Federation of New York State Bird Clubs
Annual Meeting Report
Barbara Butler, Elaine Andersen, and Carena Pooth
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club delegates
The weekend of September 20-22, we had the pleasure of attending
the Federation's Annual Meeting in Owego as RTWBC delegates. It
was a constructive and informative meeting, with fun and entertainment
thrown in as a bonus.
The 55th Annual Meeting was hosted by the Naturalists' Club of
Broome County with the assistance of the Tioga Bird Club. Thanks
to both clubs and especially to Sara Kinch and Gail Kirch for their
unflagging efforts to attend
to every detail and make the meeting a highly successful event.
Pond Wetland Preserve
Birding throughout the weekend was less than spectacular because
of the peculiar weather patterndays and days of southerly
winds that kept the migrants at bay. Nonetheless, we enjoyed stretching
our legs and seeing some beautiful birding hotspots. Among the
natural areas we visited on field trips were the Waterman Conservation
Center and the Brick Pond Wetland Preserve, both owned by the Waterman
Conservation Education Center in Apalachin, just down the road
from Owego. WCEC, which also owns Hiawatha Island in the Susquehanna,
was named after Fred L. Waterman (no relation to our club's founder).
At the Waterman Conservation Center, we enjoyed beautiful trails
through meadows, forest, and a hemlock gorge, followed by a visit
to the gift shop and interpretive center. This 95-acre preserve
contains varied habitats and is surely a great place to bird during
better flight days. And Brick Pond Preserve is a wetland area with
a floating boardwalk that leads straight across a large marsh.
Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks were everywhere and a Green Heron
was sunning himself on a floating log. We were surprised to hear
a Brown Creeper singing persistently for upwards of 20 minutes
or so during our visit.
Back at the hotel, we spent some time browsing through the various
vendor and informational displays, which included everything from
live whirligig beetles (aka bumper car bugs, in Carrie Grey's lingo)
to incredible optics with 4-digit price tags. In between were T-shirts,
jewelry, stuffed plush birds that sing, and antique paintings,
among other things.
After the reception Friday evening on a beautiful patio on the
banks of the river, we had a nice dinner and then enjoyed presentations
about the history of the area and the Susquehanna, and then an
instructive discussion about the breeding bird atlas project
Delegates from most of the 51 member clubs attended the annual
business meeting of the Federation on Saturday morning. Federation
committee chairs reported on the past year's activities and future
plans, and we elected officers for the coming year. As is the convention,
this year's officers will serve for another year. Three board members
were elected: Barbara Butler (second term), Gail Kirch and Andy
Mason (both first term).
Bryan Swift of the Department of Environmental Conservation gave
an extensive report about bird conservation-related programs within
the department. He had lots to talk about; some good news and some
concerns. Highlights were:
- The state has designated 19 Bird
Conservation Areas within state-owned lands. Other state-owned
lands are being considered for BCA designation.
- Breeding Bird Atlas results provide key bird status information
for many DEC decisions.
- Special studies are being conducted for Common Loons,
Spruce Grouse, Black Terns, Brant, Short-eared Owls, and shorebirds.
linked to zebra mussels and other exotics, is affecting birds
on Lake Erie. The DEC plans to set up monitoring for it on the
Lake Ontario shores. Please alert DEC about waterbird mortality.
- There is new federal funding for fish & wildlife
programs. New York's allocation is $3.7 million. Bryan is on
the team planning the use of these funds.
Bob Budliger could not attend but sent a report about his actions
as Conservation Chairman. He sent a letter about the model airplane
issue at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR (aka Galeville Airport) and
attended a meeting about the feral cat issue on Long Island. He
notes that Audubon of New York State is seeking new nominations
Bird Areas. Bob has resigned as Conservation Chairman. The
new chairman is Andy Mason of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society.
Marty Borko proposed a resolution calling
for a visitor center for folks coming to the Upper Delaware River
area to see Bald Eagles. The resolution was adopted by the delegates.
The most important issue, at least to the Federation as an organization,
was a proposal to change its name. Our current name obscures the
fact that individuals can be members. Kevin McGowan led a discussion
of the pros and cons and some possible new names. Discussion will
continue among the clubs and with the board until the next annual
meeting. A vote will be taken at that time.
