Where the Wild Things Are

Tifft Nature Preserve is dedicated to environmental education and nature study. Activities include, bird watching, fishing, photography and snow-shoeing.

The site encompasses 264 acres strictly for the conservation and preservation of nature. The land was reclaimed from its use as a landfill, which was home to two million cubic feet of solid municipal waste. The area was purchased from the City of Buffalo, then protectively encased in clay. It was then covered with soil excavated elsewhere on the property and seeded with wildflowers and grasses. The thick clay cap contains the seepage to the surface.

Animals from the greater regional area take advantage of the preserve’s ponds, swamps, marshes, thickets, and forested areas. The Mounds grassy fields are pictured above, never hinting at the previous use as a landfill.

Tifft’s large cattail marsh was preserved to help attract and retain animals. Ponds were enlarged also.

Grassy fields of wildflowers were established at various areas, creating feeding stops and shelter for a wide variety of insects and birds.

The location, with proximity to the east shore of Lake Erie, and its isolation from other similar areas, make it an attractive area for migrant and resident birds. Sixty-five different species have been reported to breed here. Some migrant birds, shorebirds, flycatchers, and warblers have been sighted on their northward and southward passage. To see all the varieties recorded, go to this site.

Beetles can live in peace, free from pesticides and herbicides.

Many nesting locations for birds are positioned throughout the site. I did see a turkey on the move, but…

… I did not see many other birds (uncommon ones that is, I saw lots of red-winged black birds, sparrows and robins), but did hear a few that I did not recognize.

There was a turkey vulture, shown above, it flew overhead, then quickly disappeared over the trees. I am not sure if it was a turkey vulture (it has a little head and big wing span, but I did not see it long enough to see if its head was bald) , but it was a huge bird. Also a hawk (not as big), but it also went into the trees, so neither photo is very clear. No time to change camera settings to adjust for the bright sky.

I rarely look up, and I just happened to right before both big raptors disappeared. Plus I did not have my 300mm lens on the walk either, it was left in the truck on the other camera.  This place is known for bird watching too, I just was not expecting any to be flying around in the middle of the day. Heck, I did not see any birds other than robins before the turkey all but ran in front of me. All I could do to quickly focus on the scared bird. He must have thought I was scoping up my shotgun.

It is exciting at a nature preserve. I am very lucky to live near so many places that have natural wonders. It is far too bad that the manmade places are not as nice. But that is a rant I have on Niagara Falls. If only preserving the architecture had been a priority before so much was lost.

The four ponds and lakes are kept natural and are home to a variety of aquatic life.

The water was murky green at many of the ponds. Above, the lake is covered in algae and water vegetation.

Frogs were all over on the slimy pond banks.

This frog did not move, so I got good photos of him. I guess he thought I could not see him in all the slime. All his relatives dove in like Olympic swimmers and quickly submerged, but not him. If I was thinking, I would have taken a shot of all the frogs making swan dives.

The Preserve is a very relaxing place to hike and take photographs. The architectural firm where I worked was part of this project in the 70’s and 80’s, a very long time before I was employed there or even a resident of New York. It is a project I would have loved to work on due to the uniqueness of the site. I did work on a reclamation, brown field site in a different town. It was a phenomenal experience located along the Niagara River.

You have to look close to see the Blue-Eyed Darner, above. Tiny, yet very vibrant. One thing about shooting bugs, the time of day usually plays into success. It is best early in the day or late in the day when insects are less active. At a preserve like this one, you are prohibited from leaving the trail.  This is to protect the wild nature of the area. Many dragonflies and damselflies where flying, but not landing.

Many species of butterflies visit Tifft. Most were to be found deep into the fields, an area off the trails.

I saw many Black Swallowtail, but they did not fly in very close. The Monarchs were much more obliging.

In fact, I have lots of Monarchs feasting with a variety of bees and bugs. Notice, they are all eating the same thing.

Many species of birds nest in the Preserve.


The map above gives you a sense of the vastness of the property and where all the trails lead.

The back light was pretty through the wings of the Monarch. It looked like the butterfly was lighted up. It is the same butterfly as the first photo.

And the butterflies do love the thistle.

The ducks are resting just beyond a beaver dam. I did not see a beaver.

The Tifft Nature Preserve is administered by the Buffalo Museum of Science. When the museum acquired the property in 1982, it was called Tifft Farm Nature Preserve to reflect the dairy farm owned by George Washington Tifft.  It was changed to Tifft Nature Preserve to better demonstrate the purpose of the site in conservation of indigenous plants and animals, plus the migratory species also.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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24 Responses to Where the Wild Things Are

  1. Shyrlene says:

    Ok – Donna, those photos are insanely fantastic! Your creative eye, and that amazing camera are a wicked combination. (What lens did you use?)

