Posts filed under ‘Bog’

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Finger Lakes Summer

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Small footprint — big impact. That’s what you could say about Dorothy McIlroy’s life and the 198 acres of land purchased by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, in her name, at the southern end of Lake Como. Dorothy McIlroy was a professional birder, playing a significant role in the early days of the Cornell Ornithology Lab. Her children wanted to create a bird sanctuary in her memory. When I visited I could see that there is a LOT more than just birds enjoying sanctuary.

Finger Lakes Summer

Trail is well-marked. When visiting in spring and fall, boots might be in order.

This was my opportunity to hike a “fen.” I have  bogged and swamped, and marshed, but can’t say that I have had the opportunity to explore a fen — until now.

Finger Lakes Summer

It’s only fenny ’til someone gets hurt

So what is a fen?  — according to Squidoo, “Similar to bogs, but not the same ecosystem.

  • Fens are freshwater cold region wetlands that receive their water from rivers, streams, and springs as well as rain.
  • Fens vary from mildly acidic to alkaline.
  • Fens are often found alongside bogs, but have more diverse flora and fauna.”
Finger Lakes Summer

beaver biography

That definition is clear as mud — which you’ll tramp through a lot of — regardless. According to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, “The most unusual aspect of this preserve is the variety of plant life. Rich shrub fen, peat swamp and forest thrive on either side of Falls Creek. The limestone bedrock of the creek favors fen development — the surrounding northern-type peat swamp forest makes this site exceptional. A number of plants that are uncommon or rare in our region are found at the preserve. Many species are on the State protected list.”

Finger Lakes Summer

This guy was hiking the same path as me.

How do you find this precious gem? The easiest way is to look at the map of protected lands on the FLLT web site. I drove south on 41A, past Bear Swamp, until I could take Lake Como Rd. The Lake is VERY small, so it’s easy to miss Fire Lane A with the tiny sign, as soon as you run out of lake. The Fire Lane can get very muddy, so you may want to park on the lake road and hike in to the sanctuary entrance.

Finger Lakes Summer

Why you should stay on the trail

Because there are so many varieties of plants and animals its best to stay on the trails —otherwise someone might give you the snake eye!

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Trail Map

Beware:  The McIlroy Bird Sanctuary will be closed to the public during early and late bow (archery) deer season.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust has since added 86 acres of wetlands and uplands to the Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary, expanding the Summerhill haven to span 250 total acres.

The Ithaca-based conservation organization said the additional land — acquired as part of the state’s Open Space Plan using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program —  joins two existing portions of the McIlroy sanctuary and stretches the borders to include land along Lake Como and Peth roads.


August 19, 2012 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

Bergen Swamp — Finger Lakes Time Travel

Finger Lakes Summer

Aliens pop up their heads to view the wooded trail

A hike in Bergen Swamp is like taking a trip back 400 million years! This delicate environment of alkaline and acid soils, favors a diversity of plants uncommon in the area.

Finger Lakes Summer

Bergen Swamp contains 2,000 acres of primeval marshland located in the town of Bergen New York, and was the first site to be designated a Natural National Landmark, but has been protected by the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society since 1935.

Finger Lakes Summer

Finger Lakes Summer

Finger Lakes Summer

May Apples

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Orchard at the trail head

Finger Lakes Summer

It's not easy being green in the middle of an acid bog.

There is a huge variety of species that call the swamp home. On my hike I saw, Dog Tooth Violets, May Apples, Trillium, Marsh Marigold, Cinnamon Ferns, Swamp Cabbage, Beech Trees, and other friendly forest dwellers

I was happy to miss the Rattlesnakes, Queen Snakes, Black Rat Snakes, Ribbon Snakes, and Green Snakes … do you see a theme here?

It is important to remember that it is always wet here, so wear boots. I was in Wellingtons and I still went over the tops in a couple of sink holes right on the path.

Finger Lakes Summer

See the red flags? Those are your trail markers

Stay on trails. This is a dense forest and it is easy to get lost. Remember that list of snakes I mentioned above. Plus there is the danger of sinking into the bog, as the swampy soil reminded me of the stuff that swallows up bad guys in the movies.

Finger Lakes Summer

This is where you do not want to hike — sink holes


April 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

Zurich Bog — Nature on Acid

Finger lakes Summer

Parade of fall colors in a peat bog

Upstate New York shows off its incredible natural diversity via Zurich Bog. The bog is protected as part of  the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society. It is located between Newark and Sodus New York, just east of Brantling Ski Slope.

In fall the surface of the bog turns brilliantly red as the normally green peat that acts as a carpet over the surface of the bog dramatically changes color and provides a startling contrast to the surrounding beech-filled woods.

Acid bogs are formed when a type of moss called sphagnum (or peat moss) grows over the surface of a pond. Sphagnum actually changes its environment to be less hospitable to other species. A well-established colony of sphagnum moss can lower the pH of its host lake to around 3.5.

Finger lakes Summer

Carnivorous Pitcher Plants thrive in an acid bog

This, of course, makes the bog inhospitable to more neutral pH plants, and whole new species have evolved just to fit into the ecosystem that sphagnum creates. One particularly cool adaptation is carnivorous. Brilliantly colorful and exotic looking Pitcher Plants capture insects in order to obtain the nutrients that are missing in their acidic diet.

Finger lakes Summer

Safe passage through the bog

Generally, the sphagnum grows inward from the edges of the pond, swelling as it takes in up to twenty times its dry weight in water and forming a raised mat. At some point, this mat stops being directly connected to the bottom, and if you’re walking out onto the bog, you’re literally being held up only by floating sphagnum.

Out on the bog it feels like you are walking on a water-bed. The signs at the entrance do not recommend you walk through the bog, off the planked trail, in order to protect the delicate bog and to keep you safe and dry.

Cold enough for ice cubes in the pitcher

The diversities of an acid bog and the surrounding hilly woods create a spring carpet of wildflowers. Zurich Bog  encourages wildflowers that are predominantly found in the Adirondacks. The Beech/Maple drumlins have a soil that encourages diverse woodland wildflowers April – June.

I have listed the names of some of the flowers and plants that grow in the bog and surrounding woods because they have such great names:

Spring Beauty, Lady Slipper, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Bloodroot, Christmas fern, Trillium, Trout Lilies,  May Apples, Jack in the Pulpit, Dutchman’s Breeches, Squirrel Corn, Marsh Marigolds, Hepatica, Cinnamon Fern, Royal Fern, Sensitive Fern.

Finger lakes Summer

Beech trees surround the bog providing a stark color contrast

Trail map

November 12, 2011 at 6:00 am 1 comment

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