The generosity of the Cullman Foundation continues to allow Northern New York Audubon to distribute monies to fund projects occurring in the Adirondack, Champlain or St. Lawrence region of Northern New York or be beneficial to bird species that occur in that region. Eligibility includes, but is not limited to, environmental organizations, teachers, graduate students, and research project managers.
Joseph and Joan Cullman Conservation Grants
Joseph and Joan Cullman owned the Kildare Club just north of Tupper Lake and loved the Adirondacks with a respect bordering on reverence. The chairman of Phillip Morris, Inc. from 1957-1970, Joseph F. Cullman 3rd believed that a capitalistic, democratic society depends in many ways on its citizens’ dedication to philanthropy. An admirer of Teddy Roosevelt, Joseph Cullman took great pride in his work as a conservationist. The range and magnitude of his generosity to conservation causes boggles the mind. He helped start the World Wildlife Fund and The Atlantic Salmon Federation. A hunter who went on an African safari nearly every year, he co-founded Conservation Force, an organization in Tanzania that has built 26 schools, 6 medical dispensaries and operates anti-poaching teams to protect elephants and other wildlife. He endowed the Joseph F. Cullman Library of Natural History at the Smithsonian as well as the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Professorship in Wildlife, Ecology and Biodiversity at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He contributed handsomely to The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of Art, The Jewish Museum, American Public Television, New York City Council on the Environment, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Women’s’ Sports Foundation, New York City Audubon Society, The Neurosciences Institute at Rockefeller University, the New York Restoration, The New 42nd Street — the list goes on and on. —John Thaxton
2016 Cullman Grant Awards
Northern New York Audubon was fortunate to be able to grant eight Cullman Awards in 2016.
Boreal Studies Award ($1,900)
Helped underwrite the cost of a field assistant to work on Dr. Elaina M. Tuttle’s and Dr. Rusty A. Gonser’s long term study of a polymorphic supergene in the White-throated sparrow. As a result of alternate supergene alleles on chromosome two, white-throated sparrows occur in two distinct color morphs, white-striped (heterozygous for the allele) and tan-striped (homozygous for the allele) that exhibit strikingly different behavioral patterns, with the white-striped acting more aggressively, singing more frequently and engaging in more extra pair copulations and the tan stripe behaving less aggressively, singing less often and behaving more monogamously. The tan-stripe white-throateds provide superior care to the young and the two color morphs mate disassortatively, with the result that male white-stripes, the most dominant bird, always mate with female tan-stripes, the best nurturers, and male tan-stripes always mate with female white-stripes—each pair always has equal numbers of tan-stripe and white-stripe young. In its twenty-eighth year, the study has documented everything from the chromosomal locations of important behavioral genes in the morphs to the transcriptome difference in the brains of the two morphs. This immensely important study continues to explain ever more fully the genetic, behavioral and environmental dynamics of this signature Adirondack bird species.
Avian Outreach Award ($1,977)
Underwrote the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Birds of the Champlain Hills survey, a study of bird life in ten unusual forest-and-glade communities that occur on rocky south slopes, often near summits and ledges, and have many rare, calcium- dependent species of herbs and shrubs found nowhere else in the Adirondacks. The study consisted of standard 10-minute point counts at ten locations, such as Rattlesnake, Cheney and Split Rock Mountains and resulted in 139 observations of 33 species, with an additional 27 species observed outside the count areas. Based on distributional data from the New York State Atlas of Breeding Birds, the species detected in the Champlain Hills have an average latitude of occurrence that is 11.2km south of other locations where they occur across New York—this lower elevation, high productivity region may serve as a place in which signals of climate change, in the form of southern species expanding northward, will be observed prior to other areas of the Adirondack Park. Indeed, one of the most abundant species documented, the red-bellied woodpecker, appeared on three Christmas Bird Counts in the Champlain Valley for the first time ever five years ago and has occurred each year since.
