Sapsucker Woods Aerial Photos

A series of aerial photos taken from the NYS Aerial photo archives that charts the history of Sapsucker Woods in pictures going back to 1938…Scroll to the bottom for the most up-to-date imagery available from the NY GIS Clearinghouse (color infrared from 2002).



2003/4 (roughly now)

Shot taken from MSN Live Search Maps‘ “Bird’s Eye View” of the Lab in early Spring.
No pond, no Rt 13, no airport. Just a chunk of woods surrounded by farm fields, with Hanshaw Rd in the lower third of the picture. Sapsucker Woods Rd used to be called “Town Line Rd” because it marked the border between Ithaca (to the west) and Dryden. Fall Creek is the stream careening its way through the bottom right corner of the image; Monkey Run would just be slightly to the east of this image’s border.
Still 1938?
No date on this picture, but judging from the landscape it seems like a close match to the 1938 aerial photo above. This view is taken from a low flying airplane looking north. Hanshaw runs along the bottom edge of the picture, and what will eventually become Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary is outlined by the dotted line (I found this picture in Randy Little‘s interesting history of the Lab, For the Birds).
The pond is being dug in anticipation of the construction of the first off-campus home of the Lab of Ornithology, the “Stuart Observatory”. Still surrounded for the most part by farmland, this year commemorates the purchase and donations of land to form Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, occupying the roughly rectangular chunk of forest spanning the road in the center of the picture.
Development has begun-the Stuart Observatory is present, Meadowlark Rd and the Winston Court apartments are being sketched out, and Rt 13 has reared its tarmac head just to the north of Sapsucker Woods, which is still (for the most part) surrounded by farmland.
Still 1964
This picture shows the view from a low-flying airplane looking south across Sapsucker Woods. The scrubby vegetation in the foreground has (as of 2008) grown up to a beautiful secondary growth forest dominated by an understory of invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn. In the next few years a berm would be built across the pond that improved flow-through and resulted in two barely connected basins. The Stuart Observatory sits at the left-hand side of the pond.
A lot can happen in 15 years. The Winston Court apartments to the west (indeed the whole “cigarette streets” area) has been largely developed, Cardinal drive has been etched onto the map, and the future planned development of Sanctuary Drive (as well as the currently contentious Briarwood II development) has been outlined in the uncut woods to the south and west. The berm has been added to the pond, a conifer plantation was planted on the NW corner of the sanctuary, and the surrounding farm fields are regenerating into forest.
All in all, fairly similar to today’s layout (without the new building). You can still see the Hawk Barn (which housed the early days of the Peregrine Fund) and the further regrowth of the forests.
Late 1990s?
Again, no date on this aerial shot from a low-flying plane, but a new angle, this time looking west across the Stuart Observatory towards a length-wise view of the pond. What’s most interesting to me about this photo is that you can envision where the rerouted Sapsucker Woods Road will run (illustrated in the next photo). Basically, there’s a yurt in the center of the picture at the bottom, and a line of trees running straight towards the Lab. The rerouted road basically follows the path of those trees, passes the yurt, then makes a tight, looping curve. If I’m not mistaken, you can spot the patch of pines that is nearly centered on the right edge of this picture on the color infrared shot below–see if you can spot them.
SSW from above
The mostly current outline of things, taken during the construction of the new building and before the old building was torn down. New Tompkins County imagery is supposed to be available this spring (in full color! from 2007!), so when it becomes available I’ll post a new pic. Those pines from thelast pic are the orange spot centered in the loop formed by the newly rerouted Sapsucker Woods Rd.
2007 Aerial Oblique
This shot was taken by a blogger named Greg who I reckon must be a pilot (or is someone who flies a lot!). The road passing through the center of the shot is Rt 13, and Sapsucker Woods is the large chunk of woods just above it, with the Lab barely visible in the center.  Falls Creek snakes its way along the upper left quadrant of the picture, and the obvious intersection of Warren and Rt 13 is just right of center near the right margin of the image.

5 responses

4 02 2008
Time travel, sapsucker-style « the contemplative nuthatch

[…] Sapsucker Woods Aerial Photos […]

6 09 2009
Dorothy Gibbs

Fascinating. I appreciated the link in Living Bird.

21 09 2009
James G. Welch Ph.D

I have viewed the photos with great interest. I grew up in the 1930s and 40s in a house visable in the 1938 photo in the arc of Warren Road shown in the west side of the photo. I considered Sapsucker Woods part of my domain – in those years – no TV, no computers – the woods and fields occupied much of my time.
Dr. Allen was one of my heros. He would stop and talk to anyone about birds whether English sparrows chirping in an urban hedge or the migration of the golden plover. I was a “nest finder” for Dr Allen, the most notable were photos of Black-billed Cookos and Crested Flycatchers appearing in the June 1945 National Geographic. The current success of the Sapsucker Woods is due, in no small part, to Dr Allens ability and motivation to engage everyone he could, from young boys to fussy old ladies, in learning experiences about birds.

7 11 2009
Evie Douglas

I’m planning a “birthday” trip into sapsucker woods. It will be my first experience there and I’m very excited to live within a 2 hour drive. I’m new to the internet and Ithaca is the first location outside of Vine Valley, Middlesex,NY that I’m investigating on line. If by chance I can find this link after my trip I will comment on my visit.

7 07 2012

Where did the fish come from that are now in the pond?

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