My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Allegany Nature Pilgrimage

This weekend was the 49th annual Allegany Nature Pilgrimage held here in Allegany State Park. This is my 12th year attending the pilgrimage and my 9th year as a trip leader. This year I was asked to lead two “Old Growth Forest Hikes” into the Big Basin area. I tried to show everyone a few different forest types so that everyone could have a better understanding of how an older growth forest operates. The two groups I took on the walk were wonderful and I had an opportunity to show the old growth forest to 67 different individuals.

Silk Moth Species

Friday evening we went on the “Evening Hike” by our favorite group leader Lon. Some of the critters we found on this hike included an American Toad, Spring Peeper, Bull Frog, Eastern Screech Owl, and a Barred Owl. We always have a blast on his night hike without using any flights (see video below).

My Saturday morning started at 7:00am with another fellow bander, Bob McKinney. Bob has been banding birds at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage for most every pilgrimage that Audubon has ever had. Bob caught so many wonderful birds, like a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, etc.. and even a Waterthrush. While talking to some old friends, guess who I ran into??

bob and bill

Ya, had an opportunity to talk to Bill Thompson 3 Saturday morning and captured this photo of him watching Bob banding an American Goldfinch. Saturday evening Bill Thompson did a wonderful program on the “Perils and Pitfalls of Birding”. I only wish Zick and the whole family could have been able to make the event.

Nature Hike For Kids by Kids

I am very proud of 5 young naturalist who put their minds together as a team and did a nature hike called “Nature for Kids by Kids”. Their first walk had ~11 people and their second walk had ~14 people who attended. We were sitting in the distance watching them working together and teaching many 6-7 year old kids about nature. I can’t even express how proud I am of them!! The kids even had one person come up to their parents in the dinner line to tell them what a wonderful job all of the kids did (Young Naturalists J and MW’s mother came very close to crying when she said that). While banding at the CLDC site this morning, I had to remind Young Naturalist J that he was only 7 when he started banding birds with me and now he is now leading walks at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage for kids that are the same age as him when he started banding.

Poor Wildflowers


I just love the Audubon weekend but there is one thing that gets me very upset every year. This is very hard for me to do, mainly because I try not to rant about things on my blog! I know this has been happening for almost 50 years but why must Audubon continue to encourage people to dig up rare and unique flowers to be used for display??? Ok, yes they do also dig up things like birds-eye speedwells, ect.. but does this still need to be continued after the numerous wildflower walks that are provided? For many years I have seeing flowers like Pink-lady Slippers, White Clintonia and many other very unique flowers/ferns that should not be dug up to be put on display! Yes, the 4 Audubon Societies (who sponsor the ANP) encourage people to do this instead of encouraging those people to be good conservations and protect these plants in their yards (Note, the leaders doing the walks promote this, I am talking about the ANP committee that organize the event)! Technology today has the opportunity to show these flowers through photographs and still allow those to learn what these flowers look like! I saw so many individuals who spent more time watching the wildflower slideshow on the laptop than looking at half dead dug up flowers!! If you are going to dig up flowers, why not do invasive flowers so that everyone knows what flowers they really should be killing?? Ok, done with the ranting but it is still intolerable for an Audubon Society to encourage.

White Clintonia

This White Clintonia is one of many unusual flowers dug up!

This is such a fun weekend seeing so many knowledgeable people sharing our similar interest “nature”. I didn’t list all the walks that I attended but every leader always does such an amazing job with their walks. Many other great blogging friends that I saw included Jen (A Passion for Nature) Jeremy (Dragonfly Eye) and another friend who hasn’t gone public with his blog. Can’t wait to see you all again next year at the 50th anniversary!!

13 responses

  1. Sounds like a great day. It is so rewarding mentoring children. You will always be a hero to them. I cannot believe the wildflower removal is encouraged either! Wild orchids need such a special environment and will seldom survive a transplant.

    3 June 2007 at 8:29 pm

  2. Sounds like a great weekend Tom! I love your moth photo!
    I can imagine how proud you are of the young naturalists! That’s so cool!
    OMG, I can’t breathe, I soooo cannot believe they dig up endangered/rare species of plants, arghhhhhhh, I’m seeing crimson. Of all people you would think the organizers would know better.
    Anyway, glad you had a great time!

    3 June 2007 at 8:43 pm

  3. Oops, I got so torqued about the wildflowers, forgot to comment on your *video* – so how the heck do you see where you’re going without any light. Love the owl!!

    3 June 2007 at 8:47 pm

  4. Sounds like another great hike Tom. I wish I was a naturalist. I hope some of the young naturalists decide to make a career of it.

    I agree with you about pulling up plants.

    3 June 2007 at 9:06 pm

  5. Tom, great video, great photos, great rant. We are all entitled to a good rant and I agree with your reasoning about digging up plants that need to stay where they are.

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time and you should be very proud of those kids. BOTB was a bonus!

