Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation. Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.
Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload the bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.
Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.
Storey self-published this guide to Adirondack natural history in 2006 and sold out the first printing in the first year. The reason, no doubt, is that it’s readable and relevant. Storey was the former Chief Naturalist at the Adirondack Park Agency (24 years at the APA!) and he wrote the book we all need to keep in our car, backpack, and back pocket. In fact, my only complaint is the book’s format doesn’t make it easy to pack – it could have been a lot smaller, even with all the info and images packed in there! This book is more than a guide to our local flora and fauna, more than a wildlife guide, it covers geology, geography, forestry, history, cultural anthropology, environmental politics, from the life cycle of the black fly to the problems of upland development. The diagrams, illustrations, photographs, are illustrative beyond comparison. From “Grenville Continent Rifting and the Lake George Rift Valley” to the illustration of a 50-years of a hemlock and yellow birch growing on a rotting log resting on a glacial erratic rock, this book shows you the basics and backs it up with detailed explanations. The tracks of common animals, identifying common birds, leaves, trees, fish, soils, insects, eskers, kettle holes – its all there and more.
This book will do what it says it will – explain, in vivid and easy-going detail, why the Adirondacks look the way they do. I’ve been thinking about doing a “Ten Books Every Adirondacker Should Own,” and when I do, this book will be on that list.
A new atlas on the birds of New York reveals that during the past two decades over half of New York State’s bird populations have seen dramatic changes in their distributions, with 70 species experiencing significant increases, 58 species experiencing serious declines, and 125 species maintaining relative stability. Among the birds showing the largest increases in New York State are Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Merlin. Those showing the largest decreases are Henslow’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, and Canada Warbler. Resident woodland birds showed the greatest increases as a group, and grassland birds showed the greatest declines. These new findings, published this month by Cornell University Press in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, are the result of over 140,000 hours in the field by nearly 1,200 volunteers across New York State. The atlas, edited by two prominent figures in the field, ornithologist Kevin J. McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and wildlife biologist Kimberley Corwin of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was initiated by the New York State Ornithological Association and implemented by the NYSDEC, which provided the funding, management personnel, oversight, direction, and data capture and management. The majority of the funding came from the state tax check-off program, “Return a Gift to Wildlife.”
According to the new study New Yorkers have considerably helped bird populations by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and cover, supporting conservation organizations, and participating in cutting-edge programs such as the Landowner Incentive Program.
The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State will be an invaluable resource for the DEC and other state agencies involved in land management and conservation, as well as counties and towns who make management decisions on smaller scales. Data will also be used at the national level by federal agencies, non-governmental agencies such as the NY Natural Heritage Program and Audubon, as well as universities across the country.
The Adirondack Museum is offering an opportunity to encounter Adirondack raptors close-up as part of their Cabin Fever Sunday series. A Great Horned Owl, a Red-Tailed Hawk, an American Kestrel, and more will be on hand along with Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center Environmental Educator Rynda McCray on Sunday, January 11, 2009. This special bird-of-prey presentation featuring non-releasable education birds. Learn about special adaptations, habitats, and human impact on bird populations. The Newcomb VIC has five birds of prey. They include a great horned owl, a red-tailed hawk, an eastern screech owl, a northern saw-whet owl, and an American kestrel. All of the birds were rescued and received care from wildlife rehabilitators. However, none are able to survive in the wild. The birds work in tandem with Environmental Educators to provide “bird-on-hand” programs for the public. Rynda McCray is Center Director of the Newcomb VIC. She developed the Bird-of-Prey Program and has worked with live Adirondack raptors for the past 10 years.
The presentation will begin in the Auditorium at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.
The 2008-09 season of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch gets underway November 8 and runs through April 3. For more then 20 years participants have been counting the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders each week and sending the information to the Ornithology Lab. Participants submitted more than 115,000 checklists during the 2007-08 FeederWatch season, documenting unusual bird sightings, winter movements, and shifting ranges-a treasure-trove of information that scientists use to monitor the health of the birds and of the environment. “Being a FeederWatcher is easy and fun, and at the same time helps generate the world’s largest database on feeder-bird populations,” says project leader David Bonter. “We are grateful for the contributions our participants have made for the birds and are proud of the joy they say it brings to their busy lives. Since we started in 1987, more than 40,000 people have submitted observations, engaging with the wildlife beyond their windows.”
