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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

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 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.

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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.

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June 2, 2015 - 4:51pm

Press release:

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge will offer for bid 139 acres of grassland hay in five different fields ranging in size from 58 to 81 acres. The refuge annually provides a total of 1,400 acres of grassland habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. Active management of these grasslands is necessary to provide the highest quality nesting and migration habitat. The refuge haying program helps in this management process by reducing encroachment of broad leaf weeds and shrubs.

Hay will be allocated on a highest bid per field basis for each field. Sealed bids will be accepted until 12 p.m., July 2. An official Bid Sheet, available from the refuge headquarters, is required to make a bid. Completed Bid Sheets can be mailed to, or dropped off at the refuge headquarters at 1101 Casey Road, Basom, NY 14013 and must contain all the information requested.

If you have any questions about the haying program or would like to see the fields, please call Madeline Prush at 585-948-5445, ext. 7036.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is located midway between Rochester and Buffalo, and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

March 19, 2015 - 2:49pm
posted by Billie Owens in hunting, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Press release:

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Genesee and Orleans counties is accepting applications for Spring turkey hunting. The refuge uses a random drawing to fill the 75 turkey hunting permits available.

Hunters may apply for a permit for one of two season sessions. Session 1 runs from May 1 through May 15 and 50 permits will be issued for this session. Session 2 runs from May 16 through May 31 and 25 permits will be issued for this session.

To be entered in the drawing, interested hunters must obtain a Big/Upland Game Hunt Application form (Form 3-2356).Applications can be requested in person, by phone, mail or by e-mail at [email protected]

A PDF version of the application form may also be printed from our Web site:

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/iroquois

Click on the link under “Visitor Activities." Applications, along with a $5 non-refundable processing fee, must be received by 4 p.m., March 31, 2015.

Please refer to our Turkey Hunting Fact Sheet, available at the refuge office or on our Web site, for additional information.

Please contact refuge staff at 585-948-5445, ext. 7036, for further information.

Iroquois NWR is located midway between Buffalo and Rochester and is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Individuals with disabilities and any other person who may need special assistance to participate in this program should contact the Refuge at 585/948-5445 or at the Federal Relay No.  1-800-877-8339.

December 24, 2013 - 8:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alabama, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

When Colin Phillips returned to his Vermont home, he thought about how well his Muck Boots performed while he was stranded in the middle of a frozen swamp on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

He thought about one of the firefighters who helped rescue him. That firefighter didn't have Muck Boots. His boots leaked. They filled with water. He was in danger of frostbite. That firefighter was airlifted out of the swamp before Phillips. The rescuer was rescued first.

So Phillips sent a letter to the Muck Boot Company and suggested maybe they could send a pair of Muck Boots, perhaps for free, to this firefighter.

Last night, that firefighter, Ryan Thompson, along with every other member of the Alabama Volunteer Fire Department, received a free pair of Muck Boots, courtesy the Muck Boot Company.

Phillips drove in from Vermont to help hand out the boots.

"I wanted to show my appreciation," Phillips said. "A lot of people, get rescued and you never hear from them again. I wanted these guys to know I appreciate the small town kind of life and how people are out here."

Alabama Chief Gary Patnode said the media recognition and the gift are a great morale boost for members of his department. It's nice, he said, to have their volunteer efforts recognized.

"Typically, since we're a non-transporting agency, we load somebody in the back of an ambulance and that's the last time we see them," Patnode said. "Unless (the patient) is related to one of the members, we don't get any kind of follow-up.

"This is a good thanks for what we do," Patnode said.

Previously:

Thompson and Phillips

As soon as Thompson got his new boots, he put them on. "I'm sleeping in them," he said.

November 25, 2013 - 1:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alabama, hunting, outdoors, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

At 4:38 p.m., Bill Schutt, Alabama fire's assistant chief, is reminded the sun sets in three minutes.

"That's what I'm worried about," he says. "It's not just light. It gets colder."

His chief is out on an island in the midst of frigid water with a hunter who became stranded in the swamps of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge on a day when temperatures dipped into the teens. One firefighter, who was with the chief, is at risk of frostbite after his boots filled with water while trying to reach the hunter.

It's too risky for the firefighters to walk out, even though they've located the hunter and he's in good health.

The hunter called for help at 2:30 in the afternoon. He started hunting at 12:30. He called for help, he said later, having spent an hour in the icy waters of the swamp tracking a deer he'd shot.

