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Week Eight 2023 Newsletter

Monday, August 14

Tuesday, August 15

12:15 PM BTG Brown Bag: "The Language of Flowers" with Mimi Gallo

Location: Smith Wilkes Hall Auditorium

4:15 PM  Garden Walk with Horticulturist Joe McMaster

Location: Smith Wilkes Hall - Lakeside

Wednesday, August 16

8:00 AM  Wednesday Weeding

Please join the BTG to remove invasive plants! You do not have to be a member to volunteer. Learn more at the link above.

Location: Meet at Arboretum Annex - Massey between Hawthorne and Emerson

12:30 and 1:30 PM  Open Garden: Shipman Gardens at Miller Cottage

Location: 24 Miller Park

Note: The Wednesday Open Garden features historical tours led by Janine Obee at 12:30 and 1:30pm. Each tour lasts about 45 minutes and guests may pop in and out of the tours. Thursday's Open Garden is a less-formal Q&A with Chautauqua Institution Garden Team Members.

4:15 PM  Tree Walk with Naturalist Jack Gulvin

Location: Smith Wilkes Hall - Lakeside patio

6:00 PM Special Pop-Up Event! Meet Falconer Jonathan Clarkson and his Harris's Hawks

Location: Smith Wilkes Hall Auditorium

Thursday, August 17

8:00 AM  Bird Walk and Talk: Climate Change and Birds 

Guide: Jennifer Francois, BTG VP and Program Chair

Location: Smith Wilkes Hall - entrance

Bring binoculars if you have them and leave your dogs at home please!

12:00 - 1:00 PM Special Event! Webinar with the Honorable Jane Campbell, President and CEO of the US Capitol Historical Society, and author Will McLean Greeley. Read about and register for the event on our linked website!

12:30 - 2:30 PM  Open Garden: Shipman Gardens at Miller Cottage

Note: The Wednesday Open Garden features historical tours led by Janine Obee at 12:30 and 1:30pm. Each tour lasts about 45 minutes and guests may pop in and out of the tours. Thursday's Open Garden is a less-formal Q&A with Chautauqua Institution Garden Team Members.

Friday, August 18

Saturday, August 19

8 - 10:00 AM Microplastic Cleanup Day!

Location: Meet at Children's Beach


The Night Sky

by Dennis McNair, PhD

In the tiny (pop. 2500) rural town in southeastern Washington State where I grew up, extreme darkness was quite common.  The night sky was gloriously filled with stars, especially if I went a short distance outside the town itself.  In the arid West, the humidity is so low that the air is crystal clear day and night - hazy skies are unheard of.  Until I went to college, I seldom met people who hadn’t seen the Milky Way, the apparent concentration of stars at the edge of our galaxy.  (If we’d had fireflies, they would have been vivid, but it was too dry for their juvenile glow-worms to survive in the soil and leaf litter.) 

The other unique aspect of my hometown is that it is only 60 miles, as the wind blows, from the Hanford Works, where the Plutonium for the first atomic bombs was produced, using naive safety precautions.  When we practiced “Duck and Cover” in elementary school, we truly thought we would be dangerously close to that target for nuclear attack - Hanford.  Little did we know, at that time, that as “Hanford Downwinders” we were being exposed to a potentially worse danger – the cancer-causing radioactive wastes in the air we children were breathing due to the nonchalant handling of materials at Hanford.

As a child, I thought the adults running our world were totally screwed-up, and I used to gaze at the sky at night from my bedroom window, wishing for aliens to descend from the heavens and set them all straight.  What I saw, instead, was the ancient light–some of which had travelled millions of light years, from thousands of stars twinkling at me from over the hill behind my parents’ house–never the hoped-for spacecraft.  When my parents moved from that house in the 1990s, my brother and I and our wives assisted them, and we all drove out among the wheat fields surrounding the town at night to once again revel at the stars and meteorites filling the sky.  It was so remarkably quiet there.  That was a mere 30 years ago.  

