more photos, see the Annual Meeting
Report 2004 published in New York Birders, October 2004.
York State Ornithological Association
Hosted by the Cayuga Bird Club ~
Barbara Butler, Sue Infante, and Carena Pooth
T. Waterman Bird Club delegates
Photos by Carena Pooth and Herb Thompson
Rain and lots of it. Teeming. Cats and dogs. That’s what
greeted us as we made our way to Ithaca to attend the 57th Annual meeting
of the New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA), formerly the
Federation of New York State Bird Clubs. We all straggled into the
Clarion Hotel eager to sign up for 3PM field trips, but alas, it was not
to be. A rainout. The warm reception given to us by the Cayuga
Bird Club members cheered us up as they assured us that Saturday would
be a better day. We crossed our fingers because many of us were
anxious to explore Ithaca, a beautiful city situated on the southern tip
of Cayuga Lake and famous for its breathtaking gorges and waterfalls and
for being home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College.
We also explored the other public
spaces of the Lab, such as the Fuertes Room, known as the "Sistine
Chapel of Birding." It is a replica of the library of
Frederick Brewster, who donated it from his New Haven mansion. In
it are found some of the works of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, one of
greatest bird artists. Bird art by other painters and sculptors
abounds throughout the center. Nor is there is any shortage
of hands-on activities. Kiosks are strategically located
with touch-screens for learning about individual bird species.
A unique sound studio is open
to the public on the first floor, where visitors can study and compare
birdsong recordings and sonograms (we tried American Robin vs. Rose-breasted
Grosbeak and Black-capped vs. Carolina Chickadee), or even experiment
with recordings and sonograms of their own voices. Kids (of all ages)
will love speeding up and slowing down their voice recordings! Also
found in the building are the Adelson Library, which houses thousands
of books on birds and other animals, a multimedia theater, and a
by Wild Birds Unlimited, all open to the public.
Reception at the Lab |After a fast trip back to the Clarion
Hotel to change and freshen up, we returned to the Lab
for the highlight of our day, a delicious buffet and a behind the
tour of the private workings of the Lab. With a staff of
175 people bursting at the seams with creativity
there is so much going on here that it is mind boggling, so we
can only touch on some highlights. The Lab runs several bioacoustics
research programs that use high tech instruments to census and
track wildlife populations — "wildlife" meaning not
just birds, but animals like whales and elephants too. The
apparatus they use
studying sounds deep beneath the oceans is fascinating. Picture
a glass sphere about the size of a beach ball, half an inch thick
and jammed full of recording and computer equipment, sinking to
the bottom of the ocean and then popping up to the surface when
signaled, and you get some idea of the sophistication of the research
carried out by the Lab. There is also a molecular biology lab
that uses state of the art DNA
technology to study everything from mating behavior to how birds are
related to each other.
One of our favorite areas, of course, was the
bird collection room containing skeletons and skins. It’s
much more beautiful than it sounds and includes such common
friends as the Black-capped Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch
exotic species and some that are now extinct, such as the Carolina
We also toured the section of the Lab our guide referred to as "cubicle
land." This is where the Lab’s great educational and
Citizen Science Programs like Project Feederwatch and The Great Backyard
Count are created and monitored.
Last, but certainly not least, we visited the Macaulay Library
and listened to a few samples from its incredible collection. This
library contains the world's largest aggregation of animal sound recordings
and is now
accumulating a large collection of videos as well.