    3 June 2007 at 10:07 pm

  6. @ Ruth – don’t get me going on the flowers! Uggg, It is very rewarding seeing these kids learning how to become mentors!
    @ Naturewoman – Wonderful weekend and very proud of them! You would think Audubon would think differently about this practice! You can get a better feeling for the critters in the area once the lights are gone! This is the ONLY WAY to enjoy night hikes!
    @ Barb – was a great weekend and in many ways you are a naturalist when your posting pictures about nature! We all take baby steps and then become more involved in what we teach! These are all great kids and you can be sure they will have nature in their heart for the rest of their life (if they don’t do any science related jobs once they get older).
    @edit, hit enter before finishing Mary – thanks and try not to rant too often! But I agree from time to time its important!

    3 June 2007 at 10:18 pm

  7. Love the opening photo–those wonderful feathery antennae.
    And I am thrilled to see so many young naturalists in the making. Your rant is most necessary–as why have NITs (naturalists in training) if they are not trained well?

    3 June 2007 at 10:56 pm

  8. Love that pic of the kids. That’s the future, and it looks like it will be in good, capable hands.

    I am shocked that people are advised to collect flowers. Yikes. That simply makes no sense, not with the kind of technology we have that makes images of these flowers available to everyone.

    3 June 2007 at 11:51 pm

  9. Sounds like it was a wonderful weekend, and how great that those kids were so involved. :c)

    4 June 2007 at 7:07 am

  10. I had another great year at the pilgrimage. Your old growth walk was really well done. I love it when someone shows me something that really opens up my eyes to whats out there. As for the plants, I guess I had always assumed that they were from peoples wildflower gardens. I didn’t know that they had been dug up. Anyways I completely agree with the fact that a good picture is probably more interesting than a half dead plant any day. I usually breeze through the plants and only stop to see something that I haven’t seen before. It’s interesting, but I would not miss it. I would like to think that the people collecting these plants do it responsibly. A plant may be rare, but could be locally abundant. In this case small amounts of collection probably wouldn’t harm the population, but it certainly gives the wrong impression. You should start a petition to replace it with a wildflower poster board contest. Have them give away a free registration for next year.

    4 June 2007 at 12:49 pm

  11. winterwoman

    I know what you mean about the flowers. Jeff made a powerpoint presentation of wildflowers that runs continuously, hoping that the organizers would find that a nice substitute for live plants. I think he had hoped they would eliminate the live plant display. But instead, they had both.

    There is usually someone from the ANP Committee at our Operations Committee meetings. I will mention to the organizers the feelings expressed here and the ideas – like only putting non-native invasives on display. Perhaps for the 50th, the organizers can find a better way to send a positive environmental message.

    Wish I could have attended your Old Growth walk. Would you do another one if I get a group together?

    4 June 2007 at 2:22 pm

  12. Rob T

    The pilgrimage does not encourage people to pick any plants, the people who bring them have them at there homes in sufficient quantities (pick one plant if you have ten) and then encourage people to take them for there own gardens. We have done this and our garden at home is much better and interesting for this.

    5 June 2007 at 7:03 am

  13. @ KGMom – Thanks and they are wonderful moths! You would have been proud of them also if you seen how wonderful of a job they did! Thanks for your support on my rant! Maybe someday they will get the point across about the importance of conservation!
    @ Robin – thanks and they should have a wonderful head start once they get off to college!
    @ Jayne – was great and we have been trying to focus the teaching part of the talk for many years now! Great to see them finally doing “their” first talks!
    @ Jeremy – Thanks and soo glad you were able to go down their with me ~! Jeremy, some are but the point is more the image that is portrayed doing this is alright! I would have to assume many of us would give some of our pictures to be used instead of digging them up!
    @ Jen – I so know how you guys feel about these flowers being displayed like this and so many people LOVED watching his flower powerpoint show! I know all of your efforts will be helpful!
    @ Rob T – you encourage (meaning that isn’t what always happens) to dig up plants, transported to a new location0, and allow others to plant them in areas that 99.9% of the time will end up dieing because that isn’t their preferred habitat. No wonder so many of our plants in America are threatened, this is what was done in Europe with people bringing plants to America. Tell me, who grows White Clintonia’s in their back yard and where in the heck did they get the flowers in the first place? No, they got dug up from the forest somewhere and brought to the ANP to say, look what I have! Here in Allegany you have to hike up a VERY steep hill, along a very long hill, to get close to these flowers! Are their more than ten plants their, YES but doesn’t mean you should be digging them up! That is CRAP!! Every year I go out after Audubon weekend and every year we have some Pink Lady Slippers dug up (YES, Gone). We ONLY find this done during Audubon weekend and it is PRIMARY because the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage promotes flowers to be dug up if you see more than 10 of them in an area! Sorry but this group needs to promote the conservation of these flowers and you can be sure they will end up dieing once planted at some new home!

    5 June 2007 at 8:21 am

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