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News from MRG
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you there!
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 email@example.com 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Capturing Wildlife … On Camera!
Mianus River Gorge is engaged in numerous ongoing wildlife monitoring studies (such as fisher, bobcat, and red fox); an annual deer census; the renowned Gotham Coyote Project; and most recently a black bear project!
Each of these projects employs camera traps (motion-activated cameras placed on trees that photograph passing wildlife) to capture and record the presence of wildlife in a specific location and observe its behavior. The camera trap has revolutionized wildlife research and conservation, enabling scientists around the world to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen species at relatively little cost and extremely minimal disturbance to the animals.
In our part of the world, effective wildlife monitoring studies enable wildlife biologists to share and aggregate data, develop best practices, and, ultimately, address fundamental questions about how wildlife adapts (or fails to adapt) to urbanization.
As a leader in the field of wildlife biology and camera trap research, MRG continues to expand its monitoring and research–both in the Gorge and across the region–and partner with academic institutions and other conservation organizations. To continue and grow these projects and research studies, the need for more cameras is paramount.
We need your help to purchase at least 10 wildlife cameras and their accompanying accessories (rechargeable batteries, memory card, security box and lock). Each complete package costs $500. Please consider donating a wildlife camera or contributing to MRG’s camera fund. Your donation of $500, $250, $100 or $50 will help us increase the size of our camera trap array and capture images of the fascinating animals that inhabit the region, the Gorge, and your backyard!
Click here to donate to MRG’s Camera Fund (please let us know your donation is for the camera fund by clicking on “Add special instructions” and writing “Camera Fund”)
MRG’s Impressive Student Researchers
Mianus River Gorge’s highly acclaimed Research & Education program continues its fruitful history of mentoring, teaching, and engaging students in meaningful applied ecology research. Students at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels learn valuable research protocols, gain hands-on field experience, and share their findings at science poster competitions, in published scientific papers, and in their masters and doctoral theses.
Most recently, high school Wildlife Technician Program (WTP) student Matt Gomes placed second in the animal/plant sciences category at the Westchester Science Competition. His project studied the interactive effects of deer, invasive plant species, and native plant recovery in the Preserve.
Additionally, Research Assistantship Program (RAP) alumna Rachel Bricklin and WTP high school student Ellen Thomas are co-authors of Foraging Birds during Migratory Stopovers in the New York Metropolitan Area: Associations with Native and Non-native Plants, in Urban Naturalist, No. 11 (2016). During her time as a RAP graduate student at MRG, Rachel mentored Ellen and studied stopover habitats for migratory birds in urban and nearby suburban sites.
Last summer’s College in Suburban Ecology intern Kyle Sanduski of SUNY Geneseo is just one of many in the program’s 10+-year history to have benefitted from the program. “I would like to thank you all for the excellent and memorable experience I had within my short 8 weeks. My expectations were far exceeded. I have further realized that my aspirations are focused on local level conservation-based NGOs.”
While students work on a project of their choosing, the projects all align with MRG’s ongoing efforts to preserve and protect the watershed. The students are mentored by MRG scientists Rod Christie, Chris Nagy, and Budd Veverka on projects that study white-tailed deer, coyotes, and other wildlife; restore native plant diversity within the Gorge; and contribute to the sustainability, resiliency, and health of the vital wetlands system.
We’re proud of our students, of course, but MRG’s scientists get high praise and recognition, too. Dr. Chris Nagy was tapped to serve as a thesis defense committee member by Dr. Russell Burke, Professor, Chair of Biology, Donald E. Axinn Distinguished Professor in Ecology and Conservation, Hofstra University.
At its 51st annual meeting, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County (FCWC) presented Mianus River Gorge with multiple proclamations and awards in recognition of its Research & Education Program.
A newly recruited class of high school WTP students will be with us until they graduate in 2020. We will welcome four CISE summer interns in early June, and begin work with a new RAP graduate student in March. MRG is always impressed with the quality of the students, and looks forward to training the next generation of scientists, critical thinkers, and conservation-minded citizens.
Volunteer Work Day on Saturday, April 1 – Opening Day!
Opening Day at the Gorge! Trails open on April 1, and we need your help to make sure they’re ready for visitors. Winter takes its toll on the steps, trail edging and retaining walls that comprise the narrow and winding hiking paths.
Please join Mianus River Gorge staff and fellow volunteers for a Volunteer Work Day on Saturday, April 1. Two sessions are available: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Come for either or bring your lunch and stay for both!
Your help is needed to … revitalize the Deer Exclosure trail … replace and install edging along sections of the trail using cedar logs secured with wood wedges and long pins … rebuild a retaining wall on the Red trail using strong locust logs and rebar … redo a series of steps on the Blue trail … and more.
