Learn more about the migrating critters at a Sept. 9 workshop at Montezum National Wildlife Refuge

During my career as a federal game agent I had a lot of opportunities to band various migratory birds and endangered species. There were many gyrfalcons, peregrines, merlins, American kestrels, other assorted hawks and owls, many dozens of songbird species, and an incredible assortment of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. 

I was even blessed with the chore of banding more than a dozen Andean condors and more than a few turkey vultures. And yes, individuals of both of those species managed to upchuck on my otherwise clean clothes and exposed portions of skin. Yuck! 

Then there were the (dangerous) sandhill and whooping cranes that absolutely did not want to be banded, and had the spear-point bills to back up their objections.

But there is one type of critter I have never banded. Heck, I didn’t even think they could be “banded.” Actually, banding is the wrong descriptive term. They are “tagged,” and then released. 

I’m talking about butterflies, and specifically about Monarch butterflies.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most popular and recognizable butterfly species in North America. It is also one of the most widespread. But it is in big trouble. For the past 20 years, the once-uncountable population has been in severe decline. The reasons for that downward trend can be blamed on habitat loss and fragmentation combined with herbicides that kill the species of milkweed that Monarchs rely on.

To be fair, federal bureaucrats are also blaming global warming. Specifically they state that, “(a) changing climate has intensified weather events which may impact monarch populations. “Intensified weather events?” “May impact monarch populations”? 

To which I will ask the obvious questions, what weather events have intensified, and those weather events also may not have aided in the butterfly decline, especially when their primary wintering habitat has been decimated by clear-cutting all of the roosting trees.

Anyway, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting a Monarch Butterfly Tagging Workshop on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 9 a.m. to noon. This event will begin at the Refuge’s Visitor Center located at 3395 US Route 20 East, Seneca Falls, NY 13148. There is no fee for this program.

The refuge has done its part to help Monarchs. It has designated an area along the Seneca Trail as a “Monarch Waystation.” They have also adjusted their mowing schedule to better promote milkweed growth because monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed. And they are also fortunate to have a Monarch butterfly expert on site each summer as a volunteer.

Participants in this workshop will be able to better understand the importance of conserving Monarch butterflies. But what about the actual tagging? The purpose of that is to better compare the location of capture with the point of recovery for each butterfly. The data from these  retrievals is used to determine the flight patterns utilized by monarchs during their migration, along with other scientific data.

Participants in this workshop will learn how to identify this species and other butterflies that look similar to it. They will also learn about its life cycle, which is fascinating all by itself. And they will learn about the tagging program, and how to net and tag butterflies.

Those individuals will also have the opportunity to head out on the refuge with butterfly experts and employ their newly acquired skills. And there will be a question and answer session back at the Visitor Center before the session ends.

Here is the only catch (no pun intended). Space is limited to 20 participants. To register, you need to call (315) 568-5987.

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Only rarely are the exploits of our DEC Conservation Officer cadre brought into public view. These dedicated men and women work long, often tedious hours for darn little pay, and usually with little recognition from those of us who really care about our outdoor world. Here is a small sample of their efforts.

In the early morning hours of July 17, ECO Matthew Baker received a call from the Hornell Police Department requesting assistance with a black bear within the city limits. He responded and spoke with a Hornell City Police Officer who was standing by and monitoring the bear from about 30 feet away. It was resting under a tree at that time. 

Officer Baker contacted Lt. Matthew Lochner and DEC biologists for assistance with the bear. He determined it would need to be tranquilized to safely remove it from city limits. The ECO  and Hornell PD stood by, keeping the public away from the bear until the biologists arrived. The bear was successfully darted, tagged and weighed (an impressive 340 pounds) before being moved and released at a nearby state forest property.

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On June 25, ECO Pete Jackson responded to a request from Jefferson County 911 for assistance with a water rescue. Two subjects, an 18-year-old male and a 14-year-old male, were missing in the water in the vicinity of Robert Wehle State Park in the town of Henderson. They were last seen swimming near the cliffs along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. 

The ECO responded to that area and found that high winds were creating four-foot waves. Lt. Steve Bartoszewski determined that the 31-foot Safeboat A-3 would need to be deployed based on the weather conditions. ECO Ron Gross joined Lt. Bartoszewski and ECO Jackson to crew the vessel, searching the shoreline of the Stony Point peninsula. They were joined by the United States Coast Guard and the New York State Police. 

The search continued until approximately 9:30 p.m. when it became too dark to continue in the difficult conditions. The search recommenced early the next morning in more favorable weather conditions with gentle winds and no waves. The ECOs searched the shoreline until approximately 12:15 p.m., when ECO Gross spotted one of the subjects submerged in approximately 12 feet of water. The NYSP dive team was close by and within minutes, the bodies of both subjects were recovered.

Tragically, DEC Forest Rangers and ECOs have aided in the search and recovery of several visitors to New York's rivers, streams, and other bodies of water over the past few weeks, many of whom did not have personal flotation devices (PFDs) with them. These visitors were unprepared for waterways made dangerous by recent heavy rains. 

DEC encourages people to use common sense when recreating in swift waters, especially after heavy rains that swell streams and rivers. Places normally safe for swimming or boating can quickly become dangerous after storms. Water is forceful, and even good swimmers have a tough time staying afloat due to turbulence and hydraulics. Visitors to rivers, streams, or any bodies of water should always wear a PFD, even in a tube or other floatation device.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet. net.