Symbols of New York State Scavenger Hunt

Ah, Labor Day Weekend, a perfect weekend to take a hike through your favorite state park.  If you do take a hike, try the Symbols of New York State Scavenger Hunt – let us know how you did.

Red-Spotted Admiral or White Admiral butterflies are one our newest state symbol, they were designated as the state butterfly in 2008.  These butterflies are polytypic – meaning that there are different coloration patterns for this butterfly depending on where it lives. The white admiral variation has blackish blue wings with wide white band.

Admiral
White Admiral. Plismo (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
The red-spotted admiral lacks the wide white bands and sometimes has a row of red spots along the top of the wing. Overall the wings are a dark blue color with a light blue dusting on the hindwing.

If you are hiking in northern New York, you will only see the white admiral.  If you are hiking in any other part of the state, you will see either the red-spotted or white admiral.

Red Spotted Admiral
Red Spotted Admiral, note the red spots on the top wings. FrigidNinja (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Look for Eastern Bluebirds in Park grasslands and on utility wires. These birds are primarily cavity nesters, utilizing hollowed out holes in trees and man-made nest boxes to lay their eggs. Bright blue males are easy to spot while females are a bit more challenging with blueish grey plumage.  Both have rust-colored chests and white bellies.  Eastern bluebirds have been our state bird since 1970.

New York’s largest rodent, the Beaver, can be found in wooded streams, marshes, and along the edge of ponds and lakes.  When you are walking near these wetlands, tree cuttings and chewed trees or shrubs near the shore is a great indicator that beavers are live nearby. If you hear a slap on a pond or marsh, the beaver has spotted you and has slapped its tail on the water to warn other beavers that you are around.  If you can find a spot to hide and have time to wait, you might get a glimpse of these shy animals.  Beavers have been our state mammal since 1975.

Snapping Turtles can be found in marshes, rivers, streams, lakes, and even in urban waterways.  Our largest turtle, their shells can be upwards of 20” long and they can weigh up to 35 lbs.  The upper part of the snapping turtle shell or carapace has three keels or ridges.  The turtle’s shell can vary in color from tan, brown, olive gray or black.  They have a long tail with saw-toothed ridges. Interestingly, snapping turtles have the smallest plastron (or bottom part of their shell) in proportion to their body of any turtle in New York State. Most of their defense strategy is their large size. Look for these turtles swimming slowly through the water with their head poking out of the surface or perched on rocks near the water’s edge. Remember to keep your distance from these turtles; their jaws have a powerful snap! Snapping turtles became our state reptile in 2006.

Female Snapper
Female Snapping Turtle. Lilly Schelling, NYSOPRHP.

The rare Nine-Spotted Ladybug has been our state insect since 1989.  Slightly bigger than a dime, these oval-shaped insects typically have nine-spots on their backs.  If you think you found one, please take a photo, record where you found it and send all the information to The Lost Ladybug Project.

9 Spotted Ladybug
Nine Spotted Ladybug, each wing usually has four spots, plus one spot that overlaps on both wings. http://musingsofabiologistanddoglover.blogspot.com/2011/08/lost-ladybugs.html?_sm_au_=iVVV163fqrZsRWDr.

The Sugar Maple was designated as our state tree in 1956. The bark of a young sugar maple is smooth and dark gray; as the tree ages the bark becomes furrowed in uneven long plates.   Sugar maples have easily recognized leaves that are between 3”-5” long and 3”-5” wide, usually with 5 shallow ‘u-shaped” lobes.   Perhaps you will see the leaves a few of these beautiful trees turning red or yellow during your walk.

And remember to stop and smell the Roses during your hike.  If you do, perhaps you will see some late flowers on some of our native roses such as this Common Wild Rose.  The flowers can be observed either individually or in small bunches.  Look for the common wild rose along roadsides, fields, and salt marshes.  Roses were designed our state flower in 1955; they are our oldest state symbol.

Rose
Common Wild Rose. magnolia1000 from Canada (Rosa virginiana) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
When you are done, why not enjoy some New York state goodies: milk, the state beverage (designated 1981); apple muffin, the state muffin (designated 1987); apple, the state fruit (designated 1976); or yogurt, the state snack (designated 2014.).

Snack
Photo and snack prepared by Susan Carver, OPRHP.

Post by Susan Carver, OPRHP.