Volunteer Work Day is a chance to get out-of-doors, meet new people, and contribute to a memorable experience for all MRG visitors. Bring a friend (and work gloves if you have them)!
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 234-3455 to sign up for the morning or afternoon session (or both). THANK YOU!
What We’re Working on this Winter …
What We’re Working on this Winter …
Executive Director Rod Christie’s always thinking about land conservation and protection in and around the Mianus River Watershed. He is excited about the restoration project we’re calling Lockwood Pond II. The Lockwood Pond II project focuses on the wetlands that comprise the headwaters of Piping Brook, a tributary of the Mianus River and an important corridor for wildlife. The Piping Brook corridor is now protected in perpetuity by Mianus River Gorge, part of the Gorge’s land acquisition of the 73-acre Levene property.
Currently, this portion is categorized as a compromised wetland, choked with every type of invasive plant and vine imaginable: porcelain berry, allanthus, phragmites, Japansese bittersweet, multi-flora rose, mugwort, and many more. Rod is currently working with wetlands experts to design a restoration plan to restore Lockwood Pond II at the headwaters of the Piping Brook corridor.
Because Lockwood Pond II is so severely compromised, we will have to remove invasive species and discarded / abandoned construction materials (rip rap, boulders, cinder blocks) from this former potential housing site. Every effort will be made to protect any surviving native plants.
MRG will replant the wetland with hardy, native herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees, such as spice bush, sedge, rushes, etc. The plantings component of the Lockwood Pond II project also will serve as a model for designing and implementing an effective and attractive wetlands restoration.
MRG has an opportunity to link this project with other collaborative efforts to preserve and protect the watershed; create riparian corridors for migrating birds, butterflies and other pollinators; and better educate private landowners about responsible stewardship.
Speaking of butterflies and pollinators, MRG Wildlife & Habitat Consultations are underway. Rod, along with Director of Land Manager & Research Chris Nagy and Staff Biologist & Preserve Manager Budd Veverka, has been visiting property owners who want to know more about the natural history of their properties, which native plant species to plant to attract wildlife, and how to control unwanted invasive species.
The team has also installed wildlife cameras on some properties so owners might catch a glimpse of coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other wildlife passing through their yards. With recent snowfall, there are an abundance of tracks providing more evidence of more elusive animal species.
A team of MRG scientists is available to visit your property to answer your questions or concerns and offer advice on a variety of topics including: plant and animal identification; wildlife management; natural history; invasive species; woodland, field and pond management solutions; and more. Click here for more information.
At the same time, Dr. Chris Nagy has been interviewing area high school students for MRG’s award-winning Wildlife Technician Program (WTP). WPT students start in their sophomore year and work with MRG staff on a relevant project in applied ecology research that benefits both the Gorge and the student by enhancing his or her academic experience.
Chris also has been busy deploying wildlife camera traps throughout the region as the Gotham Coyote Project (GCP) expands into Long Island. He and his students have been sorting through thousands of photographs and uploading them into a collective data base. GCP plans to make the data available to students and researchers from around the world to help them answer new questions and discover new knowledge.
Of course the cameras capture images of bobcats, fishers, foxes, and, we anticipate in the spring, black bears.
Speaking of black bears, Budd Veverka is leading a cohort of regional organizations in a study that, through the use of remote camera traps and public reports, will document spring bear activity, the overall occurrence of different individuals, and potentially trace individual bear movements between areas. This information will help us map areas most likely to be corridors for black bear movement and where potential interactions and conflict could be greatest. This information will be used to educate people about how to safely co-exist with black bears, allowing for positive interactions and limiting conflict.
Budd and Assistant Steward Catherine Ferreri really spend a lot of time outdoors, regardless of inclement weather. They are constantly clearing fallen trees, mending deer exclosures, preparing new trail markers, and monitoring the Preserve’s deer herd. They are eagerly looking forward to April 1 when the trails open again and they can recruit a volunteer trail crew, “Friends of the Trails.” Volunteer trail work days also are scheduled for April 1, 2017, and November 4, 2017, so please plan on joining us on those days.
Finally, we have been planning a series of public walks for throughout the year, including the popular Wildflower Walk, Source to Sound Watershed Tour, and Owl Walks. Other unique walks, similar to last year’s fascinating Hidden Habitats of the Southern Preserve walk, are scheduled for late September and early December (further details and calendar of events to follow in February). We look forward to having you join us on one or all of MRG’s walks!
Your donation to Mianus River Gorge helps us fulfill our mission 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. To donate, please click here or send your check to 167 Mianus River Rd., Bedford, NY 10506. Thank you!