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Caleb Smith

 

Dozens of volunteers were willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to show their love for Smithtown’s state park this weekend.

Boy Scout Troop 565 of Smithtown and Girl Scout Troop 2861 of Hauppauge participated in the annual New York State Parks & Trails I Love My Park Day May 5 at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve. The scouts worked alongside resident volunteers to restore trails and plant flowers.

The groups were part of the more than 8,000 volunteers who lent a helping hand at one of the 135 parks, historic sites and public lands in celebration of New York State’s park system, according to New York State Parks & Trails website. The annual I Love My Park event is hosted in partnership by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Park Service, Excelsior Conservation Corps and the New York Commission on Volunteer and Community Service.

Environmentalist Jan Porinchak explores Willow Pond. Photo from Carole Paquette

Naturalist Jan Christopher Porinchak will lead an in-depth exploration of the natural wonders of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, June 18, at 1:30 p.m. Reserve by calling 631-265-1054. The walk will take approximately two hours and is not recommended for children under ten years old. The event, sponsored by Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, is free, however, the preserve’s parking fee of $8 will be in effect.

An avid naturalist and environmental advocate, Porinchak will lead participants on a walk through the many landscapes of the park, offering tips on identifying the various plants and animals that will be encountered.

A hike leader for the Long Island Sierra Club, he is also an art teacher at Jericho Middle School and an award-winning natural science illustrator. 

For more information about Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, their events and the park, go to: www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette

Biologist and outdoorsman Eric Powers will conduct a birding walk at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, May 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Preregistration is required as space is limited. Call 631-265-1054.

The free event is part of the 2016 Lecture Series sponsored by the Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, and will involve walking about two miles. Walkers are urged to wear sensible footwear and bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens, if they are able.

Having extensively explored the historic Caleb Smith park, “Ranger Eric” — as students know him — will lead attendees to some of his favorite locations to see birds and other wildlife, as well as highlighting plants and freshwater springs, the lifeblood of the park. Ranger Eric suggests bringing any bird feather you would like to share with the group.

See more of Ranger Eric on his new television show “Off the Trail” at www.myNHTV.com. For more information, visit his website at www.YC2N.com.

For more information about Friends activities and events, visit www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

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Sara Leavens and Megan O’Haire hold their free pumpkins. Photo from Carole Paquette

Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve will hold its Second Annual Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 27. The fun-filled event will be held at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

There will be many activities geared to the natural and historical features of the Park. These include nature and birding walks led by popular local naturalists, such as Eric Powers, Four Harbors Audubon Society and Long Island Sierra Club; catch-and-release fishing for children under age 13, with worms and tackle provided; a fly-fishing demonstration; colonial and Native American games and crafts; antique cars and traditional music by popular entertainers.

Other events include: a mammal identification skull science program presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a pond ecology program by nature illustrator and environmental educator Ján Porinchak, a honey-bee demonstration by Donal Peterson of 3 Bees Apiary, and a presentation by Volunteers for Wildlife who will bring some rehabilitated animals. Also, Mindy Block of Quality Parks Master Naturalist Program will lead a hike and have native plants and/or seeds for sale.

There will also be face painting, a 50-50 raffle and door prizes. Free pumpkins will be given to children on a first-come, first-served basis. Food and ice cream will be for sale.

Continuous entertainment will include: Maria Fairchild and Max Rowland, and Kirsten Maxwell and Mike Tedesco.

Maria Fairchild is known as one of the top “clawhammer” (Appalachian style) banjo players in the Northeast. She is popular for her singing and engaging wit, with traditional and modern material. She teaches banjo and plays with two bands, Dance All Night and Long Island Bluegrass Quartet.

Max Rowland plays music steeped in tradition and is seen locally at venues such as Old Bethpage Village Restoration, in historical re-enactments of the Civil War and American Revolutionary periods. He plays the accordion, concertina, banjo, mandolin and autoharp and is also a member of Dance All Night.

Kirsten Maxwell’s voice and writing style have been likened to that of Joan Baez, and blends a background in classical music with elements of folk, country, and contemporary genres.

Pianist, singer-songwriter Mike Tedesco’s original music is infused with jazz, pop, rock and soul influences. Most recently he was selected to be a part of the legendary New York Songwriters Circle and will be performing at The Bitter End nightclub, as a part of the group, on Nov. 2.

Visitors to the festival will also have access to the Preserve’s Nature Museum, with its interactive exhibits in individually themed rooms with wooded or pond backdrops and mounted wildlife: the Forest Room; Pond Room; River Room and Wetlands Room; and the Who Eats Whom interactive computerized food chain puzzle.