Scientists learn something new from the data each year, too, whether it’s about the movements of common backyard birds or unusual sightings of rarely-seen species. Highlights of the most recent season include the largest southward movement of Red-breasted Nuthatches in the history of the project-part of an expected influx of northern birds that fly farther south when their food supplies run short.
Other northern species showing up in record numbers included Common Repolls and Pine Siskins. Among the rare birds reported was a Streak-backed Oriole in Loveland, Colorado-the state’s first report of this bird, native to Mexico. A December nor’easter deposited a Dovekie in Newton, Massachusetts, the first time this North Atlantic seabird has ever been reported to Project FeederWatch.
Long-term data show some species increasing in number, such as the Lesser Goldfinch in the Southwest. Other populations continue a downward trend, such as the Evening Grosbeak throughout their range. Once one of the most common species seen at feeders in the northern half of the continent, the grosbeaks are declining for unknown reasons.
Beyond the benefits to birds and science, however, is the benefit to participants. “Nature is not merely an amenity; it is critical to healthy human development and functioning,” says Nancy Wells, Cornell University assistant professor of design and environmental analysis. Her studies find that a view of nature through the window or access to the environment in any way improves a child’s cognitive functioning and reduces the negative effects of stress on the child’s psychological well-being. Wells also notes that when children spent time with nature early in life it carries over to their adult attitudes and behavior toward the environment.
Project FeederWatch welcomes participants of all ages and skill levels, from scout troops and retirees to classrooms and nature center visitors. To learn more and to sign up, visit www.feederwatch.org or call the Lab toll-free at (800) 843-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds in their area, a calendar, complete instructions, and the FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights.
Blogger, and part time Adirondack resident, Tigerhawk (who knew he was the cousin of another great semi-local blogger Walking the Berkshires) has posted photos of a pair of nesting Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, with little ones) above his camp. He is expecting “periodic showers of whitewash, partially eaten small mouth bass, and the bones of small mammals” on his deck from the feeding birds of prey.
Experts note that “the bald eagle is a long-lived bird, with a life span in the wild of more than 30 years. Bald eagles mate for life, returning to nest in the general area (within 250 miles) from which they fledged. Once a pair selects a nesting territory, they use it for the rest of their lives.”
The Bald Eagle was officially reclassified from “Endangered” to “Threatened” in 1995 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and was delisted as “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife” in June 2007. The Adirondacks was once home to plenty of bald Eagles, which can stand three feet tall and weigh up to 14 pounds, with a wingspan of four feet. Estimates of Eagle populations in the lower-48 during the 1700s ranged from 300 to 500 thousand, but by the 1950s there were just 412 nesting pairs.
The species was first protected in the U.S. and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty, later extended to all of North America. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S., which protected the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, prohibited commercial trapping and killing of the birds. The Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species in the U.S. in 1967, and amendments to the 1940 act between 1962 and 1972 further restricted commercial uses and increased penalties for violators. Also in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States. DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989, though its use had been highly restricted since the late 1970s.
With regulations in place and DDT banned, the eagle population rebounded. The Bald Eagle can be found in growing concentrations throughout the United States and Canada, particularly near large bodies of water. In the early 1980s, the estimated total population was 100,000 birds, with 110,000–115,000 by 1992; the U.S. state with the largest resident population is Alaska, with about 40,000–50,000 birds, with the next highest population being the Canadian province of British Columbia with 20,000–30,000 birds in 1992.
According the DEC, they are still listed as Threatened in New York State:
The New York State Bald Eagle Restoration Project began in 1976 in an attempt to reestablish a breeding population through hacking (hand rearing to independence). Over a 13 year period, 198 nestling bald eagles were collected (most from Alaska), transported and released in New York.
The hacking project ended in 1989, when it accomplished its goal of establishing ten breeding pairs. The bald eagle program’s focus has now shifted to finding and protecting nesting pairs in New York, and monitoring their productivity. Bald eagles continue to do well; in 2005 New York had 92 breeding pairs, which fledged 112 young. Each year, New York’s bald eagles fledge about 10 percent more young eagles than the year before.