When recent speakers from National Geographic extolled the undisturbed qualities of the Grand Canyon during their trek, they talked about phenomena with which I was very familiar–the serenity of true solitude in nature.  Sadly, that’s an experience that few Americans will ever have, now or in the future.  There are just too many of us humans and we’re too densely packed.  Airplanes invade our most quiet places.  We tend to live in cities, drawn there by opportunities for commerce, education, etc.  Besides crowding out the creatures with whom we’ve shared the earth until fairly recently, we’ve polluted most aspects of our environment including the air and the dark.  These are things we took for granted.  Who would ever have thought that light and carbon dioxide would become pollutants?  After all, we were just using light to keep us from stumbling in the dark and hurting ourselves, and the carbon dioxide is just an invisible byproduct of using natural materials to increase our creature comforts (including light and warmth). 

A dark night at Chautauqua still contains enough light for me to get safely from the Amp to my condo at the south end of grounds without artificial sources if I’m careful.  “Dark Sky” proponents have been aware of the light pollution we proliferate, but they’re having difficulty getting the rest of us to realize that excess light has become pollution.  Light has usually been our friend.  Now our overuse of it blinds us (not to mention migrating animal co-inhabitants of our world) to the beauty and assistance of the night sky.

One of my favorite verses by Irish poet John O’Donohue comes from his Irish blessing, Beannacht : “May there come across the water/ a path of yellow moonlight/ to bring you safely home.” What could be more comforting than the light of the moon assisting a threatened sailor?  But a bright moon, even here on our lake, can obscure stars and starlight.  Add to that the unnecessary light from windows, porches, and unshaded streetlights, and our solitude is irrevocably broken. 

Dark skies allow us to see millions of years into the Universe’s past as the ancient light from distant stars streams to us.  We, who are here so briefly, pursue our own comfort during our fleeting existences, and that pursuit has led us to obscure the night sky that our ancestors watched with awe.  Shouldn’t we allow ourselves and our descendants to view the night sky in all its glory?  I think we should.  

- Dennis McNair

Photo by Angela James



by Nick Stupiansky

If you walked by the front of Smith Wilkes Hall this past summer you probably saw the BTG Little Free Library. This Little Free Library was constructed by Nick Stupiansky and donated to the Chautauqua Bird, Tree & Garden Club by Sandi and Nick Stupiansky in June, 2019. It is only up during the summer months, and is maintained by the Stupianskys. This library was physically constructed as 3 side-by-side libraries in order to house books on birds, trees, and a variety of garden topics.

The “Little Free Library” concept is a unique book exchange that started in 2009 in Wisconsin. A Little Free Library is a ”take a book, return a book: free book exchange.” LFLs come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Little Free Library is a registered nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Today, there are about 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 84+ countries. Over one million books are exchanged annually through Little Free Libraries. For more information on Little Free Libraries, visit

Several other Little Free Libraries are located on the CHQ Institution grounds including one on the north side of the Amphitheater, one at the north end on Hedding Avenue, one at Children’s School, one at the Unitarian Universalist Denominational House, one at Alumni Hall, and one across from the Maple Inn.  Entire cities like Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia have sponsored Littler Free Libraries throughout their cities.

The Chautauqua Bird, Tree & Garden Club Little Free Library is devoted primarily for the exchange of books related to birds, trees, and/or gardening. If you have extra, or previously-read, books related to birds, trees, and/or gardening, please consider donating them to our BTG Little Free Library. Donations can be made at BTG-sponsored events at Smith Wilkes Hall, by depositing books in the large plastic container located beneath the LFL, or by contacting Nick Stupiansky at

In 2019, the first summer it was installed, the BTG Little Free Library started with 42 books donated by the Stupianskys.  A grand total of 122 books were “borrowed” during the summer. This summer of 2023, 125 books have been placed in the library. 

Some of the written comments left in the LFL include the following: 

    “The BTG Little Free Library is stupendous! Such care, attention to detail that went into it. . . amazing. Thank you for this gift.” 

