Burgeson Wildlife Sanctuary, Early Autumn


Contributing Writer
Paul Leone

The lovely lengthy autumn in western New York must be a benevolent diety’s indulgence to we poor mortals hurtling toward yet another bleak cold winter. One pleasures in the sunny afternoons and cool sleeping weather evenings, reveling in each and every new day splendor. Even as the beauty of color change inspires not only admiration but trepidation.

This day I made a pilgrimage to Burgeson Wildlife Sanctuary, my go-to for spiritual rejuvenation. The Big Pond lay quiet and serene, the growth surround browning and golden. I remembered the commotion I had witnessed on a little brush lined pond opposite the overlook: sounded like some primeval ocean surge. On closer inspection it proved to be two large snapping turtles in mating throes. What certainly was the male seemed to be repeatedly pulling the female beneath the surface all the while issuing out an extremely loud, hoarse other worldly sound. I watched transfixed until a woman with a young child appeared along the path. “Mommy, what’s that noise?” the child asked. The woman and I exchanged glances.

On the far side of the Big Pond the goldenrod were far along in bloom. Other memorable, sometimes ecstatic moments, have blessed me at Burgeson. Two seasons ago, passing alongside the goldenrod field, the Big Pond to my left, I was astonished by a vision that has never since left my soul. There on the pond myriads of large, white graceful birds, more than I could count, floated complacently, contentedly, at least in my beguiled imagination. Tundra swans. Like pretty ballerinas in repose. I have since understood that the swans seek out the Big Pond on their annual migration. A single day, I’m told, they stay. I will see them again, I have every confidence.

Once, traveling through the woods beyond the goldenrod field I discovered a gathering straight out of Shakespeare. Burgeson’s Big Pond trail alternates between meadow and forest. A large circle of multi-generational women (reminding me of the harvest festival scene in the Winter’s Tale) were performing what looked like ritualistic limb movements in time to a lovely leader’s intonations. I would estimate the number of these women to be in the range of twenty-five, although that may very well be inaccurate due to my delighted distraction. I waited until the exercise in progress was completed then started back in a direction completely off the intended path. The women were equally delighted with the distraction.

I visit Burgeson every season.