Aerial FLX!

Photo: Bill Hecht

Favorite Airplane Photos of the Finger Lakes

Here are some of our favorite aerial photos of the lakes and natural areas across the region, sent by volunteers of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  Help us save more land and water!

Thanks to our volunteers for sharing!

Do you have great photos and videos of our region?

Want to share with the Finger Lakes Land Trust?

Please contact us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

Your imagery can help advance conservation through our communications and outreach on the web, social media, print and more!

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Nature & Access

Photo: Kelly Makosch

PART OF OUR REGIONAL CONSERVATION AGENDA

Keep Nature Wild & Enhance Public Access

Theme 3 from our report on strategies for permanently protecting the priceless lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region

Here we share the third set of strategies from Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever, our full illustrated report which you can find on our web site at fllt.org/top10.

The southern expanse of the Finger Lakes region features wild lands known for rugged gorges, rolling forests, sparkling waters, and diverse wildlife.  Wide-ranging mammals including black bears and fishers roam the hills. Tourists and residents enjoy existing conservation lands where they find majestic waterfalls, panoramic lake views, and quiet hiking trails.

There are many places worthy of protection, but we believe that the greatest impact can be achieved by focusing conservation efforts on the south ends of Canandaigua Lake and Skaneateles Lake; the Emerald Necklace surrounding the south end of Cayuga Lake; and, a stretch of the Chemung River just east of Corning.

For each of these focus areas, the Land Trust aims to partner with a broad coalition of public and private stakeholders to knit together conservation corridors with an eye to protecting waterways, linking conserved lands, and building trails.

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The conservation strategies in this theme:

Create the Canandaigua Skyline Trail

Establish a corridor of conserved lands extending from the shores of Canandaigua Lake to the summit of Bare Hill and southward to the village of Naples — expanding the “nature nearby” opportunities for Rochester residents and visitors to the western Finger Lakes.

Complete Cayuga Lake’s Emerald Necklace

Secure the Finger Lakes Trail and adjacent natural lands within an 80-mile arc of public open space surrounding the southern end of Cayuga Lake.

Create the Chemung River Greenbelt

Create a world-class assemblage of riverfront parks, conservation lands, and agricultural lands bordering the Chemung River between Corning and Elmira — providing a variety of recreational opportunities.

Save the South End of Skaneateles Lake

Create a ridge-to-ridge greenbelt that hosts a regional multiuse trail network and helps ensure water quality within Skaneateles Lake.

What you can do

If you love the Finger Lakes region, please take a moment to read Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever.  You can download a digital copy at fllt.org/top10 and request free print copies.  Please share with friends who love our lands and waters, and consider supporting the Finger Lakes Land Trust by becoming a member and getting involved at our events and volunteer opportunities.

Get your copy of our top 10 conservation strategies for the Finger Lakes!

fllt.org/top10 Sign Up

Beavers & Biodiversity

Photo: Lang Elliott

Beavers at Work on the Lindsay-Parsons Preserve

See how beavers have shaped the wetlands at our biodiversity preserve south of Ithaca.

Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve is owned and managed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust as the world’s first temperate-zone preserve for research in biodiversity and chemical ecology.  Scientists and students at Cornell University have used the preserve to study the chemical interactions of organisms there.

Owing to the size and diversity of this preserve, it is ideal for use by area colleges and schools for different educational purposes.  In addition, the preserve may be used by the public for hiking, skiing, birding, and nature walks.  It also provides a place for quiet contemplation.

To find other outdoor adventures near Lindsay-Parsons, see the interactive map.

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

Want to share with the Land Trust?

Please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

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Finger Lakes Trail

Photo: Robert Teitelbaum

Over 950 Miles Long and Covering Some of the Most Scenic Land in New York

Since 1962, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference has worked to build a continuous footpath across New York State.

Here on Gofingerlakes.org, you can learn about the following locations which contain portions of the Finger Lakes Trail.

The Finger Lakes Trail system runs from Allegheny State Park on the Pennsylvania border to the Catskill Forest Preserve, with branch trails to Niagara Falls, the Genesee River valley, the Great Eastern Trail, the central Finger Lakes, and the Syracuse region.  This system is built and maintained almost entirely by volunteers.  The Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) invites you to hike the trail and volunteer to keep it beautiful; see their site for maps and tools.

See some of our Favorite Hikes on the Finger Lakes Trail.

Happy exploring!

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Lakes & Streams

Photo: Chuck Feil

PART OF OUR REGIONAL CONSERVATION AGENDA

Protect Our Lakes, Streams & Drinking Water

Theme 1 from our report on strategies for permanently protecting the priceless lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region

Here we share the first set of strategies from Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever, our fully illustrated report which you can find on our web site at fllt.org/top10.