Learn more at:

http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/1887.html

http://www.dos.ny.gov/kids_room/508/symbols2.html

http://explorer.natureserve.org/

http://plants.usda.gov/java/

 

Looking at the Big Picture: Implementing Ecosystem-Based Management in Parks

Ecosystem-Based Management, sometimes referred to as EBM, is a planning tool. It helps guide decisions on where to place development such as roads, buildings, trails, beaches etc., while also considering the long and short term impacts to the environment. It also looks at how development effects not just the surrounding environment, but also the upstream and downstream environment.  EBM helps remind us to take the big picture view when we do work in our State Parks.

New York State Parks’ Environmental Management Bureau has been implementing Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) in our parks statewide since 2008.

EBM relies on citizen participation, partnerships, science-based approaches, and taking a long-term view   to provide an informed and adaptive approach to protecting our ecosystems while providing park patrons with experiences that connect them to the natural world.

There are 6 main components to EBM. These include:

  1. Place-based focus;
  2. Scientific foundations used for decision-making;
  3. Measurable management objectives to direct and evaluate performance;
  4. Adaptive management to respond to new knowledge;
  5. Recognition of interconnections within and among ecosystems; and,
  6. Involvement of stakeholders.

Taking this approach allows us to look at interacting systems, like watersheds, rather than individual components, such as a specific plant or animal or isolated water quality parameters.  NYS Parks has used this approach to help better understand, protect and manage our resources, such as swimming beaches, lake water quality, forest health, species richness, and aquatic connectivity.

In addition to helping us look at our natural environment in a more integrated way, EBM provides a means to communicate with multiple stakeholders including citizens, scientists, the private sector and government officials.

Ecosystem Based Management Education Panel_1

Ecosystem Based Management Panels at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island.
Ecosystem Based Management Panels at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island. Click to enlarge images.

NYS Parks will continue to integrate EBM into programs andactivities through training, watershed educational materials and ecosystem research, as well as projects which demonstrate that healthy ecosystems mean healthy communities.  Look for these EBM educational panels at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island (pictured above)! More educational panels and kiosks showing how our parks are part of the larger landscape are in the works for parks along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes.  Keep an eye out for them!

Post by Gabriella Cebada Mora, OPRHP.

 

Rebuilding NYC After the Great Fire: Clay Mining on Staten Island

In 1836 Balthasar Kreischer emigrated from Bavaria to New York City with plans to help rebuild the city after the devastating fire the previous year.  The Great Fire of 1835 burned across 50 acres and destroyed 674 buildings.  Kreischer and his partner, Charles Mumpeton established the Kreischer Brick Manufactory, a firebrick businesses with locations in Manhattan, Staten Island, and New Jersey.  In the neighborhood now known as Charleston on Staten Island, he began mining for clay that would then be shipped to brickwork factories in Manhattan.  The business flourished until Kreischer’s death in 1886.  A few years after his death, the factory burned down, and although it was rebuilt, the business never recovered.

The remnants of the clay mining are still visible today from the hiking trails of the park.  Some of the clay pits have filled with water and provided habitat to new flora and fauna, while others remain dry and are home to flourishing skunk cabbage.  There are areas along the trails where you can still find signs of the former inhabitants of the area, untouched glimpses into the lives of those who once lived in this beautiful area.  Outside of the Interpretation Center are some of the historic Kreischer bricks in the walkway, guiding you away from the rush of city life and into the quiet serene that is Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.

balthasar kreischer
Balthasar Kreischer. Image courtesy of the Staten Island Museum Collection.
kreischer bricks
Kreischer bricks at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.

Post by Clare Carney, OPRHP, Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.

 

Finding the Footpaths: Creating Trail Maps for New York State Parks

Almost every state park facility in New York has a trail system. As such, it is important that each park have a trail map so visitors can find their way around. Several steps go into creating a trail map including: talking with the park manager, going into the field, and analyzing the data.

The best way to obtain data is by using a Geographic Positioning System (GPS) unit. Parks uses the Trimble GeoXT, which makes a digital map as it collects points, documenting the route travelled as well as any important features. This particular unit comes with a backpack-mounted antenna to increase satellite reception, which is important in heavily wooded areas.

trimbles
Trimble GPS units. The GeoXT, on the right, creates a map in real time. The GPS captures lines and points, takes pictures and is water resistant.

The first step is to talk with the park manager about what he or she wants. It may be that the park has no trail map, only a small portion needs to be updated, or the park is seeking approval on a proposed route. Before heading out, the surveyor uploads reference data to the GPS including park boundary, existing trails and any other useful data. Then, they go the park and start hiking.

maddy 1
Maddy Gold collecting data in Clarence Fahnestock State Park.

In the field, it is important to document every trail, even if it is not an official trail. This is important for rescue teams trying to locate an injured person within the park. Other notable features to collect include: scenic views, picnic areas, restrooms, parking lots, bridges, eroded areas, blaze color, and more.