All the Lab’s staff who volunteered to stay late to show
us what they do were fantastic. We're undoubtedly not the first
to tell them that some of us are hoping to come back in our next life
a job working
Delgates' field trip at Stewart Park
|On Saturday morning the weather was much improved and
we eagerly set out on our field trips. Some of the choices
the Cayuga Club members offered were Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell
Park on Cayuga Lake, and Dryden Lake. The delegates set off at 7AM
for Stewart Park with high hopes. Both good news and bad news awaited
us at the lake. The bad news was that a wind howling down the
lake from the north kept most birds out of the air and threatened
a few birders skyward. Barbara Butler was the envy of all when
she managed to find a pair of gloves somewhere in her pack. The
good news was that the adjacent golf course was so flooded that some
and waterfowl were taking cover over there. We saw 4 Solitary
Sandpipers as well as both Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal. A
in a tree would be seen catching a goldfinch later in the morning. Three
Caspian Terns flew over, which were a nice treat. Also
braving the windy conditions were lots of Ringed-billed Gulls and
Birders who visited the more protected Sapsucker Woods on Saturday
had better luck and found a treasure trove of migrating warblers. Magnolia,
Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated
Green, Bay-breasted, and Blackpoll Warblers were all seen. Also spotted
were a Red-breasted Nuthatch and all the Vireos except Yellow-throated. A
great day for migrants!
Blue Heron Click
Sunday's field trip was to Montezuma
National Wildlife Refuge, an hour's drive north from Ithaca. This
is a birding hotspot that never disappoints. The logistics
surrounding the tour
of the wildlife drive and the many choices for subsequent birding
sites prevented everyone from seeing every bird, but it is certain
that everyone saw something good. The Ralph T. Waterman
Bird Club contingent (6 people) saw 42 species, among them 12 species
of ducks, Bald Eagle, 5 shorebird species including Wilson's Snipe,
and a Swamp Sparrow. Our BEST bird was a Lesser Black-backed
Gull, and our FUNNEST bird was an immature Pied-billed Grebe still
sporting some of
its zebra-striped juvenile head plumage. Both of these were
quite close to us along the first leg of the wildlife drive.
Black-backed Gull (our "best" bird)
with Ring-billed for comparison
Grebe (our "funnest" bird)
A Side Trip: The Hyde Park Mastodon
Hyde Park Mastodon
Those of us attending the meeting
from Dutchess County had yet another destination in mind. In
1999, Larry and Sheryl Lozier of Hyde Park made a remarkable discovery
when they had their backyard pond deepened. A mastodon was
buried beneath it! The skeleton was eventually removed by
working for the Paleontological
Research Institution of Ithaca. Barbara
Butler was able to visit the Hyde Park site at that time and saw
parts of the creature still in the mud. As the NYSOA
plans came together, we decided that we should make an effort to
see the mastodon display at PRI's Museum of the Earth just a few
miles north of Ithaca. During the Saturday lunch break, Barbara,
with little time to spare, dashed over to see "our" mastodon,
a very impressive figure standing at least 12 feet tall in front
of a painting of the Catskills as they appeared 13,000 years ago.
Carena Pooth and Herb Thompson had visited the museum
on Friday morning (when the rain prevented outdoor birding) and had checked
out some of the other fascinating exhibits there as well. This
is a new museum that presents the latest in paleontological science in
a way that
is appealing to adults and children alike. Many hands-on activities
are offered to engage youngsters while adults can study the detailed
and explanations of the earth's history as a planet and the fossil evidence
of life as it evolved through the ages.
Delegates from the member clubs met on Saturday morning to conduct official
NYSOA business and to hear updates from various committees. Having
braved the boreal wind on the south shore of Cayuga Lake early in the
we were not as jealous as usual of the non-delegates who were out enjoying
field trips while we labored.
President Kevin McGowan gave an upbeat report, saying that NYSOA is
in good health and continues to benefit from the strong volunteer spirit
that characterizes New York's birding community. The organization's
various committees and projects did well through the year. On a
Kevin delivered the news that three life members had passed away this
year, as well as former President Stephen B. Dempsey. The number
of member clubs currently stands at 50.
Bryan Swift reported on DEC activities. The comprehensive plan
for the State Wildlife Grants program in New York will be available to
in January 2005. A new incentive program will encourage landowners
to promote habitat required by threatened or endangered bird species. Type
E botulism in Lakes Erie and Ontario continues to be a major concern
as thousands of waterfowl have succumbed to the illness. In the
area of wind power, bird migration routes will be mapped so that they
be taken into consideration in wind power site planning.
