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August 25, 2015 - 9:25am

Press release:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that special permits will be issued for the opening weekend of duck season to hunt waterfowl at two popular state-managed locations. The permit requirement applies to waterfowl hunting at the Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management areas located primarily in Genesee and Niagara counties (with small portions in Orleans and Erie counties). The intent of the special permits is to promote hunter safety and increase the quality of hunting on days when the areas receive the greatest use.

A special permit is required to hunt waterfowl at Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management areas on the duck season’s first Saturday and first Sunday. These days are the only times the special permits are needed. Waterfowl may be hunted without a special permit during the rest of the season. The permit system has been used successfully at both wildlife management areas in recent years. No special permits are required to hunt other game species at Oak Orchard or Tonawanda Wildlife Management areas.

DEC has announced tentative 2015-2016 duck hunting season dates. Western New York’s tentative opening day/weekend dates for duck hunting are Oct. 24 and 25. This year goose season will be open during the opening weekend of duck season, and goose hunters are also required to obtain the special permit. These dates will not be finalized until the federal regulations are adopted in late summer. Hunters are advised to confirm the final dates before hunting any waterfowl.

Opening weekend waterfowl hunting permits for the two wildlife management areas will be distributed by a random lottery. For each of the two days, DEC will issue 100 permits for Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area and 50 permits for Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. Hunters must choose from four options: Oak Orchard first Saturday; Oak Orchard first Sunday; Tonawanda first Saturday; and Tonawanda first Sunday.

To apply for the lottery, hunters must send in a postcard with their name, address and their first three choices, in order of preference, clearly indicated. Applicants must also have completed a Waterfowl Identification Course, and their course certificate number must be indicated on the postcard.

Applications will be accepted through Sept. 15 and must be mailed to the New York State Bureau of Wildlife, 1101 Casey Road, Box B, Basom, NY 14013. Each permittee will be allowed to bring one companion over the age of 18 and an additional companion 18 years old or younger.

Duplicate permits will not be issued to hunters who have already been issued a permit to hunt on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Any cards submitted by hunters who have been selected to hunt on Iroquois on the first Saturday will be excluded from the lottery for that day at both Oak Orchard and Tonawanda.

Issued permits are nontransferable and are not valid for companion(s) unless the permittee is present and hunting within 50 yards. The permittee is responsible for completing and returning the questionnaire portion of the permit to the New York State Bureau of Wildlife by Nov. 15. If the completed questionnaire is not received by Nov. 15, the permittee will be ineligible for next year's (2016) lottery.

NYSDEC is also currently planning the annual Waterfowl Information meeting, which is held at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters on Casey Road in Alabama, Genesee County. This year the meeting will take place on the evening of Sept. 2 from 7 – 9 p.m. Wildlife biologists from Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and NYSDEC will discuss items of interest to waterfowl hunters in an informational and interactive forum.

Topics to be covered include:

--    Highlights of waterfowl management and research programs at Iroquois NWR, Tonawanda, Oak Orchard and Braddock Bay Wildlife Management areas, including drawdown schedules and hunt program news;

-    Regional and statewide waterfowl news and updates, including waterfowl banding results;

-    Atlantic Flyway news, including Avian Influenza update, and waterfowl population status surveys; and,

-    Tentative NY 2015-16 duck and goose hunting seasons.


From the NYS Thruway, take Exit 48A (Pembroke) and travel north on Route 77 to Alabama Center. Continue north on Route 63 for approximately 1 mile, turn left on Casey Road. The office is about a mile down the road on the right.

August 13, 2015 - 9:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Park, outdoors, sports, hunting.

Press release:

Genesee County Parks Deer Management Permit Applications will be accepted for the Archery Hunting Program at the Genesee County Park & Forest beginning Aug. 17 through Sept. 11.

The Deer Management Program Terms & Conditions packet (including permit) can be downloaded from the Genesee County Parks Web site at or picked up at the Park office located at 153 Cedar St., Batavia, between the hours of 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday.

The permit is a non-refundable $25 fee (check or money order due with permit application). Check or money order must be written out to the GENESEE COUNTY TREASURER and must accompany the permit when submitted. A copy of your NYS DEC License is required to be submitted with the permit application also. Applications will not be accepted after Sept. 11.

A lottery drawing will be held on Sept. 15 where permits and vehicle tags will be administered at a mandatory information meeting held on Oct. 3. The Deer Management Program is a four-week program that runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 15. Genesee County residents, including youth, and disabled veterans will be given priority over nonresident applications.

