Best Spots for Biodiversity

Photo: Bill Banaszewski

Best Spots in the Finger Lakes for Biodiversity

There is no shortage of natural areas in the Finger Lakes region, although, for the acute observer of living things, there are some locations that rise above the rest. In addition to great trails, these spots offer a chance to slow down and contemplate the wonders of nature: annual bird migrations, diverse plants and trees, fascinating insects, and much more. So for all you nature lovers out there, including experts, beginners, and people of all ages, check out this list of special places chosen by the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

A small blue lake surrounded by trees
Photo: Chris Ray

Clark Reservation State Park

Roughly 340 acres in size, Clark Reservation State Park packs in a great deal of botanical and geological diversity in a small footprint. Aside from the stunning geological significance of the park, an equally impressive and diverse species of plant life make this park literally a wild botanical garden. Hundreds of flowering plants, 80 species of trees, 100 types of moss, and, most notably, 26 species of ferns are all observable along the nearly six miles of interconnected loop trails.

A marshland with green hills in the background
Photo: Nigel Kent

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area

The Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area is 1,120 acres of broad, flat floodplain nestled between two glacially steepened hillsides. Its marshland habitat is a favorite stopover for numerous species of migratory birds, but the marsh is a rich habitat and bird watching opportunities, as well as other wildlife viewing, abound throughout the year. To cap it off, Bald Eagles have been nesting within the area and can be seen fishing the lagoon.

A stone dust trail bordered by wildflowers
Photo: Cornell Botanic Gardens

Cornell Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens moniker covers not only the 35-acre gardens nestled in the center of the Cornell University campus but also includes the adjoining F.R. Newman Arboretum and over 3,500 acres of natural areas. Among the 35-acre gardens are twelve specialty gardens, each focusing on a different botanical feature such as wildflowers or rock plants.  Adjoining the gardens is the 150-acre F.R. Newman Arboretum which features paved paths and seven different tree collections: conifers, flowering crabapples, oaks, maples, walnuts, urban trees, and chestnuts.

A person studying a pond
Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

What’s in a name? Well, the aptly named Lime Hollow Nature Center derives its title not from the citrus fruit, but rather from its unique and highly calciferous soil composition. Before modern soil additives, marl, a whitish muddy mix of clay and lime, was highly sought after to sweeten the soil. As might be surmised, Lime Hollow is home to several marl ponds. These unique marl ponds owe their existence to two separate, but equally formative stages of New York’s geological history.

Two Great Blue Herons in a nest
Photo: Long Creek Photography

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

The Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve consists of 537 acres of lakes, forests, meadows, brushland, gorges, streams and wetlands. The diverse habitats found in the preserve are home to an equally diverse variety of flora and fauna. A wetland overlook offering plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities can be found across the street from the main parking area on Sylvan Lane. The wetlands here are home to river otters, Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, and many other creatures.

An aerial view of wetlands
Photo: Chuck Feil

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, along with other protected areas within the Montezuma Wetland Complex, makes up one of the largest bird sanctuaries along the Atlantic Flyway in the northeast. The refuge not only supports local habitats but also provides destination habitats as well, playing a crucial role in global ecology. Nearly a million birds, including Northern Pintail, dowitchers, and widgeons utilize the refuge during migration.

Other places to explore…

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Tanglewood Nature Center

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GFLX Locations Without Hunting

Photo: Brian Maley

Go Finger Lakes Locations Without Hunting

Many of your favorite trails and outdoor locations may be closed or have limited access during the fall hunting season. For anyone looking for peace of mind and open space without trail closures, explore this list of places where hunting is not allowed. We also advise you to check with each location before visiting as hunting policies can change.

A leafy trail in the woods
Photo: Baltimore Woods

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Rolling wooded hills, well-groomed trails, and varied niches make this small gem in Marcellus a must-visit for all members of the family. Short trails through an arboretum as well as wildflower and herb gardens near the John A. Weeks Interpretive Center are perfect for those who just want a brief, easy stroll. The longer Valley, Boundary, and Field to Forest trails offer extended trips to expand the experience and are thoroughly enjoyable by hikers of all levels. Note the interpretive center is currently open to the public on Saturdays only from 10:00 am–4:00 pm. The trails are open from dawn to dusk every day.