"At first the water wasn't too deep," said Colin Phillips, here from Vermont to hunt. "I was hopping from island to island out there and then it started getting deeper and deeper and I'm breaking through the ice. Finally, I reached an island and went about 50 yards and I couldn't go any further. I was exhausted."

His hands were freezing because he didn't have any gloves, but was otherwise appropriately dressed for the conditions. It was so cold that after his gun got wet it jammed with ice. He couldn't even fire a shot to alert rescuers to his location.

He was found with the help of a State Police helicopter and good tracking by Alabama Chief Gary Patnode.

As sunset neared, a hovercraft from Clarence Center returned from its crew's effort to reach the stranded hunter and the two firefighters. 

The sticks and logs popped nearly ever single floatation tube from around the boat. 

One of the crew members said that when they were about halfway to the location, the boat's stern took a nosedive into the water and that's when most of the damage was done.

The crew decided to be safe and make its way back to the shore.

"We realized, it's just a machine," he said. "It can be repaired."

As the sun's light wanes outside the command center, Jim Bouton, a coordinator with the Office of Emergency Management, learns that the weather had cleared enough for the State Police helicopter to return to the scene.

The helicopter isn't really equipped to hoist people from the ground, so the plan is for the chopper to hover right on top of the ice and pull one person at a time into the craft.

Bouton relays the plan to Schutt and looks skeptical.

"We need a plan C," he says.

A little later, scene commanders learn the helicopter from the Erie County Sheriff's Office will attempt the rescue. The two-man crew can deploy a hoist.

"I'm usually the type to remain calm and I was confident enough in our resources and our fire companies that I knew we were eventually going to get out," Patnode said after he returned safely to Casey Road. "We were already working on plans B, C and D."

When the rescue effort first started, Schutt noted, it seemed straightforward enough. Dispatchers were able to provide coordinates of the stranded hunter and he wasn't too difficult to find.

But getting him out safely proved to be harder than expected.

"The amount of water they had to go through, lightly frozen over, was the problem the hunter ran into in the first place," Schutt said. "Our firefighters could not have safely gotten back because they would have had to walk back through the water."

Alabama firefighters have all recently been through wilderness rescue training and Patnode had Thompson carrying a backpack equipped with what rescuers would need in a wilderness situation.

Except for a kit to start a fire.

"If I could have started a fire, I would have," Patnode said.

The idea of a nighttime rescue in the wilderness certainly carried an innate sense of risk.

"Any time you have a helicopter operating in the dark close to trees and people, it's definitely an elevated level of danger," said Andy Merkle, who worked the scene during most of the incident as operations manager.

His job was to keep an track of all the people and resources going in so they could be accounted for coming out.

"We want to make sure we don't come up with any more victims," Merkle said.

The first person rescued was Ryan Thompson, the firefighter with the cold feet. He was fine and was out walking around after a few minutes of rehab in an ambulance.

Thompson expressed nothing but confidence in his chief and his fellow firefighters. He said he never felt like it was a desperate situation.

"I knew it was our job and they would get us out some how," Thompson said.

Phillips was the next one brought back to the command post on Casey Road.

Upon his return, the demeanor of his brother and a friend who had been pacing the road for more than two hours went from fretful to joyous.

"You go from being absolutely terrified to utter rejoicing in the matter of two hours," said friend Matthew Laflair.

Laflair had some familiarity with the swamp area and knew what firefighters were up against.

"I know how tough it is to get back there, so to see the effort is good," Laflair said. "It's impressive to see a helicopter pulling some people out of here."

Patnode was the third person airlifted out of the swamp. He was also impressed by the effort of the Erie County pilot.

"I think he went above and beyond," Patnode said. "Maybe he went out of his comfort zone doing a night rescue like that, but he got the job done."

There were two other members of the Alabama team who got stranded in the woods. They were brought out by members of the Clarence Center Fire Department who were dressed in cold-water rescue suits.

In all, volunteers from fire departments in Genesee, Orleans, Erie and Niagara counties assisted in the rescue of Phillips.

"I owe them my life," Phillps said. "If they didn't come out and get me, I'd be dead tonight. I appreciate every second of it. They're great people."

Patnode, Thompson, Schutt, all said, "this is what we do."

So what can we say about that?

"I think you say 'Thank you,' " Schutt said. "I don't know what more you can say than that.

