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News from MRG
Saturday, October 7, was a gorgeous day in the Gorge to learn about trees. MRG Preserve Manager & Staff Biologist Budd Veverka shared his wealth of knowledge with 35 tree enthusiasts during a “Tree ID” walk. We looked at leaves, bark, and the fruit of more than 20 different species of trees and shrubs, from American Basswood to Witch Hazel … from Pig Nut Hickory to Slippery Elm … from Black Cherry to Black Oak. Budd demonstrated the difference among asymmetric base leaves, double-serrated leaves, the “cat ear” leaves on Tulip Poplars, and more. He shared samples of different types of acorns, chestnuts, and hickory nuts.
We looked at bark that is shaggy (Shag Bark Hickory), plate-like (Chestnut Oak), patchy (Sycamore), a little flaky (Yellow Birch), and one that looks like “dinosaur skin” (Red Cherry).
Budd pointed out the trees that are dominant in different types of forest settings, including Beech, Red Maple, and Hemlock. We learned how to tell a White Pine from a Red Pine and whether deer prefer the acorns from Chestnut Oak, White Oak, Red Oak, or Black Oak. (They prefer White Oak acorns because they’re the most meaty and have thinner shells.)
Learning to identify trees isn’t as easy as you might think! But, with a little practice and a good guidebook, such as Eastern Trees (Peterson Field Guides) or The Sibley Guide to Trees, you might be able to tell a Sugar Maple from a Red Maple from a Norway Maple! You also can arrange a Wildlife & Habitat Consultation with Mianus River Gorge, and Budd will help you determine exactly what’s what in your own backyard.
Hidden Habitats of the Mianus Greenway
Nearly 30 people joined MRG Executive Director Rod Christie for “Hidden Habitats of the Mianus Greenway” walk on a recent blustery Saturday morning. Starting at the base of the Bargh Reservoir, open to us with special permission, Rod explained the history and process by which over 130,000 people benefit from MRG’s stewardship of the Mianus River Watershed. The group also saw firsthand the effects of the lack of rainfall on this important water supply.
From there, Rod led the group through the forest of the Mianus River Scenic Area (owned by the State of CT) and delved into the intricate relationship between nuts and other “mast” and all the wildlife in the forest. He explained how each layer of the forest depends on another, from the mycorrhizal fungi in the soil to the canopy at the top.
Participants were afforded an opportunity to walk through a forest that is not normally accessible to the public with its wetlands and scenic views of the Bargh Reservoir. “We had a wonderful walk, on land I was very eager to see. Rod was amazing, a wealth of information, there was not one question asked of him he didn’t know the answer for,” said an enthusiastic member of the group.
We look forward to seeing you on one of MRG’s unique and informative walks very soon!
2017 Wildlife Tech Application is up!
The Mianus River Gorge is currently accepting applications from the Class of 2020 for our Wildlife Technician Program (WTP). The WTP provides an opportunity for high school students to design, implement, and evaluate multi-year studies in the field of ecology within the framework of the Science Research in the High School curriculum. The WTP is part of a larger effort involving graduate students and local professional biologists who are working to conserve and protect our local natural resources.
Why should you send your students to the Gorge?
- The mentor to student ratio is low, usually 1:1. Students get in-depth, personal attention at each stage of their project.
- Students conduct research on important conservation issues from human-coyote coexistence to the use of bio-control agents to control the spread of exotics. Techs are not only students, but part of a larger research and conservation community.
- WTP research is getting noticed! Our student and staff research have been featured in Urban Naturalist, Forest Ecology and Management, the Journal of Wildlife Management, and the Westchester County Conservation Cafe.
Applications are due Nov 15. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Red Trail is closed at Point D
Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Red Trail is closed at Point D. As it has for many years, the trail beyond Point D crosses over private property for about 350 yards before continuing back on to Mianus River Gorge Preserve land. Unfortunately, the property owner has decided to suspend this privilege necessitating closure of the trail. Mianus River Gorge sincerely regrets the imposition this causes visitors anticipating a hike to the end of the trail at the Bargh Reservoir. Please be assured that we are working diligently to provide visitors with the best possible hiking experience.
What we’re working on this summer: Mianus River Gorge Wetlands Restoration Project
A major goal of MRG’s “Source to Sound Phase II” initiative, funded by Westchester Community Foundation and Patagonia, is to restore the compromised wetlands known as Lockwood Pond.
The Mianus River Watershed is comprised of nearly 40 wetlands systems whose health and functionality directly contribute to the cleanliness of the Mianus River, an important drinking water source for so many. In addition to the obvious visual cues, such as non-native invasive species, debris, and, in the case of Lockwood Pond, discarded construction materials, MRG used a scientific computer model to “score” the wetlands and help prioritize those most in need of protection or possible restoration solutions.
Lockwood Pond was in need of restoration. MRG met with wetlands consultant Beth Evans to determine a course of action. Because the site was so compromised by invasive phragmites, oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry, Japanese knotweed, and allanthus, to name a few, the most effective strategy called for their complete removal with heavy machinery. The transformation was immediate as trees once covered in vines were exposed again and fields once overrun by invasive knotweed were recovered. To ensure the seed bank also would be destroyed, preventing the regeneration of these aggressive invasives, we are currently solarizing the area using heavy clear plastic. Soil solarization is an environmentally friendly method of using solar power to control invasive species.
This fall, MRG will remove the plastic and replant the wetlands with native plants, shrubs, and trees to re-establish a healthy balance. To help ensure that invasives are kept under control, we will mow meadow areas and hand cut invasives that appear in the wetland areas.
Although MRG continues to pursue permanent conservation solutions through land acquisition / conservation easements we are continually mindful of our need to steward the lands we own or protect.
With this in mind, we will continue to restore MRG wetland areas identified in our “Source to Sound, Phase II” initiative and will work with private landowners on wetland improvement throughout the watershed.
To learn more about our land and water protection efforts, please explore the “Land and Water Protection” tab on our web site, www.mianus.org. For more photos, click here.
Wetlands Restoration Project Slideshow
Mianus River Gorge has embarked on a wetlands restoration project that essentially “starts from scratch” by removing the invasive species and replacing them with native wildflowers, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees.
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 country”, 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 enjoyed 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.
View slide show.