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Driving the System


Driving the System is something Ryan and I do and talk about often on our Podcast- 'Two Angles on Angling' (

What this means is driving the system of waters we fish here in Western New York. We do this in order to see what the conditions look like and if things are fishable anywhere throughout. Water clarity is what we are keeping an eye out for.

So, what did my drive look like today? Let me break it down for you and share all of my observations from the day.

This actually started yesterday while going to get my car out in Orchard Park. I had a hunch that most of our waters would be mud, but with not much else to do, I had to get an eye on things to make sure. We passed the Buffalo River and it sure was high and muddy.

Today I hit the road at around 10am and it was windy but not raining anymore. We had just gotten some severe rain Thursday and Friday.


As I was driving I saw a Red-tailed Hawk flying over and then it landed in a tree, right below it was another Red-tailed. Very cool way to start the exploration.

The first stop was Two Mile Creek. I saw it was high and muddy, but I still went for a little walk and picked up some trash.

Driving down Niagara Street I noticed the Tonawanda bank of the Upper River was all mud, but hugging the Grand Island shore was a strip of some nice clean water.

The next destination was the Erie Canal. Same story, high and muddy.

Going down the streets I noticed trees with white, pink and green flowers as well as shrubs with yellow buds.

As I was continuing my drive, at 11:11am I saw five Turkey nestled down in the ditch on the side of the road; one Tom and four Hens.

From there I saw the Willow trees were showing some greenery. This was a pleasant sight to see.

Another Tree observation, the Cherry Blossoms are blossoming and near full bloom. Personally, they are my favorite tree to see in the Spring, one of the prettiest and earliest to bloom. Always a good sign that Spring is taking hold.

The next stop was at Fort Niagara, it is mud bank to bank. No docks are in yet at the Fort. There was some neat Bird activity though; a group of Cormorants about five of them. Another observation, despite the wind and choppy waves, several Geese and Ducks were in the water. I did see one brave boat driving out to the Lake from the River.

Lake Ontario has a strict mud line; maybe a mile off shore? Not too positive there. While driving by the fort, I noticed an Osprey flying over the trees, and as I kept driving along I noticed more Squirrels moving and Birds feeding. Perhaps the few trees around there offered enough of a break from the elements for them. This was at about 11:30am.

After that I went to Artpark, my favorite place to go and I made several cool observations. First was seeing Staghorn Sumac growing again. Next was seeing the gushing mud that was flowing into the lower from all the runoff. (pictured below) I then went on a little run down the lower trail. Yet again, taking the opportunity to pick up some trash. On my way back I saw a Cedar tree and upon looking closer I saw a Lady Bug on the leaves. (pictured below) Getting back to the trail head, the weather had calmed down a bit and there was some more activity.

There is this bush I see every time I am there and finally I decided to use the 'Seek' app to identify what it was; a new species to me Eve's Necklace. Slowly started to hear some Bluejays, Cardinals and saw many Robbins. Before getting in my car to explore the next stretch of water, I saw a male and female Cardinal in a tree which was beautiful to see. (pictured below) Then as I was driving away, out of the corner of my eye I saw a Killdeer. They have been a favorite bird of mine since my first encounter with them two years ago on the Genesee River.

Driving toward Grand Island next. I passed by the Power Authority Reservoir and that was, as you can expect, mud. All day as I drove around I saw Wild Daffodils, such a pretty flower. As I entered Grand Island I saw a flock of 25+ Pigeons all huddled together.

From there I took a drive down West River Road. Honestly this was my first time ever driving the entirety of it and it was a cool experience. The water color on the North side of GI was the best I had seen by far on my drive; it even seemed fishable. On the Canadian side there was some mud where Black Creek and Miller Creek dump in. Big Six was really muddy, but it didn't seem to muddy up the river where it connects.

Further up the road I saw an Egret flying which was a cool sight. As I drove along I was "house gazing" and admiring all the different architecture. It is amazing, when you take the time to observe, there are many neat things you will see, instead of just aimlessly driving. Many of those houses are gorgeous and very unique, not the cookie cutter stuff I am used to seeing locally in Tonawanda.

As I got toward the end of my time on the island I saw the first Turkey Vulture of the day. Another note to mention, the winds were out of the WNW at 18+ mph with gusts into the 30mph range throughout the day.

Heading to mighty Lake Erie next. The Black Rock Canal was the dirtiest water I had seen on the trip about equal to the Erie Canal. The cool thing was seeing a group of Cormorants, about ten of them. Approaching Erie the water did not look to bad, next best color to West River. There was only the occasional wave crashing over the walls, so that told me the waves were in the 5' range. This was at about 1:30pm.

Another neat observation, the confluence of Lake Erie and the Niagara River had solid color. Between the Peace Bridge and International Train Bridge looked clean. Probably fishable, although I am not sure if or what fish are holding there. On the drive I saw a mix of different Seagulls, but never many at once. Just a few at a time enjoying what the wind had to offer.

It was time to drive back home and more observations were yet to be made. The Grackles were heavy on the lawns in the neighborhoods. At about 1:45pm I saw a group of Deer out feeding by Two Mile Creek, and I saw a Heron flying over head. Another new species to me was identified using the Seek app on my phone. That species being a Hyacinth flower. Very pretty and a pure white color.

Now that officially wraps up my drive of the system, but my observations did not end there. Arriving home at 1:50pm. That was about a four hour exploration of driving and getting out to walk and hike around.

In the evening I had a Fish and Game to to attend with my Uncle Fred and his wife. We went last year and as you can imagine, it was stellar. Having been fasting all day, I was very eager to chow down on some Venison, Moose, Mule Deer, Goose, Walleye and Salmon. None of the dishes disappointed!

Before and after the event we had took notice of a few more things. As I drove to my Uncle's I saw Sawyer Creek higher than I can ever remember seeing it, spilling well over its normal banks. We all loaded into the car and drove to the dinner. On the way, his wife pointed out a Red Fox on the side of the road. I saw it and thought it had to have been a dog because it was so large, standing about half as tall as the mailbox it was under. Very neat and not an animal I see often. That was at 5:15pm.

Wrapping up the delicious feast and heading home for the night, I had my last interaction with Nature for the day. At about 8:15pm I saw another Red Fox, perhaps it was the same one due to how close together the sightings were, but we will never know. All I do know is that it's coat was bright and beautiful.

That was a great way to spend the day, especially since I could not get out fishing. I saw a total of 15 different species of birds and waterfowl, 3 species of mammals, a few different bugs and 10+ plants, 3 of which were knew to me. Now that is a successful day! All of that and more is within our grasp in Western New York. Spring is such a magical time of year, as the weather becomes more stable, the wildlife interactions will become more frequent and that list will grow exponentially.

Now let's just hope the "April showers brings May flowers" holds true, and with that getting the rain out of the way. Bringing more stable conditions so our water system remains clean for us all to get out and enjoy our favorite species. Do you prefer Smallmouth, Largemouth, Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout, Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Walleye, Perch or the other various species we have?

Thank you all for reading this. I hope it entertained you and also provided insight and knowledge to our local environment. Please leave a comment on what your favorite bird, fish, bug, animal or plant is! Tight lines and safe adventures to you all! Enjoy the attached photos below.

Peace and Love

-Jordan H. DiVirgilio

Lady Bug on a Northern White Cedar

Male and Female Cardinal

Heavy Flow into the Lower River at Artpark

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Very descriptive story! I felt like I was on the trip with you!

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