A pagoda and bench overlooking a pond
Photo: Brian Maley

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, more commonly known as Sapsucker Woods, is a birding haven and great resource for long-time birders and those with an aspiring interest. Four miles of trails wander through the 230-acre sanctuary, with multiple interconnected loops that can be intermixed for longer trips. The mostly level trails weave through deep woods, atop boardwalks in swamps, and beside ponds bursting with wildlife of all kinds.

The entrance to the Lime Hollow Nature Center
Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year-round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrub land, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout the 430-acre property in Cortland. The deep forest sections found along the Mill Pond Trail feature large-diameter trees that are reminiscent of the old-growth forest found at Green Lakes State Park.

A stream and small waterfall
Photo: Brian Maley

Roy H. Park Preserve

An easy meandering trail accessed from the south parking area of this Finger Lakes Land Trust preserve in Dryden leads you through a meadow that encircles a beautiful evergreen plantation. Follow the spur trail and you will find yourself in a mature forest that leads to the hemlock-studded gorge and waterfalls along Six Mile Creek. Please note that while hunting is prohibited in the Roy H. Park Preserve, it is allowed in the adjacent Hammond Hill State Forest which can be accessed from the preserve’s northern entrance.

Two people and a dog on a hiking trail
Photo: Monika Wood

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

The 793-acre Steege Hill Nature Preserve in Big Flats has seven miles of hiking trails and is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s largest conservation area. Located on a hilltop high above the Chemung River, hikers can choose from a series of connected loop trails for longer or shorter hikes.

A Merlin
Photo: Bridget Sharry

Tanglewood Nature Center

The Tanglewood Nature Center in Elmira is home to a six-mile trail system. Multiple loops of varying difficulty and length, allow for leisurely strolls in the meadows or more vigorous excursions through the woodland. The trails are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain whose wit and thoughts help frame our views of nature in new and amusing ways.

*Please be advised that hunting may be occurring on adjacent properties. We encourage every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so will allow you to be seen more easily and from greater distances. Learn more about hiker safety during hunting season.

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Locations Without Hunting in 2020

Photo: Bill Hecht

Go Finger Lakes Locations Without Hunting in 2020

With late fall in the Finger Lakes comes hunting season and many of your favorite trails and outdoor locations may be closed or have limited access. For anyone looking for open space and peace of mind without trail closures, explore this small list of places where hunting is not allowed during the fall and winter hunting season this year, October 1 through December 22, 2020.

Photo: Baltimore Woods

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Rolling wooded hills, well-groomed trails, and varied niches make this small gem in Marcellus a must visit for all members of the family. Short trails through an arboretum as well as wildflower and herb gardens near the John A. Weeks Interpretive Center are perfect for those who just want a brief, easy stroll. The longer Valley, Boundary, and Field to Forest trails offer extended trips to expand the experience and are thoroughly enjoyable by hikers of all levels.

Photo: Brian Maley

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, more commonly known as Sapsucker Woods, is a birding haven and great resource for long time birders and those with an aspiring interest. Four miles of trails wander through the 230-acre sanctuary, with multiple interconnected loops that can be intermixed for longer trips. The mostly level trails weave through deep woods, atop boardwalks in swamps, and beside ponds bursting with wildlife of all kinds.

Photo: Lime Hollow Nature Center

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Twelve miles of trails, open dawn to dusk year round, weave through meadow, forest, and scrub land, often neighboring or encircling the numerous ponds and varied wetlands found throughout the 430-acre property in Cortland. The deep forest sections found along the Mill Pond Trail feature large diameter trees that are reminiscent of the old growth forest found at Green Lakes State Park.

Photo: D. Elswit

Roy H. Park Preserve

An easy meandering trail accessed from the south parking area of this Finger Lakes Land Trust preserve in Dryden leads you through a meadow that encircles a beautiful evergreen plantation. Follow the spur trail and you will find yourself in a mature forest that leads to the hemlock-studded gorge and waterfalls along Six Mile Creek. Please note that while hunting is prohibited in the Roy H. Park Preserve, it is allowed in the adjacent Hammond Hill State Forest which can be accessed from the preserve’s northern entrance.

