Photo: Nigel Kent

A Finger Lakes Winter Journal by Henry Scholl

In 2015, the Finger Lakes Land Trust named 11-year-old Henry SchollConservationist of the Year” for his efforts to support the organization using his personal savings. Now in high school, Henry remains committed to conservation and exploration of the natural world near his home in Cayuga County. This winter, Henry will reflect on his observations at FLLT nature preserves in a series of journal entries.

Hinchcliff Family Preserve – 3/23/2021

My journey to the Hinchcliff Family Preserve marks the end of the Winter Journal. I’ve had a lot of fun hiking and writing about it, and I hope you had fun reading.

Thank you, Winter.
Hello, Spring.

-a firm foundation
-a yellow blaze
-the harbinger robin
-almost hot sun on my face
-last remnants of snow
-water rushing down the gorge
-crow friend saying “hello”
-my footfalls on the bridge
-bright, bubbling water
-the smell of soil
-a spongy path
-the landscape revealed
-circling red-tails
-a trickle under two boards
-flickering sun rays between the trees
-quiet excitement underneath
-cool breeze on snow patch
-a stony boundary
-greening passages
-fuzzy mullein
-the spiciness of the meadow
-a gnat and my nose getting acquainted
-red osier whips
-spent pinecone meals
-chickadee goodbye

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary – 3/13/2021

As I walked down the entrance road, the snow had been packed hard thanks to rain that had arrived the day before. This didn’t mean that there weren’t pitfalls one could fall into, which I did! It would only hold for a few brief moments after putting my weight on it before it gave way with a loud crunch, startling any nearby critters away.

Nearing the trail, I could hear Canada Geese honking in the distance, however I did not know what they were honking at yet. After planning out the route at the trail map, the geese quickly came into sight in the water nearby, revealing that they were honking at each other rather than something else. As they got close to each other, they would spread their wings, flapping off the water and displaying their power. As I neared them, they became even more anxious, honking more often and moving down the stream much faster. They finally settled as I went on my way.

Not long after, I spotted something scurrying across the snow and then the ice on the water. Who would have thought I would see a mink! It ducked in and out of small hills, bobbing as it lumbered across the land with its long, slinky, silky body, until eventually it was out of sight. Making my way through the narrow trees, the water came closer and closer. Soon after, I reached the lookout point, and from there I saw a male and female Common Merganser gliding along the water at the Blue Trail Vista. My mink friend caught up too, swimming from island to island as it made its way west.

After taking a rest, on my way back to the parking area, I spied and studied a wispy feather lying in the snow, maybe from a hawk or owl? The brown color was lined with white stripes, much brighter on one side than the other. It was very short, so it may have been from the back of the bird rather than the wing, otherwise it wouldn’t get very far. Getting closer to the parking area I spotted another bird. It was a male Hooded Merganser! Its fan-like crest was up, flouting off its elegance in hopes of finding a mate. Instead, it ended up attracting a few Canada Geese that loudly squawked at it.

Bishop Nature Preserve – 2/21/21

In elementary school, I did an assignment on cinquain poems, a unique form of writing. It captures the pure feelings of an experience due to the minimal amount of words it uses. I decided to use it for this entry because it was a beautiful sunny day at the preserve and I was just enjoying the walk.


white, pillowy
sitting, smoothing, laying
rolling over endless ground


brown, slim
bending, curving, tipping
off balance from the rest of its kind


bright, tall
growing, moving, expanding
reaching towards the expansive sky


tan, dry
swaying, sleeping, maturing
preparing to explore new lands


short, quiet
sprouting, blooming, bursting
exploding outwards like a star


stiff, tough
cracking, breaking, protecting
keeping out the cold


High Vista Preserve – 2/15/21

One thing to consider before hiking is to make sure you can get into the trail! Last weekend, I tried to access two preserves, but they were snowed in and there was no place to safely park on the road. This time I was prepared with snowshoes and a different entrance to High Vista than I normally would have taken from my house.

As I moved towards the trail, the unbroken snow showed that no one had hiked for a while. The trees stood still, there was little wind to move them. Snow fell off of high branches as they gave way to the weight, luckily none made its way down the back of my neck. Along the way, there was an opening among the trees, presumably an old logging path. Eventually, I came across a log and I decided to sit down for a little bit. I listened for birds moving above me and heard two: one is a mystery, while the other was a Downy Woodpecker. The rest must have been tucked into the trees on such a cold day. The woodpecker’s call resonated through the forest, hoping to grab the attention of any mates or competitors nearby.

Even with the difficulty of being able to get to the Land Trust spaces, it’s worth the while to go to them to have a calm space in your life after being cooped up inside. Being able to listen to nature and let its energy flow through you is essential when you go out. It gives you a chance to clear your mind of your grievances, and let your mind wander wherever the path leads.

Bahar Preserve – 1/31/2021



As I started, the snow was laid down gently, ready to walk on. The sun reflected off of it, creating lights all around the ground. To the sides of the trail, there were animal tracks of various shapes and sizes, revealing the many creatures that had been roaming around. Some tracks had a deliberate path, while others meandered, with an occasional area that had been scruffed and uprooted—evidence that they had been looking for something. Who knows what they found?

After walking for a while, I stopped for a few moments and heard the creeks, still running with water despite the temperature. Towards the end of the Red Trail, Skaneateles Lake came into view through the trees. Moving down to the beach front, I was able to watch the waves splash up against the small walls of ice that had formed along the rocks. It was now time to make my way back up, marching through the snow once more.

Photo: Henry Scholl