Boreal and Montane Studies Award ($800)
Subsidized the ongoing boreal bird monitoring program at Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station, specifically in the large (>500 ha) Glacial Lake St. Agnes peatland complex on its remote property in the western central Adirondacks. Boreal Peatlands are nearing the southern extent of their range in the Adirondacks and the vegetation structure of these ecosystems has been shown to respond rapidly to changing climate and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, which negatively impacts high conservation value bird species, such as rusty blackbird. Researchers surveyed thirty-seven point count locations and observed 70 species, including nesting rusty blackbirds (an extremely rare and endangered species in the Adirondacks), a singing olive-sided flycatcher, numerous juvenile gray jays and, for the first time, an Eastern whip-poor-will and an Eastern wood pewee. SSPRS has now accumulated ten years of data about boreal bird species that occur in this remote, ecologically sensitive and important area.
Great Adirondack Birding Celebration Annual Lecture/Workshop ($1,300)
Underwrote the key note address at the Paul Smiths Great Adirondack Birding Celebration, which hosted a near capacity crowd for the Saturday evening talk. The speaker, Dr. Jeremy J. Kirchman, PhD, teaches ornithology at SUNY Albany and serves as Curator of the New York State Museum Ornithology Collection. His talk, The Adirondack Archipelago, described the Sky Island patches of boreal habitat scattered among Adirondack Mountains with elevations above approximately 3000 feet above sea level. Dr. Kirchman described how North American birds are shifting their distributions to higher latitude and higher elevation to track suitable conditions and how Adirondack populations of boreal forest birds already located at high elevations and at the southern end of their species’ ranges may be especially vulnerable to climate change as warming threatens to push these species out of the Adirondack Archipelago. Dr. Kirchman’s work involves genetic sampling, and he described how some Adirondack species, such as spruce grouse, have incredibly low genetic diversity while others, like blackpoll warbler, enjoy rich genetic diversity. Dr. Kirchman presented computer models of range shifts among fifteen Adirondack breeding species expected to occur by 2080, the quick take amounting to a loss of more than ninety percent of suitable habitat for species such as spruce grouse and blackpoll warbler, which will need at that point to shift their range from 600 to 900 miles to the northwest.
Hamilton County Boreal Birding Festival Annual Lecture ($1,000)
Underwrote the annual Festival Lecture, which featured Dr. Nina Schock, Director of the Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation. Dr. Schoch presented a comprehensive overview of common loon research in the Adirondacks, focusing on research into acid rain deposition and mercury levels in the blood of loons sampled throughout the Adirondacks and reported very mixed results across the park, with some populations relatively unaffected and others under considerable stress as mercury accumulations hamper their ability to forage and raise their young. Dr. Schoch noted that common loons seem to have reached a saturation level in the Adirondacks, with just about every possible nesting site occupied, and she noted that nest cameras, acquired with a previous grant, have revealed intense, indeed mortal, conflicts among loons competing for the same nest site. Dr. Schoch discussed the migratory movements of loons and outlined several areas of research conducted on loons on their wintering grounds, such as studies of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in loons, which reduces their body mass, and winter site fidelity and winter movements among loons.
Avian Education Award ($1074)
Underwrote the purchase of two Samsung Galaxy Tablets, ten rolls of Feather Friendly Bird Collision Tape and a bottle of Window Alert UV liquid that the Adirondack Interpretive Center at SUNY ESF’s Newcomb Campus deployed to implement the new Birds at Your Fingertips program, a series of initiatives designed to enhance the visitor experience at the popular AIC, which hosts an average of 6500 visitors per year. The popular Exhibit Room features five large windows that look out at the forest and a series of bird feeders, and microphones outside and speakers inside “pump” bird songs and calls into the room. The Birds at Your Fingertips program will deploy the 64 GB Samsung Galaxy S2 8 tablets loaded with Merlin and Audubon Bird Guide, two sophisticated bird identification apps that provide photos, songs and calls, range maps and other ornithological information at the sweep of a finger, and the AIC staff plans to make the tablets available to both staff and visitors, the better to enhance both the learning and the teaching experience. The AIC staff feels strongly that the Tablets will transform the basic activity of watching birds at feeders from an educational introduction to a deeper level of natural history appreciation.
