Tag Archives: spring

The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County in Western New York!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

Spring is the best time to get out of the house, get on the road, and try something exciting! Perhaps you spent too much time indoors over the winter and need to get back in touch with nature. Well, the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County asks, “Where do you want to play today?”

Cattaraugus County photo of things to do

Warm up to Excitement

As the snow begins to melt and the creeks rise, Cattaraugus Creek becomes a whitewater rafter’s paradise. Head out for up to Level III Class Rapids in Zoar Valley with one of our great guide services. Spend the whole day there, taking in breathtaking beauty of the gorge and winding river. The abundance of well-stocked creeks throughout Cattaraugus County creates a great opportunity for the fishing enthusiasts, too, once trout season opens on April 1. Cattaraugus Creek has been named one of the northeast’s best top 10 steelhead fishing sites. 

Stretch those Legs

Hibernate over the winter? Smell the fresh air, watch the flowers start to blossom, and welcome the birds back. Get those weary muscles outside and on the move at Allegany State Park. Hike around the lake, drop a line in for fishing, or get the kayak out of the garage. Rock City Park opens in May, and you’ll see nature come back to life as you walk amongst the giant rocks. Griffis Sculpture Park also opens on the first of May, where steel sculptures welcome you and spring. To really warm up this season, climb through the trees and zip past the canopy lines at Sky High Adventure Park. Another Black Diamond Course was added this year, making a total of 13 different courses for you to try.

Plant New Plans

The backgrounds of New York’s Amish Trail become easy to travel on again in the springtime, which leaves you with a perfect driving tour to cure your cabin fever. Cruise quiet roads, view newly painted green fields and valleys, and purchase handmade products made by talented craftsmen. Cattaraugus County is home to Old Order Amish who adhere to strict guidelines and use no electricity, no running water, and dress in plain clothes of greys and blues. Adventure all around the western side of our county while making stops at different shops along the way that offer a variety of goods.

Renew and Energize

Spring is a time to feel rejuvenated. The Enchanted Mountains offers an excess of events when the cold weather starts to clear out. Thaw out with the Annual Maple Weekends on April 2–3, and watch the production of maple syrup right before you. The Olean Home and Garden Show on April 8–10 shows you all the latest trends and ideas for spring cleanup time in your home. Allegany State Park brings the fun in May with the Adventure Run on May 7, the GeoBash on May 20–22, and the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage the first weekend in June. Let your creative side blossom at Rock City Park’s Art and Craft Show during Mother’s Day Weekend, and make sure to have the motorcycle out of the garage in time for Gowanda’s Hollywood Happening the first weekend in June.

So get into the swing of spring ,and get outdoors in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

Try to Peep These Rare Flowers this Spring

As the old childhood rhyme goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” and luckily it’s almost time for those spring flowers to finally start blooming. Nothing makes spring feel sprung quite like a field of gorgeous wildflowers or budding tree branches. Ah, the pollen; ah, the allergies; ah, it’s spring at long last! As you’re sure to be gallivanting around the countryside now that the warm weather is here (we know we can’t be alone in this desire), keep an eye out for some of these rare flowers.

Ghost Orchid

Ghost orchids.

These “spooky” flowers kind of look like they’re dancing around, right? [Image: http://www.technicianonline.com/]

This spidery flower can be found in Cuba as well as in Florida, as it can only be cultivated in climates that support its growth. This is part of what makes the flower so hard to come by. You’ll be sure to recognize a ghost orchid from other flowers as it doesn’t produce any leaves and has a distinct soap-like smell. Ghost orchids only bloom for three weeks between April and August, so keep your eyes peeled if you happen to visit Cuba or Florida in those months!

Corpse Flower

Corpse flower.

