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Exploring Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Swan Lake!


The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Welcome to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! Located in Sleepy Hollow, NY, the 1,000 + acre park features a variety of habitats ranging from open meadows, deciduous forest & wetlands. Rockefeller State Park Preserve is listed as an “IBA” (Important Bird Area) by the National Audubon Society. Over 180 species of birds have been documented in the preserve!

Female Yellow Warbler

Female Yellow Warbler

Common birds (depending on the time of the year) found in the preserve include the belong among others:

Virtual Tour

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Welcome! Today, using the map above, we are going to explore the Swan Lake area of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! (Click here for a trail map of the Rockfeller State Park Preserve)

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

The 22 acre Swan Lake was created by impounding a tributary of the Pocantico River (a tributary of the Hudson River).

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The carriage roads we will be walking on were developed by John D Rockefeller Sr & John D Rockefeller Jr between the years 1910-1950. Every winter the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve evaluates which trails need fresh surface material added.  Drainage of trails is completed every spring to ensure carriage roads stay dry. Trail maintenance is a 12 month process!

Virtual Tour

After paying the minimal parking fee ($6 at the time of this writing) let’s walk over to the visitor center.

Japanese Peony

Japanese Peony

After picking up a trail map let’s check out the interesting flowering plants blooming nearby. These flowers are Japanese Peony and are known as the “King of Flowers” in Japan.

Information about The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Just past the flowers and the visitor center there is a  kiosk chock full of information about the Rockefeller State Park preserve.

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Here we can find excellent information regarding common flora and fauna of the preserve. All set? Let’s head towards Swan lake!

Fern Garden

Fern Garden

But first let’s poke around the Fern Garden found just past the visitor center. The fern garden is populated with Cinnamon, Royal & Sensitive Ferns among other species including some rather large Jack-in-the-Pulpits!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Leaving the Fern Garden we follow a brief trail through a forest to get to Brother’s Path.

Brother's Path

Brother’s Path

We are going to be following the 1.1 mile Brother’s Path which encircles Swan Lake.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

As we start out heading south on the Brother’s Path, the trailhead of the .7 mile Overlook Trail appears to our right.

Overlook Trail

Overlook Trail

Let’s take a quick detour from Brother’s Path to walk a section of the  Overlook Path for a few minutes. According to the Hudson River Audubon Society website this area is one of the best spots to view Eastern Bluebirds. Eastern Bluebirds, New York’s state bird, are a small thrush whose habitats include open woodlands and meadows such as where we are right now.  Eastern Bluebird populations have experienced a decline due to strong competition from aggressive non-native birds like the House Sparrow and European Starlings.

Eastern Blue Bird (NY's State Bird!)

Eastern Blue Bird (NY’s State Bird!)

As we ponder the future fate of these birds a blue blur flies by and lands on a nesting box which has been placed in the meadow by a member of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve staff.  Ready to head back to the Brother’s Path? Let’s head back to continue our journey around Swan Lake. Heading south on Brother’s Path we see continuous views of Swan Lake mixed with occasional Flowering Dogwood to our left.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood, native to the eastern United States, is a common understory tree found in forest edges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Continuing south an opening has appeared to our right providing a view of the sweeping meadows we sampled on the Overlook Trail. As we walk Swan Lake is becoming narrower. Turning east we cross over two Pocantico River tributaries draining Swan Lake.

American Beech Trees

American Beech Trees

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

We pass near a few American Beech trees and a Skunk Cabbage dominated wetland.

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north. Swan Lake is now on our left.

Swan Lake to our left

Swan Lake to our left

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower in bloom

As we walk, we pass Canada Mayflower to our left in bloom. Canada Mayflower is part of the Lily family and native to the Eastern United States.

Eastern Chipmunk near it's home

Eastern Chipmunk near it’s home

A sudden squeak makes an Eastern Chipmunk known to us.

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

I’m not sure if the chipmunk is sounding the alarm over us or this Northern Black Racer lurking nearby. Maybe both?

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we leave the chipmunk and snake we hear a sudden “meow” sound and realize that the sound is not coming from a cat but a bird! The bird is  a Gray Catbird. Gray Catbirds are migratory and fly to the southeaster US, Mexico and Central America for the winter months.

Striped Wintergreen

Striped Wintergreen

Continuing north and passing the trailhead to the Ridge Trail, we spot some Striped Wintergreen, a species which is considered vulnerable in New York.

Mallards near Swan Lake

Mallards near Swan Lake

Turtle Swan Lake

We cross over a Swan Lake feeder stream and pass a couple of Mallards and a turtle as we head west on the Brothers Path back to the parking lot to complete our hike. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Swan Lake and that it inspired you to visit it for yourself!

Click here for directions!

Recommended Books:

1) WALKABLE WESTCHESTER – The book covers over 180 parks with almost 600 miles of trails in Westchester County.

Click here for more information!

