The Scout Project -Day one

Today, we started cleaning up the Oxbow.  The scouts were magnificent and really got stuck into hunting out old tires and rubbish. I was horrified at the amount of junk that was hidden in the bushes.


We cut down the wires dangling from the power cables, and removed some brush and invasive vegetation along the shoreline. A wood-chipper was kindly donated to us for the weekend by DJM Equipment and so we’ve been able to mulch a huge amount of logs and brush. So, if you’re looking for rental equipment, please consider DJM on Rte 31.

Tomorrow, we start to cut down the Ragweed and Knotweed.

It was great to see some teenage boys using the clearing we’d made to go fishing. Many more access points now available along the canal shoreline.

A special thanks to our sponsors.

Lowes Macedon supplied equipment

Perinton Pizza fed the Boy Scouts  (585) 223-8118 | 7374 Pittsford-Palmyra Rd, Fairport, NY 14450

DJM Equipment loaned us their wood-chipper

The Butterfly Trail

I had a few spare minutes today to wander down the Butterfly Trail In Macedon. My neighbor John Calia had mentioned it to me when we were walking our dogs down the Oxbow.  I was coming back from Lyons and it seemed a good time to stop and savor the views. Unfortunately, the wind, a remnant of the recent gales, was bitterly cold, so ten minutes out there was enough for me and my dog.

It was time well spent though.  The organisers of this project have excelled here, as you’ll see from my photos here. I’ll let them tell the story.

As you can see, they’ve done a very professional job with the many explanatory signs, rustic bench seats, bird houses and many indigenous  plantings.

I am so much more excited now after seeing this project. The Oxbow has so much more potential, because of it’s great location, with the adjacent woodlands, and the backwater of the canal.

We need a lot of help, muscle, money and machines. I’ve already been offered a great discount on a Bobcat, but we’ll need mowers, brush cutters, chainsaws and shovels.

I hope you can come and join us with the cleanup! Please let us know what you can help with.

The Oxbow Boy Scout Project

Several of my neighbors and I have been discussing the state of the Oxbow Trail for some months. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a young man (and his dad) who had the same passion for this enchanted place.  I met Ever Gavalis and his dad Eric a few weeks ago on the trail and we started discussing the state of the place. Eric told me his son had for some time thought The Oxbow was worthy of cleaning up. Of course it hit a chord with me, and as I happened to know the NYS Canal Authority Permit Engineer, I suggested we make further inquiries.

Ever suggested the The Scouts would love a project like cleaning up The Oxbow, so we suddenly had a work force. After getting positive feedback from both The Fairport School District and The Canal Authority, our project is now under way.

The Oxbow Project will clean up the debris and turn this beautiful neglected area into the tranquil natural beauty spot it deserves to be.

We’ll need some help. We’re going to need indigenous plants, gravel for the trail, bat houses, bird nesting boxes, and maybe help with mowing grassy areas. I’d like to rent or borrow a Bobcat or low loader, and a dumpster to ease the removal of logs, metal tanks and drums.

We’ll always need help with upkeep.  So please let us know if you’d like to contribute. Maybe you’re digging up some plants like Beebalm and could donate them?

Here’s a great business specialising in NYS indigenous plants.


Hopefully all the authorities will come good and we can progress with this great project in the early Spring.




It’s a tragedy really


The trail known as Oxbow Road travels from Erie Crescent to Old Post Road. One side is wooded and owned by The Fairport School District, and on the other side is the backwater of The Erie Canal and it is owned by NYS Canal Authority.

The last house burned down approximately two years ago and since then the area has decayed badly. Almost all the ground cover has been obliterated with noxious Ragweed, growing some six to eight feet tall, blinding out light and nutrient to almost everything else, and causing untold misery for anyone unfortunate to be effected with the spores, which make eyes water, skin blister, coughing, sneezing and more. These symptoms only abate after the first frost, which kills the plant, but not the roots.

There were dozens of small cottages constructed along the shoreline and their remains still clutter the area. Metal posts, wire fencing, oil drums, tires and more, far too much more.

Huge trees, some eighty feet tall, are rotting at their bases and tower dangerously over the trail. Several have already fallen and the authorities have sawn up the branches and left piles of logs everywhere, not disposing of their mess.

Even the stream that runs from Hart’s Wood to The Canal is mistreated. As it flows under the trail through a culvert, the branches, twigs and leaves get stuck at the mouth of the culvert and need regularly cleaning out, but the authorities simply lift the debris out and throw it into a huge pile on the side of the stream. It often falls back into the culvert, when the stream floods, or gets washed into the canal.

