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
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
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
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
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
The New York State Avian Records Committee has a new member,
Andy Guthrie, who replaces Willie D’Anna. The
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
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.
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
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
- 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 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.
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.
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
Wings Over Dutchess, November