By Alicia Dziak

As summertime fast approaches, so do the long days of being outside and exploring nature. As New York’s largest state park, Allegany State Park beckons guests to enjoys its 65,000 sprawling acres, and the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage is a great way to see much of what the park has to offer.

The Pilgrimage includes numerous nature-inspired workshops and programs for all ages, and there is definitely something for everyone. Make your own schedule designed around your personal interests, with programs running from 90 minutes long to a half day.

“Big Tent” evening programs feature informative talks. On Friday, check out Today’s Office Sharon Stiteler a.k.a. “The Bird Chick” ​author and founder of birdchick.com, as she humorously takes us to her many outdoor “offices” leading birdwatching trips around the planet!

​Sharon is the author of 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds, and appears regularly on TV and radio, including outdoor news radio, All Things Considered and has been on the NBC nightly news answering bird questions. Find her on Facebook at “Bird Chick”.

On Saturday evening, get it on Dinosaur Day with Paleo Joe. Joe Kchodl a.k.a. “Paleo Joe” is an award winning paleontologist, and his program will introduce animals, plants, and creatures that have been extinct for millions of years. His high energy programs will bring life to these long-gone creatures.

A sampling of other programs include:​

Amphibians of Allegany, led by Twan Leenders

Did you know Allegany State Park is home to over 20 species of amphibians? Learn more about their ecology, behaviors and fun facts while splashing through the creek in search of some of Allegany’s resident frogs, salamanders and toads with Roger Tory Peterson Institute biologists! Attendees are encouraged to bring boots and nets as we venture down the stream. ​

Art of the Earth: Nature Journaling, led by Kimberly Adriaansen

See, touch, smell and listen to the Earth during this seated adult and supervised children age 9 and up nature journaling workshop! We will artistically explore and render natural items with our senses as well as provided art materials, while learning how to develop a lifelong hobby enjoyable for every age and every audience! Limited seating and materials for up to 20 participants.

Beaver Colony Tour, led by Kristen Rosenburg

Learn about the official mammal of New York State while visiting an active beaver colony.

Bird Banding, led by Linda Ordiway with Jack Skinner

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! Well, at least they are easier to see. Learn how ornithologists capture, band, then release birds to study populations.

Bugs by Nightlight, led by Wayne Gall and Steve Daniel

Participants will observe live moths, beetles, flies, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, etc., attracted to mercury vapor light at a white sheet. The identifying characteristics and natural history of these insects will be discussed.

Cell Phone Nature Photography, led by Chris Myers

You do not need a fancy camera in order to create art or document your observations. We will cover the basics of photography (composition and lighting) as well as cellphone camera operation (focusing, exposure, etc…). Whether you want to make prints, create videos of wildlife, record the sounds of nature, or simply use you images for later identification.

Dragonfly & Damselfly Walk, led by Jeremy Martin

We will review the life cycle of these fascinating creatures and then attempt to get up close and personal with a few resident species in the park. Kids will love trying to catch the flying adults and dipping for the nymphs in the water. Most years we have been lucky enough to find them emerging. We will have some nets available, but feel free to bring your own.

Fairy Houses for Little Ones, led by Lauren Makeyenko

This program is geared for children ages 8 and under. Nature is full of lots of surprises–maybe even fairies! Kids will be able to build a house in the woods for Camp Allegany’s fairies and nature’s friends to visit. The simple challenge of creating a fairy house gives children a unique activity that encourages them to go outside and connect with the natural world, nurturing care and respect for the environment. Please wear clothes that can get dirty. A short story will be read at the beginning.

Family Folk Concert, led by Nan Hoffman

Enjoy the music during and after your chicken or vegetarian dinner on Saturday evening! Nan Hoffman is a singer, musician, performer, recording artist, and workshop presenter. Her presentations are fun and informative, and much of her material invites audience participation.

History of Allegany State Park – Red House Area, led by Harold Stock

Learn a bit about the history of the Red House side of Allegany State Park. We will stop at the Administration Building and talk with the park police. We will cover topics including the native people who lived in this area, the Olympic Ski Jump, Red House Lake, CCC Camps and the Park Zoo. Tour requires some driving and mild walking.

Monarch Butterfly Recovery, Health & Habitat, led by David O’Donnell

This program is designed to provide updated information on the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population and habitat in NY. Though live displays we will demonstrate the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly, give instructions on proper care of larvae, provide info on signs of disease in both plants and butterflies, discuss native plants and learn the benefits of increasing biodiversity on your own property to promote positive environmental changes that give a sense of individual empowerment.

Splash Hike, led by Lon Myers

Come prepared to get wet. Beavers, crayfish, salamanders, water…. Did we mention you will get wet? Bring water shoes. A fun family activity!

Tree Identification for Beginners, led by Marie Erck

We will take a small hike in the area around Camp Allegany, learning to identify trees typically found in Allegany State Park.

Wild Edible Plants

led by Adele Wellman

Ever wonder what you could eat in the woods? Learn about some of our common edible plants and their uses. Suitable for all ages. ​

Registration for the Pilgrimage are as follows: adults, $45; full-time students, $20; children ages 5-18, $5; children under 5, free. Registraion includes admission to most programs, although some may require an additional fee if extensive materials are needed. Online registration closes on May 30.

After the deadline, guest may register in person at the Pilgrimage registration table during the event for either weekend passes ($45) or day passes ($25).

For more info, or to register, visit www.alleganynaturepilgrimage.com.