Friday, April 17, 2009

Hawk Watch April 18th

Update: yes this is Michele's photo of the Osprey. I don't mean to confuse people.
I'm sure some will be spotted on Saturday also. posted by Toni
Just a reminder that tomorrow Saturday, April 18th is the 5th Annual Hawk Watch at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) from 9am to 1pm.

A free family event sponsored by Presque Isle Audubon Society and DCNR...spy hawks as they migrate along the Lake Erie shoreline, participate in fun family birding activities occurring throughout the grounds, and discover all that the TREC has to offer.

I'll be there after my birding class around 11:30 and tomorrows weather looks promising. I would love to meet you and join in the experience of counting hawks.

Check out the calendar below for more activities on Presque Isle.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Joe Root: The Hermit of Presque Isle...

The Hermit of Presque Isle, Joe Root

photo courtesy A. DeSarro and the DCNR

...or was he "The King of the Peninsula"? Whichever moniker you choose, it cannot be denied that Joe Root was one of the most colorful characters ever to set foot on Presque Isle! Joe Root was, indeed, the original Presque isle-ophile. Like many of us may like to at times (except maybe in the winter), he moved to Presque Isle and made it his home. Although he was considered "mysterious" and "a hermit" there are a few consistent bits of information running through Joe Root lore.
Joe Root was born in 1860 and as a young man became a fisherman's apprentice and later a fisherman. Apparently not happy just fishing at Presque Isle, he decided to make it his permanent residence. He built shanties out of driftwood and whatever suitable materials washed up on the shores of the peninsula. He sustained himself by fishing, hunting and collecting fruits and berries, especially cranberries that were once very abundant on the park. He would also occasionally charm picnickers into sharing their lunches. It is said that the diminutive bearded man who walked with a limp and wore an old felt hat entertained children and adults alike with his excellent ventriloquism skills. He would pretend to carry on conversations with his hat or a hollow tree stump. He also delighted the children with his bird calls and his stories about his unseen friends, the Jee Bees, who possessed an uncanny knack for predicting the weather.
On his rare trips into town Joe would discuss strange business ideas in exchange for a drink or two. One of his business schemes included building a hot air balloon factory on or near Presque Isle to shuttle people back and forth between Erie and Buffalo. Joe's favorite idea appeared to be the creation of a circus whose main act would involve a tightrope strung between the peninsula and the mainland across which wild animals would be transported in a wheelbarrow.
Eccentric but harmless appears to be the consensus regarding the inimitable Joe Root. Like many before and after him, Joe's eccentricity may have been his downfall. It is said that Joe was the victim of a scheme to have him removed from his beloved Presque Isle for fear that he would claim squatter's rights to the peninsula. It was claimed that Joe had been involved in a violent altercation and he was removed from Presque Isle under a shroud of secrecy and committed to Warren State Mental Hospital (WSMH) in Warren, PA on April 14, 1910. Longing to return to his beloved Presque Isle, he died at WSMH two years later .

In remembrance and honor of this original Presque Isle-ophile, Toni and Michele are creating column called, Ask Joe Root. We invite any and all questions you may have about Presque Isle. Just e-mail your questions to and we will do whatever we can to answer your questions for you...even if it means channeling Joe Root himself!

Upcoming topics in Presque Isle, Naturally, an interview with author, Gene Ware about his new book, Across the Pond. Also, information about the PIAS Eagle Watch Program including and interview with Tom Wasilewski of the Eagle Watch Program. Any other topics you'd like to see covered? E-mail suggestions to

Monday, April 13, 2009

Migrating Birds week 3

Brown Creeper found at Fry's Landing: photo by Michele
Saturday was cold but not like last week and the sun warmed our faces every now and then. We have some photos for you this week. Michele was trying out a new lens. I'll let her tell you about it. This week Jerry had us back and forth from the bay and other water ways to the inland trails. My favorites are the trails but after three weeks of looking at water fowl I'm starting to recognize the difference and appreciating their color. Same for the gulls. I wonder if everyone started out like me. You know a bird is a bird and duck is a duck and a gull is a gull. I'll admit I did not know much about our avian friends. Over the years I have become fascinated with their personalities, coloring, and habits. For me there is so much expression in their every move. And to think how far they fly for the summer and winter season. They are amazing.

Red-breasted Merganser: photo by Michele
Jerry has been so kind letting me post the list of birds we see each week. I'm terrible at remembering and should write them all down but we are so busy looking through scopes and our binoculars. So Jerry sends out an email with our list of birds.

We were excited to see our first warbler this year, a Yellow-rumped. We should start seeing more next week. We saw several Brown Creepers and Gold Crown Kinglets and should start seeing Ruby Crown Kinglets next week also.

Osprey seen at Sommerheim: photo by Michele
Michele and I want to make our blog more informed and fun so we are going to start a new weekly post called Ask Joe Root. Who is Joe Root you might ask, well Michele will answer that question in our next blog post. So in the meantime do you have any questions about Presque Isle? If so write them down and you can ask Joe Root. Michele will give you the details and the legendary Joe Root. So stay tuned.

White Birch: photo by Toni (always looking for something to paint)
Here is what you can look for on Presque Isle this week:
We recorded 41 species of birds including the following:

Canada Goose--several at various sites
Wood Duck-- a couple passing by the west pier
Mallard-- a couple of pairs and single males at various sites
Ring-necked Duck-- a couple in Marina Bay and a few in Niagara Pond
Greater Scaup--several off the west pier
Lesser Scaup--several throughout
Bufflehead--several throughout, but mostly off the west pier
Common Goldeneye--several off the west pier
Red-breasted Merganser--common everywhere
Common Loon--three or four off Niagara boat launch
Double-crested cormorant--one off the second parking lot and one or two at the channel
Great Egret--three in Niagara Pond
Turkey Vulture--four over the channel
Bald Eagle--one adult over Long Pond
American Kestrel--one along Pine Tree Trail
American Coot--many off the second parking lot, beach 11, and a couple in Niagara Pond
Killdeer--two in beach 11 parking lot
Bonaparte's Gull--many at various sites
Ring-billed Gull--a few overhead and over the bay
Herring Gull--a few overhead and over the bay
Caspian Tern--one over Misery Bay and four or five at the channel
Mourning Dove--four or five along Pine Tree Trail
Red-bellied Woodpecker--one heard at the west pier
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker--two at Thompson Circle
Downy Woodpecker--three or four at various sites
Northern Flicker--several throughout
Blue Jay--one at Fry's landing
American Crow--several throughout
Tree Swallow--many over Horseshoe Pond
Barn Swallow--one over the channel and two or three over Horseshoe Pond
Black-capped Chickadee--several along Pine Tree Trail and Fry's Landing
White-breasted Nuthatch--one or two at Thompson Circle
Brown Creeper--several at Fry's landing
Golden-crowned Kinglet--several on Pine Tree Trail and Fry's landing
American Robin--several everywhere
European Starling--a few flying over the road along West Fisher Drive
Yellow-rumped Warbler--one at Fry's landing
Song Sparrow--a few at various sites, especially along beach 11 parking lot
Dark-eyed Junco--one at Thompson Circle
Northern Cardinal--one heard singing and another along beach 11 parking lot
Red-winged Blackbird--several throughout
Brown-headed Cowbird--singles heard or seen briefly at a few sites

Jerry McWilliams (Instructor)

Michele, Julie and Julie's nephew Christian saw and photographed the Osprey.


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