New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State


Federation of New York State Bird Clubs
56th Annual Meeting

by Barbara Butler, Binnie Chase, and Carena Pooth
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club

The 56th Annual meeting was held at the Chautauqua Institution. The Institution is located on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, in the Southwest corner of New York State. The Institution has been operating for 129 years and consists of a Victorian village, the Athenaeum Hotel and a theater. The Methodists started the institution to provide a place where people could come to have a learning vacation. Programs in art, spirituality, education and recreation are offered. We arrived at 2PM, giving us time to check into the Athenaeum Hotel before the 3PM field trips started. The Athenaeum is a pale yellow, three-story Victorian hotel. It has twelve pillars spaced across the front porch. A double staircase leads to the front entrance. The porch was lined with ladder-back rockers.
The hotel is located on a hill looking over Chautauqua Lake. Entering was like stepping back in time. The hotel was built in 1881 at the cost of $125,000. The wicker furniture, burning fireplace and 14 foot ceilings added to the atmosphere. We rode in the old cage-type elevator to our room on the third floor once. After that we decided to use the stairs. You can take a virtual tour by visiting the Athenaeum Hotel website.

Among the field trips offered were Burtis Bay-Chautauqua Lake, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Jamestown Audubon Sanctuary, Dunkirk Harbor, and Watts Flats. Friday afternoon we went to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. The stone and glass building is surrounded by 27 acres of woods in Jamestown, NY, Peterson's birthplace. There are many trails leading through different habitats. We were treated to exceptionally good looks at a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Inside the main building are a natural history library and many original paintings and works by Peterson. The Institute specializes in training teachers to incorporate nature study into their classroom programs. In addition, nature programs for youngsters 8-12 and their families are given throughout the year.

The speaker at Friday's dinner was Jillian Liner, Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program Coordinator from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. IBAs are being identified throughout New York State to preserve habitat for birds that are threatened by ever increasing habitat fragmentation. The IBA program is an outgrowth of an effort by Birdlife International, which was the first to define criteria and guidelines to ensure success. The program is now in its second phase of designating IBAs. The first phase solicited nominations by organizations or individuals. For the second, program personnel are evaluating a collection of geographical and natural history information, looking for likely bird areas to be confirmed in the field.

Saturday’s field trip for delegates was to Chautauqua Lake. This area was close by and gave us an hour of birding before our meetings started. The fog was very thick when we left. At Our first stop the fog lifted enough for us to see a group of 17 Pied-billed Grebes and a distant Common Loon. The North end of the lake had more activity. Our first sighting was a large group of decoys. We did see Tundra Swan, Redhead, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, and Surf Scoter. Part of our group had walked a distance away to search the evergreens. They spotted a Cape May Warbler.

Delegates' Meeting

Delegates from the member clubs met on Saturday morning to conduct the business of the Federation and hear reports from various committees. (Other attendees spent the morning on field trips.) A new club, the ESF Bird Club from the SUNY School of Forestry in Syracuse, was admitted to membership in the Federation, bringing the number of member clubs to 52.

John Ozard told us about Department of Environmental Conservation activities of interest to birders. He distributed a list of 28 projects under consideration for funding under the State Wildlife Grants Project, using federal and state money. The most familiar one was the Breeding Bird Atlas. Other projects involve Spruce Grouse, Loons, beach-nesting birds, grassland birds, Common Terns, and Golden-winged Warblers. Thousands of waterbirds have been killed by Type E botulism in the NY waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario beginning in 2000. The DEC is attempting to determine more about the transmission of the disease. See the DEC press release on this subject for more details. Peregrine Falcons continue to fledge increasing numbers of offspring. The DEC contracted with the Natural Heritage Program to compile data for planning future shorebird conservation activities. A major source was The Kingbird regional reports.

Andy Mason reported that the Federation’s Conservation concerns focused this year on three issues: Feral cats in state parks, wind power siting in relation to bird activity, and cormorant population control. Letters noting that permanent feral cat colonies are devastating to bird populations in the parks have had a positive impact. The NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation is adopting guidelines for feral cat control in the parks with the ultimate goal of zero feral cats on parkland. Federation letters on wind power projects have called for site-specific bird studies prior to project approval. Double-crested Cormorant population issues continue, this year centering on Oneida Lake.

Of the 6 field trips planned by Bill Lee, 2 were cancelled by weather and another by the August power outage. The others were well attended and successful. Hopes are high for better field trip weather in 2004. Bill is planning trips for Cape Vincent/Watertown in January, Sterling Forest and Doodletown in the spring, Fort Drum/Perch River in early June, Jamaica Bay in August and Niagara River in December. Watch this website and our newsletter, New York Birders for details.

Officers for 2004 were elected: President – Kevin J. McGowan; Vice President – Andrew Mason; Corresponding Secretary – Timothy H. Baird; Recording Secretary – Brenda Best; and Treasurer – William B. Reeves. Elected directors are Robert G. Spahn, to fill a vacancy in the 2004 Class, and for the 2005 Class – Berna B. Lincoln, Robert Miller, and William Ostrander.

The delegates voted to approve a resolution on Bird Population Management, after some discussion and wording changes. The resolution calls for bird population management actions to be supported by scientific evidence of the need for them. Each club was sent a copy prior to the meeting. Two resolutions were adopted congratulating Manny Levine and Dick Sloss and their wives on their 60th wedding anniversaries. We’ve missed them at meetings, but still enjoy the fruits of their labors for the Federation over many years.

By a vote of 47 to 21 of delegates voting in person and by proxy, the proposed name change of New York State Ornithological Association was accepted. The vote followed much discussion at club meetings and by the delegates.