A Genesee County Parks Deer Management issued permit is required to legally archery or crossbow hunt at the Genesee County Park & Forest. Hunters must possess a valid NYS DEC big game license and respective deer tags before applying for a Genesee County Parks Deer Archery Hunting Permit. Crossbow hunters must ALSO possess a valid muzzleloader hunting privilege as defined by the NYS DEC along with respective deer tags.

The Genesee County Parks Deer Management Permit is specific to the hunter, and may not be used by or assigned to any other individual. Genesee County reserves the right to revoke this permit at any time.

For more information, please visit the Genesee County Parks Web site at or contact Paul Osborn via e-mail at [email protected] or call (585) 344-8508.

August 3, 2015 - 9:21am
posted by JIM NIGRO in nature, outdoors, full moon, sunrise, Tonawanda Creek.

There's plenty to be said for rising early. In the above photo, rays of sunlight permeate our yard as the sun begins its ascent.

The calm of early morning provides a mirror image on a placid surface.

Mist rises from a stretch of Tonawanda Creek. Regardless the time of day, this is always a nice spot to take photos as little light penetrates the treetop canopy.

Gathering clouds have a filtering effect and cast a pale-orange glow on the horizon.

The full moon looms large immediately after rising...........

but not until the full moon climbs high in the night sky are we bathed in soft lunar light and moon shadows.

July 10, 2015 - 9:11am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, chipmunks, garter snake.

Murph and Charlie were on their way to dig tunnels in the flower bed when Murph spotted trouble approaching from the rough growth at the edge of the yard. "Uh-oh -- look who's back," he said. "Do ya think two of us can handle 'im?" asked Charlie. "No way -- he didn't get that big eatin' just bugs," Murph said.

Slinking through the rough that bordered the lawn was a slithering nemesis who had time and again menaced the local chipmunks. Having spotted his potential quarry, the sinister creature mused to himself, "Isthmus be my lucky day! Little fur balls! Boy oh boy! This should be a piece of cake!"

"Listen," whispered Murph to Charlie, "we're gonna need help. Go fetch the Muldoon brothers -- they always enjoy a good scrap -- and be quick about it."

"Hey Seamus, Rory, we need your help -- the snake is back!" As expected, the Muldoon bros pledged their support, no questions asked.

"Count us in" chorused the Frawley clan, sensing the excitement and eager to join the fray.

With reinforcements on the way, Murph is temporarily on his own when he comes face to face with the adversary.......

"Hello there, my little furry and tasty friend.......why don't you come a little closer, hmmm?" No sooner had the sinister menace lisped those words when he heard approaching movement in the grass.

Raising his head to better scope out the situation, the slithering reptilian suddenly sees the potential for a one-sided melee, and the odds are no longer in his favor.

Subtle, stealthful, and none too foolish, the serpent retreats to the rough from whence he came. As for the chipmunks, they went happily about their business of once again making holes in the lawn and flower bed.

July 3, 2015 - 8:32am

Whether one views them as weeds or wildflowers, they are colorful nonetheless and for the past month or more they have pleasantly tinted the roadsides of Genesee County. The red clover pictured above was one of the more prolific plants springing up along country roads, in some cases clusters of the red bud could be measured in acres. Said to be a good source of vitamin C, chromium, magnesium, niacin, potassium and more, fresh buds are great in a salad, while dried they are used to make tea. 

Daisy fleabane -- when dried -- was once believed to rid a household of fleas.

Canada thistle resembles a miniature version of bull thistle but its bud is not nearly as colorful as the magenta flower of the bull thistle.

Crown vetch interspersed with red clover.

Wood sorrel

July 2, 2015 - 9:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, outdoors.

Press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“I am pleased to announce that today Gov. Cuomo signed my bill (A.4367-A) into law to legalize big game rifle hunting in Genesee County. This is a win for sportsmen who treasure hunting as a right of passage they share with their children and for the families who use hunting to help put food on the table in an effort to combat the costs of living in New York State. I want to thank my colleagues who supported this bill in the Assembly and Senate so it could make its way to the governor’s desk.”

July 2, 2015 - 10:31am

A streak-winged red skimmer rests atop a Rose of Sharon leaf. A couple summers back my grandson Joshua and I came across a large spiderweb with three of these dragonflies wrapped up cocoon-style and set aside for a meal at a later date. Joshua wasn't real happy about that -- he likes dragonflies. Come to think of it, he likes all bugs, period!

