Oct 23, 2018

Fall Hiking Ideas in Central New York

The leaves are falling and there is snow in the air but there will still be a couple of warm, sunny days perfect for a jaunt in the woods.   Recently John and I were at Cornell’s Ornithology Lab where we watched a video in the theater detailing the patience and endurance of photographers trying to get an
image of a bird-of-paradise in New Guinea. I was not endowed with that dedication and patience.  They also have a lab where one can listen to and learn bird sounds.  On the massive wall they have a world map mural that shows one bird for each of 243 bird families. Amazing diversity. Admission is free and so are the frequent guided bird walks and other presentations. We enjoyed a short walk through Spa Sucker Woods.  

One doesn’t have to go to Ithaca to see and learn about birds. 
Derby Hill Bird Observatory is nearby and well-known as the place to see thousands of raptors from March to the end of May, mainly broad winged hawks.  It is on a low hill on the shore of Lake Ontario in the Town of Mexico and in the fall Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers can be seen along with geese, ducks, gulls, and terns. 

Don’t forget Beaver Lake Nature Center. Besides the nature center there are over nine miles of trails of varying lengths. I like their canoe trips but you will have to  wait until spring for that bird watching adventure.  My favorite trail is the .6-mile bog trail much of which is on an elevated boardwalk.  I like looking for the insect-eating picture plant and, of course, birds. There is a 3-mile lake loop that takes in several habitats. 

Lesser known but just as interesting is Camp Zerbe. Camp Zerbe has three rare "kettlehole" lakes, created at the end of the last ice age by immense chunks of melting glacier. Not only can one see a variety of birds, especially waterfowl and game birds, but there is a variety of other wildlife including deer, rabbits, squirrels, beaver, mink, porcupines, and other mammals.  If you have never see a beaver dam here is your chance. Nearby there is a parking area on Co. Rt. 183 giving easy access to the beaver dam trail.  It is short, easy walk.  Walk quietly if you go and you may be luckily enough to see the beavers.  They carry the mud to build the dam on their tummy. Along the way we could see stumps where the beavers had chewed down the trees needed to build their new home.  It was easy to be impressed with their work and understand the phrase, “busy as a beaver.” 

There are several easy outdoor hikes before winter sets in.  Mexico
Point Park has two short trails: one is Roop’s Look, named for the founder of the park, Grace Roop; the other goes to Spy Island, a Revolutionary War historic site. 

If you haven’t been to Rice Creek Biological Station near the college in Oswego in a the last five years you will have missed their new field station with a rebuilt pavilion and new observatory structure with a 12.5” telescope with an H-alpha filter for solar viewing. All nature centers offer special programs. On my to-do list is a visit to the Clark Reservation south of Syracuse; where, according to the brochure, there is fun and learning for the whole family.