When the surveyor is confident they have collected all relevant data, they take the data back to the computer and put it into a program called GPS Pathfinder. This program corrects for any inaccuracies in satellite reception by matching the points against current imagery.

mapping 1
GPS Pathfinder Office with data and Differential Correction Wizard. This software corrects for satellite discrepancies and produces the most accurate data possible.

The last step is to put the corrected data into GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This program allows the surveyor to produce a map using the features recorded on the GPS. With all the information about the park in hand, the surveyor sends a draft of the trail map to the park manager. When the park manager is satisfied, the map can be published for use by the public.

mapping 2
ArcGIS window showing the shape file for the state of New York.

Post by Maddy Gold, OPRHP SCA Intern.

One fish, two fish, small fish, big fish: The recent story of fish in Lake Minnewaska

Big fish eat smaller fish, smaller fish eat zooplankton, zooplankton eat phytoplankton, and phytoplankton produce their own food. If smaller fish eat all of the zooplankton, what’s to stop the phytoplankton from multiplying out of control? If the big fish eat all of the smaller fish, will the big fish still be able to sustain their population? Whenever an organism is added to or taken away from an ecosystem, it acts like a pebble thrown into a pond. There’s the initial splash, then there are ripples that radiate outward affecting everything in their path.

In 2008, a “pebble” was thrown into Lake Minnewaska. This pebble was a type of minnow called a Golden Shiner.  Exactly how the Golden Shiners entered the lake is not certain, however they are a common bait fish so it is  possible that they were introduced to Lake Minnewaska by someone who was hoping to hook the catch of the day! If that was the case, the odds would have been against that fisherman.  For several decades prior to the occurrence of the shiners, there were no fish reported in the lake. Lake Minnewaska has been very acidic in the past, making it an unhospitable environment for most fish to live in. Recently, the pH in the lake has begun to rise to a level closer to neutral, making the lake more inhabitable for fish.

snakes in water
Two Northern Water Snakes compete for a Golden Shiner in Lake Minnewaska. Photo taken by Nicholas Martin, Park Educator, Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

The introduction of a predator to the food web in Lake Minnewaska caused a trophic cascade. A trophic cascade is when a top predator is added to or removed from a food chain. The effects of the addition or loss of this predator are experienced all the way down the food chain. The shiners’ predation on the zooplankton drastically decreased their population. The ripple continued spreading outward because the loss of the zooplankton meant the loss of a major plant consumer. The phytoplankton could then grow and multiply without restraint. The result was an algal bloom in 2011 that turned the lake green and decreased the visibility to less than three feet. As a result, the Minnewaska Swimming Beach was closed for a month that summer.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve
A view of Lake Minnewaska with the Catskills in the background from on top of the quartz conglomerate cliffs surrounding the lake. Photo by John Rozell, OPRHP.

The algal bloom showed us that Lake Minnewaska’s ecosystem had been severely altered by the shiner introduction.   Another ‘pebble’ was tossed in 2012; the “big fish on the block” made its appearance. Largemouth bass entered the lake and filled a role at the top of the food chain.  Bass are avid predators, and they began preying on the shiners.  Electrofishing, the use of a weak electrical current in the water to temporarily stun fish, has been used in the lake every year since the shiners appeared in order to monitor the fish populations. In 2013 there was a large population of 10,000 – 15,000 golden shiners and 700 – 800 largemouth bass in Lake Minnewaska. In 2014 no shiners were observed during electrofishing and the number of bass had increased by 60%. Did the bass population increase because they had an ample food source in the shiners? What will happen to the bass population now that they have lost this food source? We can only wait and see.

signage
It is important not to transport plants or animals from one environment to another. Doing so can start a chain of events that can drastically alter the balance of the ecosystem. Sign by Nicholas Martin, Park Educator, Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

Post by Laura Davis, Park Educator, Student Conservation Association/AmeriCorps Intern, Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

Sources:

Dr. Richardson SRBP Lecture at Suny New Paltz February 2015.

“Baitfish Regulations.” General Regulations. DEC, http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/31416.html. 24 June 2015.

Richardson, David C. “Why Is Minnewaska Lake Turning Green: Changes in Acidity and Fish in the Sky Lakes.” Shawangunk Watch 18 (Summer 2013): 1-3. Print.

Lauren Jorgensen, Kristen Husson, and Karen Terbush. Minnewaska State Park Preserve Lake Minnewaska Water Quality Report. Rep. Albany: NYOPRHP, 2012. Print.

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