This daddy long legs, aka "harvestman," also decided to scour the Rose of Sharon leaves for a meal.

It must have been good hunting -- this green stinkbug wasn't about to pass up a meal. 

A white tail dragonfly rests atop a riprap embankment.

The translucence of a dragonfly's gossamer-like wings is evident on this Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

The wood frog is actually not so much a creature of summer -- he just happened to show up while I was mowing the lawn. Along with the spring peeper, the wood frog is one of the first amphibians to make its presence known in the early spring when it makes its way to vernal pools to procreate.

July 1, 2015 - 10:19am

The Viceroy, pictured above, is nearly identical to the Monarch butterfly. Because the Viceroy so closely resembles the Monarch, which contain a toxin that is poisonous to birds and certain other predators, birds will thus avoid Viceroys...but only if it has previously sampled a Monarch -- otherwise it will readily make a meal of the Viceroy. 

Donning her "summer reds," a doe casts a wary eye in my direction.

Early season larch cones.

This butterfly is called a Question Mark -- honest! Taking nature photos is something Claudia and I enjoy. Identifying a species is satisfying in itself even if it leaves you wondering. I have no idea how the Question Mark got its name.

An Indigo bunting perched in the pines.

The remains of last year's teasel.

June 24, 2015 - 8:30am

When our apple tree blossoms we're assured of seeing a variety of songbirds. Most years see plenty of "return customers," but every so often we're blessed with a "newcomer," like the yellow warbler pictured above.

In past years I've seen the yellow warbler in good numbers while canoeing Oak Orchard Creek where it flows through the Alabama Swamp. This is the first time we've seen them in our yard. And like every other species that shows up in the apple tree, they've come to feed on the insects found in the apple blossoms.

An Indigo bunting probes the blossoms for a meal. 

An oriole samples what's left of the suet.

A rose-breasted grosbeak interrupts the oriole's dinner.

Then there was the unexpected visitor at the feeder who had scaled the shepherd's hook and jumped onto the feeder.

He precariously worked his way downward...note how he's clinging by one paw!

Having settled in, he proceeds to stuff himself.

June 18, 2015 - 2:54pm

Hardly the mental image conjured whenever one hears the word marsh, Ringneck Marsh has greened up considerably in recent weeks.

A young angler tries his luck from the shoreline...........   

while his brother fishes from the dock. Part of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Ringneck Marsh is home to northern pike, largemouth bass and panfish.

A variety of furbearers and birdlife also call Ringneck home. An osprey nest is seen in the above photo ......

and a pair of adults tending to the nests occupants. To give you an idea of how big this stick nest is, an osprey is a large fish-eating bird with a massive wingspan -- perched atop this nest they look pigeon-sized. For much of the morning this pair alternated between visiting the nest and soaring high above the marsh.

Discovery! When the fish failed to cooperate, this young angler took to exploring among the shoreline rocks and was rewarded for his efforts.

These fellas stuck it out a bit longer.....then joined their brother exploring the shoreline and searching for frogs, snakes and aquatic bugs.

Calling it a day!

June 17, 2015 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced that the Assembly has passed a bill to authorize big game rifle hunting in Genesee County. Assembly Bill 4367-A passed the house Monday and passed the Senate earlier this year. Hawley, a longtime proponent of sportsmen and an opponent of the SAFE-Act, introduced the legislation in January.

“As an unwavering supporter of sportsmen and the Second Amendment, I am proud to announce that my legislation has overwhelmingly passed the Assembly and will be sent to the governor for his signature,” Hawley said. “Deer hunting is a mainstay here in Western New York and many families rely on venison as a viable substitute as grocery store meat prices continue to rise. The exhilaration of a young hunter getting his or her first buck cannot be replicated and I am proud to have made that possible.”

June 10, 2015 - 8:55am

This is a what Mohawk Pool looked like when Claudia and I took our first hike at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge this year. It was April and cattails were brown and trees devoid of foliage. 

Later in the day the surface of Mohawk Pool reflected less sky while the early evening sun cast a glow on surrounding flora.

A pair of Canada geese swim slowly past.

Dusk along Feeder Road.  

A towering sycamore stands out in contrast against a blue sky.

