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Hundreds of years ago, areas now within Schodack Island State Park were home to the Mohican people. Artist Len Tantillo has generously given us permission to post two of his paintings that help bring that period to life. The first, featured above and titled “The Grandfather,” is set, Len says, in the early 1600s shortly before the arrival of the Europeans and shows a Mohican Village near present day Castleton. In it, a tribal elder relates an exciting story to a mesmerized audience.
This second painting titled “Pap-scan-ee” shows a Mohican summer encampment along the Hudson River south of Albany about 1600. The Mohican people were great farmers and fishermen. During the development of Schodack Island State Park, care was taken not to disturb areas where evidence of Mohican settlements were found. (For more information about the Mohicans, the Dutch, and other early settlers in what is now Schodack Island State Park see the History of the Schodack Islands page on this website).
Tantillo’s work has appeared in national museum exhibitions, books, periodicals, and television documentaries. Prints of these and other paintings set in the Hudson Valley of the past are available for purchase through his website: www.lftantillo.com.
BIRDS OF SCHODACK ISLAND
By Mary Theresa Julien
As the days grow warmer in early springtime, the mornings begin to burst into song! Schodack Island State Park is home to many songbirds on their way back from their wintering grounds in the south. The Cerulean Warbler is one of the migratory birds that can be found at the park. These little cuties hunt for insects high up in the tree canopies on the island. Although they are hard to catch a glimpse of, you may hear them actively chirping away during the spring mating season. The Cerulean Warbler is the most rapidly declining warbler population. They are threatened by the predatory behavior of brown-headed cowbirds and by the loss of their winter habitat on shade coffee plantations in the South America.
Areas of Schodack Island State Park are designated as a Hudson River Estuarine Sanctuary, as a Bird Conservation Area by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and as an Important Bird Area by The Audubon Society. As such, the park strikes an important balance between recreational access, conservation and environmental education. Schodack Island, which is actually a peninsula, supports rare freshwater intertidal mudflat and freshwater tidal marsh habitats on along its eastern side and in the extreme southern portion of the park. The habitats along the Schodack Creek and Muitzes Kill are particularly diverse. Some of the breeding bird populations that can be found in these areas are the marsh wren, swamp sparrow, red-winged blackbird and willow flycatcher. The western side of the park along the Hudson River is predominately floodplain forest. Bald Eagles like to roost along the shoreline, watching for their chance to snatch an unsuspecting fish from the river. Fish is a favorite entrée for eagles, yum! Ospreys are occasionally seen along the Hudson River shoreline as well. This freshwater tidal ecosystem is vital to the eagles and osprey during migration and wintering and it important that we do not disturb them during these times. The state park is also important because there is a Great Blue Heron breeding colony that supports about 50 nests each year. With its enormous six-foot wingspan, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. Likewise, it is important not to disturb the heron rookery during their summer breeding season, so be sure to keep a polite distance.
Editor’s Note: This post initially appeared in the program for the 10th Annniversary Celebration of Schodack Island State Park
This is the first blog of our new Friends of Schodack Island web site! We will use this feature to keep you updated about events at the park and provide other news of interest to park visitors. We welcome your comments and feedback. Please note that all comments are subject to review prior to being posted to this page.
If you visit the park throughout the year, you are aware of the many opportunities the park offers. However, if you are a new visitor, then you should know that each season there is something new going on at the park.
When summer begins and thoughts turn to outdoor fun, Schodack Island State Park is a destination of choice for a host of activities. The various picnic pavilions accommodate groups large and small. The ball fields and the playground echo with happy voices. The shady trails through the forest invite exploring in the heat of the day. The boat launch on the Hudson River and the canoe/kayak launch on the Schodack Creek attract power boaters and paddlers with outstanding water access. What better way to spend a long lazy hot summer day then by sitting on the shore of the Hudson with a fishing pole in one hand, a cool drink in the other, watching the boats pass by and the sunlight play on the water.
Summer passes all too quickly. As days shorten and nights grow cool, activities at park change. The crisp clear days of early autumn are a great time to visit the park. Different birds are seen now, migrants on their way to warmer places. Staff and volunteers are hard at work organizing the annual Fall Festival, with games, food, and music, an event which attracts hundreds of visitors. Sportsmen stop by the park office to pick up the permits that allow them to hunt, in season, in the south portion of the park. Finally, as the trees drop their leaves, the floating docks are taken in and the park is prepared for winter.
The morning after the first big snow of the new season, park staff are out early to groom the miles of wide flat trails which will soon be busy with cross country skiers. Once temperatures permit, the ice rink is flooded and on Friday nights, with the bon fire blazing and skating under the lights, Schodack Island is the place to be. As the winter deepens and ice appears on the Hudson so do the coast guard icebreakers, keeping the shipping channel open.
Spring brings new life to the island. Warmer days lure visitors from their homes, into the park, and out on the trails. The annual Dodge the Deer 5K race brings hundreds of runners and their supporters. Soon the eagles are back building nests along the Schodack Creek. The shad bush is blooming and the parking lot is again at capacity with trucks and boat trailers as the Striped Bass make their annual return from the ocean. The phone in the park office rings with callers placing reservations for picnic pavilions. Another year has come full circle at Schodack Island…a park for all seasons.