NYSOA is a 100% volunteer organization. The people who work for NYSOA do it because they are passionately committed to protecting birds and their habitats, and because they enjoy working with others who share their passion. With deep gratitude, NYSOA recognizes all who have generously given, or who currently give, of their time and talents to help NYSOA carry out its important mission. In January 2016, we added this section to the website in order to give our readers an opportunity to get to know some of our volunteers.
Kathryn Schneider has been a NYSOA member for 24 years, holding many positions including those of president, vice president, and director. She has chaired quite a few committees and been a driving force in raising awareness about NYSOA in the birding community. Look for her new book, Birding the Hudson Valley, coming in 2018!
How long have you been a NYSOA member?
“Twenty-four years in December. I became involved with NYSOA in the 1990s when I was the Director/zoologist of the New York Natural Heritage Program. Part of my job involved documenting habitats for rare birds in New York State, so my colleagues in DEC’s Endangered Species and Nongame Programs encouraged me to attend the annual meetings and get to know the state’s most knowledgeable birders.”
What positions have you held in the organization (and for how long)?
“I’ve been president (2 years), vice president (2 years), and director (6 years). I’ve also chaired a number of committees including Nominating, Marketing and Publicity, Awards, Annual Meeting, and Field Trips.”
What is it about NYSOA that keeps you involved?
“I’ve met a lot of really nice people and awesome birders through NYSOA. I love it that I can go birding almost anywhere in New York State and run into friends who share my passion for birds. I think birders are unique in their willingness to share their knowledge and teach others what they know. But honestly, the birding camaraderie is only part of it. I was drawn to NYSOA by its involvement in statewide projects like the bird atlases, waterfowl counts, the publication of the Checklist of the Birds of New York State and Bull’s Birds of New York State, and its willingness to take a stand on important and difficult conservation issues. These are things I want to be a part of that go beyond what my local bird clubs have to offer.”
How long have you been birding?
“I’ve been watching birds most of my life. My mother was interested in birds, my Dad grew up in the Adirondacks, and I was raised in a family that was taught to love nature and the outdoors. There was always a field guide and binoculars in my house and new yard birds caused great excitement. I don’t think I became a real birder in terms of keeping lists and seeking out new birds until after I took ornithology from Tom Cade as a junior at Cornell. I was definitely hooked after that. After that course, I took classes in behavioral ecology, animal social behavior, evolution, and population biology that inevitably included a lot of bird biology.”
Did you have a particular experience that hooked you on birding?
“Not really, but I still remember seeing a Pileated Woodpecker with my parents when I was about five years old. We looked it up in a book, and worked through the process
of identifying it. Happily, we decided it wasn’t an Ivory-billed Woodpecker!”
What is your favorite place to go birding in NYS?
“There are so many great places to bird in New York that it’s impossible for me to choose just one. In general I prefer to bird at places where I can walk, where it’s quiet enough to hear the birds, and where the habitats are unique or diverse and largely undisturbed. A few of my favorite sites in the Hudson Valley include Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve, but I also love visiting sites in the Adirondacks, on Long Island, and in western New York where you have to go to see all the birds New York has to offer.”
“It seems to me that my favorite birds change a lot. I get very attached to the birds I know well because of my work on various research projects. I will always have a soft spot for Short-eared Owls, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and White-throated Sparrows just because I know things about them that most people don’t. There used to be whole groups of birds I didn’t like because I found them difficult, but as I’ve become a better birder I’ve even warmed up to gulls and shorebirds.”
Is anyone else in your family a birder as a result of your interest?
“My husband, Bill is a decent birder, and he often joins me on NYSOA field trips. When our kids were little he was the supportive birding spouse who took them Christmas shopping for my present while I was away all day doing Christmas Counts. My son and daughter both do some birdwatching but my seven-year-old grandson has a life list with about 40 species on it!”
What do you do for a living?
“I think I finally have to say that I’m retired. For the majority of my professional life I taught college courses in general biology, animal behavior, ecology, and ornithology, first at the University of Richmond and later at Hudson Valley Community College. I also worked for The Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for 14 years when I directed the New York Natural Heritage Program, the biodiversity inventory program that I mentioned earlier. I’ve run my own consulting firm and worked under contract doing bird surveys for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but for the last three years I’ve been researching and writing a bird finding guide to the Hudson Valley. Birding the Hudson Valley will finally be published in 2018.”