People at NYSOA: Will Yandik Posted 1/27/16
To launch our People at NYSOA feature, we are proud to present Will Yandik. Will has been NYSOA's Reports Editor for Kingbird Region 8 for a whopping 13 years - that means he's written 52 quarterly reports already! What drives him to keep doing this work every three months? Why does he think NYSOA's regional reports are so important? Where does he get the data that he compiles? How long does it take him to do this job? And when he's not writing reports, where does he like to bird? What is his favorite bird species? Read on to learn the answers to all these questions, and more!
How long have you been a NYSOA member?
How long have you been the Region 8 Reports Editor for The Kingbird?
“This fall I will have served as Region 8 editor for 13 years.”
How many quarterly reports have you written?
What sources do you use for reporting (personal exchanges, eBird, list serves, mailed sightings, etc.)?
“Two Regional compilations make my job easy. The first, the Hudson-Mohawk Birdline compiled expertly by Phil Whitney, does an excellent job of grouping sightings from all over Region 8. Bill Cook’s monthly report for the Alan Devoe Bird Club is also extremely important. Unusual sightings are verified quickly by a dedicated cadre of folks such as Rich Guthrie, Will Raup, Bill Lee, Bill Cook and many others. As more birders begin to list on eBird this has become another useful source, although my hope is to see an interface soon on eBird for regional compilers that can organize first sightings in the spring with only a few clicks. This is already possible for individual counties. I no longer have any reports mailed to me via snail mail but several birders continue to email me their sightings, which are accompanied with personal anecdotes and observations.”
How long does it take you to write a quarterly Region 8 Report?
“It varies. I can take an entire day to do the spring report. Sometimes the sleepy summer seasonal report can be done in a few hours.”
How long have you been birding?
“I cannot remember a time when I did not observe wildlife, but I began seriously paying attention to birds at age 8.”
What is your favorite place to go birding in NYS?
“I bird nearly every day casually on my family’s 190 acres in southern Columbia County, which includes a 30-acre wetland, uplands, red maple swamp, meadows and farmland. I grew up birding the mid-Hudson-River’s overlook points and I think the high peaks of the Catskills are vastly underbirded and can provide quick easy access to quality highelevation habitats. Hunter, Thomas Cole, and Black Dome mountains have been favorites since I worked as a blockbuster to cover these areas in 2003-4 for the second NYS Atlas program.”
“I did my undergraduate research on eastern screech owls and have been interested in nocturnal and cryptic species for years. I also have a soft spot for grassland species, particularly sparrows.”
What do you do for a living?
“I wear many hats. I’m a fourth-generation fruit and vegetable grower and work part-time as a freelance writer, researcher, and lecturer in public policy and biology. I’m the Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Livingston and serve as a trustee for my local land trust.”
Any other information you would like to add?
“Region 8 lacks large biogeographic features that funnel and trap birds so rarities pass through unnoticed most of the time over acres and acres of diffuse quality habitat. Because of this fact, the Region 8 quarterly report is often not a list of rare species, but rather a more narrative exploration of trends and features of more common species of birds.
As eBird rises in coverage and becomes the primary vehicle for recording the data of sightings, I think The Kingbird’s quarterly reports have the freedom to unpack and describe this data, to notice trends, focus attention on a particular species, identify threats and conservation challenges, and provide historical context.
It’s fascinating to see how quickly our local avifauna can change. 13 years seems like a long time to compile quarterly reports, but it’s a biological nanosecond. Still, in this decade-plus I’ve witnessed the rapid expansion of Black Vulture into our Region, the breeding success and expansion of Bald Eagle, more numerous sightings of Merlin and Pileated Woodpecker, the collapse of Ringnecked Pheasant as a breeder and declines in Eastern Whip-poor-will, Ruffed Grouse, and Wilson’s Snipe. I’ve observed the increase in wintering Eastern Bluebird, Redwinged Blackbird, and Common Grackle to the point that it is no longer an easy task to assign spring arrival data to these species.
There are many interesting questions ahead that this publication can assist in answering. How will Bicknell’s Thrush and other high-elevation species adapt to a warming climate in the Catskill peaks? Will exurban development of vacation homes affect breeding birds on the foothills of the Adirondacks? With the strong push in organic grain farming (and its accompanying weediness) in the southern part of the region, will open grassland birds benefit? Will the offspring of Bald Eagles on the river move inland to nest on smaller ponds and lakes as competition increases? Will Osprey or Sandhill Cranes nest here? What is the next likely invasive or exotic avian arrival? It’s been a pleasure to learn and observe so much with my fellow Region 8 birders and I hope this publication continues for years to come.”