Paper Session

Following the delegates' meeting on Saturday, the 3-hour paper session included a number of interesting presentations. These ran the gamut from Timothy Hauck's talk on "Avian response to experimental manipulation of utility rights of way" to a discussion by David Adams on "Botulism in New York birds." Dominic Sherony weighed in with tips on identifying female goldeneyes, based on careful study and measurement of a large number of skins. Raptors were the subject of Brett Ewald's talk, in which he encouraged us to look skyward for migrating hawks as early as August. Those who have followed the news of Sandhill Crane sightings in recent years could learn in detail the history of the species' ever more frequent appearances in western New York from Robert Sundell's presentation. Leonard DeFrancisco, who demonstrated that sometimes the older folks are the most energetic and dynamic speakers, entertained us with local bird lore (bet you didn't know that another name for American Crow is "Lackawanna Chicken") but left us with an important message regarding effective planning of windmill placement to minimize their negative impact on birds. And, in keeping with tradition, the final speaker was Maxwell Wheat, Jr., who read us some of Allen Benton's haiku and then some of his own poems on bird artists. Included was a poem about artist Karen Allaben-Confer and her husband, John Confer.

Valerie Freer and Kim Corwin updated us on the Atlas project. About 80% of the blocks in the state have been visited, with many of those already completed. While this represents great progress, we will enter the final year of field work with a significant challenge in many remote areas that have until now not been visited for this atlas. It's very important that volunteers send in their completed atlas forms so that coordinators can effectively plan and manage the final season's activities. Let's get ready for that final push! Those who complete 5 or more blocks will be awarded a certificate, and those who complete 10 or more blocks will receive a special pin. At this year's meeting, Kim presented the certificates and pins recognizing blocks completed through 2002. Pins were awarded to Brenda Best for 12 blocks, Jeff Bolsinger 27, Dorothy Crumb 10, Bob Donnelly 14, Ken Feustel 10, Natalia Garcia 11, Bob Guthrie 14, Gary Lee 17, Diane Sheridan 11, Will Yandik 14, and Bob Andrle 12. Certificates were awarded to Kris Conklin for 6 blocks, Paul Connor 5, Anne Cooke 5, Willie D'Anna 5, Elizabeth Fitts 5, Steve Kahl 8, Doug Kibbe 6, Geo Kloppel 8, Gerry LeTendre 5, David Muir 5, David Nash 6, Carena Pooth 8, Jeanne Ryan 8, Tom Salo 5, Bob Spahn 6, Donna Traver 7, Mike Wasilco 5, Allan Wells 5, and Doug Linstruth 6.

For those of us who are atlasers, a true highlight of Saturday's paper session was the talk on Tanzania's atlas project. It was given by Ethan Kinsey, a young Tanzanian who is completing his studies at Ithaca College. In a bind for a credit-bearing bird project, he ended up going back to Africa and working on the atlas project close to his home near Mt. Kilimanjaro. Ethan, a most engaging speaker, presented us with many fascinating contrasts between the Tanzanian project and Atlas 2000. Among the most striking of these was the fact that the current Tanzanian project was begun over 20 years ago—when New York completed its first atlas in a few years—and is still a long way from completion. And compared with the 1400 or so atlasers covering New York, only about 20 birders are working on the Tanzanian project covering a vastly larger geographic area. Are you feeling stressed trying to get those 76 species to complete your atlas block? In Tanzania, you're not done until you have 300! Ethan's conclusion: If any of you New York atlasers are looking for some more blocks and some new atlasing challenges, set your sights on Tanzania! For more eye-opening information on this project, check out

Saturday Banquet

Saturday evening started off with a beautifully arranged assortment of Hors d'Oeuvres. 

A delicious dinner followed in the formal dining room. 



Saturday evening reception


The following awards were presented:   

  • The John J. Elliott Award for best Kingbird article went to Michael D. Stubblefield and James D. Rising for "Review of Eastern and Spotted Towhee Taxa Based on Possible Spotted Towhee in Central Park, NYC-26 April 2001."
  • The Gordon Meade Distinguished Service Award for service to the Federation was presented to Don Windsor.  Don was past Kingbird editor and has produced two 10-year indexes of The Kingbird. He also was instrumental in the NYS life list patch program.
  • The Lillian Stoner Award recognizing a student went to Yelena Samsonenko from the Cayuga Bird Club.
  • A Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Carena Pooth for her work on the Federation website (nominated by Manny Levine).


Tim Baird formally passes the baton to
Kevin McGowan, newly elected President

John Rappole              
enjoys a little levity   
with Kevin McGowan
and Dick Miga    


Our keynote speaker Saturday evening was John Rappole, a researcher with the Smithsonian Institute. He drove up from Virginia to talk to us about Neotropical Migrants. The bird photos were beautiful and his illustrations unique. Dr. Rappole pointed out that the beautiful warblers aren't really ours but only come north to breed. Both their summer and winter habitats are disappearing rapidly. Some well-intentioned programs are actually not fully achieving their goal of saving habitat and preserving biodiversity. For example, Dr. Rappole emphasized that shade-grown coffee is not the panacea it has been made out to be. While the trees are left standing, the coffee plants can only succeed by crowding out important understory plants that are critical in their own ecological niche.


Future Meetings

Mark your 2004 calendars now for next year’s Annual Meeting, which will be hosted by Cayuga Bird Club in Ithaca, September 17-19.  We will have a chance to visit the new Cornell Lab of Ornithology building, with some behind-the-scenes tours.  The 2005 meeting will be hosted by Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club September 23-25 in Albany.

Posted 1/10/04


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