Everything is faster now than it used to be, so we don't look at things the same way as people used to. The lake, now known for recreation, expensive homes, and battles against weeds, used to be known as a waterway connection for boats to get to the Allegheny River. The lake provided an opportunity for a shortcut from the Lake Erie to the river. Later, people had to ride around it to get to the other side or take the ferry across the middle. Now, it takes very little to zoom around the lake.
My mom, however, can recall a time when the family packed into a car and took an entire day to drive around the lake from Erie. They stopped for apples at the apple orchards, watched the steamboats and slowly made their way around the lake. For them, it was more of an obstacle to get around.
Everything in life is sort of like that. Something that is an obstacle for one person is an opportunity for another. Chautauqua lake is the same way. For some animals, the lake is an obstacle. For others, it is an opportunity. For people, that makes the lake a great place to watch animals.
A male Monarch butterfly rests in a park in North Warren.
Right now, I'm really into Monarch butterflies and migration. Chautauqua Lake provides an obstacle for the butterflies. While they can, and do, fly over the lake, they also fly down either side of the lake. Sometimes they collect in large numbers at night in certain spots.
I've heard several different tales from the areas north of Bemus Point of butterflies gathering in large numbers on the branch of a tree overnight. I've not been fortunate to see it, but Monarch butterflies do sometimes get funneled together by lakes as they migrate and end up all roosting together.
When they do that, they end up looking like living leaves along a tree, rustling and moving. Monarchs are starting to migrate, so start looking for large numbers along the lake shore, both along Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie.
Other animals also find the lake to be an obstacle. Deer and foxes come up to the shore and rarely go further. Coyotes and raccoons and skunks will lurk along the edge, but seldom cross the wide expanse of water.
Other animals look to the lake as an opportunity. Migrating bats will swoop over the edges of the lake and gather insects to eat. Migrating sandpipers and shorebirds lurk along the edges of the lake. Migrating ducks and geese and loons start filling the lake in the fall.
Most things in life are that way. An opportunity for one is an obstacle for another. Some people view the lake in the same way. It can be a hassle to work out the details of managing and maintaining such a large expanse of water that is affected by so many things, but the opportunities for the people of the county and visitors from surrounding areas makes the opportunities created by the lake almost endless as long as we take care of it.
The CWC seeks to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore Forest this fall. It will hold a tour of this proposed preserve on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. and a paddling tour at the new CWC Cassadaga Lake Preserve on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 10 a.m. For tour details or to help fund these projects call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org. The mission of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local, private, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) whose mission is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. CWC addresses the root causes of poor water quality conditions in our lakes and watersheds. Its education, pollution prevention and watershed conservation work is funded primarily by membership donations. It has led efforts conserving 685 acres of important watershed lands over the last 20 years. To join or for more information, please call 664-2166.