Photo: Vinnie Collins

Steege Hill Nature Preserve

The 793-acre Steege Hill Nature Preserve in Big Flats has seven miles of hiking trails and is the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s largest conservation area. Located on a hilltop high above the Chemung River, hikers can choose from a series of connected loop trails for longer or shorter hikes.

Photo: Gail Norwood

Tanglewood Nature Center

The Tanglewood Nature Center in Elmira is home to a six-mile trail system. Multiple loops of varying difficulty and length, allow for leisurely strolls in the meadows or more vigorous excursions through the woodland. The trails are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain whose wit and thoughts help frame our views of nature in new and amusing ways.

 

*The Baltimore Woods Interpretive Center, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Lime Hollow visitor centers, and Tanglewood Nature Center Museum are currently closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trails are open with social distancing practices in place.

*Please be advised that hunting may be occurring on adjacent properties. We encourage every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so will allow you to be seen more easily and from greater distances. Learn more about hiker safety during hunting season.

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Wild Places for Everyone

Photo: Brian Maley

Wild Places for Everyone: A Message on Racism from the Finger Lakes Land Trust

The Finger Lakes Land Trust believes that safe, easy access to quiet trails and open spaces is a right. We condemn racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

POSTED JUNE 4, 2020

Watching the horrifying events across the country over the past month shows us that for many Black Americans, there is no such thing as safe access to nature. That for Black people in this country, watching birds, jogging, sleeping—everyday activities and human rights—are fraught with potential danger.

The Land Trust is working hard to ensure that our network of nature preserves and trails are safe, so that people from all communities will feel welcome. Our mission remains:  To conserve forever the lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region, ensuring scenic vistas, local foods, clean waters, and wild places for EVERYONE.

We can do better.

We recognize that we are beginners in this work and commit to amplify the voices and experiences of Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color; to learn from groups working to diversify the conservation movement; and to work with partners to better serve the diverse communities of the Finger Lakes region.

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COVID-19 Update

Photo: Nikhil Nagane

COVID-19 Update About Park and Trail Closings Around the Finger Lakes Region

Please check before visiting, and protect yourself and others so that we all may continue to enjoy nature’s benefits.

 

Updated April 16, 2020

Dear Finger Lakers,

Gofingerlakes.org, a project of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, was created to inspire people to get outdoors and explore the natural beauty of our region.  As your guide to the best spots for outdoor recreation across our 6,000-square-mile area, we are pleased to offer this free service – especially now when a hike in nature can be a particularly potent form of solace.

To keep you and your family safe during the COVID-19 crisis, we recommend that you check with the public agency or organization that administers any Go Finger Lakes location before you visit.  Decisions to close parks and trails may be made in the interest of public health.  Please continue to enjoy the outdoors close to home and be sure to practice social distancing guidelines defined by the CDC.

Photo: Nigel Kent

Web Sites

You can read the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s COVID-19 response.  You might also find useful or emergent information about Go Finger Lakes locations on these web sites:

State

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

County

Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail
Chemung River Friends
Ontario County
Onondaga County Parks
Town of Dryden
Friends of the Outlet
Cayuga County
Seneca Meadows

National

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
United States Department of Agriculture

Go Finger Lakes Locations

Here is the complete list of Go Finger Lakes locations which include a direct link to the administrator for authoritative information.

State Forests, Parks, and More

Bear Swamp State Forest
Birdseye Hollow State Forest
Black Diamond Trail
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Cascadilla Gorge Trail
Catharine Valley Trail
Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail
Chemung River
Clark Reservation State Park
Conesus Inlet Wildlife Area
Connecticut Hill Wildlife Area
Danby State Forest
Erwin Wildlife Area
Fillmore Glen State Park
Finger Lakes National Forest
Gannett Hill Park
Green Lakes State Park
Grimes Glen Park
Hammond Hill State Forest
Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area
Hemlock-Canadice State Forest
High Tor Wildlife Area
Highland Forest
Howland Island
Jim Schug Trail
Keuka Outlet Trail
Labrador Hollow Unique Area
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Morgan Hill State Forest
Oakley Corners State Forest
Owasco Flats
Pratt’s Falls Park
Robert Treman State Park
Sampson State Park
Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve
Shindagin Hollow State Forest
Sugar Hill State Forest
Taughannock Falls State Park
Texas Hollow State Forest
Watkins Glen State Park

