Feature Friday

Published on October 25th, 2013 | by growwny

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Feature Friday: Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area

BY BROOKE AYOUB, THE GROWWNY TEAM

While having the great opportunity to intern this fall with GrowWNY, I have been blogging on great spots to go outside and connect with nature. The places that I have written about so far, Ellicott Creek and Walton Woods, are locations that I have enjoyed regularly and are most familiar with. But none are as special to me as Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area, a.k.a. Tillman Swamps. This 239 acre wet lowland is located in Clarence, NY. The variety of different habitats is what really makes Tillman a great place to explore. You will encounter meadows, two small quarry ponds, a hardwood forest, a deciduous swamp, and of course the 80 acre cattail marsh with 300 feet of boardwalk throughout, for which to observe native waterfowl. You will discover that parts of the preserve were once farmlands by the presence of old, twisted apple trees, a regular feeding spot for woodpeckers.

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According to the DEC website, the last record of farming on this land was in the 1940s, along with some gravel mining during that time. The piece of land was obtained by the DEC in 1977 with funds from the Environmental Bond Act of 1972.  Several trails run through the preserve with Tillman Road bisecting the 80 acre marsh. Many individuals, who don’t have time for a hike, take a drive down Tillman with their binoculars to see what waterfowl might be in the neighborhood. There are two entrances to the trails with parking lots on Tillman Road and one on Bergtold Road, which starts with a viewing platform over the marsh.  Please be aware when visiting Tillman that there are no restrooms on the preserve.

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Over the last 15 years, I have enjoyed trekking through Tillman and have had some wonderful interactions with wildlife. Every Friday my two boys and I would finish out the school week with a few hours at the preserve. Tillman was the greatest IMG_5957place for them to discover and observe nature. They would catch everything from tadpoles to katydids. They also learned tracking skills by observing wild turkey footprints or raccoon prints by digging up snapping turtles’ nests and seeing evidence of broken turtle eggs everywhere. But, there were times when we really felt lucky to observe the happenings at Tillman. One was when we came across an old, large snapping turtle. She wasn’t distracted by our presence, but proceeded to dig a hole in the ground, lay her eggs, and bury them.  Mrs. Snapper may have been doing what instinct leads her to do, but for us it was special and private. The only sound was her back claws gently pushing the gravel aside.   Another time, we were taking the trail through the hardwoods, when we looked to the right and two baby raccoons were hanging on a tree watching us. We stopped, of course, and began to engage in a game of peek-a-boo. Lastly, I will share the time we discovered a nest of garter snakes. There were hundreds of them; all different sizes.  It was mating season so the nest was filled with energy. Some snakes were fighting and others were twisting and squirming together. The nest was on the side of a hill, so we just stood there watching as if the snakes were on stage.  It was a loud, hissing frenzy.

I don’t think there was ever a time that we left Tillman without having a story to tell. If there wasn’t a story there was always something new to look up in our field guides. Tillman is a great place to go exploring and I encourage you visit. You too will have stories to tell about the adventures of Tillman Swamps.

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