weeds and vines; helped erect a deer exclosure; pitched in during the River Clean-Up; and helped with trail maintenance. They got dirty and sweaty but remained cheerful and enthusiastic contributors to our efforts to take care of the Preserve.

Mianus River Gorge’s Research & Education program is the bellwether for like-minded organizations in the region. Students get a hands-on ecology research experience, meaningful field experience, learn best practices in data collection, interpretation and presentation, and better understand the path for further study or a career in the sciences.

MRG raises funds to pay the college interns a very modest stipend. If you would like to donate to the Research & Education program and help support an intern, please visit our donation page. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

All Cleaned Up

Thanks to community volunteers, MRG’s College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) and Wildlife Technician Program (WTP) students, staff, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tim Evnin for getting wet and muddy at the Mianus River Clean-Up on Saturday, July 22!

Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for hauling discarded tires, bottles, and other debris from in and along the banks of the Mianus River. Teams of volunteers fanned out along the river armed with work gloves and heavy duty trash bags. A few hours later, everyone came back covered in mud, but with a feeling of accomplishment as we filled the 12-yard dumpster donated by City Carting.

The well-earned lunch following the clean-up was provided by DeCicco’s Armonk store.

The Mianus River is one of a number of the coastal rivers that empties into Long Island Sound (LIS) at Cos Cob Harbor in southwest Connecticut. Its headwaters in North Castle and Bedford, NY, drain to the Bargh Reservoir, a drinking water source for the communities of Greenwich, Stamford, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook. Mianus River Gorge (MRG) plays an important role in protecting and restoring the watershed that contributes to the health of the river.

Thank you!

View slide show.

Bear Photos

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MRG Welcomes Summer Interns

MRG Welcomes Summer Interns

MRG welcomes the 2017 cohort of summer interns to the College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) program. This summer’s undergraduate students are interested in the fields of ecology, conservation biology, and environmental sciences, and will assist staff and researchers with field work and data analysis over the course of an 8-week internship. Welcome to Brandon (SUNY ESF), Maria (Yale University), Morgan (Tufts University) and Veronica (Tufts University).  The students have jumped right in to work on trail stewardship, camera trap deployment for the Gotham Coyote Project and the Bear Monitoring initiative, and, of course, battling invasive vines in the Preserve.

Help Keep the Mianus River Clean on July 22

The Mianus River is one of a number of the coastal rivers that empties into Long Island Sound (LIS) at Cos Cob Harbor in southwest Connecticut. Its headwaters in North Castle and Bedford, NY, drain to the Bargh Reservoir, a drinking water source for the communities of Greenwich, Stamford, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook. Mianus River Gorge (MRG) plays an important role in protecting the watershed that also contributes to the health of the aquifer that supplies local wells in other communities and the Mianus River itself.

Mianus River Gorge will host a River Clean Up on Saturday, July 22, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., beginning and ending at Bedford Village Memorial Park, 65 Greenwich Road, Bedford, NY.

With the help of staff, trustees, donors, and others (scout troops, soccer teams, high school environmental clubs, and the general public), MRG is organizing a Clean Up along a major portion of the Mianus River. MRG will map and assign ½-mile sections of the river to groups of volunteers armed with garbage bags, work gloves, and insect repellant who will remove trash and other discarded objects in and along the river.

Participants will meet at 9:00 a.m. at Bedford Village Memorial Park. MRG Executive Director Rod Christie will give an overview of the importance of keeping the Mianus River classified as AA-Special, a clean drinking water supply for so many. Volunteers will then break up into groups of approximately 10 people. Each group will have a team leader who will help people pick up all forms of refuse, from discarded tires to mylar balloons, and pull large items and filled garbage bags to the roadside. MRG staff will come by in its pickup truck to haul trash back to the Park where it will be discarded into dumpster rented for the event.

Refreshments and clean River Clean Up t-shirts will be distributed at the end of the day (lunchtime) at this important community event. RSVP to (914) 234-3455 or info@mianus.org. We look forward to seeing you there!

photo by William Abranowicz

 

Song Birds in Gorge Reward Bird Watchers

Bird Walk in MRG

On Sunday, a group of 24 enthusiastic bird watchers joined MRG’s Preserve Manager, Budd Veverka, and Bedford Audubon’s Tait Johansson on an early morning walk through the Gorge.

Starting out in a private landowner’s meadow before heading into the forest, the group listened for bird calls that were impressively identified by Budd and Tait, who also helped spot the birds and point them out among the leafy trees.

Bird watchers spied a plethora of beautiful song birds, including indigo bunting, scarlet tanager, cedar waxwing, worm-eating warbler, blue-winged warbler, great-crested flycatcher, and spotted sandpiper.  The group also observed an ovenbird nest with four beautiful eggs inside. Ovenbirds are a ground-nesting species found in the Gorge, which is the main reason dogs are not allowed in the Preserve.

We look forward to having you join us on our next event, the River Clean-Up, scheduled for Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., beginning and ending at Bedford Village Memorial Park. Please call (914) 234-3455 or send a message to info@mianus.org to let us know you’re coming.