Here is a (rather unlikely) story which you can take for what it’s worth. In 1912, Milton Stelves of Glens Falls reported that he was “nearly killed in a fight with a bald eagle” near a North Creek lumber camp. Stelves was walking into camp when he spotted two eagles on the carcass of a calf. He drew up his gun and killed one of the birds but the other came straight for him. Before he could reload it was on him and he was hollering for help and trying to beat it away with the butt of his rifle. A man coming to the rescue beat the bird to death with a club. According to Lowville Journal Republican it measured nine feet from wing tip to wing tip and weighed in at 72 pounds.
The Zen Birdfeeder points us to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Annual Loon Census, set to take place Saturday, July 19th:
The Annual Loon Census provides valuable data for the Loon Program to follow trends in New York’s summer loon population over time. Hundreds of residents and visitors throughout New York assist them each year by looking for loons on their favorite lake or river. » Continue Reading.
Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y. — Take a naturalist’s tour of the exquisite bird life — from warblers to waxwings – found throughout the Adirondack Park.
Join Gerard “Gerry” Lemmo at the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York on Friday, June 20, 2008 for the popular program, “Songbirds of the Adirondacks,” featuring many of the area’s best-loved feeder birds as well as birds you might not guess live in the wilds of northern New York State. The slide-illustrated program will begin at 7:00 p.m. and will be held in the museum’s Auditorium. The presentation is free and open to the public. The “Songbirds of the Adirondacks” is offered in conjunction with the Fourth Annual Hamilton County Birding Festival sponsored by Hamilton County Tourism, and Audubon New York.
Gerry Lemmo is one of the Northeast’s most prolific wildlife and travel photographers. His images are sought by publishers, advertising agencies, and other clients, and regularly appear in national and international publications. Lemmo has traveled to five of the seven continents in pursuit of adventure and the thrill of capturing beautiful photos of elusive wild creatures, as well as the landscapes and cultures that surround them.
He continues to build his diverse collection of photographs from around the world. Within the photo library, now exceeding 70,000 images, are shots of birds, insects, mammals, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and a great variety of plant life and wildflowers.
Lemmo gives nearly one hundred slide-illustrated programs each year throughout northern New York State, and regularly publishes his photographs in calendars, magazines, and books.
The Cornell Lab, or CLO, call themselves “a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.” CLO sponsors a number of interesting programs and events including their “Migration Celebration” (Saturday, May 17, 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.) at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Cornell. Family-friendly events include guided bird walks, interactive exhibits, live birds, games, and hands-on activities for children. This years theme is Tundra to Tropics: Connecting Birds, Habitats, and People. The goal is to raise awareness about the various kinds of habitat birds need, how these natural landscapes are disappearing, and what you can do to create bird-friendly spaces at home. The event if free. Contact (800) 843-BIRD or visit www.birds.cornell.edu/birdday for more info.
Bird Sounds Recording Workshop
From June 7 to 14, the annual Sound Recording Workshop offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology returns to San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus in the spectacular surroundings of the eastern foothills of California’s northern Sierra Nevada mountains. Participants learn state-of-the-art techniques for capturing bird sounds, guided by experts.
Learn to capture the sounds of wildlife through lecture, discussion, and daily field recording sessions participants learn how to effectively handle a portable field recording system to make scientifically accurate recordings of bird vocalizations. Participants learn how to conquer wind, how a roadbed can help overcome the sound of a rushing stream, and why placing a microphone on the ground is sometimes the best strategy. There is also an introduction to the science of sound analysis which converts sound waves into visual images called spectrograms. With signal analysis it’s possible to visualize a bird song note by note.
The Sound Recording Workshop fee of $895 covers tuition, class materials, ground transportation, food, and lodging. A $100 deposit is requested to reserve a space, which is limited to 20 students. Registration and payment are due by May 31. Learn more here. NestWatch Community Observation Project
NestWatch is a new, free citizen science project funded by the National Science Foundation. Participants visit nests during spring and summer to collect simple information about location, habitat, species, number of eggs, and number of young in the nest. Then they submit their observations online.
All NestWatch materials and instructions are available online at www.nestwatch.org, including directions on how to find nests and how to monitor them without disturbing the birds.
NestCams Online Live Nest Cameras
The NestCams site has been recently revamped. Live cameras show the nesting activities of Barn Owls, Wood Ducks, and Northern Flickers in Texas and California. More cameras go online all the time.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.