Possibly the prettiest corpse you’ll see. [Image: http://www.wpr.org/]

Discovered in 1878 in Sumatra, this amazing flower can be found scattered around the United States, as it has been cultivated in various areas (most notably in the Huntington Botanical Garden in California). This unique flower gets its name from its startling smell, which many have described as the “scent of the dead.” Aside from being the stinkiest flower in the world, it’s also the largest, measuring up to six feet tall in blooming season. Corpse flowers tend to bloom once every 30 to 40 years, so mark your calendars way in the future so you don’t miss out on this marvel!

Jade Vine

Jade vine.

What a garden to walk through! [Image: http://www.excelsagardens.com/]

Native to tropical rainforests in the Philippines, this woody vine is sure to catch your attention if you happen to come across it. The vines that hang from the hooked flowers can grow up to three meters long! Unfortunately this gorgeous plant is an endangered species as its habitat and natural pollinators continue to get destroyed.

Koki’o

Koki'o.

Everything about this flower looks like it belongs in Hawaii. [Image: http://kulamanufarm.com/]

There’s a dramatic story behind this flower, but luckily it ends on a pretty positive note. This Hawaiian flower is incredibly rare and was discovered in 1860 when only three specimens could be found. It was nearly impossible to cultivate in other areas, and in 1950 the last seedling died and it was rendered extinct—that is, until a surviving flower was found in 1970. Which, unfortunately, met its end in a fire in 1978. But alas! As promised, this whirlwind of a tale does have a happy ending! One of the branches on the last remaining tree eaten up in the fire was saved, and it was grafted into 23 trees, all of which exist still today. These implanted seedlings can be seen in various spots of Hawaii—you’ll be sure to recognize them for their astonishing bright red flowers.

Whether you’re intentionally seeking out one of these beauties or you have the rare honor of stumbling across (and hopefully not on) one, you’re sure to be dazzled by their excellence. Make sure you bring our Pocket Ranger® apps with you to make your journeys more enjoyable and full of more of nature’s beauty.

Bird Cams in Time for Spring Nesting

The bald eagle nest in Minnesota. [Image: naturedocumentaries.org]

The bald eagles in Minnesota, perhaps having a chat with their young eaglet who looks to be spinning an unlikely yarn. [Image: naturedocumentaries.org/]

Wildlife cameras help us understand animals in their natural habitats better than we are able to observe in person. They are an unbodied, unobtrusive window into the life and behavior of some of the most elusive and enigmatic creatures out there, helping unravel the mysteries of predators, prey, and all the connective critters between. Bird cams can be especially entertaining for those who enjoy seeing the beginnings of life as spring rises from the damp ashes of a reasonably mild winter.

The Georgia Wild newsletter last month highlighted some really great cams on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ website that are getting better with each passing day. The Landings Bird Cam features a recently expanded family of great horned owls, who live in a nest that was originally built by bald eagles. The nest is occupied most of the day since great horned owls are primarily nocturnal. So there’s a good chance you’ll see a vigilant parent atop or beside the two growing owlets in the nest if you take a peek during EST daylight hours.

Yes, very vigilant, as you should be. [Image: www.wikipedia.org]

Yes, very vigilant. [Image: www.wikipedia.org/]

Speaking of eagles, if you’re in the mood for dynamic and large birds of prey tending to their young and want a little more daytime action, you can go right to the bald eagle source. The Minnesota DNR’s EagleCam has plenty of action to satisfy any appetite. The dark, fluffy eaglets have very recently hatched, and they’re just about as cute as they come, especially when one of their parents is feeding or teaching them bird basics.

A view of the viewer. [Image: www.dnr.state.mn.us]

The ground-level view of the bald eagles nest and the cam that views the bald eagle nest in Minnesota. [Image: www.dnr.state.mn.us/]

For those looking to observe nesting habits from the beginning, the Falcon Cam run by the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission shows a fairly consistent peregrine occupant. The nest, perched a dizzying 18 floors up at the Nebraska State Capitol, is still awaiting its clutch!