A classic mallard photo....irridescent green head as vivid as could be, and a leg band to boot. Bands provide valuable data for wildlife biologists. Nice photo, Claudia!

A great blue heron stalking its next meal.

Companions for life.

June 6, 2015 - 9:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama, outdoors.


Five-year-old Ryan is all business as he waits for the start of this morning's youth fishing derby at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. It's the 24th year for the event. This year, as of 8:10 a.m., 30 children had signed up.

Ryan is with is dad, Dave, and brother, David, 7. The family lives in Alabama.



June 4, 2015 - 10:47am

This photo of black-crowned night heron was taken by Claudia along the Feeder Ditch on the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area. The Tonawanda WMA borders the western perimeter of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge while Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area lies to the east. Together they compromise more than 19,000 acres of wildlife habitat that beckons to the springtime outdoor enthusiast, be it hiking, bird watching or nature photography. And so it was that Claudia and I spent several days this spring partaking of all three activities at the three locations.   

Our takeoff point for Tonawanda WMA -- facing west on the Feeder ditch.

The black-crowned night heron was hidden from our view by tall reeds as it stalked the shallows. Finally aware of our presence it made quite ruckus as it took flight, emitting several loud guttural squawks, literally one after the other.

Hard to say who was more startled, my wife and I or the heron. Anyway, as disturbed as it seemed to be, we were surprised when the heron alit in a tree and allowed us to take its picture.

It's that time of year when female turtles are making their annual trek to deposit eggs. This gal doesn't look so pleased with the delay, does she?

I really enjoy wild mustard greens and having come across an abundance of it atop one of the berms, the day's hike turned out to be a bit longer than planned.

A great blue heron perched atop wood duck nesting box

A great blue heron perched in the tree tops.....saw more blue herons on this day than ever before, most of which were on the wing.

A gust of wind reveals a red-winged blackbird's scarpular

To be sure, there is quite a history behind what the locals refer to as, "the Feeder Ditch."

May 28, 2015 - 3:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors.

Press release:

A bill, S.1292, to allow the use of rifles for big-game hunting in Genesee County has passed the State Senate by a vote of 52 to 4. State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer is the bill’s author and sponsor in the State Senate.

“In several areas of New York State, sportsmen are allowed to hunt deer with rifles, and this change in law would allow the use of rifles in Genesee County,” Ranzenhofer said.  “I am pleased to report that the bill has passed the State Senate, and I am hopeful that the State Assembly will pass it before session ends next month.”

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs requested the special legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Existing environmental conservation law only authorizes the use of pistols, shotguns, crossbows, muzzle-loading firearms or long bows when hunting deer from the first Saturday after Nov. 15 through the first Sunday after Dec. 7. 

The bill has been sent to the State Assembly. Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly. If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

May 28, 2015 - 11:41am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, yellowlegs, sandhill crane, Iroquois NWR.

Hard to say for certain whether this yellowlegs is of the "greater" or "lesser" variety. Both are quite similar in appearance and, as you might have guessed, the long bill is perhaps the first thing you notice about this migrating shorebird -- at least in this photo. 

This photo plainly shows how the yellowlegs got its name... and those legs come in handy for stalking small fish in the shoreline shallows.

The yellowlegs' long bill also proves useful when seeking a meal.

Here the yellowlegs uses its bill to probe for food, moving it back and forth to stir up the silty bottom and in the process locate snails and other aquatic morsels.

A sandhill crane makes a rare appearance along the Feeder Road at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.  

According to the "Audubon Field Guide to BIrds," there are isolated populations scattered in places like the Rocky Mountains and northern prairies, the majority of sandhill breeding takes place in regions throughout Siberia and across the Canadian arctic.

The mating dance of the sandhill crane is said to be spectacular. A mating pair will face each other and suddenly leap into the air with wings extended and feet thrown forward. Having done that they will then bow to each other and perform an encore. 

April 21, 2015 - 10:27am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, red-tailed hawk & snake.

Seconds before I snapped this photo, the red-tailed hawk pictured above was perched on a tree limb. And that's usually where it's situated whenever I've set foot into its domain. From its lofty vantage point it can detect movement in the goldenrod field, the grassy meadow or the swale.

But no matter where it's perched, whether it be in the big oak tree or an adjacent cottonwood, whenever I enter his hunting ground the red-tail immediately takes wing, giving me a wide berth and soaring high overhead in ever-widening circles that take it in the opposite direction before eventually disappearing over a distant woodlot. 