Wildlife Management and Education Award ($2500)
Supported a Wildlife Intern at Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, a wildlife rehabilitation facility with an educational collection of animals too compromised to return to the wild. The refuge rehabilitates and releases many previously injured or disabled animals (in this past year a black bear and a bald eagle among many others), and deploys animals incapable of returning to the wild for educational purposes, such as outreach demonstrations in schools, which Tommy Mingoia, the intern we supported, performed more than forty times so far in his tenure. Tommy, a student at Paul Smiths College, also speaks about the animals at the Refuge and educates visitors about the natural history of species as diverse as great horned owls, coyotes, foxes, fishers and porcupines. In addition to the considerable knowledge Tommy has about the animals he helps take care of, and his considerable sophistication in describing them in educational contexts and settings both at the Refuge and elsewhere, he exudes an enormous amount of natural warmth and encouragement that many participants in his programs have noted.
Beginning Birder Award ($500)
Partially underwrote the acquisition of binoculars to facilitate the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Beginning Birder program, an initiative that involved three ADK staffers and five summer Naturalist Interns—the interns attended workshops on Adirondack bird identification, including one intended to train them to identify several key species by sound alone. Most of the programs took place at either the Heart Lake or Johns Brooke Lodge facilities, and by the end of summer dozens of children and teenagers had taken part in birding programs, as their parents smiled broadly and asked sheepishly how much binoculars cost.
Past projects funded through the Joseph and Joan Cullman Conservation Grants include:
Avian Research Award ($3,769)
Underwrote the bulk of the expenses needed to undertake an extensive study of acidic deposition on songbird populations in the Adirondacks. The work involved doing point count surveys at twelve northern hardwood forest sites where SUNY-ESF scientists have measured soil calcium levels, vegetative communities and snail and salamander populations in order to correlate songbird populations and diversity along a calcium depletion gradient. Previous studies suggest potentially significant songbird population decreases in areas with chronically calcium-depleted soil, very possibly because of low populations of snails, which birds rely on as a critical supplementary calcium source for egg formation. With the advantage of documented levels of calcium in the soil and solid estimates of snail populations, Jennifer Yantachka, for her Master’s Thesis at SUNY-ESF, performed traditional point count surveys and deployed two automated digital recording systems (ADRS), a new technology potentially more accurate than human observers for the simple virtue of continuous eavesdropping and sonogram production for nearly perfect identification of confusing species. No previous study has attempted to evaluate the use of ADRS equipment in the temperate deciduous forest of the northeastern United States, with the result that deploying the equipment will result in something of a sub-study in an of itself with potentially huge implications for songbird surveys in, for example, areas difficult to access. We look forward to reading Ms. Yantachka’s Master’s Thesis: Effects of Acidic Deposition of Songbird Abundance and Diversity in the Adirondack Mountains, New York.
Great Adirondack Birding Celebration Annual Lecture ($1500)
Delivered by Scott Weidensaul, the popular and highly respected author of Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians and The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species. Mr. Weidensaul’s talk chronicled the plethora of contributions women have made over the years, and continue to make even as I write, to the field or ornithology. He illustrated his lecture with a profusion of drawings, paintings, photographs, maps and other graphics and he demonstrated not only an encyclopedic knowledge of ornithological history but also an extremely sharp wit and a delightful sense of humor. The talk went over extremely well, generating at its conclusion a question- and-answer session that lasted almost as long as the lecture itself. Earlier in the evening Mr. Weidensaul had joined sixty or so Great Adirondack Birding Celebration attendees for dinner at the Lake Clear Inn, talking and answering questions throughout the course of the meal.