Coming soon to a Nebraska Capitol Building near you! (If you live near the Nebraska Capitol Building.) [Image: Joel Jorgerson, NGPC/www.omaha.com]

Coming soon to a Nebraska State Capitol near you—if you live near the Nebraska State Capitol building, that is. [Image: Joel Jorgensen, NGPC/http://www.omaha.com/]

And still, if 24-hour streams of miniature yet budding sky predators isn’t your thing, the Bella Hummingbird Nest cam in La Verne, California may be the nectar to your cheery blossom. Bella, an Allen’s hummingbird, and her two roughly Tic Tac-sized eggs can brighten even an already sunny day. The eggs are expected to hatch within the next two weeks!

Hummingbirds are seldom seen as settled and still as they are when they are doting on their wee eggs. [Image: blog.explore.org]

Hummingbirds are perhaps seldom as settled and still as when they are doting on their wee eggs. [Image: blog.explore.org/]

Whew, technology is something! But it’s still a lot more than cleverly camouflaged cameras that let you keep an eye on and learn from birds and other animals anywhere there is a screen and an Internet connection. If you’re looking for more hands-on adventure, especially as the winter thaws, the Pocket Ranger® mobile apps have got the goods. Download and get out for some spring adventuring near you!

Kick Off Summer at National Kids to Parks Day

Get the whole family outdoors at the upcoming 5th Annual National Kids to the Parks Day! On May 16th, America’s state parks partner with the National Park Trust to host this nationwide day of outdoor play. Just a week before the official start of summer, this is a perfect day to explore and discover favorite local, state and national parks and public lands. From scavenger hunts to bird-watching, these state parks are hosting great Kids to Parks Day events:

Nature Hikes & Scavenger Hunts

A family goes hiking in Shenandoah. A great place to go for National Kids to Parks Day [Image: www.goshenandoah.com]

Image: www.goshenandoah.com

Specifically designed with the whole family in mind, the James River State Park’s Scavenger Hunt has 20 items participants have to track down. Winners will get a ride on the park’s Tye Overlook wagon for free that evening! Or learn about Leave No Trace Principles and hunt out all things that shouldn’t be on the trail on Shenandoah State Park’s “Unnatural Hike.”

Join the Lake Bistineau State Park’s Nature Hike for a memorable wilderness experience in the park’s upland mixed hardwood forest, open waters, and stands of cypress and tupelo trees. Stay the night in one of this Louisiana state park’s cabins or campsites, so you can get out on the lake in a canoe or kayak the next day!

At Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in New York, walk the towpath trails on a nature walk, and learn more about native species of birds, animals, plants and flowers. We recommend packing a lunch; there’s nothing better than having a picnic by the Aqueduct Boat Launch or the Yankee Hill Lock!

Bird-watching & Gardening

Kids birdwatching with binoculars [Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com]

Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com

Go birding at the beautiful lagoons and shoreline of Louisiana’s Grand Isle State Park. Resident bird species include a variety of songbirds and shorebirds, such as shearwaters, pelicans, herons, and cormorants. At Leesylvania State Park in Virginia, check out the Osprey Observation. Rangers will be on hand to answer all your questions about these magnificent birds of prey.

The Bristol Bird Club of Virginia will lead a special family birding session at Natural Tunnel State Park. From old growth forest to grassy area, discover all kinds of birds that live in the park’s four different habitats. Or spend the afternoon in the park’s community garden! Alongside the Scott County Master Gardeners, learn more about gardening while weeding and planting.

In Missouri, get down in the dirt at Mudpie Magic at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park! Make mudpies, dig in the dirt, explore rotten logs, and catch crawdads. There are many natural water park features at this state park, so take a dive into the river to rinse off! Or test your birding skills and so much more at Trail of Tears State Park. Join the Birder ID hike and scavenger hunt, and stick around for the “Eggstravaganza” egg hunt and egg quiz challenge at 7:30PM.

Arts & Crafts

Kids flying kites in park [Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html]

Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html

Learn the fascinating art of letterboxing at Shenandoah River State Park’s Letterboxing Workshop! Originating in England, letterboxing involves puzzle-solving and is a bit like geocaching. At this workshop, make your own rubber stamp and then go on a hike to discover your first letterbox.

