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Who doesn’t love a buddy?! Well, the answer is more normal than you may think.

By Olivia Henry (she/ her)

A majority of us humans love companionship. It's what makes us, well, human! The same concept goes for our furry friends here at Tanglewood.


Just like us, animals, as individuals we have complex needs and wants. Some would rather spend their time alone, while others do best with a buddy. 

Personally, I love being smothered by attention-but I may also be a narcissist. Ignore that. What I was trying to say, before I was distracted by the thought of my charm and good looks- Sorry. There I go again. What I MEANT is that I like a companion, but you might not. That's okay!! You see my friends, we are all completely different in the ways we perform best. For instance, you might LOVE your best friend, but your best friend can get a little annoying. Sure, you and Joe Schmo get along, but do you really get things done when you’re with him? The same concept applies to animals. 


Have you noticed your single guinea pig feeling a little down in the dumps lately? 

Well that's because Guineas are best when they are paired with a furry friend. Now don’t get me wrong, the piggies are cute enough alone to die FUR, but they are much happier when they’ve got a friend to disperse TWICE the amount of poop in your homes!!! 

Alright, enough with the pig puns… Seriously though, a friend for your pig may just make all the difference. 


Have you ever seen a lonesome Chinchilla? Yeah. Me either. Chinchillas love to play, and require intensive amounts of enrichment time to fulfill all that jumping and climbing.

When the cute furballs are done playing, they will then proceed to take the cutest cuddle nap you’ve ever seen in your life- and I know what you’re thinking right now- NO!!! You have not seen a cuter napper than a chinchilla. I don’t make the rules. (Yes I do). 


Ah, sweet sweet isolation. Before I was FORCED to see my therapist, isolation was my favorite hobby. 

Was that too deep? 

I’ll continue. 

Here at Tanglewood, lots of our animals love isolation, just like many of us anti-social humans. 

While being lonely seems depressing, many animals survive best in a l0ne enclosure. A good example to start this off is the Ferret. 

Now listen. I have a lot, and I mean A LOT to say about Ferrets, unfortunately, this is not a Q&A, and you guys won't answer my questions, so I’ll get on with the word vomiting. 

The best way to look at why some animals thrive best alone is to think about those God forbidden state tests we all had to take in grade school. I know. I’m sorry, I don't like to remember them either. Anyways, we all were given our tests, and then isolated to enhance our performance. It worked, right? Those sweaty and panicky hands calmed down once we could focus on our lonesome. 

Ferrets are similar in the sense that they prefer individual habitats. We don’t know if this is because they’re attention seeking pesky rodents, or cute slinky-like fur snakes, but either way- isolation finds itself true in the ferret's lives. 


With this, I conclude my rampage about guinea pig poops, chinchilla jumps, and fur snakes.

The moral of the story is that we’re all different. I myself am a socialite and love the company of others, but you, my dear reader, might like your alone time. The good thing about reading this blog post is that you have the free will to ignore everything I just said and go back to your TikToks about the North Sea. 

Anyways, a big shoutout to my therapist and to everyone here at Tanglewood, who so kindly approve of my word splatters… 

In autumn things slow down, but don’t stop, at Tanglewood

By Bob Recotta (he/him)


I don’t know about you, but this time of year makes me sleepy. I think it’s the shorter days and cooler nights. It’s a great time to snuggle in with a blanket and doze to relaxing television, like the World Series. More than one inning and I’m sleeping like a baby on Quaaludes. Which is a horrible idea that you should never do, unless they’re teething and you just want one good night’s sleep. But even so, be careful. Maybe start with half. 

I’m not the only one whose thoughts turn to a long winter’s nap this time of year. Many of our wildlife friends are also getting ready to sleep through the worst part of the year.


Do the squirrels seem a little more manic to you? It’s because this time of year is their busy season. They are building up stores of fat to get through the winter, as well as stashing nuts for later. Those acorns lying all over the ground, and I do mean ALL over, are going to be the squirrel version of frozen pizza during the cold winter months.

Squirrels aren’t the only ones who treat autumn like Black Friday at Target. Mice and chipmunks are also working overtime to build up their winter stores. 

That’s because these animals don’t truly hibernate. They instead go into a torpor, a half-hibernation. Think of your Uncle Vic on Thanksgiving during the second football game, except without the Pabst and mild racism.

They sleep through much of the winter, but they also wake up and snack on their food stores periodically.

Sleep, wake up, eat, sleep. Doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the coldest months to me.


Then there are the moles and shrews. These animals, which, by the way, are not rodents, so don’t call them that unless you want to be thought less of by your more biologically hip friends, and possibly shrews, are the Hannibal Lectors of the animal kingdom. They also spend the autumn hoarding food to get through the winter.

Except moles and shrews are insectivores, so the food they’re hoarding is alive. If you’re not horrified yet, just wait. According to the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab, shrews and moles are very mildly venomous. They collect worms, insects and snails, paralyze them with their venom and snack on them throughout the winter. Sometimes they reapply the venom if their dinner starts to regain mobility.