The eleven Finger Lakes are the lifeblood of the region.  They provide drinking water for one million residents while attracting tourists from around the world.  The lakes define local culture and traditions, creating bonds among families and communities that are cherished for a lifetime.

The lakes have long been known for their clean waters. In recent years, however, nutrient-laden runoff, exacerbated by a warming climate, has resulted in declining water quality.  Five of eleven lakes reported significant outbreaks of toxic algae in 2015 — resulting in health alerts warning against swimming and drinking the impacted water.  Toxic algae can cause nausea; skin, eye, and throat irritation; and breathing difficulties.  It is harmful for wildlife, pets, and humans.

Today, the stakes are high to save our remaining pristine lakeshore as development pressures increase. Soil erosion from farm fields and contamination from lakeshore septic systems both increase the likelihood of future toxic algal blooms. All 11 lakes are at risk. Let’s save our lakes by aggressively countering these threats.

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The conservation strategies in this theme:

Buffer Our Streams & Create New Wetlands

Create permanent streamside buffers on farms and other lands that directly affect water quality for towns and cities across the region. Support a systematic effort to restore and create wetlands to filter runoff and protect our waters while providing valuable wildlife habitat.

Save Our Last Undeveloped Shoreline Now

Protect our last wild shoreline through the acquisition of parks and conservation land as well as the use of conservation easements (perpetual legal agreements that limit development while keeping land in private ownership).

Protect the City of Syracuse Drinking Water Supply

Restore the successful program that used conservation easements to secure environmentally sensitive lands adjacent to Skaneateles Lake, the primary drinking water supply for Syracuse residents.

What you can do

If you love the Finger Lakes region, please take a moment to read Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever.  You can download a digital copy at fllt.org/top10 and request free print copies.  Please share with friends who love our lands and waters, and consider supporting the Finger Lakes Land Trust by becoming a member and getting involved at our events and volunteer opportunities.

Get your copy of our top 10 conservation strategies for the Finger Lakes!

fllt.org/top10 Sign Up

Fisher

Photo: Bill Banaszewski

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

The Ever So Adaptable Fisher

When former Land Trust President Tom Reimers found evidence of bears on his property in the town of Danby, he set up a motion-sensing camera to confirm his suspicions.

The camera hasn’t succeeded in photographing any bears yet, but last summer it captured a picture of a fisher (Martes pennanti).  The photo shows a large, dark animal, something like a cross between an otter and a large cat, strolling nonchalantly across the forest floor.

Fishers, sometimes called “fisher cats,” may look vaguely feline, but in fact they are mustelids – long, sinuous, fierce members of the weasel family.  Thanks to its varied habitat, upstate New York is unusually rich in mustelid species: otters swim in the waterways; mink hunt at the water’s edge; weasels live in the uplands and hedgerows; martens are adapted to deep snow at higher elevations; fishers inhabit old-growth coniferous forests.

Photo: Bill Banaszewski
Photo: Bill Banaszewski

That, at any rate, was the received wisdom about fishers, but it turns out to be only partially correct.  Like so many other North American animals, fishers almost went extinct in the nineteenth century as the forests were clearcut and the animals themselves were indiscriminately trapped for their dense, glossy fur. When it was all over, the only fishers left in the state were in the Adirondacks.  Adirondack fishers were live-trapped and released into the Catskills in the late 1970s, where they flourished.  Because the animals were only found in undisturbed wilderness, biologists wrongly assumed that they could only survive in old-growth forests.

This misconception persisted until fisher sightings began trickling in from all over the state, from Albany to western New York.  DEC wildlife biologist Lance Clark saw his first fisher in the mid-90s in Bear Swamp State Forest in Cayuga County; a roadkilled animal turned up in Onondaga County at about the same time.  Beginning in 2007, naturalist Linda Spielman has found fisher tracks in Tioga and Tompkins Counties.

Fishers, it turns out, are a lot more adaptable than anyone had expected.  As largely arboreal predators, they will not live in treeless areas, but they do not seem to be bothered by most human activities and have made themselves at home in many areas throughout the northeast.  In fact, so-called “edge habitats”– areas at the junctions between distinctly different habitats, especially forest and field – are particularly attractive to fishers because they are home to high populations of the small mammals that are their primary prey.  Fishers aren’t picky, however: they will eat amphibians and reptiles, birds, eggs, insects, carrion, and even berries and acorns.

They are also one of the few animals that dare to prey on porcupines.  A fisher will repeatedly attack the porcupine’s face until it weakens and can be flipped over for a kill.  In some cases, they can force porcupines to fall out of a tree and then attack their stunned prey on the ground.