Nature Centers

Baltimore Woods Nature Center
Cayuga Nature Center
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cumming Nature Center
Lime Hollow Nature Center
Montezuma Audubon Center
Tanglewood Nature Center

Finger Lakes Land Trust Preserves

Bahar Preserve & Carpenter Falls
Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve
Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve
Hinchcliff Family Preserve
Lick Brook Gorge
Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve
Roy H. Park Preserve
Staghorn Cliffs
Steege Hill Nature Preserve
Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

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Hunting Season Safety

Photo: Chris Olney

“Be Safe, Be Seen” on Your Outdoor Adventures During Fall and Winter Hunting Seasons

A reminder to recreation enthusiasts that many parks, forests, and nature preserves allow hunting and trapping in designated periods

Go Finger Lakes would like to encourage all outdoor lovers to be especially mindful of safety during the fall and winter hunting seasons.  Each location profile on Go Finger Lakes includes a link to the managing organization – whether it be the Finger Lakes Land Trust, a New York State agency, or a nature center – and visitors should consult that agency for hunting information BEFORE EACH OUTING.

Photo: Chris Olney

Wear Blaze Orange

Please see this November 2020 alert from New York State:  DEC Reminds Outdoor Enthusiasts to Share the Woods Safely This Season

We share excerpts here:

DEC encourages all outdoor enthusiasts-hunters and non-hunters alike-to wear blaze orange, blaze pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so will allow these individuals to be seen more easily and from greater distances.

In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and other rescue personnel to find lost, sick, or injured people afield.

Pet owners are encouraged to dress their dogs in blaze orange or pink or another bright color vest or scarf. Dogs should also stay leashed at all times.

Trapping seasons for many species are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although a rare occurrence, traps set for furbearers like raccoons and coyotes can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity and regulations are strongly enforced.

Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license and DEC works closely with the trapping community to encourage trapping techniques that minimize risks to non-target wildlife and other domestic animals.

Keeping dogs on a leash is safer for the dog, for other people, and gives pet owners peace of mind.

Also on the DEC web site:  Hunting Seasons, Trapping Seasons, Hunting Safety.  Learn more about Statewide Hunting Regulations in NY State Parks and the Policy on Possession of an Unloaded Firearm for the Purpose of Accessing Adjacent Lands for Lawful Hunting Purposes.

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Best Birding Spots!

Photo: Tom Reimers

Best Birding Spots in the Finger Lakes Region

Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Finger Lakes region. If you are a beginning birder, it’s a great place to get started. If you are already a diehard, you can devote hours and hours, week after week, to birding here and never run out of rewarding discoveries. And whether you live in our region or are here just for a short visit, you have endless options about where to find the birds, all year round.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma is the crown jewel of the area’s birding sites, almost literally at the top center on the map of the region at the north end of Cayuga Lake, within an hour’s drive of Syracuse, Rochester, and Ithaca. The refuge itself encompasses almost 10,000 acres, but is only one part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, a vast patchwork of almost 50,000 protected acres, or about 78 square miles. Most people begin their visit at the refuge’s visitor center, and then proceed slowly on the Wildlife Drive around the Main Pool. During spring and fall migration, these open waters host hundreds of thousands of migrating ducks, geese, swans, grebes, coots, cormorants, and every now and then, even local rarities such as American White Pelicans. Montezuma also hosts a dazzling array of charismatic breeding birds throughout the summer, and in winter, the area is still excellent for roadside birding, perhaps most notably for wintering Snowy Owls and Northern Shrikes.