Go fly at kite at Harry S. Truman State Park’s 3rd Annual Kid’s Kite Day! Park staff will show kids (and kids at heart!) how to assemble and decorate their very own kite. While the glue dries, settle down for a picnic or take some of the park’s example kites for a test flight.

Bluebirds are returning to Missouri on their great migration north. At Pomme De Terre State Park, learn how to build a bird house for Missouri’s state bird. All materials and tools will be provided at this event. Just bring your creativity!

5K & 10K Runs


Looking to keep a brisker pace on National Kids to Parks Day? Join families at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s Run Wild – “A Run for Wildlife!” Proceeds raised from the 10K, 5K, and Kids Run all benefit Nebraska’s wildlife. Both the 10K and 5K take runners through a scenic, naturally challenging trail. The 1-mile Kids Run is perfect for kids ages 12 and under, and parents can run alongside young children. Since none of the events are timed this year, everyone is a winner! Dressing like a wild animal for this event is strongly encouraged. Afterwards, celebrate the day with a picnic, face-painting, fishing, and touring the live animal exhibits.

Families that visit the state and national parks on Kids to the Parks Day are encouraged to submit photos of their adventures to Buddy@BuddyBison.org for possible inclusion in the National Park Trust’s commemorative map. Download your state’s free Pocket Ranger® app for more information about trails, campground reservations, and more!

Tips on Learning How to Fish

Spring fishing season has arrived! If you are an inexperienced angler and would like to try fishing for the first time, follow these few tips for your preparation. Even if you are an experienced angler, these tips will refresh your memory for your fishing adventures.

Fishing License

A fishing license is one of the most important things that you will need in order to go fishing. Each state has their own rules and regulations, so it is important that you read up on them before heading out. All fishing rules and regulations will be under Fishing > Rules and Regulations in your Fishing and Wildlife Pocket Ranger® Guide. Licenses can be purchased online. Some states require you to be 18 years or older in order to obtain a fishing license.

Location

Man fishing on a pier alone

Image: www.active.com

Choosing a place to fish can vary. Some people choose locations where they often see people fishing or local places where they may want to start. If you are a beginner and feel shy fishing in front of a heavy crowd, you may want to opt for a quiet fishing area.

You can go freshwater fishing in lakes, ponds, streams or rivers. Or you can choose saltwater fishing such as surf fishing, fishing by boat (party boat or charter boat) or bay fishing.

Time of Day During Spring Season

Two men fishing on a boat during sunset with his catch

Image: jimolive.photoshelter.com

  • Early Morning – Fish do not bite during this time because the water is cold and doesn’t heat up due to the sun being low which makes the rays bounce off the water.
  • Late Morning/Early Afternoon – Fish are biting on and off during this time because the sun’s rays start to penetrate the water. During this time, you should fish towards the downwind shoreline because the wind pushes the warmer surface water into that area.
  • Afternoon/Early Evening – There are a lot of fish eating during this time because their metabolism and digestion are high. The water is also warmer because the sun is directly above.

Fish Species

Images of different fish species

Image: pixshark.com

Focusing on fishing for a particular fish for a beginner may be too difficult, but it’s a worth a try! Here is a list of popular fish to help you choose one to catch:

  • Bass – a southeastern sport fish
  • Striped Bass – you will most likely need a boat to catch these
  • Sunfish – best catch for a beginner angler
  • Walleye and Pike – northern, cold-water lake fish
  • Catfish – vary from small to large

For a complete list of freshwater and saltwater fish, download your state’s Pocket Ranger® Fish and Wildlife Guide.

Methods

Man surf fishing pulling in his catch, clear blue water

Image: www.rancholeonero.com

Fishing in a lake from shore – Sit and wait with a bobber and bait. For this type of method, you can use inexpensive equipment.

