There’s a small gem of a nature preserve on the border of Hastings and Yonkers. It’s the Lenoir Nature Preserve. You may have lived in the Rivertowns for 20 years without knowing about it, or maybe you’re there all the time. It’s got some devoted fans (me). Apparently its fame is pretty big among hummingbirds. In 2001, ‘02, ‘07 and now again this year, a West Coast hummingbird has traveled perhaps more than 3000 miles to enjoy Lenoir.
She’s still there as I write in early December—
She’s been banded, so when we no longer see her at Lenoir, there’s a chance we may find out her fate – that is, if she’s ever found again, dead or alive.
Her coming to Lenoir is not wholely a random event. It’s luck she’s here, luck for us birders, like winning a lottery. But you can’t win any lottery without buying a ticket first.
Lenoir is uniquely placed on the Hudson River flyway. Birds are on the lookout for good places to spend some time storing up calories as they fly up and down the East Coast, and Lenoir is great. That is exists as a nature preserve is due in part to a geographical accident, in part to the Hudson River Audubon Society (HRAS), and in part to the County of Westchester. The county acquired the grounds and buildings of two old estates and opened the preserve in 1978. HRAS has been maintaining hummingbird feeders, as well as feeders for other kinds of birds, and a butterfly garden (think 4 star restaurant for hummingbirds). Lenoir is on the map for birds.
It should be on your map, too, even if you want to do no more than take a walk in a beautiful place and don’t care what’s flying around up in the sky. It’s a chance to enjoy what formerly only two rich, privileged families could: a spectacular view of the Palisades, meadows and ornamental plantings you’d need a team of gardeners to maintain.
But there’s trouble in this little paradise. County Executive Robert Astorino wants to cut funds for the Nature Center. He’s at pains to point out that the trails will still be open even if the Nature Center isn’t.
Will our little West Coast hummingbird, or one of her species, find her way back next year or the year after? Not unless we can keep the feeders filled and the Butterfly Garden going. It’s hard to do without a nearby source of water, and we won’t have that if the Nature Center is closed.
The Hudson River Audubon Society and Westchester County run programs that would end without the Nature Center. Without heated rooms, electricity, running water, toilets – you certainly aren’t going to have any programs at night, and it would be quite a challenge in the winter. I’m a member of HRAS, and some of us are hardy out door types. But frankly, meeting at night in a tent, showing a Power Point slide presentation on a battery fueled computer, holding flashlights to find our coffee thermoses – maybe 5 of us might do it, but I think the rest of our 400 plus membership would stay home. No hope any member of the public at large would show up.
It would be hard to bring children to the Preserve without a place to keep warm in winter or without bathrooms.
Yes, the trails will still be opened, but it will be as if the heart of Lenoir has been cut out if the Nature Center is closed.
The budget vote will take place after Christmas. I urge you to email County Executive Robert Astorino - firstname.lastname@example.org - and your county legislator, also, to ask that funding for the Nature Center at Lenoir be restored in the 2012 County budget. You can find out who your legislator is at the Westchester County site
Be sure to come Lenoir before Christmas. The Nature Center will still be opened. Weekend mornings HRAS members are there, indoors, enjoying coffee & cake while they watch birds enjoying feeders outdoors. Visit the Butterfly Garden, too. You just might see a hummingbird.