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February 2013 Outdoor Discovery

DEC Outdoor Discovery is published by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

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A snowmobiler exiting a bridge at Allegany State Park.

New York State has wonderful recreational opportunities which will be highlighted for you each month. Get ready to start planning your next adventure!

February 2013 Conservationist cover: waterafall at Split Rock Falls in the Adirondacks.

In the February issue of Conservationist magazine, explore NY's beautiful waterfalls, watch wildlife in Mongaup Valley, and read how cross-country skiing is a fun activity. To receive this issue subscribe online or call 1-800-678-6399


DEC Events

Select Recreation Events
Paws to Reflect, Five Rivers - 2/2
Canada Goose Late Season on Central Long Island - 2/7
Winter Astronomy, Five Rivers - 2/8
Camp Santanoni - 2/16-17
Cross-Country Ski Tour, Reinstein Woods - 2/17

See more upcoming events


Nature Notes

Birds eating on a feeding post.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event (from February 15 through February 18) to help scientists create a "real-time snapshot" of where the birds are. You don't have to be an expert (although you can be) to join the fun. Just visit the GBBC website to register and start counting those backyard birds!.


Safe and Sound

A snowmobiler on a trail.

Snowmobilers can cover a large area in one ride; stay aware of the weather all along your route.


Featured Video

Two kids birdwatching with binoculars.

Birdwatching is a pastime that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Learn about a popular birdwatching spot on DEC's YouTube page.


Explore for FREE

You can explore many state lands free of charge. However, some state campgrounds and day-use areas charge a small fee, depending on the season (campsite rentals extra).


Let Us Know

We hope you enjoy this newsletter and will share your favorite hiking spot, recreation activity or outdoor tip with us. Your feedback is always welcome.
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Photo Credits

Top banner: Darrin McGee, NYESD
Winter Carnival: Adirondack Regional Tourism Council

Seagulls hovering over the Niagara rapids.

Watchable Wildlife - Gulls at Niagara Falls

While the thundering falls are a wondrous sight in themselves, birdwatchers flock to Niagara Falls during the winter to see one of the world's greatest gatherings of gulls. More than 100,000 gulls arrive at the falls in mid-November during their annual migration.

Many gulls stay throughout the winter because they have access to the small fish from the Niagara River that comprise their diet. (The river doesn't freeze like many other water bodies along the migration route.) If the weather is severe, the best place to look for gulls is along the lower river.

Winter visitors can expect to see Bonaparte's gulls (45,000 at recent count), ring-billed gulls, herring gulls and great black-backed gulls. Fifteen other species of gulls migrate to the falls from the far corners of North America and Europe. The entire 32-mile stretch of the Niagara River is designated as a Global Important Bird Area.


Snowmobilers on a trail.

Allegany State Park: A Snowmobiler's Paradise

Avid snowmobilers will delight in the park's 90 miles of groomed trails, winding through forested valleys and along icy streams. After a long day of snowmobiling, enjoy the comforts of one of the park's 177 winterized cabins. The Red House Administration Building offers a place to warm up and have a bite to eat before heading back out on the trails.

Snowmobiling not your style? Whether you're an expert or novice skier, Allegany's cross-country ski trails have something for you. Twenty-plus miles of groomed trails ranging in length from 1.5 miles to 6 miles wind through the Art Roscoe Cross-Country Ski Area.

February brings events for both types of winter sport enthusiasts. The Art Roscoe Loppet is a cross-country ski race on Sunday, February 3. Distances range from 6K to 22K. For snowmobilers, the nearby Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel will host the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series from February 22 to 24. This race brings together more than 200 of the top racers from North America and a dozen countries.

For More Information:


Tracking Animals in the Snow

Animal tracks in the snow.

Most people don't realize the variety of wildlife around their own homes until they see animal tracks in the snow. Resident animals that don't hibernate through the winter must find food to survive, hence the abundance of tracks.

Opossum, raccoon, skunk and squirrel tracks may lead to birdfeeders and garbage cans. Rabbit tracks might head toward exposed patches of vegetation, and fox tracks may follow those of mice, moles and voles. Bordering suburbia, coyote, deer and turkey tracks join those of muskrat and beaver, and, farther out, bobcat and mink tracks dot the snowy landscape.

To fully enjoy the season, learn to identify animal tracks by looking at their shape and size and noting toe marks. Bear in mind that snow makes tracks look larger than they really are. Conservationist for Kids magazine shows examples of animal tracks in the snow (PDF, 1.94 MB).


People looking at a giant ice sculpture of a castle.

Winter Carnivals in the Adirondacks

Carnivals are a great way to break up a long Adirondack winter. During the month of February, many towns throughout the North Country hold winter carnivals, including Saranac Lake (which hosts the oldest of its kind in the nation) and Lake George (where else can you compete in an outhouse race?).

If you would rather just watch, think about heading to the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, featuring more than a thousand athletes competing in a variety of winter sports. The Adirondacks Tourism Council webpage has information about other winter carnivals being held throughout the region.


Hike of the Month: Whaupaunaucau State Forest

A couple cross-country skiing.

Almost no one can pronounce it, but everyone can enjoy a winter outing at Whaupaunaucau State Forest in Chenango County. Thirteen miles of beginner to intermediate-level cross-country ski trails wind through the forest.

Glide among plantations of towering, snow-laden Norway spruce. Look for white-tailed deer browsing on a carpet of white ash seedlings, or turkey tracks (or even the gobblers themselves) clustered under a beech tree. Enjoy the view of Jeffery's Pond nestled into a forest hollow, and savor your packed lunch at the lean-to and fireplace located along trail 20. For more information and a link to a map, see DEC's Whaupaunaucau State Forest webpage.

February 2013 DEC Outdoor Discovery Newsletter © New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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