SMRA member Sarah Hansen recently blogged about our 2nd Saturday hike at Brinton Brook Sanctuary, now in its 10th year.
Saw Mill River Audubon members and volunteers had an active fall. In addition to our regularly scheduled walks, we had a full schedule of local and regional field trips, including new pop-up outings (here’s our online form to sign up for notifications).
There was also an exciting 8-day trip to the Southwest canyons and a late November trip planned to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region. Public programs included the Spanish-language film Magia Salvaje about the birds and wildlife of Colombia.
We continue to make our voice heard on local, regional, and national issues of concern, such as the proposed Hudson River barge anchorage sites. We have joined National Audubon’s Plants for Birds initiative, offering our native plant garden at Pruyn Sanctuary and the knowledge of our staff and board members as resources for creating bird-friendly yards.
Our September Board Retreat sparked several exciting new projects in our key mission areas with discussions on advocacy, conservation and habitat, and education and outreach. With these projects, we hope to inspire even more members to get involved as volunteers or participants.
Along with all this good news, we are facing a few challenges. The most significant right now is one that most homeowners are familiar with: maintenance of our headquarters building, Pruyn House, in Millwood. With our dedicated and talented members, our generous donors, volunteers, and staff, I have no doubt that we will weather this and future challenges and continue to grow our mission.
Feel free to email me directly at
Photo credit: Photo of Valerie Lyle, Alan Pakaln
SMRA President Valerie Lyle and Board member Richard Saravay participated in the semi-annual meeting of the New York Audubon Council in October. At this gathering of New York Audubon chapters, two important issues, each with a specific relationship to climate change and carbon emissions, were discussed.
Clean energy using off shore wind power is in the early planning stage on a site proposed about 11 miles off the coast of southern Long Island. Producing energy with little carbon emission is clearly good, but the proposed development of about 175 rotating wind turbines more than 400 feet tall poses a threat to migrating birds as reported in earlier wind turbine projects on land. Audubon seeks to ensure that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), including public comments, be part of the initial steps, with a goal of highlighting bird migration pathways and, if required, seeking to relocate the development to sites which mitigate the threat.
Hudson River anchorages have been proposed to be built in the middle of the river at seven locations from Yonkers to Kingston. This proposal is intended to permit significant growth of oil transport both up and down the Hudson night and day. Locations near us would impact the Lower Hudson Important Bird Area, Bald Eagle breeding and roosting sites. Audubon New York and SMRA will provide public comments to the U.S. Coast Guard prior to the December 6th deadline highlighting the environmental threats in this proposal.
The Council’s legislative resolution passed at the fall meeting also noted the need for an EIS for the proposed anchorages.
For more about our shared advocacy efforts with Audubon New York, visit ny.audubon.org/conservation
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. National Parks, Saw Mill River Audubon offered an eight-day exploration of five national parks in the Southwest in mid-October. The trip cost included a donation to SMRA benefiting our local conservation and education work.
Fourteen people joined SMRA Executive Director Anne Swaim in visiting Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and Grand Canyon National Parks as well as Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Monument Valley Navajo Park with a dawn jeep tour.
While not the birdiest time of year for Utah and northern Arizona, we did enjoy several special bird highlights including: a Townsend’s Solitaire in Zion; Williamson’s Sapsucker, Cassin’s Finches and Pygmy Nuthatches in Bryce Canyon; singing Canyon Wrens in Capitol Reef; a beautiful Golden Eagle in Canyonlands; a Say’s Phoebe behind our hotel in Moab; and a very tame Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay at Grand Canyon, where we also caught a small part of the raptor migration through the Canyon. Roger and Michele Garrison had the additional thrill of photographing a Northern Pygmy-Owl along Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon.
The main focus of our trip was taking in the spectacularly varied shapes and colors of the southwestern landscape across the Colorado Plateau as we followed the “Grand Circle” tour from park to park, and then seeing all these geologic layers and colors come together in the stunning finale of the Grand Canyon.
Photo credits: Exploring Capitol Reef, Rose DePalma; Northern Pygmy-Owl at Grand Canyon, Roger Garrison.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds of North America (BNA) is an extraordinary public resource, constantly updated for every bird species in North America, even accidentals. A redesign of the BNA website launched this September.
You can explore the site by searching for a species name or scanning the taxonomy list. Species introduction pages—available to those without a subscription—provide general information on subjects like distribution, behavior, breeding, and subspecies. Subscribers can see beyond this introduction, which only scratches the surface of the wealth of information Cornell has put together. Are you interested in when a bird species starts singing, builds a nest, raises young, migrates or changes plumage? It’s all there.
Each species entry allows you to navigate to topics such as Distribution, Migration and Habitat; Diet and Foraging and each of these topics are further sub-divided into sections like Locomotion, Self-Maintenance, Agonistic Behavior, and Predation.
Many Cornell Macaulay Library resources supplement the text, including photographs, videos, sound recordings, distribution maps, eBird range maps, molting cycle graphs, and spectrograms, graphic images of sounds.
The writing is not as lay-friendly as that from Cornell’s more simplified All About Birds web site. The concise language can be dry and jargony, yet still more readable than most science journals. Links are provided for all citations; you can view a full list of references, and, if you are using BNA for research, they’ve made citing BNA easy with “Recommended Citation” on each page footer.
BNA offers personal, institutional, and gift subscriptions from 30 days to three years.
To find out more, visit Birds of North America online at www.birdsna.org
SMRA also recommends www.allaboutbirds.org
On a recent walk around the New York Life Insurance Building in Sleepy Hollow, I found seven carcasses of birds.
This is no anomaly: bird strikes are a major factor in declining populations. Each year in the U.S. an estimated 365 million to 988 million birds die from collisions with glass (Audubon magazine). The birds most often affected include Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Painted Bunting, and hummingbirds.
Birds hit commercial buildings, houses, sliding glass doors, and bay windows: any glass surface larger than a hand, under the right lighting conditions, because windows reflecting the surrounding habitat may look like a flight route to a bird.
What can be done about this problem?
- Buy bird-safe window materials. American Bird Conservancy rates certain products as “Effective” and “Highly Effective” in preventing collisions.
- Currently there are three commercial products rated as Highly Effective and six as Effective; all are intended for application on existing windows.
- If you work in companies that have large glass expanses, discuss with your building engineering department the value of installing bird-safe modifications to windows.
- Lobby for tax breaks for companies that are willing to install new bird-friendly windows or apply bird-friendly tape, especially if they have multiple large buildings.
- Apply household glue to outside windows and add sparkles in wavy lines less than 6 inches apart.
To find out more, visit www.abcbirds.org/program/glass-collisions
- Cornell’s All About Birds has a helpful page about birds and windows.
- Massachusetts Audubon has some additional info and tips about bird window collisions here
- Mass Audubon also offers a helpful page about birds attacking their own window reflections, a different issue most often seen in spring.