While 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.
Fortunately, 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.
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.