These woods and shoreline are a natural beauty and should be treated as such.  The debris needs to be picked up, the Ragweed and Poison Ivy need killing, the brush needs clearing out, some areas need regular mowing to keep weeds at bay.

There are numerous spots where indigenous plants  could be planted in swampy, shoreline and woodland areas.

Hopefully our local authorities can be brought together to grant permission for volunteers to clean up this mess and turn it into a nature reserve attracting animals, birds, bees and butterflies, making it a real pleasure for local residents to spend time and enjoy the tranquility here.

See the mess here!






The Wily Coyote

Photo by Jolie Gordon Wikipedia Commons

We have coyotes! I’ve seen them running along the island shoreline and occasionally swimming from the island to the embankment. I, and a number of neighbors, have heard them too. It’s usually in the early summer, late evening-early morning and the noise is nerve shattering. It must be the new litter of spring pups learning to howl at the moon, and they do it so well it scares many of us.

Do they actually have a den on the island? Personally, I don’t think they do. There are several large holes dug into the hill between Oxbow Lane and the school sports field, and I’ll bet that’s where our resident coyote family winters as it’s higher and drier ground. They may give birth to and rear their pups in a lair on the island in the early summer, which would account for the din that wakes us up occasionally.

Photo by g’pa bill

Coyotes have been unjustly given a bad rap! Killers, child kidnappers, sneaky, evil and worse. At only 30-45 lbs, the coyote is a small to mid sized dog, and has developed a technique to live within suburbia without us calling out the hunting party. He’s managed to avoid dragging your babies into the woods by eating critters you actually don’t want around your home, like mice, rats, chipmunks, voles, snakes and the plague of our flower beds, pesky rabbits.

Note, pet cats aren’t on the list. The reason being, I have always owned cats and in my experience, they are well protected against attacks by dogs. Have you ever tried to put an unwilling cat into a travel crate? It’s an unpleasant experience that requires the wearing of leather to protect against the razor sharp claws and teeth. I’ve seen enthusiastic dogs corner my cats and they really don’t fare well. Once the cat stands its ground, the dog is doomed if he attacks. At least, there will be a yelp when the nose gets bloodied, at worst an eye injury.

“But my cat has been declawed (shame on you) to protect my furniture !” I hear you bleat. It’s well known in the feline evolutionary studies that as different cats evolve, their fangs grow longer. There are many recordings of domestic sized cats with huge fangs, saber toothed kitties. My own cat, a Siamese, was declawed mistakenly by my vet, to say the least, I was unhappy. That cat grew fangs that were well over one inch long, and I think the growth was to compensate for the lack of claws. He planted them into my arm shortly after I moved here, to show me he wasn’t impressed with The Oxbow. The resulting festering  could have killed me if it weren’t for antibiotics.

Coyotes are smart, and they know the risks involved in taking on pussy cats, so I think we can seldom blame them for the odd missing pet cat, unless the cat is ill or overweight and can’t defend itself. Most cats can climb better than coyotes, so if there is a tree nearby, the coyote will go hungry.

Wiki Commons

I recently learned that coyotes actually walk on tip-toe to stalk their prey. It would make a amusing clip in a Disney cartoon!

Canadian Geese are a nuisance animal to most folks with lawns edging the canal. They come ashore in dozens, crop the grass too low, and poop everywhere. When shooed away, they kick up a terrible noise in protest.  I find them particularly annoying when they start honking just before dawn. Our coyote neighbors happen to like goslings, and the geese knew it and tend to stay well away from coyote territory. We must thank them, coyotes are our friends, keeping our lawns clean!

Many people think that its best to get the authorities to remove the coyotes from their suburban area, but that approach has been tried many times with the result that it encourages a higher population. When there is less pressure on a coyote family for food resource, the next litter of pups is usually larger, filling in the void balancing out the ecosystem. It would appear that man should not interfere.

See – The Natural History of the Urban Coyote  —-

“Coyotes are here to stay and removing them is not and will never be an option. Our one and only path forward is coexistence.”












A Little History

Not too many people know about The Oxbow. It’s a little corner of the World that’s tucked away and almost forgotten. If you walk the canal towpath from Perinton Park to the south, you’ll find the canal widens out somewhat before  it bends right towards Bushnell’s Basin.  Two islands and a stack of wooden poles making a navigation piling tell you are in The Oxbow. Look through the bushes to your right, and you’ll see you are on an embankment that is over twenty feet high, and you can see  over the top over the houses below. This sight really demonstrates the massive effort that went into the Erie Canal’s construction.