Heron at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Heron feeding at Montezuma NWR. Photo: Chris Ray

Sapsucker Woods

Located in Ithaca, this 220-acre sanctuary is the home of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of the world’s leading institutions dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. Sapsucker Woods is a particularly good place to start if you are new to birds and birding. The sanctuary itself has more than four miles of trails, which are all wide and flat, making for easy walking even for young children. Comprising beech-oak forest, swampland, brushy edges, and ponds, Sapsucker Woods typically hosts more than 150 bird species per year. During peak migration in May and September, birders collectively find 20+ species of warblers, plus vireos, thrushes, and much more. Summer is less of a riot of diversity, but still, with a well-trained ear, one can find 50 or more breeding bird species in Sapsucker Woods, including Barred Owls, Northern Waterthrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, and of course eponymous Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager. Photo: Lang Elliott

High Tor Wildlife Management Area

With ponds, waterfalls, rivers, gorges, forests, and open fields, there is an abundance of wildlife habitats within the 6,315-acre wildlife management area in Yates County. Numerous songbirds and marshland birds may be viewed here.  No doubt the rich habitat and all the wildlife it supports is why the Audubon Society has recognized High Tor as an Important Bird Area.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area

The Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area is 1,120 acres of broad, flat floodplain nestled between two glacially steepened hillsides at the foot of Conesus Lake. Its marshland habitat is a favorite stopover for numerous species of migratory birds, and Bald Eagles have been nesting within the area and can be seen fishing the lagoon.

Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area
Conesus Inlet. Photo: Nigel Kent

The Finger Lakes Land Trust owns many lesser-known nature preserves, open to the public and much beloved by locals but often overlooked by visitors. Here you can really discover the variety in our regional landscapes, and accordingly, the diversity of our breeding birds.

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve

Located in West Danby, Tompkins County, this preserve covers more than 500 acres of meadows, hedgerows, hardwood forest, hemlock woods, and streams and ponds. Over 70 species of birds nest here in a typical year, including both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, plus Prairie Warblers among 17+ breeding warbler species.

Hinchcliff Family Preserve

The Hinchcliff Preserve in Spafford, Onondaga County, has a similarly impressive mix of habitats and bird species across its 206 acres, plus a sweeping view of Skaneateles Lake.

Birding at Hinchcliff Family Preserve on Skaneateles Lake
Photo: Bill Hecht

Wesley Hill Nature Preserve

And in the 390-acre Wesley Hill Preserve between Canandaigua and Honeoye Lakes, you can expect to find Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, and up to three dozen other species on a slow morning walk through the mature hardwoods and conifers in spring and summer.

See the map!

Show the blue filter bar and set the filters for “bird watching” and any other factors you’re looking for!

Portions of this article also appeared in Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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Trailblazers!

Photo: FLLT

You’re Invited to Get Outdoors with Our Land Trust Volunteers

How does the Finger Lakes Land Trust maintain thousands of acres of nature preserves across a 12-county region with a small staff of only a few people?  Volunteers!  Sign up here!

The Land Trust operates over 30 nature preserves that are free and open to the public for quiet recreation.  You can see a few of them on the Go Finger Lakes map (find the tree icons) and you can see them all on our web site at fllt.org/map.  We care for them with our volunteer corps!

Here are a few photos of volunteers including our “Trailblazers,” who build trails, clear brush, construct signs, and generally care for the nature preserves, and others who help us host educational and recreational events that are open to the public.

fllt.org/volunteer

You can sign up to volunteer.

fllt.org/events

See our schedule of events.

Get your friends to sign up, too!

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, do good work, and get outdoors in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

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Want to get dirty? Help the Finger Lakes Land Trust blaze miles of trails!

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Outdoor Events

Photo: Nigel Kent

Get Outdoors at Public Events Hosted by the Land Trust and Fellow Organizations

You can participate in hikes, bikes, paddles, and outdoor events of all kinds across the Finger Lakes region.  Almost every event hosted by the Finger Lakes Land Trust is free and open to all.

Go to the Land Trust events calendar

Photo: Rick Lightbody
Photo: Rick Lightbody

On our events calendar, you will find outings for all ages.  We often list events co-hosted with partner organizations.  Don’t miss great events in your area – sign up for the Living Land, the monthly email newsletter of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

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Do good work in the great outdoors… Join the Trailblazers at the Land Trust!

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Red Alert!

Photo: Jeff Katris

Watch Your Step: Young Red Newts on the Trail!

Meet the eastern red-spotted newt, lover of ponds and muddy forest floors.  In springtime, at Danby State Forest, you will find them walking the trails with you… so mind your footfalls as you go.

Plan your outing at Danby State Forest.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?

Want to share with the Land Trust?

If so, please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

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Watch more nature videos on the Land Trust web site!

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