Imagine you’re a grasshopper, trapped inside a dark mole den. Your five eyes are wide open but you’re completely unable to move.

All of a sudden out of the darkness comes this living nightmare fuel, who promptly starts to devour your best friend Chet, who’s lying paralyzed next to you.

I mean, sure, you’ve only known Chet a couple days, and during that time, you’ve been unable to talk because you’re paralyzed, but you’ve exchanged some meaningful glances with Chet. They say that eyes are the windows of the soul. Well, you’ve looked deeply into Chet’s five windows. You’ve seen him in ways that grasshoppers are rarely seen. 

And you watch in silent horror as Chet’s thorax is eaten while he’s still alive. The last thing you see in Chet’s eyes is a flicker of terror, followed by resignation. Chet’s accepted his fate. It’s time you did the same.

But I digress.


 Even the animals we think about as true hibernators, bears and bats, don’t truly sleep the entire winter. They can wake if roused or disturbed, but in general they sleep much more deeply and wake much less often than squirrels and mice.

Bats and bears are also busy this time of year. They have to pack on the pounds for the winter. Unlike the squirrels, however, they don’t store food. Well, they do, but they store it like I store food - as fat reserves. 

They may wake up during a warm snap to forage a snack, but in general these guys are down for the count - their heart rate and breathing slow and their body temperature drops to conserve that precious fat that’s got to last until April.


That doesn’t mean Tanglewood’s trails will be devoid of wildlife if you choose to take a fall or winter stroll. Many animals, including white-tailed deer, red foxes, opossums and raccoons stay awake the whole winter. Skunks may or may not go into a state of torpor, depending on the amount of available food.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got football to watch. I’ve very much enjoyed spreading tales about our furry, feathered, scaled and slimy friends at Tanglewood. Animals are amazing. A big thank you to Ryan, Elaine and the other staff at Tanglewood for letting me publish my random ramblings. 

I’m going to take a cue from the squirrel and the bear and call it a season. But, like the chipmunk, I will probably check in periodically throughout the fall and winter. In the meantime, enjoy everything Tanglewood Nature Center has to offer. 

And remember Chet. 

Amphibians reward observant nature lovers

By Bob Recotta (he/him)



No offense to robin lovers, but some would argue that the true first sign of spring is the chorus of spring peepers at dusk on warm April nights. It would be a pretty silly thing to argue about, but the bad blood between the robinites and the peeper people runs deep.

There are some very cool amphibians that call the Twin Tiers home. Unfortunately, casual observers will probably miss most of them. A lot of animals in our area eat amphibians, so it’s in their best interest to keep a low profile. But if you turn over the right rock, if you stare under the right lily pad, you just might meet one of our mucous-covered neighbors. (I’m still not over the mucous thing from the reptile blog. Some things just stay with you.)

One of the most well-known and popular of the area amphibians is the aforementioned spring peeper, probably. I don’t have time to perform even the most unscientific survey, so let’s just go with it. 

One of the coolest things about peepers is that all that sound they produce comes out of a frog the size of a paperclip. Let’s see Clippy do that. Peepers are tiny tree frogs that can change color to match the tree they are clinging to.

Sadly, as the small pools where they lay their eggs disappear, so do the spring peepers. Their status is creeping perilously close to Threatened. It would be heartbreaking to think that a generation not too far in the future may not know the intoxication of hearing the first spring peepers of the year and knowing that summer, and all the magic the season brings, is right around the corner. (You were expecting a joke, weren’t you? I have a serious side too, you know.)

American bullfrogs are another amphibian that is probably better known by sound than sight. Bullfrogs are the largest frogs in our area and can reach up to eight inches and weigh up to a pound and a half. Females are larger than males.

According to the National Aquarium, bullfrogs can lay up to 20,000 eggs in a season. Of course the vast majority of the eggs will never reach maturity. As I said, a lot of things eat amphibians.

Bullfrogs are opportunistic ambush predators that aren’t picky about what they eat. While their usual prey consists of insects, crayfish and small fish, bullfrogs have been known to eat birds and bats. Anything that will fit into their mouths is fair game for bullfrogs.

Red-backed salamanders are forest-dwelling amphibians that live beneath leaf litter, rocks and logs on forest floors. Like many amphibians, red-backs don’t really like dry weather and will typically only emerge from cover during or after rainfall.

Red-backed salamanders, like many salamanders and lizards, can drop their tails when in danger. It will eventually grow back.

Unlike most other amphibians, red-backed salamanders don’t have lungs or gills. Instead, they breathe through their skin. That’s why it’s imperative they stay moist. Drying out can lead to suffocation.

The honor of the largest amphibian in New York State goes to the hellbender, a species with either terrible or brilliant branding. 

Hellbenders are a species of salamander that can grow up to 29 inches. Forget Shark Week. If I ever saw a two-foot salamander while I was wading in a creek, let’s just say that stream wouldn’t be safe to drink from for quite some time.

You might, however, have a better chance of seeing a snowball in hell than seeing a hellbender in its natural habitat. Hellbenders are masters of camouflage and blend into the bottom of the shallow, swift streams that they call home.

