Preserves work in every season


BMAudubonCenterWhile I do enjoy visiting the warm glasshouses of our splendid botanical garden during the winter, the experience can pall. Though it’s lovely to view orchids, bromeliads, succulents, towering palms, and a wide variety of tropical oddities, it can get to be a bit routine. And you’re not getting much of a workout.

birdfeedingstationbehindthevistorscenterFortunately, a non-skiing plant and wildlife lover has plenty of options in the winter—even in Buffalo. A few weeks back, I visited one of six Audubon Society sites that hug the southeastern edges of Western New York. The main site, Beaver Meadow, is in the wonderfully named North Java (pronounced Jaiva, OK?). It has a visitor’s center that is lined with windows in the back, all the better to catch the action around a large group of feeders. Beyond the feeders are wooded trails around a large pond. You can comfortably watch the birds from inside, or go outside and hang quietly—they come right back. Then you can take a walk around the pond and take in the undeniable beauty of the winter landscape.

trailsareopenduringwinter(snowshoesneeded)Other winter go-tos here are Reinstein Woods, a refuge for wildlife and native plants surrounded by suburban developments, and Tifft Nature Preserve, which is designated an Important Bird Area (thanks to the Niagara River and the Great Lakes and our location on migration routes, this whole area is great for birds).

At Beaver Meadow, I saw cardinals, bluejays, goldfinches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, and junkos. Not bad for a cold winter’s day. I don’t miss public gardens in the winter. As long as I am adequately clothed (and maybe equipped with a pair of snowshoes), winter walks offer a sense of adventure you might not get in summer.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Last year I lost 30 bluebirds because of the bitter winter. This occurred across the nation during the winter of 2015. The 2002 ice storm that hit the areas of bluebird migration was devastating to bird populations. My trail still has not completely recovered from that. I fledged over 500 birds in the summer of 2001 and only 100 the next year, 2002.

    There can always be mass die-offs from a bad winter with lot of snow cover. This is why I encourage bird feeding. And, now with the loss of habitat, it is far harder for our native birds to recover than it was a mere 20 years ago.

    One of the most effective strategies for having enough energy from food to stay warm is to not do highly energetic things during the cold season. So, put bird feeders up in different places in your yard. The starlings and cowbirds will fight off smaller birds if there are few feeders. I have feeders in five distinct locations in my yard, all near trees for protection and energy conservation.

    Use a variety of high quality bird food. Shovel ground feeding areas. Offer water.

    Saving one bird from dying can mean hundreds of new birds in a few years. Lose that one bird, and you could lose a lot.

    If you haven’t tried homemade suet, give it a try. You’ll make ’em happy:

  2. Speaking of the importance and beauty of the nation’s refuges and waterways, Scalia’s passing is bigger than big if you love nature.

    “If the Supreme Court were to agree to review the case, Farm Bureau would need five judges — without Scalia — to take their side. If the eight remaining justices split 4-4, the decision last July by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remains in place.”

    The Lawsuit:

    The latest:

  3. **Update**

    We have good news for out waterways and watersheds. Watch this ruling go nationwide:
    (Again, the Scalia passing may have played a role here.)

    William Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a prepared statement that the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case marked an “historic day” for the bay. “Everyone who cares about clean water can breathe easier now that the Supreme Court has let stand the lower court decision that Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is perfectly legal under the federal Clean Water Act.”

    • It sure appears that this is one of the many cases that was most likely going to a 5-4 vote in favor of the Farm Bureau and against the EPA had Scalia been available. It takes the votes of four justices for the court to agree to take a case. With only eight justices remaining on the court for the foreseeable future, it’s possible that the court was reluctant to take on new cases that could split 4-4 along ideological lines.

      So, the corn growers aren’t happy. “The EPA has consistently pushed the legal limits of the Clean Water Act, said Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association.

      Sorry, Chip. I’m feeling good today. It’s Super Tuesday.
      My kind of Super Tuesday:

      (My coworker just got back from a trip to Florida this weekend. She was stunned to see so many manatees.)

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