Posts Tagged ‘Paul Smiths’

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

5 Questions: Saranac Lake Birder Brian McAllister

Brian McAllister of Saranac Lake conducts bird surveys for environmental groups and wind-power companies, teaches ornithology lab at Paul Smith’s College and is one of the founders of the annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration.

He discusses what to look for during this winter-to-spring transition as warblers and other migrants journey north to their Adirondack nesting grounds, and he talks about tower lights that keep some birds from ever making it back.

Q. Can we call you a professional birdwatcher?

A. I guess I’d call myself a field ornithologist. I’ve been lucky to piecemeal a career in birding here in the Adirondacks.

Q. Do you bird-watch every day?

A. I bet I do. I’m constantly tuned in to what’s going on, even if I’m just driving somewhere.

Q. So how was your winter?

A. It’s been amazing. Every year there is some sort of irruption, with one or two species that sort of run out of food up north, so they come down south to the border states and into New York and Southern Canada to find cones or other food. This year it’s been phenomenal because everything came: red crossbills, white-winged crossbills, bohemian waxwings, redpolls, pine siskins, pine grosbeaks, hawk owls. Also, it’s a record year for snow buntings.

Q. What are you looking for now?

A. It’s funny, in March I veer away from the winter up here and focus on what’s happening in Florida and the Caribbean because a lot of migratory birds are starting to jump out of the tropical rainforest and work their way up the East Coast. Last night I was checking the Internet for rare bird alerts in Florida, and they’re seeing a bunch of warblers. They’re on the move. Along Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River we’ve got red-winged blackbirds and sparrows coming up from Mid-Atlantic states — also rusty blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, anywhere from March 1 on. Some winter birds begin to sing in March in courtship, like golden-crowned kinglets and brown creepers. Owls are on territory now and they’re breeding.

Q. You’ve done some field surveys at potential wind-turbine sites north of the Adirondack Park, but there’s a lot of talk lately about another kind of tower.

A. Yes, communications towers. The most famous tower-kill study was done by Bill Evans of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he conducted most of his dead-bird counts at television towers in the Boston Hills area of western New York. Tower kills per year are far worse than all wind turbine deaths put together. Outdoor cats kill the most birds, then towers and their guy wires are a close second. But what we have to realize is that these kills only occur on nights of heavy fog or very low cloud ceiling when there’s a heavy migration. The birds see this glow in the fog, and for some reason — we don’t know why — they’re attracted to it. They start circling, around and around and eventually they die of exhaustion or they actually collide into the tower or, more likely, into the unseen guy wires. . . . The solid red lights on top of towers should all be changed to blinking or strobe lights. Researchers have discovered that those are less harmful. When I lived on Averyville Road in Lake Placid there was a tower behind my cabin and on foggy nights it would cast this eery red glow, and I could see how birds are attracted to it.

Editor’s note: According to McAllister’s copy (thanks, Brian) of “Living on the Wind” by Scott Weidensaul (North Point Press, 1999), two to four million birds are killed by towers taller than 200 feet each year in the Eastern United States alone. To sign a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to minimize tower kills click here. To follow current sightings by Brian and other Northern New York birders, click here. Brian’s own natural-history observations and photographs can be found on his blog, Adirondacks Naturally.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Enrollment Down at Paul Smith’s, Up at NCCC


The slowdown in the economy is affecting the Adirondack Park’s two colleges in different ways.

At least twenty students have left Paul Smith’s College this year for financial reasons, president John Mills told The New York Times this week. “Their parents are losing their jobs, or they’re afraid of taking on any debt, even student loans,” Mills said to the Times. “It’s a fear of the unknown.”

Enrollment at the private two- and four-year college is 834 right now, low for a spring semester, college spokesman Kenneth Aaron explained Wednesday. Faculty and staff have taken a voluntary pay cut (from 1 to 2.5 percent) to help make ends meet, he added.

The story is different at North Country Community College (NCCC), which has campuses in Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Malone. While hard times are hurting four-year colleges across the United States, they are boosting enrollment at career-oriented community colleges.

NCCC numbers are up 8 percent (103 students) over last spring, reported Ed Trathen, vice president for enrollment and student services. Some 2,200 students attend NCCC, more than double the number 10 years ago.

“For us, it definitely has to do with people departing voluntarily or involuntarily from the workforce and looking to retrain themselves,” Trathen said. The college focuses on programs that can lead to local jobs; for example, nursing, radiologic technology, massage therapy, sports events management, and business for sole proprietors. NCCC also established a 2-year pre-teaching program that’s transferrable to SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh.

Affordability is another factor. Tuition at NCCC, which has no student housing, is $3,490 a year. At Paul Smith’s it’s $18,460, plus $8,350 for room and board.

Nurses are in demand, and NCCC received 350 applications this year for the 70 slots in its Registered Nursing program, Trathen said. In 2007 Paul Smith’s College explored launching a nursing curriculum, but no action has been taken.

Kenneth Aaron said Paul Smith’s endowment is down, just like all investment portfolios. “The silver lining is we’re not as reliant on our endowment as other institutions,” he added.

Paul Smith’s is under a hiring freeze, and NCCC is bracing for a reduction in state aid (some funding also comes from Essex and Franklin Counties). Both institutions are trying to cut costs without having to lay off faculty or trim education programs, Aaron and Trathen said.

Photograph of Paul Smiths College in the 1950s courtesy of campawful.com


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Paul Smiths VIC’s Adirondack Wildlife Festival

Another announcement forwarded to you from Andy Flynn:

PAUL SMITHS, NY – The increasing need for wind energy in New York state and the exploding moose population in the Adirondacks will top the list of Adirondack Wildlife Festival programs on Sunday, Aug. 10 at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Paul Smiths. The annual event, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will also feature children’s activities, live music, wildlife exhibits, food, trail walks and live animal demonstrations. » Continue Reading.