    “What a lovely surprise. Beautiful and full of my favorite subjects.” 

    “A wonderful resource.”

    “Wow! What a fabulous Little Library. I found exactly the book for which I’ve been looking. Thank you for building this.”

    “Thank you for providing something to make Chautauqua even more special.”

Hopefully, the BTG Little Free Library will serve its purpose for years to come. But it takes book donations to keep it going. Please help by donating books on birds, trees, and/or gardening.

- Nick Stupiansky


That Batty Time of Year

by Caroline Bissell

Although our bat population has decreased considerably, for the remaining bats, this is the time of year that the new teenage bats can mistakenly get trapped in your building.

Please do not injure them!  Open a window or door and give them time to fly out.

If that does not work, and you're in Chautauqua, instead call or text me to rescue the wayward, environmentally essential little bat.

Remember when they fly around a room that they fly up the walls and toward the center, so don't be standing in the center!

Bats are revered by Chautauquans. Help me save every one.

- Caroline Bissell  602-999-7718

P.S. I rescued two big brown bats last week!


The "Maid of Chautauqua"

Horticultural Specialist Karen Maxwell from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates visited Chautauqua earlier this season and wrote a lovely blog post about Mina Miller Edison (aka. the Maid of Chautauqua, as Edison called her) and the Shipman Garden at Miller Cottage. More familiar with Mina Edison's Moonlight Garden at the estates in Fort Myers, Florida — which was also designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman — Maxwell was able to join Betsy Burgeson and dig into Chautauqua's historic archives to learn about Mina's northern garden! You can read her blog post here.


Catch up with the BTG

Above: More photos from the Subagh Preserve Forest Walk last Sunday. If you missed the forest walk, you can learn more about the Foundation for Sustainable Forests here and National Aviary field researcher Cassie Ziegler here.

Above: Attendees become birds at Urban Park Ranger Ginny Renjilian's lake walk on Monday.

Above: Nick Lund presents on the birds of our National Parks at Tuesday's Brown Bag! If you're interested in checking out Nick's blog, you can do that here.

Above: Susan Evans, a first time Chautauquan, joined the Wednesday weeders. Bottom left: Betsy's team, with the help of the BTG weeders, have continued work on the new paths. Bottom right: a grove of aspen trees in the Ravine.

Above: Twan Leenders leads the Thursday Bird Walk. The group was pleased to spot (not pictured, unfortunately) Caspian terns flying over the lake.

Above: Lily and Elsie Burgeson greet attendees of the Shipman Garden tour on Thursday.

Above: Betsy Burgeson leads the Friday Garden Walk through the Carnahan-Jackson Garden.

Above: Melinda Woolcott and her amazing team of Leaf Strippers treated a lucky group to a floral arranging workshop Sunday afternoon.



This article was published in the Saturday, August 12th edition of the Chautauquan Daily. We can't resist sharing something related to monarchs AND Betsy with you all! You can read an excerpt below and the whole article at the link below.

"A Royal Send Off: With loving aid from Chautauqua's Gardens & Grounds team, monarch butterflies prepare for long migration"

Mariia Novoselia, Chautauquan Daily

Around a decade ago, Betsy Burgeson, supervisor of gardens and landscapes at Chautauqua Institution, released her two daughters’ first monarch butterfly. She called it Myrtle. 

Since then, Myrtle the Monarch is the only butterfly Burgeson’s released that’s been given a name.

 “We usually release 100 of them,” she said. “You start out with one, and then I feel bad if I name one and not all the others.”

On Monday, Burgeson collected more than 80 new monarch butterfly eggs, bringing this year’s current grand total to 125. She said it’s a great start, considering how late the first butterflies appeared this season.

Also - we have a new page on our website for press! Click here to check out the page and the articles we've linked. 


Need help finding your way? Take a peek at the beautiful garden map drawn by Jane Nelson, or use the interactive version in the BTG app.

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