A nice variety of topics were covered during the paper session
on Saturday afternoon. Bob Pantle presented a small part of the
data from his 40 years of banding birds in Tioga County. Other
speakers' topics included West Nile Virus, restoring riparian habitat,
Breeding Bird Atlas interim maps, and Black Terns. In keeping with
tradition, Max Wheat concluded the session with a reading of his
poetry. He dedicated the reading to Helen Manson Andrews and began
with a poem about her. A lovely tribute.
Dunne signing books
On Saturday evening, food for the body was followed by food for
the soul, as Pete Dunne told us his version of Roger Tory Peterson's
arrival in Heaven. Earlier in the evening, we had had the opportunity
to meet this incomparable birder/storyteller and his wife during
his book signing in the lobby.
Also on Saturday, awards were presented. You can check out the details on
the FNYSBC website.
Sunday morning, our hosts had planned a special breakfast for
us in the middle of the Susquehanna River. There lies the legendary
Island, local historian/author Emma Sedore's "Jewel of
the Susquehanna." Fran Dunbar (aka "the Mayor of Hiawatha
Island"), had shared with us the decade-old story of the impending
destruction of this beautiful wooded island at the hands of a gravel
mining corporation which planned to purchase it at auction. A grass-roots
band of passionate preservationists, led by Fran, canvassed the
local townsfolk, gathering $1000 pledges from all who shared the
vision of protecting the pristine site for future generations.
As the auction day dawned, the group attended with high hopes,
an impressive $42,000 bankroll of pledges.....and no cash. Prepared
to spend the entire amount to secure the island, their enthusiasm
crashed as the bidding started at $125, 000.
With thudding hearts, they entered the bidding anyway. Within
thirty minutes, the winning bid had risen to an amazing $391,000!
And the winners were...the near-penniless preservationists! With
a mixture of subdued joy and unbridled terror, they realized they
had but 30 days to come up with the first third. Astonishing, faithful
optimism can be the only reason they found several people willing
to re-mortgage their own homes to finance the purchase! T-shirts
were hawked and the town filled with the aroma of brownies as bake
sales endeavored to make up the difference. Within mere hours of
the first due date, they squeaked by with just enough cash to cover
it. That's a heap of brownies!
Subsequent due dates were met with money to spare, and in ninety
days the island belonged to
the preservation committee. Non-stop devotion to the project continued
until everyone was repaid only 5 years after the purchase. A huge gift
to future generations, the island was donated to the Waterman Conservation
Center for schoolchildren and adults as a hands-on site for deepening
our innate love of nature and desire to protect it. Infectious enthusiasm
bristles through these people, and the inspiration of this grass-roots
All-American story is heart-warming.
We were thrilled at our chance to visit Hiawatha. To the accompaniment
of rumbling thunder, we waited under tall trees in a downpour for
the pontoon boat which trundled us in groups of 8 across the river.
In a steady rain, we ascended the hill, slipping through slick
chocolate frosting mud. Non-birders have a hard time understanding
why we think this stuff is so much fun, but slogging through the
moat which surrounded the groaning smorgasboard of wonderful food
brought wit and laughter... a highlight. To the chefs who cooked
over open fires under a range hood which appeared to be assembled
of old tractor parts: bravo! The creation of such delicious meals
while getting drenched to the skin was nothing short of heroic.
We breakfasted in the blacksmith shop or under tarps. The woods
are beautiful even in the rain, and the next time you head towards
Binghamton and Owego, do take time to visit the rescued-from-certain-doom
Jewel of the Susquehanna, cherished Hiawatha Island.
The theme of this year's meeting was "There's something about
a river." We who live on the banks of the Hudson knew that,
of course. But we learned that each river has something unique
about it...even if it flows in only one direction. We thoroughly
enjoyed our weekend on the banks of the lovely Susquehanna. Thank
you for sending us.
Next year's annual meeting will be held the weekend of October
31-November 2, 2003 at the Chautauqua
Institution in Chautauqua with visits to the Roger
Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown. Plan to attend!
Over Dutchess, October 2002