Manny Levine has stepped down from his post as editor of NYSOA's journal,
The Kingbird, for health reasons (but he continues as Publications
chair). Shai Mitra has stepped in as the new Kingbird editor. Tim
Baird, editor of the quarterly newsletter New York Birders, is
looking for additions to the Speaker's Bureau, so if you are interested
in making yourself
available as a speaker, drop Tim a line at .
Andy Mason, the Conservation chair, reported on key issues. NYSOA
continues its work in support of eliminating feral cats from state parks,
good progress has been made; amending the Migratory Bird Treaty Act so
that it can no longer be invoked to protect non-native species such as
Mute Swans; and protecting birds from the negative impacts of wind power
Bill Lee reported on field trips and announced two more planned for
this year: Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch in November and the Niagara
River in December. Next year's trip list will include, among others,
Forest, the Adirondacks, and Jamaica Bay. Check the NYSOA website
(www.nybirds.org) or New York Birders for details.
The annual election was held. The Officers were elected to continue
their service through next year: President – Kevin J. McGowan;
Vice President – Andy Mason; Corresponding Secretary – Tim
Baird; Recording Secretary – Brenda Best; and Treasurer – William
Reeves. Elected directors are Gail Kirch, Carena Pooth, and Bob
Spahn. Three other directors will continue through 2005: Berna
Miller, and William Ostrander.
three-hour paper session on Saturday afternoon draws a large audience
each year, because the presentations have always provided much
information and food for thought. This year was no exception, as
we were treated to a wide variety of fascinating topics in a short period
• We saw an interesting presentation on the observation tower
at Niagara Falls, which allows visitors to view the falls from the American
side. The initial design of the replacement, with its reflective
glass surface, would have created a hazard to birds. Public and
environmental groups' participation in the review process led to changes
the problem: reduced tower height, tinting and striping of the
glass, and reduced lighting.
• Bryan Swift reported on the many DEC bird conservation projects. There
were updates on ongoing projects for Bald Eagles, loons, beach and colonial
nesting birds, and cormorants. Some new projects are
Mute Swan collar study (see the Marked
Birds web page about it), Wild Turkey
management plan and Habitat and Access Stamps.
• Project FeederWatch results were used in a project
studying the relationship between feeder bird species abundance and surrounding
landscape characteristics. The presence of forest land was found
to have a significant positive effect on certain species, while others
abundant when agricultural land is nearby.
• Kevin McGowan reported on the effects of West Nile Virus on "his" crows,
which he has been studying in the Ithaca and Binghamton areas since 1989. The
disease is 100% fatal for infected American Crows. The pre-West
Nile annual mortality rate for adult crows was 3%. Over the
past two years, however,
the rate has skyrocketed to 33%. Other species of birds are also
affected, but some of them recover. West Nile Virus is clearly
a wildlife disease, which only
occasionally affects humans.
• Joan Collins has been fortunate to observe interesting behavior
by the Common Redpolls in her Long Lake yard. We are fortunate,
too, because she recorded it on video for us to see at the meeting. The
burrow into snow banks, creating tunnels, "snakes" and nests. So far, no one seems to know why.
• Golden-winged Warblers have been study subjects for John Confer
and his students for several years. This year Dr. Confer discussed
efforts to restore early successional shrubland habitat at Sterling Forest
Park in hopes of expanding the Golden-winged Warbler population there.
• As is the tradition, the session closed with a poetry reading
by Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. This year's selection was a new poem
that he had just completed about Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Max had
the poem in the Fuertes room at the Lab, drawing inspiration from the
works of this great bird artist that surrounded him there.
Breeding Bird Atlas Update
Valerie Freer, chair of the steering committee, and Kim Corwin, project
coordinator, covered Atlas news at the Delegates' Meeting and the Paper
Session. Five field seasons have been completed. The last set of forms
is in the mail. Plans are underway for the culmination of the
project, a comprehensive new book and CD with a target publish date of
2007. After the results for this year have been reviewed, the committee
will determine whether a sixth season of field work will be needed to
cover any unvisited blocks.
