New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

For more photos, see the Annual Meeting Report 2005 published in New York Birders, October 2005.

New York State Ornithological Association
58th Annual Meeting
September 23-25, 2005
~ Hosted by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club ~

by Barbara Butler, Carena Pooth, and Herb Thompson
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club delegates

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.

For 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.

Matthew 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. 

Field Trips

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 Warblers.

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.

Rich Guthrie spots the first Bald Eagle


Delegates' Meeting

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 website.

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 of Events.

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 NYSOA page.

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 through 2006.

Paper Session

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 Presentation

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
    Sy Schiff and Al Wollin for serving as Kingbird Region 10 editors for many years.
    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.

  • Dr. David Bird
    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 be disappointed.

Future Meetings

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.

published in Wings Over Dutchess, November 2005

For more photos, see the Annual Meeting Report 2005 published in New York Birders, October 2005.     

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