New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

People at NYSOA:  Bill Ostrander              Posted 7/2/17

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Bill Ostrander

Bill Ostrander has been a NYSOA volunteer for over 40 years, serving 10 years on the board in the roles of director, vice president, and president, and on various committees throughout his time with the organization. He has also written about 50 quarterly reports for Kingbird Region 3. Read on to learn more about Bill, including how he got started as a birder. It all began with a 6th grade project many years ago...


How long have you been a NYSOA member?
“I think I became a life member in 1975 or 1976.”


What positions have you held in the organization?
“I have been a board member, vice-president, and president.”


What is it about NYSOA that keeps you involved?
“NYSOA plays an important role in preserving the ornithological history of New York State through regional summaries of bird observation data, the work of the Avian Records Committee in screening and evaluating reports of rare birds, maintaining an official state checklist of birds, publishing two state bird books, coordinating the volunteers that collect breeding bird atlas data, and working with NYS DEC to publish the atlases.”


How long have you been birding?
“I have been birding for 51 years.”


Did you have a particular experience that hooked you on birding?
“A few things led up to that. In sixth grade, our teacher asked us to choose a bird species, research it, and produce a papier-mache model of it. I chose the Chipping Sparrow because it was small, rather handsome, but not too showy. That summer, I was taking a backyard short-cut and spotted a Chipping Sparrow perched on a fence. I was surprised to see this bird in my neighborhood and started wondering what else I might be overlooking. I took a book about bird-watching out of the local library and studied it from cover to cover. The following Christmas, I asked my parents for binoculars. That was an expensive purchase for them, but they were able to do it as a shared present for both me and my little sister. Both my sisters and I went on a bird walk that day in our neighborhood and found four species: Rock Doves, House Sparrows, European Starlings, and the big surprise for our land-locked location -- Ring-billed Gulls! I didn't find any other species until a foggy morning in spring while I was delivering newspapers. I heard the most beautiful, melancholy song. I went to the backyard of the house I was at and found perched on a wire another sparrow. This one had lots of streaks and a spot in the middle of the breast. And I was permanently hooked. Chimney Swifts were the next birds that I identified in my neighborhood. A late snow on the hills that May forced brightly-colored warblers into my neighborhood and I identified a few of them that were hopping in lawns as I walked to school and home again that afternoon. I figured that was typical for warbler migration, but I never saw any other warblers in my neighborhood in
subsequent years after that except for Blackpoll Warblers which didn't mind foraging in all the Norway Maples along the streets.”

What is your favorite place to go birding in NYS?
“I like our local birding spots in Chemung County best, even though they don't often yield rarities. I enjoy Newtown Battlefield State Park because of the nice variety of warblers that can be found there with about 13 breeding species as a basis. The Chemung River as it passes through downtown Elmira produces most of our rarities. We have several places that provide a half day of pleasurable birding.”

Favorite species?
“I especially like Chimney Swifts, Common Nighthawks, Brown Creepers, Hooded Mergansers, and Hooded Warblers.”

Is anyone else in your family a birder as a result of your interest?
“Yes. My older sister feeds birds. My younger sister and her husband often go birding when they are traveling. My step-daughter enjoys birds. She's deaf and found it funny that hearing birders started following her around at Pt. Pelee when they realized that she was able to spot the birds that they could only hear on their own. My step-son and his wife are interested in getting into birding. My father was legally blind. One of his issues was that his pupils didn't close down so he liked to take walks at dusk when he learned to recognize and enjoy the calls of Common Nighthawks.”

What do you do for a living?
“I am the Geographic Information Services Manager for Tioga County, New York.”

How long have you been the Region 3 Reports Editor for The Kingbird?
“I was the Region 3 Editor for 10 years, then took several years off and have been back at it for 2 or 3 more.”

How many quarterly reports have you written?
“Must be close to 50, now.”

What sources do you use for reporting?
“My first 10 years, I relied on personal exchanges and the CAYUGABIRDS list serve. Now I primarily use eBird.”

How long does it take you to write a quarterly Region 3 Report?
“I think I spread the work over about three weeks of spare time.”

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