Saturday evening our hosts had arranged a lovely and convivial reception
with excellent hors d'oeuvres. Following the reception, we took
our places in the banquet room, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner.
John W. Fitzpatrick
The keynote speaker was Dr.
John W. Fitzpatrick, Morgens Director of the Cornell
Laboratory of Ornithology. Dr. Fitzpatrick gave a lively
and engaging talk called Birds Can Save the World: Revolutionary
Opportunities for Citizen Science in the 21st Century. At
the heart of the revolution that he envisions lie two things: an
enormous army of birders, and the internet. Under Dr.
Fitzpatrick's direction, the Lab of Ornithology has developed eBird,
an online bird record database and an easy-to-use web application
that anyone can access through the internet. The goal
is to amass detailed bird observations in a body of data that
can be mined by future generations for important clues to changes
in bird population and distribution. Dr. Fitzpatrick
encouraged each of us to pick one or more special birding places
to which we will return over and over again, and for which
we can use eBird to enter detailed records in the years
to come. Birders, he said, constitute an army of individuals
whose efforts can be pooled to accomplish great things. So
take a look for yourself at www.ebird.org,
and see how easy it is for you to contribute to a permanent
body of data that ornithologists will use far into the future
to help the birds, to improve the environment, and possibly
even to save the world.
The awards presentation is always an enjoyable highlight. Here
are the winners for this year:
- The John J. Elliott Award for best Kingbird article
went to Kathy Schneider for "The Status and Ecology of
The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in New York State."
- The Elon Howard Eaton Memorial Award for contributions
to New York State ornithology was presented to Anne Terninko
of Finger Lakes Community College for her 5-year research project
on dispersal patterns of first year Red-tailed Hawks on Braddock
Bay, including work on determining the sex of Red-tailed Hawks
in the field.
- Three Gordon Meade Distinguished Service Awards for service
to NYSOA were presented:
- Kevin McGowan re-presented the 2003 award to Don Windsor because
he had not been present last year to accept it. Don was
past Kingbird editor
and has produced two 10-year indexes of the The Kingbird. He also was instrumental in the NYS life list patch program.
- Bill Reeves presented a 2004 award to Irving Cantor, who has
audited the oganization's financial records nearly every year since
- Berna Lincoln made a second 2004 award presentation. The
award went to Manny Levine in recognition of his two stints as Kingbird editor
(1975-85 and 1999-2004—62 issues!), his service as Publications
chair, which began in 1988 and continues even today, and his
achievement as editor of Bull's Birds of New York.
- The Lillian Stoner Award recognizing a student went to Jay
McGowan in honor of his leadership among bird enthusiasts and his accomplishments
as a birder and digiscoping pioneer.
- Two Certificates of Appreciation were presented:
- Management and employees of the Batavia Waste Water Treatment
plant were recognized for their helpful cooperation in allowing
birders onsite to search for avian goodies.
- Bill Lee was recognized for the hospitality and ad hoc taxi services
he extended to birders visiting Martha's Vineyard to see the Red-footed
Falcon while Bill was vacationing there.
As always, there was a raffle. The cool thing
for us this year was that three of the ten RTWBC members attending
the meeting won prizes. Jean Hicks and Carena Pooth each
won beautiful, framed works of bird art, and Pat Gabel won
bluebird boxes and two good-sized serviceberry bushes. Many
thanks to all who generously donated the valuable prizes for the
Hicks and her raffle prize
Mark your 2005 calendar now for next year’s Annual Meeting, which
will be hosted by the Hudson-Mohawk
Bird Club in Albany, September 23-25. The 2006 meeting will
be hosted by the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society in Oneonta.
more photos, see
the Annual Meeting Report 2004 published
in New York Birders, October 2004.