Invasive Species Awareness Week

In recognition of New York’s Invasive Species Awareness Week (July 8-14), I have prepared a compilation about how to identify (including color photographs and brief ID tips) a number of species of invasive plants at each of two local preserves:

  1. Fox Preserve (located in Town of Colonie) – view the compilation
  2. Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve (located in Town of Clifton Park) – view the compilation

Each compilation includes:

  • list of observed species (including information describing flowers, leaves, and other plant characteristics as well as when each blooms and where each can be found at that preserve)
  • color photographs and brief ID tips

The compilation for Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve also includes a list of links to other websites with information on how to control or eradicate each listed species.

Hope you find these compilations helpful.

Also, please join me this week for a walk to identify invasive species at (1) Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve (6pm on July 12) and (2) Fox Preserve (9am on July 13) – more info regarding each walk is available on my Events page.  I hope you’ll join me!

Happy trails!


First Ski in New Year

With the passing of last week’s polar vortex and before this week’s rainfall, I thought today would be my best chance to get out and do a little cross-country skiing; my first time in the New Year.

I selected Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.  I parked at the end of Ferry Drive because I wanted to principally ski along the Community Connector Trail and the small parking lot at the other end of this trail in the Town of Halfmoon was not plowed.

Others before me had braved the recent cold and wind to set a very nice track all along my route.  The result:  excellent conditions!

Some scenes I observed along the trail –

Route through riparian forest bordering Mohawk River

Sign about Tommy’s Trail

Mohawk River overlook from Tommy’s Trail

View of Wager’s Pond (in background beyond trees in middle of photo)

I also saw/heard:

View the route that I skied today (approximately 9.75 miles in all).

Happy trails!

A Ski Tour of History Through Nature

Given this week’s bountiful snowstorm and today’s cloudless sky, I was obliged to go ski touring.  I chose the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.

I skied directly south of the Whipple Bridge toward the Mohawk River.

Historical marker – Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve

The trail turns westerly at a vantage point from where the Mohawk River can be easily viewed.

Woodland loop trail near site of Forts Ferry (Mohawk River appears in distant background left of center of this image)

That trail proceeds through a floodplain forest and connects with the West Pond Trail.

Floodplain forest

Several years ago while I was conducting my wildflower inventory along the trails of this preserve, the entire floodplain forest looked much like the above photo.  Today, there is a swath near the center of this woodland where many trees have been blown over or otherwise severely damaged by high winds as shown here.  The sum of these natural disturbances to this woodland has no doubt resulted in more sunlight reaching the ground surface during the growing season in this area.  Almost assuredly, there will likely be more species of plants growing along this portion of the trail now than when I conducted that inventory.

Floodplain forest – note many downed trees due to strong winds over the past several years

This trail then ends at its connection with West Towpath.  I turned left to continue heading westerly past Old Lock 19 to the towpath’s intersection with a service road for the dredge spoils area along the river.

View from atop Old Lock 19 looking easterly

Historic Marker – Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve

I then simply retraced my route back to the parking lot at the Whipple Bridge.

I saw/heard:  ducks, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, a pileated woodpecker, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, a white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadees, cardinals, American robins, American crows, and a tufted titmouse.

I also saw tracks from deer, mice, fisher, fox, gray squirrel, and rabbit.

In all, a pleasant ski tour of about four miles.

And, speaking of nature and history – PLEASE HOLD THESE DATES!  The Town of Clifton Park will be celebrating the history and nature of this preserve on May 12-13.  Stay tuned – more info to come.Happy trails!

Blue Flag now in bloom!

To my surprise, I viewed many Large Blue Flag already in bloom along the northernmost segment of the Zim Smith Trail last evening.

Large Blue Flag

Large Blue Flag

So, if you enjoy seeing these large beautiful blooms in their natural setting, be sure to get out soon to do so!

Of the local destinations that I have visited, I would recommend any of the following:

Happy trails!

