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Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Description: An expanse of brush-covered sand dunes, pitch pines and scrub oak, this globally rare pine barrens, more than 150 miles from the nearest seashore, formed at the end of the last Ice Age. This unique landlocked ecosystem is the remnant of an ancient glacial lake that left behind sandy soils as it drained.

Despite the fact that the preserve is little more than 3,000 acres in size, the Pine Bush holds a remarkable 45 varieties of wildlife classified as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need,” including 16 bird, 12 reptile and amphibian and 17 insect species. It also supports more than 20 at-risk species that are either state or federally listed as rare or endangered. Its most famous endangered resident is the Karner blue butterfly, a small silvery-blue insect dependent on the wild blue lupine that grows only in dry, sandy, open woods and clearings. More than 90 bird species have been counted at the preserve, which was designated a Bird Conservation Area in 2008. Hundreds of more common species of plants and animals also call the Pine Bush home.

The Pine Bush is a wild oasis surrounded and, in places, bisected by houses, buildings and shopping malls. To maintain the preserve’s mix of scrubby vegetation, fires must periodically be set to burn off undergrowth, create clearings for lupine, and release seeds tightly bound within pitch pine cones. The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center is located at the main entrance to the preserve. This free attraction has interactive displays providing a fascinating introduction to all of the preserve’s unique natural features, flora and fauna, as well as maps and other information for enjoying a hike on its many miles of trails. Most of the protected area of the Pine Bush is near the Discovery Center, but nearby Rensselaer Lake (also known as Six-mile Waterworks) is also part of the preserve. Visitors can access the lake by a separate entrance.

Wildlife to Watch: Sighting the preserve’s signature species, the Karner blue butterfly, on a hike during the spring and summer is a special treat for any visitor. Each year, a Lupine Festival is held in late May, when this favorite food of the insect is in full bloom. A visit around this time will increase your chances of seeing the butterfly among the dunes, pitch pines and scrub oaks. If you visit in the fall, look for the inland barrens buckmoth.

Though the landscape is dominated by conifers, occasional stands of hardwood forest are scattered throughout. Both habitats provide food and shelter for mammals like fishers, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, and red and gray foxes, as well as coyotes. Songbirds like eastern towhees, prairie warblers and indigo buntings as well as raptors like great horned owls and red-tailed hawks also find the mix of pine punctuated by hardwood forest to their liking.

Spring snowmelt leaves numerous vernal pools and swampy areas throughout the preserve. Deep ravines and hardwood swamps of red maple provide shelter for American woodcock. In the evening, you can watch the males perform their elaborate aerial mating flights. Amphibians like the eastern spadefoot toad, and reptiles like spotted turtles and the eastern hognose snake, can also be found in the swampy and sandy habitats of the Pine Bush, as well as along the shore of Rensselaer Lake. Canada geese, mallards and great blue herons are seasonal visitors to the lake during the warmer months as well.

Special Tips: Admission is free, but there is a small fee for educational programs. The Discovery Center is open year-round except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Hunting, fishing and trapping are allowed during their prescribed seasons

Other Activities: Throughout the entire preserve, including Rensselaer Lake, there are about 18 miles of trails with 9 separate trailheads offering hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Most trails are not difficult, and a 0.25-milelong trail at the Discovery Center is wheelchair accessible. Interpretive signsabout some of the preserve’s natural features are located on the trails near the center. Trail information and maps are available at the center and on the preserve’s website (see Contact section below).

518-456-0655, 195 New Karner Road, Albany, NY 12205, www.albanypinebush.org

Ownership: Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission 
Size: 3,100 acres 
Closest Town: Albany

Facilities:
RestroomsParkingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingVisitor CenterHuntingFeeDrinking WaterBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummerFallWinter

Fisher, Photo by Bill Banaszewski
Map
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
From I-87 take exit 2W (Rte. 5 west, Central Avenue). Follow Rte. 5 for about 2 miles. Turn left onto Rte. 155 (New Karner Rd.). Continue on Rte. 155 for about 1.2 miles. The Discovery Center is located on the left at 195 New Karner Road.

Map Link

 
Albany Pine Bush Preserve : Wildlife Viewing Area