Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

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04 Jan 11

Into: Nancy E. Hassel,
Story by Pamela Fitzpatrick, of YourDogWalkers,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 is National Bird Day celebrating the diverse species of parrotheads, macaws, parakeets, and wild birds alike. Seasoned birders and novices will learn about conservation, dangers affecting wild parrots and health care for pet birds and birds at your back yard feeders. An interesting species of mini parrots called parrotlets, is brought to light by Pamela Fitzpatrick, read below about these cuties:

“I recently had lunch with a friend, who has several parrotlets. I’ve always loved birds, but didn’t know much about these beautiful little guys. Turns out these mini parrots make great pets, all the benefits of a parrot without the larger size.

Parrotlets (“little parrot”) are very small parrots that are native to South and Central America. In the wild, they travel in flocks of up to 100 birds. With their striking colors, this must be an awesome sight!

Like lovebirds, they are very social, and can form strong pair bonds in the absence of human companionship. For this reason, they are often kept as pairs. You can keep a single parrotlet happy however, by spending lots of time with it and giving it exercise and mental stimulation. (For that matter, providing a fun and entertaining cage environment helps keep any kind of pet bird pet busy when you aren’t around).

Like the better well known cockatiel, parrotlets are intelligent and curious with speaking and whistling capabilities. Some learn to talk, while others never will. As a general rule, males are more talkative than females. In addition to mimicking tunes and sounds, they can learn a vocabulary of 10-15 words.

The most common species of parrolet are the Pacific (Celestial) or GreenRump. Birds of both genders are mostly green, while the males have gorgeous blue markings.

If you’ve been thinking about adding a parrot to your family, maybe these smaller versions are right for you! They are easy to care for, and require a lot less room than their larger parrot cousins. With proper care, they can live 10-15 years. For more information, check out the international parrolet society at”

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14 Dec 10

by Nancy E. Hassel,

Dog training for Winter safety

Here on Long Island we are so lucky to be surrounded by water, have many lakes, ponds streams and natural areas to enjoy with our pets. Recently after reading a story in Newsday about a Shirley man who’s 2 off leash Husky’s ran after some geese over the thin ice of a pond and fell through. In an effort to save his dogs the owner also fell through into the cold water. The owner admitted it wasn’t too smart, not thinking the ice was too thin or the cold water too deep and found himself in, well, deep water. Thankfully this story has a happy ending where a neighbor happened to hear the man yelling for help and the man and his dogs were all rescued and are all okay. But it made me think, how many people teach their dogs not to go on the ice? It’s not something you think about every day, especially if you get adopt a puppy or dog in the spring, summer or fall. It made me think back to how I taught my first dog, and dog I currently own to be safe near ice.

When I got my first dog as an adult, a young female puppy Doberman in the late summer of 1995, I did a lot of training with her in many different places. One place more than others, happened to be a park with wooded trails, streams and a lake. That first winter, the then 8-month old puppy was very curious about the strange frozen occurrence that the lake had become. While wanting to show her the ice, I also didn’t want her to think it was safe to walk out onto. So without taking a dog training course on winter safety and going on my instincts, I let her sniff the ice, put a front paw or two on it, but never ever let her walk out onto the ice. Using various commands, “off” if she ventured more than one paw onto the ice, or “stay” to keep her by me, or using “eh ah” if she tried to step on it. Of course this was all done while she was on a leash and giving her verbal praise as a reward. I also let her step on a frozen part right near the edge that I knew would break apart, you know those couple inches of water at the edge that freeze but can still be cracked pretty easily – showing her that it would break. Doing this repeatedly throughout the winter months, trained her not to ever step out onto the ice. Each winter after that I would do a refresher near the first frozen body of water we came upon. I was lucky to have one ridiculously smart dog, who learned quickly and seemed to understand the danger. She was also trained to heel, so when in the presence of ducks, geese or any other wildlife she would not chase an animal. Of course a dog being a dog, she still had instincts to want to chase but having her trained on a verbal recall, helped in having to worry if she did get off leash near ice. I did all these same winter training rituals with my current dog, and he too learned quickly, and it didn’t hurt that he was scared of the ice to begin with. (He also learned by watching her not go on the ice.)