Hazelnuts now blooming

Now that Skunk Cabbage is blooming, I was inspired to search for another early blooming species due to the continuation of recent sunny and warm days.  I decided to stroll along a couple of the towpath trails at Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.

And I was rewarded with these –

American Hazelnut

American Hazelnut

Beaked Hazelnut

Beaked Hazelnut

As you enjoy these colorful tiny blooms today, think about what is to come.  The nuts of both species of hazelnuts typically are ready for picking locally in late August or early September.

Your targets will look like these:

American Hazelnut

American Hazelnut


Beaked Hazelnut

Beaked Hazelnut

Each is ripe when the shell has turned to a brown color, which occurs before the outer husk turns brown.  If you wait to pick them when the husk has turned brown, you will likely not find any – resident critters (mostly chipmunks and red squirrels) will have harvested them before you!  However, do not pick any nut if its shell is green, cream or whitish in color – it is simply not yet ripe.

When picking them, I recommend wearing leather gloves because of the tiny sticky hairs on the husks.  If you don’t, your fingertips can become quite painful to the touch – it may feel like you’ve been handling fiberglass insulation.

Let your harvest air dry for several days.  Doing do should enable you to peel the husk off of each nut more easily.  After you remove the outer husk, I suggest that you rinse the nuts (still in shell) with water.  Then, let your husked harvest air dry for at least a couple of weeks before cracking open – doing so will help ensure the nut separates easily from the shell when you crack them open.

View nutrition information regarding hazelnuts.  Unfortunately, some people have an allergic reaction when eating hazelnuts.

For all of us who can enjoy these tasty nuts, please view these recipes for ideas and inspirations of how to enjoy them.

While walking along the trails, I heard a couple of spring peepers in the distance and one of the small back bays contained numerous singing wood frogs.

Happy trails!

Songs of spring

Today’s sunshine was too inviting to not take the opportunity for a walk outside.  I headed to Vischer Ferry Nature & Historic Preserve.

I walked along the West Towpath, keeping my eyes on the red maples in hopes of seeing some blooms of its unique flowers.  No such luck.  What I did see, however, was another sign of the certainty that spring is coming…even if ever so slowly.  I saw my first great blue heron of the season!  And, I heard a single song sparrow singing its distinctive and cheerful serenade.

I then walked along East Towpath and returned to the parking lot adjoining the Whipple Bridge via the trail to Clute’s Dry Dock.  I carefully inspected each hazelnut shrub that I encountered, but none of them were displaying any of the colorful but tiny unique female flowers that are among the earliest of spring’s blooming wildflowers.  But, I did see some wood ducks and I heard yet another bird song heralding the return of spring:  that of a belted kingfisher!

Alas, be patient everyone.  We shall all be rewarded with the true return of spring…when it is good and ready to do so!

Please view my wildflower field guide for this preserve.

Happy trails!

Vischer Ferry Sunset will close-out Town of Clifton Park 2015 Calendar

The Town of Clifton Park has compiled its 2015 calendar from a selection of winning photos submitted to two photo contests conducted earlier in 2014.  The “Open Space and Nature Day Photo Contest” sought entries from residents and visitors with the goal of encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors.  The second contest, “Art in Everyday Life,” sought entries that represented the artist’s interpretation of this theme in photographic images.

One of my entries, entitled “Vischer Ferry Sunset,” was selected for the December photo of this calendar as a result of it being selected a first place winner in the “Landscapes” category of the Open Space and Nature Day Photo Contest.  All entries were photographed at any of eight nature preserves or parks located in the town.  The Open Space and Nature Day was hosted by the Town Board and its Open Space, Trails & Riverfront Advisory Committee on May 17.

View the 2015 calendar.  Read more about it and how to obtain your copy from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Community Affairs at Town Hall, One Town Hall Plaza, between 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

On December 1, the Town Board recognized the winning entries and the associated artists at the beginning of its regular board meeting.