Have you attended any Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy walks? They are led by experts, like John Jablonski, executive director of the conservancy; Rebecca Nystrom, board member and professor of biology and Jamestown Community College; and John Rappole, retired ornithologist at the Smithsonian Institution. These people point out wildflowers, birds, trees and other aspects of nature. John Jablonski gave me a personal tour of what will, hopefully, be added to the list of properties owned by the conservancy.
The CWC's mission is to preserve for us and future generations the natural lands and waterways of Chautauqua County. Since so many houses, roads, and businesses have been built around Chautauqua Lake, only 10 percent of the shoreline is presently wild and natural. The streams and wetlands that feed into the lake are filling with sludge. As a result, flooding will occur and the lake's water level will be lowered.
The destination for our walk was a small 3.5-acre piece of land with 210 feet of frontage on Chautauqua Lake. Where? A few feet west of Wells Bay Road.
John Jablonski stands by an ancient tree in the Wells Bay property.
Photo by Ann Beebe
The topography, called pit and mound, consists of areas with different stages of tree decay. Even though the land is very wet, John and I could keep our feet fairly dry by walking on mounds of needles under the hemlocks. Other trees, that call this rectangle-shaped piece of land home, are white pine, cucumber, beech, sugar and red maple, yellow birch, basswood, shagbark hickory, ash, and muscle wood. I love the diversity on such a small piece of property. Some of these trees were very large and old. They are real treasures.
We didn't see or hear many birds, because we walked when John got out of work, about 4:30. Birding is always better early in the morning. However, the ever-present blue jays and crows warned everybody that we were invading their privacy. Young turkeys were fun to see. We knew that pileated woodpeckers lived there. Their long vertical holes were in the dead trees.
Now for the wildflowers. The tallest was the tall meadow rue in seed. We saw the pretty flowers of white wood aster on long stems. Naturally, we saw skunk cabbage. The poison ivy was very pretty climbing the trees. I think that this red flower is one of the prettiest in the fall. Of course, there were lots of touch-me-nots or jewelweed. Did you know that the liquid inside these can be used to ease the itching of poison ivy? I wasn't thrilled with the invasive nightshade. However, it is a native.
Surprisingly, there were not many non-native, or alien, flowers. Unfortunately, these, including Japanese knotweed, and barberry, are very invasive. If the CWC is able to purchase this land, I hope volunteers can remove these plants before they spread too much.
Now, what in John Jablonski's background makes this the perfect job for him? Cornell University provided information on natural resources, with a focus on biology (fisheries). Then, the University of Wisconsin in Madison gave him skills in water resources planning.
He's been with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy ever since its origin in 1990.The conservancy's mission seemed to fit him just like a glove. They want to conserve the watersheds all over the county. I'm glad that they are including French Creek in my area.
Three cheers for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy! Here's hoping that they receive enough donations ($60,000) to prevent the real estate from being developed for residential use. Could you help?