You also have to keep in mind what breed of dog you have too. If your dog was specifically bred for hunting, chasing out birds or is a water dog, you still want to teach your dog winter safety training. Just because your have a Chesapeake Bay Retriever doesn’t mean it can get out of a dangerous situation like falling through ice in a middle of a lake.

Winter can be a lot of fun for us and our dogs, but teaching a dog to stay, come on command and never letting your dog off leash near thin or thick ice, are vital to keeping our dogs safe – and ourselves for that matter. Now that the weather is getting cold enough for ice to begin to form across many of our lakes, ponds, and bays – think about training your dog with winter safety in mind. If you are not sure how to do this properly, consult a dog trainer and ask them for a winter safety training session or two.

Another thing a pet owner should know, whether your pet is a dog or a cat is pet first aid and CPR – especially if your pet falls through ice. We are fortunate to have a local certified Pet Tech, Robyn Elman that teaches a class in pet first aid and CPR, including what to do if your pet gets frostbite and hypothermia. The vital information taught in the class has already saved the lives of a few pets of past class participants. These pet owners who knew what to do in an emergency situation, all thanks to the information they learned in Robyn’s class. To find out more information on the upcoming January 22, 2011 class click here.  Interested parties should sign up soon, as this course fills up fast and is offered about every six weeks.

This dog should be leashed!

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17 Aug 10

By Nancy E. Hassel,

A remarkable place on Long Island that has been around for just over 75 years but still not known by many LI suburbanites, is the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, (, in Quogue, NY.  This is a magical place for little kids and big kids alike, and if you like nature, exploring and learning, you have to visit.  The refuge is one of the last few places you can still go to 7-days a week from sunrise to sunset and it is free.  This unspoiled beautiful piece of land is home to many native wild animals as well as a few from other countries. 

When you arrive you will be greeted by two African Spurred Tortoises that are housed next to one of the original buildings which now houses the Ice Harvesting Exhibit.  After you pass through the entrance gate, you will see animals that are there because they were injured or not legal to have as a pet, that now live their lives, in this place, with plenty of food.  All of these housed animals are all native to New York State.  There is a bald eagle which is very impressive to see so close, a beautiful bobcat, Red Fox, Red-tailed hawks and a few very cool hooting owls.  Beyond that are seven miles of nature trails which go from a deciduous forest environment to ecologically rare Dwarf Pines habitat, in which there are only 3 other places in the world, (yes in the world!), that has that eco-system.  Pretty impressive.  Along the trails you can see a cranberry bog, carnivorous plants, prickly pear cactus and the endangered Pink Lady Slipper orchid, all of these plants are native to LI.

There is a native butterfly garden to the right of the housed animals and The Nature Center Building to the left that is suspended over Old Ice Pond with a beautiful view.  You almost feel as if you are somewhere upstate in a secluded area.  The refuge also has daily camp programs, educational programs for children and adults, and many different animals, fish and snakes for your children to learn about.  They offer green birthday programs a unique twist on a kid’s birthday, and in the winter the refuge lends out snow shoes and cross country skies.  How cool is that?  In the spring, summer and fall months there are many different events including kayaking trips, full moon night hikes, and more.

In speaking with Marisa Nelson, the refuge’s Assistant Director, I asked her what she loves most about working in such a unique, beautiful place and she said, “That everyday here is different, and meeting people who come to learn and explore.  Also the change of seasons here, each season brings new beauty, something new to see and how the wildlife adapts to the changing conditions.”  

One thing important to know, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is not a dumping ground for unwanted pets, or wild animals that were illegally owned. (They will not take them in)  It is also not a place to walk your dog or bicycle; there are plenty of other places to do that.  This is a place to come and explore on foot an incredible natural environment, see beautiful animals up close and learn more about this amazing Island we live on. 

The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is a non-for-profit organization and it is there obligation to serve as responsible land steward of the refuge property and its natural resources, as well as to promote, implement, support and assist environmental education and wildlife management. 

African Spurred Tortoises

See slideshow below for more pics!