September 23rd was a gorgeous day for the drive north to
Albany. Upon our arrival at the Albany Marriott on
Wolf Road, the excellent preparations made by the Hudson-Mohawk
Bird Club were amply evident. Friday afternoon’s
offerings included nearby field trips, and the NYSOA meeting
area of the hotel was abuzz with activity. Vendors
and others were setting up their displays, posters were
being unveiled for the poster session, and the workshop
leaders were preparing for their eager audiences.
Five or six tables were covered with enticing raffle items
and tickets were already on sale.
the raffle, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
donated — what else? — Sapsuckers!
The poster session and a nature slide show were held in the
large room where the cocktail reception and buffet were offered
Friday evening. This arrangement gave us a chance to
greet old friends and meet new ones in an informal setting,
and allowed us to learn about a wide variety of bird-related
research studies. Among the seventeen projects presented
was the Hudson River Birding Trail, which promises to offer
visiting birders ready access to prime Dutchess County birding
locales while preserving important bird habitats and increasing
environmental awareness among local citizens.
King of the Hudson River Birding Trail project
Following the poster session, we each attended two of four workshops
offered. Anyone in our bird club who attended the annual RTWBC
dinner in 2002 will understand why Kevin and Jay McGowan’s Digiscoping
workshop was well attended. In the intervening years, an ever
growing contingent of birders has adopted digiscoping as both an enjoyable
photographic pursuit and an important documentation technique, and
this workshop was a standing-room-only event. Another technology-based
ornithological tool that is coming into its own as PCs become pervasive
among the birding public is eBird. Brian Sullivan conducted
a workshop on the latest capabilities of this important Citizens’
Science computer application, focusing especially on the upcoming
creation of a New York specific eBird subset. The other
two workshops dealt with accurate bird monitoring in special habitats.
Mike Burger of Audubon New York presented Bird Monitoring with
a Focus on IBAs and Joan Collins of High Peaks Audubon gave an
interesting talk on her involvement tracking Bicknell’s Thrush
and other species of the high peaks of New York and Vermont.
We were pleased with the variety of workshops that emphasized the
potential contributions of field birders to science. The message
was clear: Any birder can become involved in a way that contributes
to the important data that is the stuff of ornithology and supports
efforts to protect and preserve bird populations and their habitats.
As delegates we did not have the opportunity to
attend as many field trips as the non-delegates did, but on Saturday
morning we got up early and headed out to Ann Lee Pond. It
was a bright but chilly morning and many of us truly coveted the
gloves that protected a small number of gloating hands on the trip.
Our shivering was well rewarded, however, with a long list of sightings
highlighted by Solitary Sandpiper and Nashville, Blackburnian, and
Black-throated Green Warblers. We later heard about sightings
on the other walks, where participants were lucky enough to see
Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Merlin, Northern Harrier, Philadelphia
and Blue-headedVireos, Winter and Marsh Wrens, Swainson’s
and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, and Orange-crowned, Magnolia, and Wilson’s
Sunday morning’s field trip was a cruise on the Hudson, starting
before dawn. Participants were greeted by a magnificent sunrise
under the watchful eye of a Peregrine Falcon perched high above
the river on a bridge support. Skies remained cloudy for the
duration of the two-hour trip, but the light rain and drizzle held
off until after the cruisers had returned, flush with the excitement
of spotting five Bald Eagles, an American Bittern, another Peregrine
Falcon, and numerous other birds during the trip.
Guthrie spots the first Bald Eagle
After our pleasant early morning field trip to nearby Ann Lee Pond,
the delegates got down to business at about 9am. We had a
full agenda, covering the following items.
The formidable work Birds of North America has been made
available online by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a $40 annual
subscription fee. However, NYSOA has entered into an agreement
with the Lab to reduce this fee to $25 for individual members
of NYSOA. Barbara had subscribed before this reduction
was announced and felt it was definitely worth the $40. Carena has
signed up at the discounted rate and agrees that BNA Online
is a terrific resource. For more information, see the NYSOA
John Ozard, head of the Nongame and Habitat Unit of the DEC, is
the new DEC representative to NYSOA. He presented a summary
of 15 bird-related DEC projects, many supported by Return a Gift
to Wildlife. Projects range from species-specific (Golden-winged
Warbler project at Sterling Forest, Common Loon satellite migration
tracking), to family projects (Grassland Birds and Marsh Bird studies),
to the Breeding Bird Atlas and a Migratory Songbird radar study.
John reported that Peregrines produced over 100 young this season.
Bald Eagles maintained a record 85 active nests, but the production
was slightly down, perhaps due to unfavorable weather.
The field work for Atlas 2000 is now complete, thanks to
prodigious efforts by Valerie Freer (project Chair) and the steering
committee, regional coordinators, and thousands of field workers.
Work on the book is well underway. The data for both Atlases
will be available permanently on the DEC website, although the current
Atlas data is still under review.
The New York State Avian Records Committee has a new member, Andy
Guthrie, who replaces Willie D’Anna. The NYSOA/NYSARC
website now has a complete summary of past NYSARC reports, organized
by year as well as by species. This excellent resource is available
thanks to the work of Jeanne Skelly (NYSARC secretary), Carena Pooth
(website), and Angus Wilson (Chairman of NYSARC). The committee
is also reviewing the list of birds to be reported to NYSARC and
an updated list will appear in the next issue of The Kingbird.
