This weekend marks the 8th Annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, hosted by the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths. This annual event draws as many as 400 visitors to the region. This year participants have come from throughout the Northeast down to Maryland and Virginia and as far away as Texas. Highlights of the Celebration include field trips both Saturday and Sunday mornings led by local experts to to birding hotspots such as Bloomingdale Bog, Madawaska, Spring Pond Bog, Whiteface Mountain, as well as the Paul Smiths VIC. Birders hope to see boreal bird specialities such as the Black-backed Woodpecker, shown at the left, as well as Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and many northern warblers. More than 160 species have been seen over the eight years of this birding festival.
The Saturday night program features a raffle and a talk by Peter Marra (Smithsonian Institution) entitled “Neighborhood Nestwatch: Science in the Urban Jungle.” Conceived and directed by Dr. Marra, Neighborhood Nestwatch enlists volunteers who work with scientists to find and monitor bird nests and to record and report their observations. Scientists are especially interested in comparing how successful nests are in urban, suburban, and rural backyards.
With the Visitor Information Centers scheduled to be closed in the Governor’s budget at the end of the year, it is uncertain where and whether there will be a birding festival next year. More critically, the loss of the Paul Smiths and Newcomb facilities as environmental education centers would be tragic in this era of computerized social networking and games and diminished contact with the natural world, especially for children. Within the last twelve months, more than 96,000 people have enjoyed the Centers including more than 3,300 school children and their families who have attended classes and events held at the two VIC sites. The Adirondack Park Institute, a non-profit group that underwrites the interpretive and educational programs of the VICs, is working hard along with Paul Smiths College and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) to help ensure that the VICs have a future.