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Getting Out In Nature With Marcus Rosten

As spring comes in full bloom, so does the opportunity to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and explore some of the best our nature’s creatures have to offer. The Western New York Wildway at the WNY Land Conservancy in East Aurora is a conservation initiative to protect and connect the region's largest remaining forests.


WNY Wildway’s Director and Buffalo native, Marcus Rosten, explains that by creating a network of protected lands and corridors across the area, “The WNY Wildway will allow plants and animals to roam across the land as they once did, to move as climate changes, and to expand their ranges and ensure their survival. We are working to build public support to build the Wildway so that our region can be more climate-resilient and more connected for wildlife.”


Protecting wildlife habitats is beneficial for people as well, as it helps protect our clean air and water, stores carbon, and reduces wildlife / vehicle collisions. Rosten says, “Connected landscapes can even help reduce ticks, since [tick] population boom[s] and in turn the prevalence of Lyme Disease increases in a fragmented forest. Intact wildlife habitats support a healthy population of wildlife, which in the case of the opossum who loves to eat ticks, can help be a check and reduce other species whose overabundance has a detrimental effect on overall ecosystem health.”


Rosten is also an avid ornithologist and serves on the board for the Buffalo Ornithological Society, observing and learning about birds across the area. For Rosten, the chance encounters and discoveries he finds when walking among nature is what he loves about birding. “All it takes is a trip to your favorite nature space and a pair of binoculars for you to be able to make a scientific discovery,” he says.


Birdwatching Tips

Birding can be as simple as noticing and listening to the birds that visit around your home, or it can be as extreme as standing at the base of Niagara Falls in February with ice on your eyelids dissecting the minute differences between gulls flying in the mist.


To better identify birds, Rosten says, “the best way to learn the rare birds is to learn the common ones upside down and backwards.”

Best Places to Birdwatch around Buffalo

According to Rosten, some of the best places for birdwatching include Stella Niagara Preserve on the lower Niagara River. Managed by the Land Conservancy, the preserve is one of the only natural landings in the gorge. He says, “In just a short walk through a wildflower meadow full of sparrows and hawks, you can get to the river’s edge and see gulls and ducks. There is also a natural kayak launch that makes for a great stop while paddling the lower river.” Other places he suggests are the Allegany Wildlands, Mossy Point, and College Lodge.


As a Buffalo native, Rosten says one of the places where he fell in love with nature was at Allegany State Park. Many summers spent camping in those green cabins are what inspired him to go to SUNY ESF, and since graduating in 2015, he has served as an interpretive park ranger in national parks and forests, led environmental education and stewardship programs with nonprofit organizations, and worked as a fish and wildlife technician, conducting wildlife surveys and managing habitats for state and federal agencies.


Most Unique Find While Birding

Rosten says that while filming the Black-crowned Night-heron nesting in the understory for the Niagara Falls episode of PBS Nature, he suddenly noticed one of the herons did not look like the others. After initial shock, he realized it was a cousin of the herons intended to be observed — a Yellow-crowned Night-heron, a rare bird for the region.

This discovery was pivotal because previously recorded breeding grounds for the Yellow-Crowned Night-heron were only on Long Island and the Hudson Valley, so this was novel.


Craziest nature encounter

In September 2023 when hiking in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, Rosten says, “As we approached the subalpine zone of the mountain, a wolverine came out of nowhere and crossed the trail fifty feet in front of us. It was heart-stopping and slightly terrifying to see the apex predator up close and personal, and extremely lucky because they are [known] as one of the most elusive carnivores in the country.”


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