Surf fishing from a beach – This requires heavy tackle that costs a little bit more. Catches vary day to day with this method.

Pond Fishing – Fishing at a pond can be simple, especially for beginners. It allows you to manage your skills and you may even catch a pan fish for dinner.

Boat Fishing on an Ocean – There are many boating options that are available for fishing. You can pay to go on a party boat for a half day or full day and you can use equipment and bait that is provided to you. Depending on the type of boating you choose and how big the crowd is, you can have assistance such as hooking your bait, casting and landing a fish.

Suggested Gear: 

  • Fishing Rod/Fly Rod
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat

Check out more fishing gear at our Pocket Ranger Gear Store.

Go Emerald Coasting this Spring!

Contributed by Emerald Coast Tourism, proud sponsor of Florida State Parks & Beaches Pocket Ranger® app

It’s hard to say what season is best on the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Summer, of course, is an absolute paradise there. In winter, you can trade frigid snow for sugar-white sand. And when it comes to fall color, nothing beats emerald green. But spring… there’s just something about spring. Many consider it the perfect time to go #EmeraldCoasting.

So what exactly does Emerald Coasting in the spring mean? Where do we start? In the springtime, Emerald Coasting is parasailing and jet skiing. It’s boating adventures and world-class golf. It’s marine shows at the Gulfarium. It’s dining al fresco on fresh seafood while watching a gorgeous sunset.

Little girl emerald coasting runs along a beach [Image credit: Peter A. Mayer]

Emerald Coast Tourism [Image credit: Peter A. Mayer]

Emerald Coasting in the spring is catching sight of newborn baby dolphins while you are on a dolphin cruise. It’s watching your kids get wet and wild in the fountains at Destin Commons while you indulge in some retail therapy. It’s the thrill-ride fun of Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, reopening May 2 after a long winter break. And if you’re an angler, spring is a great time to try your luck in the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”

To find out what’s best about spring in Destin, Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, visit EmeraldCoasting.com. There’s a 100% chance of flip-flop weather, so why wait? Start planning today!

Look to the Skies! Birding at the State Parks

This May, look to the skies! Springtime marks a massive migration for hundreds of bird species in North America. Why migrate? The birds migrated to warmer climates for the winter; in the spring, these same birds make their way back up north to their breeding grounds.

Group of birders look through binoculars [Image: archive.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120122]

Join other bird enthusiasts at the state parks this May! [Image: archive.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120122]

The first groups of birds to start heading north are waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans). Some birds of prey, such as bald eagles and red-shouldered hawks begin moving north in early spring, as well as blackbirds and sparrows. In April and May, shorebirds (sandpipers and plovers) and songbirds (warblers, orioles, thrushes) begin their migration north. Warblers are a favorite of birders, and in certain areas of the country, you may be able to see more than 30 species of these colorful songbirds at one time!

The state parks are gearing up for this mass bird migration with plenty of events. Pack your binoculars, download the Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed app, and head to one of these great birding opportunities near you.

Alabama

Wings Over Oak Mountain
May 1st – May 3rd, 2015
Oak Mountain State Park

Spend the whole weekend with fellow birders at the exciting Wings Over Oak Mountain event at Oak Mountain State Park. This three-day event’s itinerary includes live bird of prey programs, guided birding tours, and educational programs that focus on habitat diversity, bird adaptation, and more. Wings Over Oak Mountain is perfect for all levels of birders; on any of the guided tours, park staff will help birders beef up their avian know-how, from distinguishing bird calls to pinpointing key habitat. The event’s registration fee includes breakfast and a wine tasting from Alabama’s own vineyard, Vizzini Farms Winery.