As marginal farmland reverted to woodland in recent decades, most of upstate New York turned into potential fisher territory.  Fishers were reintroduced into Pennsylvania in 1994 and, combined with populations from West Virginia, are now dispersing into western New York.  Animals from both the Adirondacks and the Catskills are colonizing central New York, including the Finger Lakes forests.

In fact, fishers are in the process of reclaiming many parts of their former range.  When they were eradicated in Vermont, porcupine populations skyrocketed; the forests didn’t get a break from those voracious bark-eaters until Maine fishers were imported to control them.  Vermont fishers then moved into New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and have recently even been spotted just outside of Boston.

There have been many sightings of “black panthers” in upstate New York.  Panthers, or cougars, were long ago extirpated from the state and, in any case, are never black.  If you see a “black panther,” it is most likely a fisher.  At approximately three feet long, the animal may look formidable, but even a very large specimen rarely weighs more than fifteen pounds.  Unlike cougars, these animals are no danger to human beings, but forest-dwelling owners of free-ranging cats and poultry would be wise to take appropriate precautions.

Angie Berchielli, a trapper and naturalist who assisted in the efforts to restore fishers to the Catskills and Pennsylvania, is excited by the growing fisher population.  “It is truly one of the greatest success stories [showing] what very good management of a species by the DEC can do.  They are now available for all of us, whether we are trappers, photographers, or people who just like to watch wildlife.”

The NYS DEC is collecting information about fishers.  Please report any sightings to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Trail Etiquette

Photo: Chris Olney

How to Be a Good Traveler on Your Nature Outings

Land trails and waterways are shared by people, animals, and plants – and human visitors should observe a few best practices.

The locations featured on Gofingerlakes.org are owned and managed by various organizations; please follow the regulations at each location.  Also see our page about safety and disclaimers.  Generally, at all locations, a good maxim for visiting protected natural areas is found on Finger Lakes Land Trust signs:

Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Here are other best practices for your outdoor adventures.

Hikers and bikers

As a general rule, bikers should yield to hikers, and both must yield to equestrians (see below).  On trails where mountain biking and hiking are permitted, it is important for bikers and hikers to be aware of their surroundings.  This is especially true for bikers racing down steep descents and around sharp turns.  Here, the hiker has the right of way, and bikers must pay close attention to the trail ahead.

However, as with all rules, there are some grey areas.  If a biker is riding up a steep hill and a hiker is walking down, the friendly thing for the hiker to do is step off the trail and let the biker pass.

Horses

Equestrians always get the right-of-way.  If you are on the trail and see a horse approaching, whether you are on foot or bike, stop moving and step aside to give the horse and rider a chance to pass.  Make sure you step fully off the path, on the downhill side if possible, giving the horse plenty of space.  Speak softly to the horse and rider as they approach and do not make any sudden movements when the horse passes.

When approaching a horse and rider from behind, announce your presence from as far away as possible so you don’t startle the horse.  Only pass when the rider says that it is safe.  Dogs should always be leashed and kept as far away from the horse as possible.

Uphill vs. downhill

Generally, downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic.  If you are hiking uphill, you get the right-of-way. Similarly, bikers climbing up the trails get the right-of-way over bikers on their way down.

Dogs

If you bring along your four-legged friends, keeping them leashed and under control is essential for the safety and enjoyment of all.  In many locations it is the official rule, but in all locations it is a best practice.

Pack in, pack out

This one is so obvious that it need not be mentioned.  Except that it needs to be mentioned — because once in a while you still see human garbage laying around a natural area.  Of course, people sometimes leave items by accident, such as water bottles, so do a mental inventory of your belongings and leave the place as clean as you found it — or better!

Collecting

In some locations, collecting fossils and other treasures is expressly forbidden.  But even where there is no posted rule, it’s a great idea to leave nature alone for the enjoyment of those who will come after you.  Even future generations!

No bushwacking

Stay on the marked trails and designated areas.  That’s the best way to stay safe AND avoid trampling delicate plant life and fragile insect homes.  It only takes a few people to casually start a new trail by bushwacking off the main trail, and before you know it a new part of the forest or wetland is getting heavily traveled.  Please let the official land stewards determine where trails should be.

Private property

Many landowners are serious about their private property.  Take a moment to read the local trail signs and get familiar with the lay of the land.  Sometimes, even if you feel like you are on a designated trail, you can wander onto private lands.  Be smart and respect property rights, not least because many private property owners are the key to conservation in the Finger Lakes region — by donating easements and otherwise being good stewards of their own land.

Let’s care for our trails and open new nature preserves!

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Ithaca Trails

Photo: Jeff Katris

Visit ithacatrails.org for lots of trails in Tompkins County.

