New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

 

Federation of New York State Bird Clubs
Annual Meeting Report

by Barbara Butler, Elaine Andersen, and Carena Pooth
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club
delegates

The 55th Annual Meeting of the Federation was held September 20-22, 2002 in Owego, hosted by the Naturalists' Club of Broome County with the assistance of the Tioga Bird Club. Thanks to both clubs and especially to Sara Kinch and Gail Kirch for their unflagging efforts to attend to every detail and make the meeting a highly successful event.

Brick Pond Wetland Preserve
Brick Pond Wetland Preserve

Birding throughout the weekend was less than spectacular because of the peculiar weather pattern—days and days of southerly winds that kept the migrants at bay. Nonetheless, we enjoyed stretching our legs and seeing some beautiful birding hotspots. Among the natural areas we visited on field trips were the Waterman Conservation Center and the Brick Pond Wetland Preserve, both owned by the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Apalachin, just down the road from Owego.

At the Waterman Conservation Center, we enjoyed beautiful trails through meadows, forest, and a hemlock gorge, followed by a visit to the gift shop and interpretive center. This 95-acre preserve contains varied habitats and is surely a great place to bird during better flight days. And Brick Pond Preserve is a wetland area with a floating boardwalk that leads straight across a large marsh. Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks were everywhere and a Green Heron was sunning himself on a floating log. We were surprised to hear a Brown Creeper singing persistently for upwards of 20 minutes or so during our visit.

Back at the hotel, we spent some time browsing through the various vendor and informational displays, which included everything from live whirligig beetles to incredible optics with 4-digit price tags. In between were T-shirts, jewelry, stuffed plush birds that sing, and antique paintings, among other things.

Friday Evening Reception
Friday Evening Reception

After the reception Friday evening on a beautiful patio on the banks of the river, we had a nice dinner and then enjoyed presentations about the history of the area and the Susquehanna, and then an informal discussion about the breeding bird atlas project.

Delegates from most of the 51 member clubs attended the annual business meeting of the Federation on Saturday morning. Federation committee chairs reported on the past year's activities and future plans, and we elected officers for the coming year. As is the convention, this year's officers will serve for another year. Three board members were elected: Barbara Butler (second term), Gail Kirch and Andy Mason (both first term).

Bryan Swift of the Department of Environmental Conservation gave an extensive report about bird conservation-related programs within the department. He had lots to talk about; some good news and some concerns. Highlights were:

  • The state has designated 19 Bird Conservation Areas within state-owned lands. Other state-owned lands are being considered for BCA designation.
  •  Breeding Bird Atlas results provide key bird status information for many DEC decisions.
  •  Special studies are being conducted for Common Loons, Spruce Grouse, Black Terns, Brant, Short-eared Owls, and shorebirds.
  •  Botulism, linked to zebra mussels and other exotics, is affecting birds on Lake Erie. The DEC plans to set up monitoring for it on the Lake Ontario shores. Please alert DEC about waterbird mortality.
  •  There is new federal funding for fish & wildlife programs. New York's allocation is $3.7 million. Bryan is on the team planning the use of these funds.

Bob Budliger could not attend but sent a report about his actions as Conservation Chairman. He sent a letter about the model airplane issue at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR (aka Galeville Airport) and attended a meeting about the feral cat issue on Long Island. He notes that Audubon of New York State is seeking new nominations for Important Bird Areas. Bob has resigned as Conservation Chairman. The new chairman is Andy Mason of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society.

Marty Borko proposed a resolution calling for a visitor center for folks coming to the Upper Delaware River area to see Bald Eagles. The resolution was adopted by the delegates.

The most important issue, at least to the Federation as an organization, was a proposal to change its name. Our current name obscures the fact that individuals can be members. Kevin McGowan led a discussion of the pros and cons and some possible new names. Discussion will continue among the clubs and with the board until the next annual meeting. A vote will be taken at that time.

A nice variety of topics were covered during the paper session on Saturday afternoon. Bob Pantle presented a small part of the data from his 40 years of banding birds in Tioga County. Other speakers' topics included West Nile Virus, restoring riparian habitat, Breeding Bird Atlas interim maps, and Black Terns. In keeping with tradition, Max Wheat concluded the session with a reading of his poetry.

Pete Dunne signing books
Pete Dunne signing books

On Saturday evening, food for the body was followed by food for the soul, as Pete Dunne told us his version of Roger Tory Peterson's arrival in Heaven. Earlier in the evening, we had had the opportunity to meet this incomparable birder/storyteller and his wife during his book signing in the lobby.

Also on Saturday, awards were presented. You can check out the details here on our website.

Sunday morning, our hosts had planned a special breakfast for us on legendary 112-acre Hiawatha Island. In spite of the rain, we had a grand breakfast in the woods. To the chefs who cooked over open fires in the relentless downpour: bravo! The creation of such delicious meals while getting drenched to the skin was nothing short of heroic! After breakfast, Fran Dunbar (aka the Mayor of Hiawatha Island) shared with us the decade-old story of the threatened destruction of this beautiful island at the hands of a gravel mining corporation which had planned to purchase it at auction. We learned that a grass-roots band of passionate preservationists, led by Fran, joined in on the bidding for the island and succeeded in purchasing it with the help of several local residents who mortgaged their homes to raise the needed funds. Five years later, the loans had all been repaid and the island was donated to the Waterman Conservation Education Center for permanent protection.

The theme of this year's meeting was "There's something about a river." We who live on the banks of the Hudson knew that, of course. But we learned that each river has something unique about it...even if it flows in only one direction. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend on the banks of the lovely Susquehanna.

Next year's annual meeting will be held the weekend of October 31-November 2, 2003 at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua with visits to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown. Plan to attend!

Posted 10/9/02


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