Another reason you might not see a hellbender is because they are at risk of being included on the Threatened list. According to Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, or SNZCBI, as it’s called by probably nobody, hellbenders receive 95 percent of their oxygen through their skins from highly oxygenated streams. Damming, pollution and disease are pushing the species closer and closer to extinction. Damn damming!

Fun fact, according to the National Wildlife Federation, hellbenders are also known as snot otters. 

I bet trash panda’s looking pretty good right now, eh raccoons?

I’ve covered four of the five vertebrates. Where to next? Fish? Bugs? Arachnids?

Let me know what you think. 

Birdwatching in The Southern Tier 

By Bob Recotta (he/him)



I find birdwatching extremely satisfying. Being in nature is very therapeutic and calming, and categorizing  and recording the bird sightings in a birding journal appeals to my neurodivergent brain.

While Tanglewood Nature Center doesn’t boast birds quite as stunning as the amazing bird of paradise (if you aren’t familiar with birds of paradise, you should check them out. It’s four minutes you won’t regret spending) we’ve got our share of lookers in the Twin Tiers.

Because the internet loves a good listicle, I’ve put together a list of some of the most beautiful birds in our area. And most of them don’t require binoculars or a field guide to find..

A couple caveats: This is nowhere near an exhaustive list. As I am a very amateur birder, these are birds with which I have some familiarity. I’m sure as I fill my bird journal, I’ll be amending this list.

This list, like beauty itself, is subjective. You might find some of these birds downright common. That’s very cool. As I said, this is just the opinion of one man.

One very smart, handsome man.

This list is also not a ranking. The order is arbitrary.


Indigo bunting – I’ll warn you right off the bat, my favorite color is blue and that is reflected in this list. If a sparrow joined the Blue Man Group, it would be the indigo bunting. This bird is just blue. A beautiful, aggressive shade of blue.

(Now you got that song stuck in your head, don’t you?  And if you didn’t, now you do. You’re welcome. Enjoy that for the next couple hours.) 

Goldfinch – Another thing I’m a big fan of is contrasts, especially the combination of black with a very bright primary color. The goldfinch, with his black wings and cap against his highlighter yellow body, fits the bill (See what I did there?)

Like many birds on this list, goldfinches are examples of sexual dimorphism, a phenomenon by which the males of a species are different in appearance from the female. 

Like their human counterparts, male goldfinches only dress up for dates. Before and after mating season, males sport a much more drab brownish yellow. 

Northern cardinal - The northern cardinal benefits greatly from a lack of competition. Its beautiful fire-engine red plumage stands out any time of the year, but really pops in the winter, when the rest of the world is gray and dreary and most of the other songbirds are wintering in Boca.

Seeing that little splash of red in a bush or at your bird feeder in the winter can bouy your spirits as you wait for spring.

For a little bird, northern cardinals can be very territorial. True story – I was hiking one day and I heard the familiar ‘chip chip’ call of the cardinal. I opened up the bird app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and started to play the cardinal call.

In less than three minutes I was hearing cardinals from multiple locations around me. I think I counted at least five birds surrounding me in the trees and I can’t be sure, but I think one of them had a switchblade.

Perhaps it’s best to enjoy cardinals from a distance. And don’t culturally appropriate their songs.

Ruby-throated hummingbird – This might be the easiest choice on the list. Ruby-throated hummers have gorgeous iridescent green feathers covering most of their bodies, with a white chest and its trademark red throat patch.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is poetry in motion. Watching them hover perfectly still while feeding from a flower or feeder can be hypnotic.

Purple martin - The largest member of the swallow family, this bird boasts iridescent blue-purple body feathers. Like the ruby-throated hummingbird, purple martins are meant to be seen in flight. They zip, dart and flit across meadows, lakes and ponds with pinpoint accuracy. It’s no wonder people call them day bats. (Nobody but me calls them day bats, but I’m trying to start something. #daybat)

Wood duck - Two things will stand out when you first see a wood duck. The first is its sweet mullet. This waterfowl might be all business in front, with its sensible green face, but it’s all party in the back with its beautiful black, brown and white feathers flowing down his back like Fabio with a beak.

 A bigger beak.

The second thing you’ll notice about the wood duck is its eyes. They have these orangish-red eyes that are both beautiful and creepy, which is a hard look to pull off.

Great blue heron - With its slate blue body, white face, crown and black eyeliner, the heron is a head turner. 

Seeing a great blue heron take off  is an amazing experience. It goes from lanky and awkward to streamlined and graceful with a few flaps of its wings.

You also get an appreciation for just how big this bird is. A great blue heron can have a wingspan of up to seven feet.

I know what you’re saying. What, no robins or starlings? That was some pretty low hanging fruit, Bob. First of all, you’re being hurtful. And secondly, maybe I’m planning a follow up in a couple weeks. Did you ever think of that?

(I’m blue da ba dee da ba di)

Snakes are Some of the Twin Tiers Most Misunderstood Residents

By Bob Recotta (he/him)