Just as April marks the beginning of spring migration for bird watchers, May is time for wildflower fans to start enjoying both common and rare species that abound throughout WNY parks and preserves. The trick is going to less-traveled sites, which make spotting flora and fauna the quiet, peaceful pursuit it’s meant to be. Secret Places of Western New York, the book recommended by Gerry Rising on page 22, is a perfect guide for hiking the following sites, known for wildflowers, birds, and more:
DeVeaux Woods State Park, Niagara Falls
Renowned for its ancient forest and empty but beautiful institutional buildings that have yet to find reuse, DeVeaux Woods is a nice hike on its own or in combination with nearby Whirlpool State Park. There are many different wildflowers here; look for Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-Pulpit), erythronium (trout lily), and wild dicentra (Dutchman’s Breeches).
Eighteen Mile Creek Park and Gorge, Hamburg, North Evans
Though it has more than its share of wildlife and spectacular natural beauty, this park and associated trails (shown on page 11) are not terribly well-known. Now is the best time to visit Buttermilk Falls, a seventy-foot waterfall along a trail that ends at Lake Erie.
Canadaway Creek, Dunkirk
Thousands of birds pass through this sanctuary, including many warbler species. More than 140 species can be spotted during the migration season, which continues through this month. This is also a last chance to fish for steelhead before they leave for colder waters. Trout are also a big attraction, though fall is the high season for fly fishing here.
Other parks and preserves great for spring walks—but not mentioned in Secret Places—include Bond Lake Park in Ransomville and Gulf Wilderness Park in Lockport. In addition to the flowers mentioned above, keep an eye out for trillium, May apple (Podophyllum pellatum), and even lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium). True wildflower afficionados are willing to go off-trail; well-tramped paths and popular parks are not the places to find rarities.