Seven years ago Brian McAllister, then volunteer coordinator at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center, had an idea: why not host a birding festival in the Adirondacks? After all, birders are committed hobbyists who will travel great distances to add new birds to their life lists, and this would be a great way to promote the Adirondacks and the boreal birdlife that makes the Park special. Fast forward to 2009: the Great Adirondack Birding Celebration (GABC) is still going strong and has a line-up of speakers and field trips that will appeal to bird (and outdoor) enthusiasts of all abilities.
This year the GABC, which will be held June 5-7, is hosted by the Adirondack Park Institute (API), the Friends Group of the Visitor Interpretive Centers. One of the changes for 2009 is a registration fee ($35 for individuals, $50 for families), which not only includes entry to all the programs and field trips, but also to the Dessert Reception and Owl Prowl at White Pine Camp (June 5), the BBQ lunch at the Paul Smiths VIC (June 6), and a one-year membership to the API.
While the field trips are always one of the highlights of this annual event, the special draw this year is the keynote speaker: Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds. I haven’t read the book yet myself, but I am keen to do so. It seems this book picks up where Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring left off. I finally read Silent Spring a few years ago, and I thought “Whew! We dodged a bullet there.” I was happy to see that many of the dire events of Carson’s days are a thing of the past. But, it seems that while some problems have been addressed, new (and possibly worse) ones have sprung up.
In Silence of the Songbirds, Stutchbury addresses the looming disaster of songbird loss, and how each of us can help slow it down. For example, did you know that your morning cup of Joe is a leading contributor to habitat destruction in the wintering grounds of our northern songbirds? I’m off the hook here, since I’m not a coffee drinker, but when I have bought coffee for others, I make it a point to get shade-grown coffee, coffee from plantations that preserve the structural diversity of the tropical rain forests. And if you don’t think this is important, just step out your door tomorrow morning and listen for the dawn chorus. Then think back to what it sounded like when you were a kid. Dollars to donuts, that the din from your youth is a mere memory today. This is my ninth spring in Newcomb, my 35th in New York State, and I’m stunned by how quiet the dawn chorus has become.
The modern day birder doesn’t just mosey along peering into the trees. For those who enjoy paddling, there’s the Osgood Pond birding-by-boat trip (boats are provided). Maybe you’d like more of a workout? Then sign up for the Whiteface Mountain hike and the search for the Bicknell’s thrush. Perhaps you are interested in learning more about bird banding. You can do so with Dr. Jorie Favreau of Paul Smiths College.
Do you have to be a birder to enjoy this weekend? Of course not! Even non-birders can find something of interest, like the Wetland Walk led by Dan Spada, who supervises the Adirondack Park Agency’s Research Analysis and Scientific Services Division, or the Damsels and Dragons presentation with dragonfly aficionados Vici and Steve Diehl.
So mark your calendars and polish up your binocs. Zip over to the VIC website (www.adkvic.org/birdcelebration.html) and fill out the GABC registration form; and if you need more information, contact Martha at the API: 518-327-3376.
Photo credit: Milt Adams, Env. Ed. 2, Paul Smiths VIC