With over 232 miles of trails, the GPS-enabled site features a searchable map and directions. 

The following Tompkins County natural areas, found on ithacatrails.org, are also mapped and profiled here on Gofingerlakes.org:

For a comprehensive list of all 232 miles of trails in Tompkins County, visit ithacatrails.org.

Funded by a grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program, the site allows users to search for trails based on the type of experience they are looking for.  It has the flexibility to allow searches for information such as distance, difficulty, dog walking, scenic views and picnicking.

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The project is a partnership of the Tompkins County Parks and Trails Network.  Partner organizations include the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Town of Ulysses, Tompkins County Tourism Program, Tompkins County Planning Department, Ithaca Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Finger Lakes Land Trust, NY State Parks, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Ithaca College Natural Lands, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, City of Ithaca, Town of Ithaca, Town of Lansing, Town of Dryden, Town of Danby, the Nature Conservancy and user groups like Bike Walk Tompkins, the Cayuga Trails Club, and Finger Lakes Trails Conference.

Happy exploring around beautiful Tompkins County.

Wood Frog

Photo: Lang Elliott

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

Lazarus of the Amphibian World

Winter is a hard time, particularly for those animals that cannot regulate their body temperatures.

It is perhaps hardest for amphibians, whose moist skins make them susceptible to freezing.  Many aquatic frogs, such as the bullfrog and leopard frog, lie dormant all winter below the ice, breathing through their skins.  Terrestrial animals are exposed to far more extreme temperatures.  Those that can’t avoid freezing temperatures have two ways of making it through the winter: freeze resistance and freeze tolerance.

Photo: Lang Elliott
Photo: Lang Elliott

Freeze-resistant animals rely on a phenomenon known as supercooling.  Despite what we’ve all learned, water doesn’t necessarily freeze at 0 °C.  A small volume of very pure and still water can stay liquid to −42 °C; however, the moment this supercooled water contacts an ice crystal, it will freeze solid almost instantly.  Smaller animals, including some insects and reptiles, use supercooling to weather brief and relatively mild freezing episodes.  Most amphibians cannot use this technique, however, because their skins are highly permeable to water and ice.

The wood frog (Rana sylvatica) is one of a handful of North American frogs that is freeze-tolerant.  If you search very carefully under the leaf-fall on the upland forest floor, you’re likely to find one of these little black-masked fellows sitting motionlessly, perfectly camouflaged, limbs neatly tucked into its body in order to reduce water loss.  It will remain there all winter, freezing and thawing along with the soil itself, until spring finally frees it from its state of suspended animation.

Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form within tissues and slice like knives through delicate cell structures, causing irreparable damage.  In order for the wood frog to survive winter, it must ensure that the water in its cells does not turn to ice.  When the frog first begins to freeze, it saturates its body with glucose. Water that contains dissolved solutes (such as salts or sugars) freezes at a lower temperature than does pure water, which is why icebergs float in the ocean.  In the same way, glucose acts as a cryoprotectant, a sort of “antifreeze” that lowers the freezing point of the frog.  This little animal is remarkably tough, but it is not invincible: it cannot survive if more than about 65 percent of the water in its body freezes.

Photo: Lang Elliot
Photo: Lang Elliot

As the frog cools further, ice forms in the blood and lymph vessels and the gut, where it can do no damage.  The more water that is locked up in ice, the greater the concentration of solutes in the blood and lymph, and the more water that is drawn out from the cells.  (Something similar happens when you rub a piece of meat with salt in order to draw out the juices.)  The cells shrink but do not collapse because they contain glucose, which reduces water outflow.  The tiny amount of water in each dehydrated cell then supercools so that the cell contents remain liquid even when the temperature drops considerably below freezing.

Wood frogs also accumulate the chemical urea in their tissues when they are subjected to dry conditions, such as those of late fall and early winter.  Urea minimizes the amount of water that is lost through the skin.  It seems to be an even more effective cryoprotectant than glucose and also has a depressant effect on the frog’s metabolism.  Both glucose and urea seem to stabilize cell structures and protect them from being damaged by freezing, although no one yet knows how this works.

When the temperature warms, the frog begins to defrost in the opposite direction that it froze: that is, from the inside out.  It is in the center of the frog that blood last circulated and the glucose concentration is highest, and therefore where the melting point is lowest.  The heart, which had been encased in ice, begins beating again; the shrunken vital organs and muscles rehydrate and resume functioning after a few hours.  If it is spring, and not just a brief thaw (and the frogs seem to know which is which), they will mate just a few days later.  Their resurrection is perfectly timed: the warmer weather brings rain to fill the vernal pools in which they will lay their eggs.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Wesley in the West

Photo: Bill Hecht

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