Mianus River Gorge is grateful to donors like you

Mianus River Gorge is grateful to donors like you whose gifts support efforts to preserve and protect the Mianus River Watershed and all its natural resources. 

Land protection is at the very heart of the Gorge’s mission and the Mianus River flows clean and pure where we protect the land in the watershed. With your help, Mianus River Gorge is able to oppose threats on surrounding lands while working toward permanent protection through opportunities to purchase land and conservation easements.

 Your donation will help MRG protect the biodiversity of the Preserve as our staff scientists, graduate students, and summer interns work to re-introduce native wildflowers, plants, shrubs and trees to the understory where needed.

 MRG also is working to restore a severely damaged wetlands system on what is now protected land. Following a carefully designed restoration plan, MRG staff hope to bring back this wetland’s functional health and enhance its contribution to keeping the Mianus River classified as AA-Special, a clean drinking water supply for so many.

To use your donation wisely, MRG hones in on the heart of its mission and focuses on effective, cost-efficient, and impactful projects that lead to permanent conservation solutions. Your donation goes directly toward supporting these endeavors and helps keep MRG at the forefront of land and water protection efforts that span the length of the Mianus River.

The News Bulletin and our web site, www.mianus.org, help keep you informed about happenings in and around the Gorge. Come join us for a guided nature walk, Volunteer Days, or enjoy the newly renovated hiking trails!

 Please donate today and help support the Gorge.  Thank you!

Poaching :(

The popularity of certain edible plants and plants with value as nursery products has contributed to increased poaching activity and decreased biodiversity in the Mianus River Gorge. Plants in the Gorge often grow in isolated patches, several of which have been devastated by poachers. Current levels of poaching could lead to complete loss of some plant species.

Recently, we have had a tremendous problem with poachers in the Gorge. Poachers have pulled up plants and wildflowers by the roots, rendering them unable to regenerate, which means they are lost forever! Poaching plants has a direct impact on biological communities, impacts our ability to conduct important research, and, of course, impacts your enjoyment of the Gorge.

Visitors witnessing illegal poaching are not asked to confront the offenders but to report the activity to us at (914) 234-3455. The mission of Mianus River Gorge is to protect the natural and historic resources of the Preserve so that they will be available for the enjoyment of future generations.

Outdoor Observer

Spring is a Glorious Time

By Rod Christie

Spring is a glorious time, full of new smells, sounds, and colors that are in direct contrast to those departing months of winter. Perhaps my favorite season, it is the rapid emergence of new life that makes it so exciting. Snow and ice melt to reveal the landscape beneath and water is everywhere. Ephemeral wildflowers use the abundant sunlight to burst into bloom, birds return for their winter haunts and rush to stake out breeding territories, fish fight the current to work their way to their spawning sites, and, my favorite, the frogs begin to sing.

wood frog

There are more than half a dozen frog species that call the Gorge home and most of them are never seen by the average person, but most are heard. The wood frog is the first to emerge, most likely because it spends winter buried close to the surface under a layer of leaves. It has a remarkable ability to survive the freezing and thawing of winter. Its skin turns rock hard and crusty to protect it and a special protein in its blood makes the water in the blood freeze first. This freezing process sucks the remaining water out of the body cells which are at the same time being pumped full of glucose from the frog’s liver. This combination dehydrates the cells, but the sugar keeps them from collapsing.  Its heartbeat, brain activity and all bodily functions stop. When the weather thaws, so does the frog. Water flows back into its sugary cells, bringing it back to life. As the nearby pond thaws, it joins other wood frogs as they make their way to open water and begin to breed. Their raucous calls sound like a bunch of quacking ducks and they can emerge, mate and lay eggs in a matter of weeks if the weather cooperates.

spring peeper

Following the wood frogs are usually the spring peepers. These tiny woodland frogs also possess a type of antifreeze all-be-it not as good as the wood frogs’. They emerge to breed by the thousands and their cacophony has disturbed many a light sleeper. Eventually most breed and their calls wane, only to be followed by the snoring calls of pickerel frogs; then the “single loud, throaty ‘gunk’ or ‘boink” of green frogs, and then the trill of the Gray tree frogs (which come down from trees to breed on rainy nights in June). Then later in June and July the nights are home to the “loud low pitch, two-part drone or below” of bullfrogs. The bullfrog is an introduced species to the United States and is extremely aggressive. It will eat just about anything it can fit into its mouth, including other bullfrogs. I once saw a bullfrog try to eat a small muskrat unsuccessfully: quite a sight to behold.  Beware of these guys–once they take up residence in your pond, you will slowly see all the smaller native frogs disappear as the bullfrog grows progressively larger.

pickerel frog

gray tree frog

green frog

bull frog

The mission of Mianus River Gorge, an independent, not-for-profit organization, is to preserve, protect and promote appreciation of the natural heritage of the Mianus River watershed through land acquisition and conservation, scientific research and public education throughout the region.
Mianus River Gorge, 167 Mianus River Road, Bedford, New York 10506     914-234-3455     info@mianus.org

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