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The Buffalo News

January 21, 2007

Nature Spring to Life in Winter
By Christine A. Smyczynski

While most people are likely to go to a nature center during warm weather, it’s usually not the first place you think of to go in the winter. However, all of our region’s nature centers are actually open year-round and a winter visit to one of these natural places offers sights and activities not always available the rest of the year.

Many offer family-oriented activities, so they are a perfect destination if you have kids suffering from cabin fever this time of year. There are indoor programs, as well as outdoor activities, including nature hikes, bird watching, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, so there’s plenty to keep you busy, no matter what the weather. With a dozen nature centers within a two hour drive of Buffalo, you don’t have to go far to discover nature in winter.

Beaver Meadows, in North Java, about an hour drive from the city, is a 324 acre sanctuary with seven miles of marked trails, along with nature exhibits and a discovery room inside their visitor’s center. The trails can be used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in snowy weather. Each Sunday they offer family walks; a naturalist-guided trek through the woods that will help you discover natural wonders.

Upcoming events include Winter Fun Day on February 3, which will feature cross-country ski lessons, snowshoe walks, crafts, winter survival workshops and more. Admission is $5/adults, $3/children. On March 17-18, they will have a Maple Harvest Festival, which includes a pancake breakfast, hikes, maple sugaring demonstrations, crafts and games.

The Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, better know as the “Alabama Swamp,” because it’s in the town of Alabama, straddles Genesee and Orleans counties. The 11,000 acre site is the largest wildlife refuge in the state. It is a habitat for migratory birds, including ten species of ducks, as well as fox and deer. Three nature trails can be used for cross-country skiing during the winter.

In Chautauqua County, the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center is a former farm that has 600 acres of fields, woods and wetlands. There are five miles of hiking trails. The visitor’s center has hands-on exhibits as well as over 200 mounted birds, some of which are extinct.

The center offers a variety of programs throughout the winter season, including art club and photo club, yoga, and more. Their most popular winter event is the annual Snowflake Festival, which is held on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4, from 11-5. There will be plenty of activities, snow or not. Inside the nature center there will be arts and crafts, as well as nature related displays. You can even build your own birdhouse for a small donation. Naturalist, Paul Fehringer, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, will be speaking about birds of prey. Outdoors, if mother nature cooperates, there will be snow shoes available for your use and the cross-country trails will also be open (bring you own skis). Refreshments will be available, including chili, hot dogs and cookies.

The nearby Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, also in Jamestown, is a 27 acre nature center named after Roger Tory Peterson, a Jamestown native considered one of the greatest naturalists of the 20th Century. Peterson brought nature to everyone with his painting, photographs and writing.

In Cattaraugus County, the Pfeiffer Nature Center, a 200 acre site in the town of Portville, near Olean, has six miles of nature trails. About 20 acres of the center are made up of old growth forest, some trees dating back 400 years! A log cabin on the property, constructed from American Chestnut, is listed on the State and National Historic Registers. Upcoming events include a cross-country and snowshoe clinic and skills class on January 28, starting at 11 am, with instruction and rentals by Allegany Outdoors. There is also a Full Moon Winter Snowshoe Hike planned for Feb. 2 at 7 pm, where you can discover nature and wildlife by moonlight. You must pre-register for these events.

There are also several nature centers in the Finger Lakes Region, including the 900 acre Cummings Nature Center, in Naples, run by the Rochester Museum and Science Center. During the winter months, there are 15 miles of cross-country ski trails, as well as two walking/snowshoe trails. (Rental ski and snowshoe equipment are available)

The visitor’s center has a multi-media theater, hands-on exhibits, and nature art. Upcoming events include a Moonlight Ski at 5:45 pm on February 10th. The Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol will lead this tour; afterwards, enjoy a buffet dinner of chili, sandwiches and other finger foods. ($10/person). Nordic Hot Dog Days will take place on February 17-18; proceeds from the sale of hot dogs and chili will benefit the volunteers of the Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol, who maintain the trails.
In the Corning area, The 250 acre Spencer Crest Nature Center has seven miles of hiking trails, two ponds and a museum with changing exhibits.
Although Letchworth State Park is not called a nature center, they offer a variety of nature related programs, both indoors and out, during the winter months, including nature ski hikes, winter nature walks and indoor nature lectures. Request their interpretive program calendar of events for more information.

Beaver Meadows Nature Center (585-457-3228; 1610 Welch Rd., North Java. Open Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (585-948-5445; 1101 Casey Rd., Basom Open Mon.-Fri. 7:30-4, year-round. Trails open sunrise to sunset.

Jamestown Audubon Nature Center (716-569-2345; 311 Curtis St., Jamestown. Tues.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. 1-5.

Pfeiffer Nature Center (716-933-0187; 1974 Lillibridge Rd., Portville. Tues. Sun. 9-6.

Cummings Nature Center (585-374-6160; 6472 Gulick Rd., Naples Open Saturday and Sunday only 9-5.

Genesee Country Nature Center (585-538-6822; 1410 Flint Hill Rd., Mumford. Tues.-Fri. 10-4, Sat.-Sun. 10-5.

Tinker Nature Park & Hansen Nature Center (585-359-7044) 1525 Calkins Rd., Henrietta. Park open dawn to dusk; nature center open Tues.-Sat. 9-3:30, Sun 12-3.

Mendon Ponds Park and Nature Center (585-256-4950; 3914 Clover St., Honeoye Falls. Winter hours until March 31, Mon.-Th. 7-4, Fri.-Sun. 7-11.

Spencer Crest Nature Center (607-962-9012; 2424 Spencer Hill Rd. Corning. Open Mon.-Sat. 9-3. 443 Coleman Ave., Elmira. Tues.-Sat. 10-4.

Letchworh State Park (585-493-3600) 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile.

Tanglewood Nature Center (607-732-6060;