Learn the difference between a fox sparrow and a song sparrow at a birding event at the state parks! [Image: www.cleveland.com/neobirding]

Learn the difference between a fox sparrow and a song sparrow at a birding event at the state parks! [Image: www.cleveland.com/neobirding]

Pennsylvania 

Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle
May 8th – May 10th
Presque Isle State Park

Catch a multitude of birds migrating along the southern shore of Lake Erie at the weekend-long Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle State Park. More than 320 species of bird have been seen flying through the park, including warblers and other songbirds. At the park’s Gull Point, a sand plain sanctuary, look for migrant shorebirds and terns. George Armistead is this year’s keynote speaker, and every full-weekend registrant will receive a copy of his book, ABA Field Guide to Birds of Pennsylvania. To keep away the crowds, this festival is limited to 150 participants, so make sure to register soon!

Virginia

Hungry Mother State Park Birding Adventure
May 1st – May 3rd
Hungry Mother State Park

Outfit your entire family with binoculars for the family-friendly Hungry Mother State Park Birding Adventure! Ready yourself for three whole days of birding activities and programs for all skill levels, including a live birds of prey show, guided bird hikes, nighttime owl prowls, avian arts & crafts, and kayak bird tours. Richard Moncrief of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics will lead an informative workshop about binoculars: how they work, how to use them, and how to choose the best model for where you go birding.

If you can’t make the entire weekend, but would still like to get your family out birding, join the Family Bird Hike on May 16th at Hungry Mother State Park. Bird enthusiast and master naturalist Randy Smith will lead an informative bird hike through the park. This is a great way for people of all ages to learn the basics about birding.

Four species of North American warblers [blog.allaboutbirds.org]

Four species of North American warblers [blog.allaboutbirds.org]

Ohio

Camping is for the Birds
May 8th – May 10th
Caesar Creek State Park

Celebrate the annual spring migration at Caesar Creek State Park’s Camping is for the Birds! Camp at the Caesar Creek campgrounds, so you won’t miss any of the birding activities the weekend has to offer. Continuous bird banding demonstrations will take place at the Visitor Center, and park naturalists will lead guided birding hikes. See live raptors up close and personal at the park’s birds of prey program, and join in the “Build Your Own Bluebird Box” workshop! Space is limited, so call the Nature Center for reservations and more information: (513) 897-2437.

Biggest Week in American Birding (BWIAB)
May 8th – May 17th
Maumee Bay State Park

Designated the Warbler Capital of the World, witness the annual songbird migration at this year’s Biggest Week in American Birding! Northwest Ohio becomes a hub for birders every year because hundreds of bird species fly through the area on their journey north. If you are looking for birding heaven, Maumee Bay State Park is right at the heart of the migration route, and a great place to spend the day (and night!) ticking away some elusive species on your life-list. Over the course of the week, birders will see migrating shorebirds, cuckoos, hummingbirds, buntings, thrushes, flycatchers, up to 30 species of warblers and more! In addition to many guided bird hikes and kayak/canoe tours, there will be an optics exhibit, naturalist-led bird banding, a birder’s marketplace, nature photography programs, and a bird tattoo contest.

A flock of birds flies away at sunset [Image: www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/this-just-in/a-race-between-moths-and-songbirds]

Image: www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/this-just-in/a-race-between-moths-and-songbirds

Looking for ways to help the birds migrating through your own backyard?

  • Create backyard habitat for the birds by planting native grasses, flowers and shrubs.
  • Refrain from using toxic pesticides outside. These pesticides pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds need to survive.
  • Keep your cat indoors! Domestic cats have contributed to the extinction of 33 species of bird worldwide. The Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that free-roaming domestic cats kill billions of birds every year in the United States.
  • Prevent birds from striking your windows by placing large stickers on them. The sticker breaks up the bright reflection of the sun, so the birds can see that the window is not a viable flyway.
  • Drink bird-friendly coffee! By drinking certified shade-grown coffee you are ensuring conservation of vital bird habitat.

Want to keep track of your bird sightings using just your smartphone? Download your state’s free Pocket Ranger® app to easily locate birding locations, identify species, and send your saved waypoints via email, Facebook or Twitter to other birders. And don’t forget to document and share all of your birding discoveries via the free Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed app, a social network just for bird enthusiasts!