The Oxbow has a colorful past. Stories abound of murder, mayhem, speakeasys, brawls, brothels and bars. It was a place Fairport residents looked at with disdain. You were a no-body if you lived there, and school children, being the little horrors they can be, would ridicule the Oxbow kids  until – they were invited to stay there for a weekend.

Oxbow kids and their friends had fun, fishing, swimming, rafting, adventuring on the islands. It was a place where very happy childhood memories were made, and I’ve met several adults who lived and played here that had wonderful tales to tell.

One story I heard was from a man who lived on the north shore as a kid. The lone white house facing you as you walk down into The Oxbow was the local pub where, one night a man in a wheelchair had a lot too much to drink and became very obnoxious. Several customers dragged him outside, wheelchair and all, cracked a beer bottle on a rock, and slit his throat, leaving him to die in the bushes.


Pictured here are two of the three cottages that were still inhabited until recently.  They were burnt down, probably by local kids.

I often took my boat around by these cottages and spent a while fishing. I imagined the inhabitants living here, and kids hanging their bare feet off the dock, fishing rod in hand, whiling away the hours on these hot summer days.

I live on the North corner of the ‘lake’ with a wonderful view looking south. To wake in the morning and gaze out, watching the sun rise over The Oxbow is a sheer delight that brightens my every day, regardless of the weather.

Enjoy my live view. CLICK HERE

In the 1920’s the canal was dredged and the silt and debris  deposited in the lake formed by the construction of the  embankment to the west.


This photograph was taken with the view from Old Post Rd. looking north west. Note the electricity pylon in the center of the picture. It must have been taken shortly after the area was flooded as the embankment (upper left) is in place, but no sign of the islands yet.


A few years later, the Oxbow is a hive of activity; dozens of cottages are crammed in along the shore line. The main island is half complete and trees are well established. The smaller island barely exists, and there’s even a barge with a boom, probably there to contain the dredged material, or is it a pipeline to pump the silt ashore.


blow up

Most properties were taking advantage of their waterfront appeal and had docks and decks and even boats.

One ex-resident told me how many of the original bargemen cottages were designed so that the waterside wall was opened enough to let the bow of a barge pull inside. A deck was shaped to fit the bow  and the men slept there in more comfortable conditions than on board.  I’ve yet to find any photos of these barges, but I suspect they are very similar to the English narrow boats I am familiar with. Does anyone have any photos?

Some interesting articles.

From Vacation Spot to Ashes

The Early Years

The Erie Canal in Perinton

The Raft Project

A couple of years ago, my wife and went to China on a “bucket list’ trip, and took a ride down the Li river in a bamboo raft (made of plastic pipes). To cut a long story short, I decided to make one, just for the heck of it, and I enlisted the help of Brendan Lyons and Max Kreckel.
Max  made this little video while the lads were having fun in the Oxbow last summer.

A Chinese Raft on the Erie Canal


Mike Caswell and Barkley




Red Squirrels

Being born and raised in England, I was always felt privileged  to get a  glimpse of a red squirrel. They were quite the rarity and almost extinct, thanks to The Duke of Bedford, who introduced the American Grey Squirrel to his Stately Home at Woburn Abbey.

The Grey Squirrel is much bigger than the native Red Squirrel and out performs it in food foraging, breeding and fighting. But worse, it was a carrier for Squirrel Pox and introduced it to the Red who had no immunity to this devastating disease.


Only 10-20,000 Red Squirrels exist in the UK (no, I didn’t count them) whereas it’s estimated there are two and a half million Greys.

So, imagine my surprise when I was walking Barkley down the Oxbow a few months ago, and I saw a Red Squirrel running along the fence by the older white house at Oxbow Lane entrance. At first, I thought it was a huge chipmunk, with a very fluffy tail, but it soon became obvious it was a tiny squirrel.  My first thoughts were, “What’s an English Red Squirrel doing here?”  Knowing that the Grey in England was a transplant, I assumed the Red in America was also a transplant.

Further research soon proved me wrong.

New York State has three types of squirrels –

The Red Squirrel, pictured below,the Grey Squirrel, and Flying Squirrels.

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Here’s a really good article on NYS Squirrels!

Until I started Googling NY Squirrels, I had no idea we had a flying squirrel as a neighbor, but I’ve never seen one. Has anyone else?

Wikipedia Commons


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the flying squirrel back under protection on June 6, 2011.

I like squirrels. I think they’re cute, especially when they are in a tree staring down at my dog Barkley, (who likes them too) with tail fluffed up and cussing the dog ferociously!  Perhaps we should encourage them in the Oxbow area and provide some little homes for them. I might knock together a couple during the winter, as I’ve just found some plans.

Let me know if you see the reds or even a flying squirrel when you walk the Oxbow trail.

Mike Caswell