"These guys are out here, no paycheck," Schutt added. "They've been out here in the cold for hours, but it's something you do for your community. When you're part of a volunteer fire department, somebody calls for help, you go help. It's not something you complain about. None of these guys are going to complain about being out here cold and away from home for hours."

The initial post on this incident by Billie Owens contains a lot of details in chronological order of how the rescue went down. If you haven't read it, read it.

Bill Schutt, communicating with dispatchers early in the incident.

Patnode, center of the picture, after being airlifted from the swamp.

Top photo, Colin Phillips escorted to an ambulance after being rescued.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

August 15, 2013 - 10:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alabama, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Egrets, I find, are very tough birds to photograph. I've tried dozens of times both at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and at the Batavia Sewer Treatment Plant. You really need a longer lens than I own (and probably can never realistically expect to own) because they spook so easily. This shot was the last one in a series taken yesterday at the refuge just before the bird flew off, and the only one that was in focus.

Heading back to Batavia, I stopped for the photo below of a lone pine tree on a hill off Route 77 in Alabama.

October 12, 2012 - 2:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, Alabama, outdoors, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, nature.

'

One thing I haven't spent enough time doing is exploring the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge -- what a great resource for Genesee County.

Prior to the public hearing in Alabama Thursday night, I headed out to the refuge a few hours ahead of time with the specific idea of going to a part of the park I'd seen previously and thought was quite scenic. It's actually in Orleans County, but hey, most of the refuge in in Genesee County. I believe the area is called Ridgeneck Ringneck Marsh. It's off Oak Orchard Ridge Road, which is in the northern part of the refuge.

Here are the pictures I took.

BTW: Not that any of these pictures are worthy of entry, but entries are being accepted now for the Friends of Iroquois NWR photo contest. The deadline is Sept. 1, 2013.

'

October 17, 2011 - 10:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, Alabama, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

While driving through the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge yesterday, I came across this damp and dark wooded area and felt, well, compelled to make a picture.

October 17, 2011 - 9:38pm

It's taken more than 160 hours of his own time, and countless hours of help from volunteers, but Christopher Clarke, Indian Falls Boy Scout Troop 6066, has completed the key component of his Eagle Scout project -- a birder blind at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge that is handicapped accessible.

After getting assistance from an engineer to design the structure and help from fellow Boy Scouts and Boy Scout leaders during the construction of the modular blind, Chris supervised installation of the parts Sunday afternoon.

"A lot of people from all over come here, so this is something that is pretty much for everybody," Chris said when asked why he decided to tackle this project.

During waterfoul hunting season -- which opens Saturday -- only hunters with disabilities will be able to make reservations to use the blind, according to the park's assistant manager, Dawn Washington.

After the season ends Nov. 17, photographers -- both those with disabilities and those without -- will be able to reserve the blind.

Only birders with reservations will be allowed in the blind, Washington said, and visitors to the park who happen down Feeder Road are asked not to disturb anybody using the blind. A sign next to the entrance to the blind's walkway asks visitors to respect the solitude of people using the blind.

During the spring and summer, the gated entrance to the road is locked, but park officials will help people with reservations gain access to that portion of the park.

The blind is at the end of a long dock that was installed by Jonathan Hoste and members of Troop 40 from Wrights Corners. The dock was paid for with federal grant money.

Chris, who enjoys hunting and fishing and has taken a few scouting hikes in the park, said when he heard park officials wanted to get a handicapped accessible blind installed at the end of the dock, he decided he would like to help the park with the project.

"It all came along pretty smoothly," Chris said. "We only had a couple of minor changes."

To make reservations to use the blind, call (585) 948-5445.

March 27, 2010 - 7:18am

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According to one staff member of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, The Comprehensive Conservation Plan is a 15 year planning document calling for the layout of habitat management, strategy and public use opportunities, staffing, and infrastructure including buildings in and around Casey Rd. headquarters. The documentation of the plan should be completed by fall.

 One component of the CCP, habitat management, entails “conifer plantation.” Conifer plantation calls for the removal of non-native evergreens as well as some deciduous shrub species. The species targeted for removal are evergreens, including Norway spruce, Scotch pine and Australian pine. Some white pine, a native tree, will also be removed.  The process will be a twofold operation; some trees girdled, others taken by loggers.

The above mentioned tree species will be replaced with eastern hemlocks and a mix of hard wood species. “We are trying to make more of a natural system,” said the staff member.

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