Admission fee to the Festival is $10 per carload; there will be no parking fee. There will be designated hours for children’s fishing, the fly-fishing demonstration and face-painting.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is located on Jericho Turnpike, between The Bull and Old Willett’s Path. For further park information, call (631) 265-1054. For more information about the Friends and their events, check their website: www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

A recently released quail sits on a log at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

A record number of bobwhite quails were released this year, and many of the students, teachers and parents who raised the birds helped welcome them to Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown on Saturday.

For 12 years, Eric Powers, a biologist and wildlife educator, has been at the forefront of organizing the annual quail release at Caleb Smith and other parks in the area. He described this year’s event as the largest one yet, as a record number of schools raised the quail chicks and 1,400 quails were released.

“The idea of bringing back the quail is to bring balance back to our ecosystem,” Powers said at the rainy morning release.

Unlike nonnative guinea fowl, which “eat good wildlife” like salamanders and dragonflies, northern bobwhite quail are native to Long Island and play a vital role in controlling tick populations without harming other native species, according to Powers.

Children and parents watch quail being released. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Children and parents watch quail being released. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Those in attendance included volunteers, students, teachers and Long Island comedian Joey Kola, who said that he “saw this program and jumped on right away” after personally experiencing Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a tick-borne illness transmitted to humans through a tick bite.

Attendees initially gathered inside the park’s nature museum, where they learned about the quail, viewed preserved eggs and touched feather samples before listening to Powers’ talk.

“What we see is we get this immediate clearing of ticks [after the quail are released],” Powers said, but “cats are outright hammering these birds.”

Powers described indoor-outdoor cats as the biggest threat to quail upon their release, and suggested people make use of what he referred to as “catios” — enclosed patios where cats can get outside without hunting native animals.

However, because this is the first year the Caleb Smith quail cage has reached overcapacity — forcing a few hundred quail to be released earlier — Powers is optimistic the quail population may begin to take hold on its own if school and community participation continues to increase.

Kids and adults alike were certainly enthusiastic about the release, as they gathered in the pouring rain to watch 500 birds abandon their cage and taste freedom for the first time. The quail were tentative at first, but as soon as one group took flight others ran through the crowd and into the woods. The remaining quail were released later on in the day.

A few observers got a truly interactive experience when frantic quail landed on their umbrellas and even perched on their arms. And after the initial release, teachers and students took boxes of quail to various locations around the park and carried out their own private releases.

Only time will tell how many of the birds will survive in the wild, but with increased community awareness that quail have the potential to lower the population of disease-ridden ticks, and a better understanding of the dangers posed to quail by cats, it seems likely that the birds most recently released will have a better chance of survival than those released in the past.

Librarian slated to lead lecture including 17th-century tales of popular Caleb Smith State Park Preserve

Cathy Ball is a supervising librarian of the Long Island Room at the Smithtown Library. Photo from Carol Paquette

George Washington in the park? What is the history of the road? Caleb, a thorn in whose side? Did he run the gauntlet? Why was he robbed?

These are some of the anecdotes that will be part of an inside look at the history of Smithtown’s Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Sunday, April 19, at 1 p.m. at the preserve on Jericho Turnpike. The free event will be presented by Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve. Preregistration is required by calling 265-1054.

Cathy Ball, supervising librarian of the Long Island Room at the Smithtown Library, will speak and illustrate, with artifacts, historical stories about the 543-acre preserve and the families of Caleb Smith.

The original house, which is located on the preserve, was built in 1753 by Smith — a great-grandson of Smithtown’s founder Richard Smythe — and his father Daniel Smith II.

“I have been thinking a lot about Caleb, his children and grandchildren, and the history of the park and the roads within the park and their purpose in earlier times,” said Ball, noting that she will discuss the effects of the Revolutionary War on Smith and his family. She will also delve into their lives, the mills, and the property’s subsequent history as the Wyandanch Club before becoming a state park and preserve.

Since 2004, Ball, a resident of Setauket, has worked in the Long Island Room, which contains 8,000 books and 200 boxes of documents, including original manuscripts from the 17th century. Working alongside local historian and archivist Caren Zatyk, Ball conducts programs and exhibits, supplemented with the archives.

Currently both of them are working with the New York State Department of Transportation on the development of pocket parks for cyclists along Route 347 in Smithtown, providing information and historical photo displays for each park that will depict the history of that particular area.

The Long Island Room brings in a “continual stream of researchers and authors from long distance researching family and local history,” Ball said.