Plan it Wild: Thankful for All Creatures Great & Small 

Mianus River Gorge (Photo by Amanda Bayley)

As the leaves fall and the colors change, I breathe in the crisp air of autumn along with a feeling of deep gratitude for getting to live here in this beautiful county of Westchester. I am especially thankful for so many different species that co-inhabit Westchester with us, from the tallest trees to the tiniest insects. So, here’s a big thank you to all from large to small including — 

The old growth forest at Mianus River Gorge in Bedford, with some of the largest and oldest trees in the county, adding oxygen to our air and sequestering carbon for over four centuries. 

The beautiful leaves of the White Oak (Photo flickr)

Red, white, black, scarlet, pin, swamp, willow, bur, and chestnut oaks throughout the yards, parks, preserves and green spaces throughout Westchester. The oaks are heavy hitters in terms of providing ecosystem services as they store carbon, clean the air, cool temperatures, help purify water, absorb stormwater, feed pollinators, have beautiful fall color and create biodiversity. One oak can provide habitat for hundreds of different species.  

The natural predator helps balance the ecosystem (Photo flickr)

The coyote, a natural predator of small mammals and common pests (like rats and mice), helping to balance the ecosystem. 

The Virginia opossum is known for playing dead when frightened (Photo Wickimedia)

The Virginia opossum, sometimes playing dead when frightened (try your best to avoid hitting them if they are laying on the road); an unsung hero against Lyme Disease, eating an estimated 5,000 ticks in one season.  

Mountain mint is the author’s favorite New York wildflower (Photo Amanda Bayley)

Mountain mint, my most favorite of all wildflowers here in New York; it smells delicious, outcompetes most weeds, and feeds tons of local pollinators throughout the gardens of Westchester for months on end.  

The unique white flower of the mayapple (Photo flickr)

The unique white flower of the mayapple, blooming along the ground in spring, hidden underneath its leaves. The secret flower is fed upon and pollinated by the eastern box turtle and is a reminder of how diverse and interconnected nature is. 

A wood thrush, like those in the Brook Audubon Preserve (Photo flickr)

The wood thrush, which sounded like a magical flute playing as I walked through the Brinton Brook Audubon Preserve in Croton this summer, though sadly its “numbers are declining seriously in recent decades,” according to Audubon. 

The fairy-like Morning Cloak butterfly (Photo Flickr)

Mourning Cloak butterflies which are like fairies flying through the woods. They are one of the longest living butterflies with a life span of 10 months to a year. Try to “leave your leaves” as the butterflies will overwinter in the leaf matter. 

‘the little things that . . . run the world.’ E.O. Wilson (Photo flickr)

Ants, which decompose waste and aerate the soil, helping water and oxygen reach the roots of plants. They are part of, as the naturalist E.O. Wilson stated, “the little things that…run the world.” 

Thank you to the nature of Westchester and thank you, dear reader. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Amanda Bayley is the CEO & Co-Founder of Plan it Wild, a sustainable land management company that is bringing back native habitats to Westchester yards.  

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About the Author: Amanda Bayley