Field trips for the past year, arranged by Bill Lee, took participants
to Franklin Mountain, the Niagara River, Cape Vincent, and Spring
Pond Bog. Tim Baird will handle field trips for the coming
year by publicizing selected trips of member clubs so that others
in the state can attend. These trips will also be listed on
NYSOA's online Calendar
Andy Mason reported on several conservation issues that NYSOA
has been involved in over the past year. We have requested
that DEC consider the impact of deer populations on other wildlife
when setting the take goals for hunting. We commented on the
plan for ATVs on state land and on proposals for oil and gas exploration
in some bird-rich areas in central NY. Andy noted that NYSOA
needs to develop a “wind policy.” Wind power projects
are not a bad thing, if windmills are correctly sited in relation
to bird migration routes. John Fritz continues to work on
feral cat issues in Long Island parks.
At last year’s meeting, an issue was raised regarding voting
rights for individual members. Currently only representatives
of member clubs vote at the annual delegates’ meeting.
Following last year’s discussion, an ad hoc committee was
formed, which reported at this year’s meeting. The committee
recommended a hybrid voting body, including individual member representation
as well as member club delegates. At this year’s meeting,
there was discussion among the delegates regarding whether a change
was needed and how to communicate on this and other issues with
the membership. Discussions on the governance issue will continue
at NYSOA board of directors meetings. Following this year’s
Annual Meeting, minutes of NYSOA board of directors meetings are
being posted online at NYSOA's About
Officers for the coming year were elected. New to the slate
were Andy Mason, president; Bill Ostrander, vice president; and
Bob Mauceli, Phyllis Jones, and Berna Lincoln, directors.
Brenda Best, Tim Baird, and Bill Reeves continue as recording and
corresponding secretaries and treasurer, respectively and Gail Kirch,
Carena Pooth, and Bob Spahn continue their two year terms as directors
The Saturday afternoon paper session, as always, offered much information
in a short period of time. Presentation topics ranged from
the ongoing Sterling Forest Golden-winged Warbler study to Changes
in Bird Distribution as Illustrated by New York’s Second Breeding
Bird Atlas. A particularly uplifting presentation was
the report on Increasing Common Tern Numbers and Productivity
on New York’s Great Lakes and Rivers Through Tern Colony Management
and Enhancement. When good news is hard to come by on
the environmental front, it is delightful to see pictures illustrating
the success of such a project, owing to the passion and selfless,
hard work of the partipants.
Maxwell Wheat, Jr. wrapped up the Paper Session with a discussion
on the power of poetry and some of his favorite readings.
Saturday Banquet and Awards
The Saturday banquet is always a major highlight of the Annual
Meeting. We enjoyed delicious food and warm camaraderie before settling
down to enjoy the presentation of this year’s awards:
- The John J. Elliott Award went to Kevin
McGowan and Bob Spahn
for their March 2004 Kingbird article “A Probable
Couch’s Kingbird X Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Livingston
Co., New York .”
- Certificates of Appreciation were presented to
o Sy Schiff and Al
Wollin for serving as Kingbird Region 10 editors for
o All the Regional Editors for
the Atlas 2000 project. Valerie Freer,
project Chair, pointed out that any atlasers suffering from withdrawal
can now join in on the new Dragonflies atlasing project!
The reward recipients were Michael Bochnik, Barbara Butler, Kimberley
Corwin, Chad Covey, Dorothy W. Crumb, Renee Davis, Bob Donnelly,
Ken Feustel, Mark Fitzsimmons, Valerie Freer, Jane Graves, Bard
Prentis, Bob Long, John M.C. Peterson, Bill Purcell, Richard C.
Rosche, Dave Russell, Tom Salo, Dominic Sherony, Robert Spahn,
and Carol Weiss.
- Other Certificates of Appreciation were announced that
had been awarded throughout the year to hosts of rare birds and
owners of bird- and birder-friendly properties:
Jerry LeTendre, Vicki
Rothman, George Marleau,
and Jay & Stan Domin.
Details on these awards can be found on the NYSOA
website awards page.
explaining How Birds Do It!
This year’s keynote speaker
was Dr. David M. Bird,
Professor of Wildlife Biology at McGill University.
Dr. Bird held us spellbound – and kept us laughing
– with his lighthearted and fascinating presentation
called How Birds Do It. Believe it or not,
when one peers into the private lives of birds, it’s
all there – incest, homosexuality, sex changes, infidelity,
and even necrophilia. But take heart! Pair bonds
abound! In fact, Coleridge was not the only one to
be blessed with an albatross for a long time. Albatrosses
boast the longest pair bonds, lasting 40 to 50 years.
Dr. Bird’s presentation was so engaging that even
the hotel staff couldn’t help paying attention (in
spite of their efforts to appear disinterested in a bird
talk). If you you ever have a chance to hear Dr.
Bird speak, don’t pass it up! You won’t
Next year’s meeting will be hosted by the Delaware-Otsego
Audubon Society in Oneonta the weekend of September 29 –
October 1. Plan to come and hear all about the state bird
news and issues.
Thanks to the RTWBC board for sending us as your delegates!
Any member interested in representing our club at an annual NYSOA
meeting in the future, just let us know. And if you're not
yet an individual member of NYSOA,
check it out. Your membership will support a worthy cause
— protecting the birds and habitats in your backyard and your
state — and you'll enjoy some other valuable benefits.
Wings Over Dutchess, November