Two Non-Profit Organizations in Cattaraugus County, NY Provide Unique Experiences for Visitors
Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary: Bird Lover’s Paradise Carries Over 54 Different Species
Almost 30 years ago, two unsuspecting ducks walked onto Milton and Rosemary Miner’s property in Holland, NY.
No, the Miners did not have the ducks for dinner. Instead, when the spring came, they bought them friends - female friends, to be exact … and Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary was born.
Located in nearby Delevan, NY, Gooseneck Hill is a safe-haven for birds of various sizes, shapes and species.
“After we bought the female ducks for the males, my husband bought me 13 exotic goose eggs for my birthday,” Rosemary said. “I then had the opportunity to go to Alaska four times and collect eggs to add to what we already had.”
In 1998 the Miners moved to Cattaraugus County and developed a vacant piece of land so they could further grow their sanctuary. They transformed the property into one that boasted four ponds and seven acres of net for the birds to fly under.
“We built a large house to help hold up the net, which is quite heavy,” Rosemary said. “We also have a large room for tours, a gift shop, hospital and rearing room.”
The Sanctuary boasts some incredible species of birds, including the NeNe Goose, which are endangered. (There are only 600 left on the entire planet.) Another one of the ten species of geese is the Bar-Head, a native of India. The Bar-Head flies - are you ready for this? - at a somewhat-unbelievable 30,000-35,000 foot altitude, oftentimes at over 100 mph. That’s airplane status! And then there’s the Red-Breasted Goose from Siberia. I’d recommend looking up a picture, because they are absolutely gorgeous.
Protecting these birds is awesome, and the Miners do it by keeping them in a predator-free environment.
“The sanctuary is enclosed in 6” high chain link fencing with hardware cloth buried 8” into the ground (for those who don’t know what hardware cloth is, imagine baby chicken wire). There are three hot (electric) wires on the outside of the fence; one is 6” from the bottom, one halfway up and one at the top. This prevents predators from getting inside and attacking the birds.”
The top, netted with fiberglass netting, is held up with aircraft cable and the enclosure is lit with high-intensity sodium lights.
A species becomes officially endangered when their population falls under a given number determined by the country they are in. The Sanctuary has three species on the endangered list.
“The Red-Breasted Goose from Siberia, the Lesser-White fronted Goose from Norway and the NeNe Goose from Hawaii are all endangered,” Rosemary said. “All of our birds are on the protected list, which means you have to have a permit to purchase them. We add new species every year because people love coming back to see what additions we’ve made. We have over 55 different species from everywhere. You would have to travel the whole world to see all of them.”
Luckily for patrons, the Miners’ dedication to the cause keeps the birds safe and protected. And if you could see that many species in one setting, why wouldn’t you?
A cool thing the Miners do is allow people to ‘adopt’ a bird. For $10 a year, you can come visit the bird for free once a year during normal visiting hours, get a framed picture of your bird, volunteer opportunities, free training and the knowledge that your new friend will be kept safe.
During the winter months, the Miners bring all of the birds down to the lower aviary, where there are three barns and three ponds kept open with deicer pumps - as well as a greenhouse.
Wild Wing Festival
Every year the Miners host their ‘Wild Wing Festival,’ which is a celebration of sorts. Four years ago, a massive flood came through and destroyed the lower aviary of the Sanctuary. In just six weeks, it was rebuilt.
“We started having a festival to commemorate our reopening,” Rosemary said. “We are really the only place around here that has wild wings flying around so we thought it was a perfect name. This year, we have the ‘Rustic Ramblers’ playing with Gene Hilts on steel guitar. And we’re also having food prepared by ‘The Shop,’ which will be available for $8.”
This year’s Wild Wing Festival is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 26.
Although the Miners have DEC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife permits, the Sanctuary is not government sponsored. They keep it open through donations and tours.
Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary is open Sundays from 2-5pm until Aug. 28. Admission is $7 for adults; $5 for seniors. Private tours are available. For more information, head over to www.GooseneckHillWaterfowlFarm.com.
Griffis Sculpture Park: Making a Playground Out of Art
There’s really no other way to describe the metal sculptures intertwined with the trees, or the massive shapes placed sporadically on the ground that you can climb upon.
Founded by the late Larry Griffis, Jr., Griffis Sculpture Park is the epitome of physical art. Griffis, who fought in World War II and then lived in Buffalo with his family, eventually moved to Rome to learn the art of bronze casting.
When Griffis moved back stateside, he wanted to found a park that would allow people to see and touch the artwork. At first, it was at the top of Kissing Bridge Ski Resort. But a 125-acre gift of land from his mother in nearby Ashford gave him the option to move his park there.
In 1969, Griffis bought a former ice house in the city of Buffalo and founded the Essex Art Center. Many of the sculptures that stand in the park were created here. The Art Center is now host to art studios and living facilities for different artists.
Currently, the Studio for Youth is housed in the Essex Art Center and provides art education and opportunities for students in the Western New York area.
Griffis and his late son, Simon, also founded and grew the Arts in Education program - which utilized both the sculpture park and the Essex Art Center to help encourage creativity amongst students in the area.
Some of the programs they offer include metal pours, where students have the opportunity to carve shapes into sand carving blocks and then watch as a member of the program comes to their school and pours it in front of them. There are also the monumental metal sculptures, where individual students create something unique individually and then are tasked with putting it together in one, giant piece of art.
Since Larry and Simon have both passed away, their granddaughter and niece (respectively) Nila Griffis Lampman now runs the programs.
Besides the education programs that Griffis runs, the Park also has an annual moonlight snowshoe tour, where people can buy tickets and go cruise around the park at night. The good folks at The City Garage in Ellicottville are kind enough to provide the snowshoes every year.
Today, the park spans over 400 acres and has close to 250 larger-than-life sized sculptures. If you’re looking for a reprieve from the fast pace of everyday life, Griffis Sculpture Park is a great spot to go unwind and appreciate fine artwork.
The Park is open until Oct. 31 and is located in Ashford (between Ellicottville and Springville). Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors or students. It also offers tours or events such as corporate retreats or art projects.
Learn more by clicking over to www.GriffisPark.org.