Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Pulled over for a little bird watching on the way home-a bald eagle having a snack in the field off 96B (or as my husband likes to call it, the Ithaca-Owego turnpike). My neighbor told me one landed in his yard one year, and we’ve certainly seen them soaring overhead here in Danby NY.

Not the worlds best shot (still prefer my DSLR to my iPhone), but you can see the classic American Eagle profile above the large pile of carrion. (Say what you will about that).

  • In 1976 there was only one pair of bald eagles nesting in New York. Conservation efforts have increased that number to 389 territories in 2015.
  • Bald eagles mate for life – which can be over 30 years.
  • Nests are reused and added to each year, growing to over six feet across, eight feet deep, and weighing hundreds of pounds.
  • An eagle’s 2-inch-long talons can exert 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
    (Factoids c/o the NYS DEC)

Museum of the Earth


The Museum of the Earth (formerly and more substantially known as The Paleontological Research Institute) had a botanical drawing exhibit by Tim AngelI I very much wanted to see, and it did not disappoint.
Tim Angell Tim Angell
I once took drawing classes from the scientific illustrator Bente King, and I really loved the results I got. That much focused attention to detail for as long as drawings like that take is hard for me to stick to without outside support, but I have managed to go to that timeless place occasionally as I drew since, and I hope to do so again. If I managed to do it then with two little kids working along side me (they had great results,too!), maybe I will yet.

After viewing the art, we did the rest of the museum. I am continually fascinated by the geology of New York, so I spent a good part of the time trying to take in the pattern of forces that shaped it. I could have spent equally as long in the Arctic exhibit. Even a small museum has too much for my brain to hold… I think a coffee shop is in order, so I can spend the day there!

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Edwards Lake Cliffs


Today we took a short walk through one of Cornell’s natural areas- the Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve. Unfortunately, despite both the excellent kiosk map and trail blazes, Edwards mapwe managed to wander off course and miss the waterfall, not to mention the limestone cliff and lake view. Here’s some photos straight from the Plantations website, with the views we missed:

Still, it was a great walk, and a great job by the Natural Areas steward and Cornell staff that Edwards Lake Cliff Preserve 42.522°N  76.509°Ware maintaining it. There were plenty of invasives -to be expected, considering the neighborhood- but also flora and fauna of other sorts. We surprised a grouse, didn’t surprise what might have been an eastern black swallowtail, and, it being a bit early for wildflowers, identified some interesting trees.
Now to suss out what we were looking at.
First off, we were north of Ithaca, near the east shore of Cayuga Lake.  My Guide to Plant Communities tells me that if there are Juniperus virginiana (red cedars), and there Edwards Lake Cliff Preserve 42.522°N  76.509°Wwere, it’s either a dry upland or post-agricultural forest. We also spotted shagbark hickory,ashes,red & white oak (another dry upland tree) and bitternut hickory. Both juniper and oak are more likely to be present in high lime areas like Edwards Cliff. Interestingly, abandoned farm fields with limestone bedrock are also a favored habitat of swallow-wort, which we can testify is rife in the area. Mostly we were on a hilltop, on the south side of Gulf Creek facing north, and we definitely passed through post-agricultural fields.
How close did I get to understanding what I was seeing? Here’s what the Plantations has to say:
This 84-acre preserve protects one of the rarest environments in the local region – the lake cliffs.  Besides the lake cliffs, the other salient natural feature of the preserve is the gorge called Shurger Glen, cut by Gulf Creek, which, confusingly, gives rise to Portland Point.  This is a forested ravine and winding gorge with breathtaking waterfalls, scenic views and rare species.  Additionally, there are old fields, shrub thickets and successional forests all with a history of agricultural use.  There is old forest on and upslope of the lake cliffs.