    • I had on then 18 to 135mm zoom. I was there only planning on shooting mostly butterflies, then a flurry of feathered creatures appeared. I think the hawk flushed the turkey not me. I was at the right place and right time. The turkey vulture flew over right before the hawk…hence all blurry photos. After those big birds, photographing robins seemed pointless. I did go expecting shore birds and saw none.

  2. Carri says:

    Beautiful pics!

  3. One says:

    This is a paradise!!! I like everything about it. The ducks would be my favourite. We don’t see them hanging around wild.

    • It really is a nice place to go but it is really isolated in not the best part of town. I was there when bus loads of kids were on tour, so I felt safe with all the adult chaperones, plus there were volunteer tour guides. So I did not venture far from them, but my bird photos I was by myself. Too bad for the kids not to see them.

  4. Bridget says:

    Brill post! How fab that this area has been rescued and given a new lease of life like this. reat photos too, give one a real sense of the place.

  5. Donna says:

    what a gorgeous spot…NYS has so many wonderful spots like this to explore….your photos as always are stunning and so vivid…

  6. Cindy says:

    I feel well-rested after just looking at the photos. I’d probably be comatose after visiting. Thanks for sharing the wonderful information about the preserve. It was very interesting.

  7. Lona says:

    What a wonderful Nature Preserve. We have several here too and I love going to them and seeing new wildflowers and critters. The water is a great spot. They always have Bluebird boxes around them which is such a nice addition for the birds.

  8. b-a-g says:

    The picture of the frog in the bubbly slime is gross yet beautiful at the same time.

  9. Holley says:

    What a pretty place. Amazing that this used to be a landfill! Bravo to whoever had the vision to turn this place into a reality.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, What a beautiful place and a lovely series of shots!

  11. linniew says:

    Awesome stop-action shots. And the froggie in the frog-heaven slime bath! That hawk is probably still in hawk-church being thankful that your camera wasn’t loaded… 🙂

  12. debsgarden says:

    Thanks for posting all these delightful photos. I wish this would be the inspiration for all landfills! My husband and I were just talking yesterday about landfills. You have shown me there is hope!

  13. Cat says:

    You’ve given a beautiful representation of a great place. I agree with debsgarden, it’s an inspirational place! Here is hoping others learn from it!

  14. tina says:

    Don’t you just hate it when all the frogs jump away so quickly? That one frog was most obliging-or just very stupid to sit there. Had you been a predator he’d have been toast. Ah well, now he is preserved forever.

    This is a very large preserve and I had maybe a silly question but have to ask. Since it was a landfill and encapsulated with clay-how deep is the clay then the topsoil? Do the engineers who do this work expect the land will sink as the solid materials continue to decay and seep? Or is that kind of what the ponds do-contain the byproducts and nature takes care of the waste. Perhaps sinking would be very slight and not noticeable?

    • I did not work on this particular project but each one is specifically engineered for the waste it contains. The one I did work on held toxic chemicals and heavy metals with much outgassing. A special engineering firm did the design, I just designed the floating slab building to sit on top. Note that no foundation could be dug.

      But that was quite different than a municipal dump site. What is important is that woody species can grow under constrained rooting conditions without compromising the integrity of the engineered cover or have the cap shift and settle. They accomplish this by intense compacting of the 4 to 5 foot clay cap (again this number varies) and sometimes use thick geo-liners and geo-nets for additional stabilization. I can not place a section cut in a comment or I would roughly show the process. It is very technical but simply elegant. Actually, capping pretty much contains the waste like a giant lidded trash can, preserved and contained for eternity if done correctly.

      Oh, the soil depth varies but 30 inches might be typical due to having to spread a weight load, again to avoid shifting and settling. It would be deeper where trees might be planted.

  15. Gorgeous place, gorgeous photos! Reminds me of a lot of spots here in Wisconsin. It’s great to find undisturbed, peaceful places in these crazy times!

  16. igardendaily says:

    Thank you for sharing this preserve and its story…so uplifting to learn and see what has been done with a former landfill area. Gives one hope for other areas that are used for purposes such as this. Yes, your photos are crazy beautiful and my favorites are the beetle on the blade of grass, the frog, and the monarchs! Stunning!

  17. Alistair says:

    Very relaxing views and beautifully photographed, so very similar to Deeside here in Scotland. We don’t have Turkeys running around though

  18. Marguerite says:

    Your description and photo of the large bird definitely sounds like a turkey vulture. I think I can detect just a bit of red on his head in the photo. They look very impressive in the sky but when you see them sitting in a tree boy are they ever ugly!

  19. dona says:

    The Tifft Nature Preserve is a wonderful and relaxing place.

  20. Chad B says:

    What a fascinating tour and education! The planning and execution that must have gone into a project like that is mind-blowing.

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