2) The Nature of New York – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. Author David Stradling shows how New York’s varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state’s culture and economy.

Click here for more information!

3) Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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Little Ferry’s Losen Slote Creek Park!


Losen Slote Creek Park

Welcome to the 28 acre Losen Slote Creek Park! The Park is located in Little Ferry, NJ and contains 26 acres of woodland and meadows. 2 acres are dedicated to recreation.

Losen Slote Creek Park Boundaries

The park, named for the creek which flows through it, was created in 1990 by an agreement with the Borough of Little Ferry and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC). The NJMC has a 99 year lease agreement with Little Ferry for public access. Losen Slote Creek Park has the Little Ferry Department of Public Works to the north, the Bergen County Utilities Authority Nature Preserve to the east, Losen Slote on its western border and the Richard P Kane Natural Area to the south.

Losen Slote Creek Park

Habitat found in the preserve includes forested freshwater wetlands, meadows and a portion of the Losen Slote Creek, a major tributary of the lower Hackensack River watershed. The name “Losen Slote” is of Dutch origin and translates to “curvy creek”. As such, the name of the park translates to “Curvy Creek Creek Park”. 🙂

Losen Slote

Losen Slote is not influenced by tidal waters because of a tide gate that is present near Losen Slote’s confluence with the Hackensack River. The tide gate was installed by the Bergen County Mosquito Authority around 1921. Losen Slote has been labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as “FW2-NT/SE2”. This classification indicates that these waters do not contain trout (NT=No Trout) and are a mixture of fresh and salt water.

May 6, 2012 NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society Tour

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) (now known as the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority) & the Bergen County Audubon Society led a 1.5 mile 2 hour tour of Losen Slote Creek Park on May 6, 2012 to look for migrating birds and other wildlife.

The trail map of Losen Slote along with the color blazed trail map is shown below:

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Jim Wright formerly of the previously named New Jersey Meadowlands Commission  informed the group of the different habitats found in the park before the tour began.

I was happy to attend because it provided a chance to explore & undertake a deeper understanding of the flora & fauna that can be found in Bergen County’s sole remaining lowland forest.

Losen Slote Creek Park Wet Meadow Habitat

After the group assembled in the parking lot, we stopped near the entrance to the forest by a wet meadow where Solitary Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs were poking around. Most attendees commented that they had never seen so many Solitary Sandpipers gathered in one spot before.

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

After entering the forest, the group almost immediately spotted a Baltimore Oriole and at least 2 Scarlet Tanagers high in the trees (and too high for me to get a picture). I did get a picture of a Gray Catbird who was singing a territory song.

Gray Catbird

Soon after I took the picture of the catbird, a splash was heard in a nearby ditch as a Muskrat made a quick getaway which I caught on camera as a blur.

Blurry Muskrat

As we traveled further into the woods, a good amount of native flora was present:

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Mayapple in Bloom

Arrowwood

Black Cherry In Bloom

Sweet Pepperbush

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Cinnamon Fern

Gray Birch became the dominant species as the group came into the meadows portion of the preserve.

Gray Birch

Reaching the creek turtles were spotted basking on a rock and a surprised Great Blue Heron flew away before I could get its picture.

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

As we got into the meadows there were plenty of butterflies (especially the Red Admiral) flying around.

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

A Brown Thrasher was waiting for the group in the meadows and put on quite a show.

Brown Thrasher

Heading in, Raccoon tracks were found in the mud on parts of the trail.

The group did notice some Mile-A-Minute, an invasive plant which had sections eaten by insects which  were released in the park to control Mile-A-Minute from taking over.

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Reaching near the end of the trail, the group turned back to the forest and to the parking lot where the tour concluded.

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

Losen Slote

Many thanks to the NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society for hosting an excellent walk! Check out the Meadowlands Blog or the Bergen County Audubon Society’s webpage for information regarding future events!

Click here for directions to Losen Slote Creek Park!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Books on the Meadowlands!

1. The Nature of the Meadowlands – The Nature of the Meadowlands illuminates the region’s natural and unnatural history, from its darkest days of a half-century ago to its amazing environmental revival.

Click here for more information!

2. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City – Author Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region’s perfect expolorer, historian, archaeologist, and comic bard.

Click here for more information!

3. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story – Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.

Click here for more information!

4. Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands – The book has three central parts, respectively called “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Each covers a different time period in the ecological life of the Meadowlands.

Click here for more information!

Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary!


Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue.  The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.

59th Street Pond

A tall fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands.  Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover.  The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.

The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function  in the United State’s most populated city.  The results of the experiment were less than encouraging.  All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:

Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal

Trail

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail

On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. This is the only way the general public may access the sanctuary for the entrance (located near Wollman’s Rink in the extreme northern section of the preserve) is chain locked.

