From the October 2013 Conservationist
By Eileen Stegemann and Jenna Kerwin
I found this spotted salamander slowly climbing through the grass in my front yard. It paused for the photo with the Catskill Mountains in the background. Fifteen minutes later, all I could see was two inches of its tail as it burrowed under the grass for the night.
Freehold, Greene County
Great eye-and photo! Spotted salamanders are found throughout New York and the eastern and midwestern U.S., but are hard to find due to their secretive habits. They tend to spend much of the year in tunnels beneath the ground feeding on earthworms and only emerge to breed and lay eggs in vernal pools.
-Eileen Stegemann, Assistant Editor
This summer, an odd friend lived in my bluebird house: an eastern gray tree frog. I first found him in May when I was checking for a bluebird nest. I figured his presence was a one-time thing so I took him from the box and put him behind our pool, but he was back the next day. He lived in the birdhouse all summer. Around September I saw him less and less, until I didn't see him anymore. He probably went under a log or pile of leaves to hibernate, because gray tree frogs hibernate on land in winter. I hope I see him next summer.
Clifton Park, Saratoga County
What a great opportunity you had to observe nature.
We hope you see him next summer, too!
I thought your readers would be interested in this photo I took of a unique waterfall in a county park in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. It is known as "Eternal Flame Falls."
Blasdell, Erie County
The beautiful "Eternal Flame Falls" are located in Shale Creek in Orchard Park. The flame is actually fueled by methane gas escaping through fissures in the rock, and despite its name, sometimes dies out. However, it can be easily rekindled with a common barbecue lighter.
-Samuel Christenfeld, 2012 Conservationist summer intern
(Editor's note: I'd check with the local authorities before I touched a flame to a source of leaking gas!)
While checking our trail cam photos for deer, we were pleasantly surprised to find this flying squirrel posing for us!
Michael Morsch Sr.
An image fit for Halloween!
I am an associate wildlife biologist monitoring cheetah populations in Kenya. I was analyzing hairs from cheetah scat at the Kenya Wildlife Service laboratory when I noticed a Conservationist magazine in the library. It was from 1986, and it had been mailed to someone in Arlington, VA and somehow ended up in Nairobi! I am originally from NY and interned with DEC for a couple of summers in college, so it was nice to see a piece of home here in Kenya.
Thanks for the great picture and update! Good to hear you're able to enjoy a slice of New York while doing such important work in Kenya. Have any other readers found the magazine overseas?
-Jenna Kerwin, Staff Writer
I thought I'd share a photo of my son, Aven, enjoying a leaf-covered path in Schenectady's Central Park.
Thanks for the great image! It looks like you might have a future explorer on your hands.
My friend, Joe Kadi, showed me some pictures he took of a turkey visiting his backyard bird feeder along with a flock of around 20 others. I've never seen, or heard of anyone else seeing, this odd-colored bird!
Orchard Park, NY
Great photo! This turkey could be showing signs of leucism, a genetic mutation that prevents the pigment melanin from being normally deposited in feathers. Or, this bird could be a domestic breed that "flew the coop." There is a breed called a "Narragansett" that is similar in appearance to yours. It could also be a cross between a wild turkey and a domestic turkey. So unfortunately, I can't say what it is, but I can say you are lucky to have seen this unique bird!
-Michael Schiavone, DEC Wildlife Biologist