Spring is in the air and summer is just around the corner which means it's the perfect time to get out and explore! From globally rare wildlife to fascinating ecosystems, Albany County is full of unique nature finds to discover. Scroll on to learn about five of these distinctive finds plus some upcoming events that highlight them!
1. The Rare Karner Blue Butterfly at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve
They’re tiny, blue and globally rare – the Karner blue butterfly is one unique species that has a home in Albany. This butterfly species depends entirely on the wild blue lupine as its source of nutrients. Lupines grow in sunny habitats such as inland pine barrens, but many of these habitats have been lost due to development. Karner blues are currently considered federally endangered, which is part of the reason why they’re so special.
You can view some fluttering Karner blues at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. While most habitats find loss due to wildfires, the fire-dependent inland pine barrens of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve are a unique ecosystem where many special species thrive.
A great way to learn more about the Karner blue and the preserve that hosts them is to attend their annual Lupine Fest! Explore the Pine Bush and enjoy music, vendors, and more at this beautiful Spring event.
One of Albany Pine Bush Preserve's Summer Residents: The Prairie Warbler
2. Albany Hosts Two Important Bird Areas
Birdwatchers have their pick of prime places to spot a range of different species in Albany County. Both the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and John Boyd Thacher State Park are recognized as Important Bird Areas. Visit the Pine Bush in the summertime to find vacationing birds such as the Eastern Towhee, a short-distance migrator that sticks to the East Coast. Or hear the song of the Prairie Warbler, a species that doesn’t travel too far up North even in the warmer months, making the Warbler a sweet treat to see when she does pay a visit.
Visitors to Thacher Park, can find over 170 species of birds throughout the year. Listen for songbirds like the Winter Wren or the Magnolia Warbler. In September, visit the park for their Fall Hawk Watch. Thacher Park is a migration corridor for hawks and there are times when hundreds of the birds can be seen passing through.
3. For the Eagle-Eyed Bird Watcher: Cohoes Falls & Thacher Park
In the Wintertime, Cohoes Falls is a wonderful spot to view the national bird. There have been reports of more than 20 Bald Eagles spotted at the Falls at one time. Cohoes Falls is also New York State’s second largest waterfall, making it a unique Albany County nature gem for every season. Visit Cohoes Overlook Park year-round or check out Falls View Park from May to October.
Thacher Park is another great area for some Eagle-spotting. The park offers guided Eagle Walks for people of all ages to see their eagles’ nest and learn about the history of Bald Eagles in the U.S.
4. Explore Trees from Around the World at the Pine Hollow Arboretum
For a peaceful walk amongst the pines, or the chance to learn about the trees that grow globally, visit the Pine Hollow Arboretum in the hamlet of Singerlands. This unique nature find hosts over 3,300 trees and organizes them by geographic area such as China, Japan, and Russia.
5. Prehistoric Life at Thacher Park
Thacher Park is known as one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Over 400 years ago, the entirety of New York State was under a warm, shallow sea, and the park still holds the evidence of the creatures that used to live here. It’s no wonder why Thacher park attracts scientists from around the world to study the area's unique geology. All year-round, school groups of young scientists can learn about this past with the park’s “Fun With Fossils” program. The park also hosts events for all ages such as the upcoming Kalkberg Fossil Hunting event.