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The Remarkable Floating Fen

by Kyle Semmel, Communications Manager

When Fredonia college students purchased the land that would become the College Lodge Forest in 1939, they did so because they were looking for a place to experience nature. As a result of their foresight, the forest became a prized learning laboratory for thousands of professors, researchers, and students from Chautauqua County and around the world, including Terry Mosher, who was an Associate Professor of English for nearly thirty-six years.

Terry, who grew up north of Syracuse, utilized the space in his teaching by developing courses that combined his love for literature and the environment. As a Friend of the College Lodge Forest, he helped our community save that property. Now he’s committed to helping our community save a forest that’s adjacent to the College Lodge Forest: the Floating Fen. In May, he joined naturalist and Land Conservancy board member Marcus Rosten and other birding enthusiasts to catalogue the birds found there. Though he’s retired now, Terry is an avid birder who still leads occasional bird tours for the Land Conservancy.

Like the College Lodge Forest, the Floating Fen is situated directly in a migratory bird corridor. That means birds as diverse as Veeries, Blackburnian Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Scarlet Tanagers may all descend on the forest to nest in the spring. This creates a spectacular atmosphere for birding—and a truly unique opportunity for birders to visit an unexplored local forest.

"The Floating Fen is a gem of a property," Terry said, "with habitat as unique as any Western New York woodland can boast. Along with the peace and beauty of a lovely woods, the Floating Fen will offer visitors the sight and sound of so many birds drawn to a forested wetland: tail-bobbing Northern Waterthrushes nesting in swampy thickets, Red-shouldered Hawks circling over the fen, Acadian Flycatchers rapping out their ceaseless "Pit-SEET" calls, and brown-eyed Barred Owls barking out their favorite question: "Who cooks for YOU? Who cooks for YOU-ALL?"

Like the College Lodge Forest, the Floating Fen is perched on the crest of a continental divide. When rain falls on the forest, some water drains toward Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean, while some drains toward the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, it’s home to an exceptional array of rare peatland plants, carnivorous sundews, blue flag iris, and the very floating fen from which it derives its name. The Floating Fen’s diverse habitats make it an ideal home to black bears, wood ducks, red-shouldered hawks, porcupines, fishers, and beavers.

Beaver Marsh at the Floating Fen, Erik Danielson

Unfortunately, the Floating Fen is under imminent threat. If our community cannot raise

$925,000 by the end of 2023 to purchase the Floating Fen, it could be sold and its forest cut and subdivided. Once we reach our fundraising goal, the Land Conservancy will purchase the land, maintain the forest and wetland, and open a walking trail so people can experience its beauty for years to come. Even better, the Floating Fen will combine with the College Lodge Forest to form nearly 400 acres of connected forest in Chautauqua County, making it a significant addition to the Western New York Wildway.

This is a win-win for everyone, including Terry’s beloved birds, some of which travel thousands of miles from Central and South America to nest here. Can you imagine a future in which people come from around the world to see the remarkable Floating Fen? We can.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of The Resource, the Land Conservancy's twice-yearly publication. Photo of Terry Mosher: Erik Danielson.

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