But on this day it showed no sign of alarm as I approached. Instead of paying me any mind, it seemed preoccupied with a potential meal.

In the blink of an eye the hawk departed its perch and was on the ground  investigating its intended prey. It turned out to be a snake slithering beneath the remains of last year's goldenrod.

The snake is an unwilling participant, making a hard right in its attempt to elude the hawk.

Finally, the red-tail lowers its head to the ground to administer the coup de grace

The snake minus its head is protruding from the left side of the red-tail's razor-sharp bill...

while a smaller portion dangles from the right side.

Apparently even swallowing a dead snake is no cakewalk for a raptor. The red-tail did this several times, twice with its head tilted back and at the time it looked as though it was gargling -- I'm guessing he was giving his dinner a bit of prompting on its way "down the hatch."

April 17, 2015 - 8:57am

Pussy willow, one of the earliest harbingers of springtime and perhaps the most short-lived. Within a couple days the catkins will turn yellow and flowery in appearance.  

Oxbow marsh on Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. A stopover for both migrating and nesting waterfowl.

Phragmite reflections on the surface of a vernal pool. How long the water lasts here depends on the seasonal rainfall. But the creatures whose procreation depends on such a pool are great barometers and get things under way accordingly. Wood frogs, spring peepers and salamanders are among the visitors who come here to breed.

A late afternoon sun illuminates the trees along Oak Orchard creek on a calm spring evening. Though placid-looking, the water level is presently well above normal as is the current.

Pussy willow stands out in contrast against background evergreens.

April 16, 2015 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors, Genesee County Park.

A proposal to allow limited deer hunting this fall in the Genesee County Park won't get the unanimous support of county legislators.

Legislator Mike Davis said during the Ways and Means Committee meeting that he can't support the proposed local law change that will make the hunt possible.

He said he was concerned about the safety of other park users during hunting season.

"If the park were completely closed to all but hunting, then I'm in, but without that I just can't support it," Davis said.

The committee the voted with the one dissenting vote to recommend passage of the local law to the full Legislature.

Davis was recently appointed to the Legislature and represents the Darien and Pembroke areas of the county.

Under terms of the proposal, bow hunting will be confined to 12 zones along the southern border of the park. While the hiking trails will be open, hunters are being told to stay clear of trails and be courteous of others using the park.

Hunters will be selected through a lottery Sept. 15, following a Sept. 11 deadline for applications, which open Aug. 17.

Two zones will be set aside for youth and disabled veterans, and young hunters and disabled veterans will be given priority over hunters from outside Genesee County.

In all, 48 hunters will be selected to receive permits for the four-week season, which runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 15.

April 3, 2015 - 9:09am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature.

It was just about dinner time last Saturday when we received a call telling us about a big flock of snow geese in a Byron field. According to the caller, there were reportedly "at least 200" snow geese out there.

Either the caller underestimated the size of the flock or else we took a wrong turn and came across an even larger gathering of "snows."

It isn't that unusual to see snow geese occasionally in Genesee County. Normally, however, if one wants to view sizeable flocks of "snowies" during spring migration they take a drive down the Thruway to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge or one of the Finger Lakes. But this was an opportunity to view a flock of snow geese close to home.

When we first spotted them they were more than a mile away, yet there was no mistaking the high-pitched chorus of snow geese on the wing. There must have been upwards of 2,000 of them with a smattering of Canada geese along for the ride. The massive flock had taken flight only moments before and from a distance the main concentration appeared as a sold band of brilliant white oscillating above the eastern horizon. 

Whatever the reason for their departure from the Byron location, it was soon apparent they were not yet ready to continue on their migration northward.

Within minutes they were in Elba, and by that time the main flock had dispersed somewhat, breaking up into several small flocks, each of which still numbered in the hundreds. These flocks settled down into fields along Norton and Edgerton roads, as well as fields adjacent Bank Street Road, seeking any leftovers from autumn's corn harvest.

Whether migrating or simply making a temporary change in feeding locations, snow geese call the entire time they are on the wing.

Two thousand geese may seem like a lot, but where snow geese are concerned it's hardly a drop in the bucket. The snow goose migration is one of the longest in terms of time and distance and flocks sometimes number in excess of 50,000.

Fortunately, the snow geese are just passing through and their stopover is sure to be brief since they breed on the open tundra, well above the North American timberline -- and still a considerable way off.




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