Chained locked entrance to Hallett Nature Sanctuary

A short log lined woodchip trail, which was created circa 2003 by local volunteers encircles the sanctuary on its western border.  The land is too rocky and steep for a trail to exist on the eastern side.  The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary.  In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; a hose that turns the waterfall on and off.

Flora

Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:

Fauna

Many species of birds find a home in Hallett Nature Sanctuary including:

Notable mammals include:

There have been at least two visits by Coyotes in the past five years. Click here for a video of a coyote crossing ice on the pond in 2010. Other species include:

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Raccoon

Raccoon

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

It is worth taking a Central Park Conservancy led tour of this cool preserve in the middle of NYC. Click here for tour contact information.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Scarsdale’s Greenburgh Nature Center!


Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center! The Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is a 33 acre nature preserve located in Scarsdale, NY.

Greenburgh Nature Center

GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.

Manor House

The manor, constructed in 1918, contains nature & animal exhibits. The property was previously owned by the Hall family and was purchased for $725,000 using funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a bond issue from the Town of Greenburgh in 1973 to prevent development of single family housing which was proposed for the property.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Inside the manor, for a fee, (free for GNC Members), visitors can tour various educational exhibits on the environment and visit the indoor animal exhibits.

Taking Nature’s Course

Nearly 140 reptiles and mammals are present in the indoor animal exhibit from all over the world displayed in ecologically realistic settings. Native animals include the Eastern Screech Owl and American Bullfrogs among others.

Live Animal Museum

Special nature themes of interest are also displayed from time to time.  As of June 2012 there is an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of dirt.

Beautiful Dirt!

There is also information on the nearby Bronx River where a tributary from the GNC flows into. An aquarium populated with fish found in the Bronx River is also displayed.

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

The preserve features several outdoor exhibits such as a barnyard habitat and an Aviary among other attractions.

Goat and Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Birds of Prey Aviary

The Green Roof Exhibit was created in 2008 through generous sponsorship funds from Con Edison and provides an example on new views towards sustainability. Vegetation keeps buildings cooler and helps absorb storm water runoff.

Click here for a complete map of outdoor exhibits.

The Great Lawn

The nearly 2 acre great lawn  was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.

The lawn features Beehives and an organic garden.

Honeybees

Organic Garden

Geology

The Greenburgh Nature Center’s Manor House was built from stones quarried from the surrounding property in 1918.

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

The rocks found in the GNC consist of Fordham Gneiss. Rocks of Fordham Gneiss have been altered by high heat and extreme pressure around 1.1 billion years.  The alteration caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize forming black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock.

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

The Orchard area of the preserve features sandstone in addition to the predominant Fordham Gneiss and is the only part of the center property that features this geologic deviation.

Trails

The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.  A trail map is available online here.

Forest Trail

The Forest Trail is the main trail which begins and ends at the Manor house in a loop fashion for about a third of a mile in length.

Forest Trail Path

The main focal point of the Forest Trail is Woodfrog Pond.

Forest Trail Pond

The Woodfrog Pond area is the main source of water for GNC fauna and features freshwater wetlands at its northern and southern borders. Woodfrog Pond originated as a vernal pond which was created from past glacial activity. In 1980,  GNC dredged the pond and constructed a small dam to retain water. The water which forms the pond originates from an underground spring and from rainfall. An outflow from the pond drains to the Bronx River which in turn drains into the East River.

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond is unsuitable for fish due to its warm shallow water. Amphibians such as Spring Peepers, Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and a variety of salamanders breed and lay their eggs in the pond (and yes, Wood Frogs make an appearance here too in March to lay eggs).

Turtles on log in Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond was restored in the fall of 2008. The pond and surrounding area had become degraded due to erosion and high usage. The restoration helped to increase the biodiversity of the pond itself as well as the surrounding wetlands. The Greenburgh Nature Center received a grant from the NYC environmental fund for $9,700 to partially dredge and fortify the pond as well as replant the surrounding area with native trees and shrubs.

North Forty Trail

The north forty trail meanders around the northern section of the preserve and eventually connects with the Forest Trail. The North Forty Trail passes near wetlands and traverses pass the  Scarsdale Country Club in an easterly direction to connect with the Forest Trail near Woodfrog Pond. The North Forty Trail is also accessible from the Oak and Orchard Trail from the west.

Scarsdale Country Club

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is a short trail which traverses through the center of the woodlands heading in a north – south direction. The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is accessible from c the Forest Trail. Ms. Stein was active with mycological groups and led field trips for both mycological groups and the Torrey Botanical Society.

Oak and Orchard Trail

The Oak and Orchard Trail leads from the North Forty Trail and heads southwest past the great lawn to the 3 acre orchard which is also a Box Turtle nesting site.

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Flora found at the Greenburgh Nature Center includes:

Fauna includes the below along with many others:

American Robin

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Chipmunk

Gray Catbird

The preserve is small at just 33 acres but it contains many diverse habitats and is worth a visit. Click here for more information.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, off Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale, New York.  There is free parking available.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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