Boreal and Montane Studies Grant ($3500)
Underwrote a Wildlife Conservation Society study entitled Approaches to Better Understand Stressors to Birds in the Adirondacks, with a particular focus on the effects of critical stressors such as climate change and residential development on bird populations in the Adirondack Park. The work included studying the differences in breeding bird community integrity in areas of exurban development and in undeveloped control areas as well as identifying the building distance effect, the area around a residence in which wildlife habitat can be considered impacted by the physical structures and associated human activity. For the first time WCS research in the Adirondacks incorporated a nest monitoring component that will enable researchers to investigate impacts of residential development on nest success in developed areas and control sites, information already used in expert testimony provided by WCS to Adirondack Park Agency board members to ensure that a large development proposed for the Adirondack Park incorporates consideration of potential effects to birds. WCS researchers hope this work will lead to the development of a model that can predict the effects of residential development on breeding bird community success and diversity, and feel the opportunity to collect pilot data from the Adirondacks this summer will enable them to refine their methodology and thereby increase the overall success and efficiency of their field research for the next three field seasons.
Boreal Bird Studies Award ($1,100)
Funded a series of bird surveys in lowland boreal habitats at Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station, a remote, fifteen thousand acre property (protected by a conservation easement from development and logging) with approximately eighteen hundred acres of lowland boreal habitat communities such as Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog, Dwarf Shrub Bog and Marsh Headwater Stream that the New York Natural Heritage Program ranked as “exemplary.” The principle researcher oversaw/conducted forty ten minute point counts selected with simple random sampling across the core lowland habitat at Shingle Shanty, following at each the standard protocols of recording data commonly used in the area—species, distance from observer, date, time, coarse vegetation description, etc. Shingle Shanty’s mission includes developing a deep and broad ecological understanding of their property, an excellent habitat for such relatively rare species as spruce grouse, gray jay and rusty blackbird, and although bird surveys have taken place there recently they had either focused on a particular species or last a very short time. SSPARS matched this award with logistical support, in-kind time for field assistance from the project manager and data management.
The Education Grant ($161)
Underwrote the Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education and Leadership Training’s purchase of bird seed for the feeding stations at Adirondack Interpretative Center, the former APA Visitor Interpretive Center at Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb currently undergoing a significant reinvention. The AIC plans to begin a self-sustaining bird seed program by using these funds to purchase snacks and beverages to sell to visitors at the facility, reinvest the principal in more saleable items and use the profit to purchase bird seed for their numerous feeders. The AIC feeding station is being renovated and expanded, with improvements such as windows in a previously windowless wall opposite the feeders and a microphone/speaker system that will pump bird calls and songs from the feeders into the AIC. The popularity of feeder-watching has increased exponentially at AIC, which plans to deploy more feeders this season than ever before.
Wild Center Summer Intern Naturalist Grant ($5000)
Underwrote half the salary (The Wild Center underwrote the other half) of a summer Intern Naturalist who “floated” among visitors to the museum in order to create a positive and personal experience of the facility and its exhibits for as many people as possible. The Summer Intern Naturalist’s training included a week of field identification and site visits with NNYA board members and associates, a 32 hour course to qualify as a Certified Interpretative Guide, numerous training sessions with TWC staff for museum-based programming and a course in the administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. This year’s Summer Intern, Katie Christman, led 11 off-site trips to Bloomingdale Bog and Whiteface Mountain (attended by an average of 10 for a total of 170) as well as 31 Adirondack Birding Basics walks at TWC (attended by an average of 15 and totaling 375 participants). Katie also did Bird-in-Hand programs with TWC’s resident ravens twice a week and usually attracted 50-120 people each time. A recently certified animal rehabilitator, Katie especially loved working with TWC’s animals.
Avian Research Award ($1200)
Underwrote the salary of a field assistant to work with Melanie McCormack on her master’s thesis study investigating the occupancy of rusty blackbirds in Adirondack locations recorded in long-term avian monitoring projects such as the Breeding Bird Survey and Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. Rusty blackbird populations have declined nationwide by a stunning ninety percent since 1960, and by an ominous twenty-three percent in the Adirondacks between 1985 and 2005, the completion dates of the two Breeding Bird Atlases of New York State. Highly secretive and wont to nest in difficult-to-access, boggy and marshy wetland habitats, rusty blackbirds usually prove impossible to detect other than during the beginning of the breeding season, when males sing to establish territories, attract mates and repel competing male conspecifics. Melanie and her field assistant, Dominique Biondi, a recent graduate of Paul Smiths College, conducted 161 surveys within 18 different wetland complexes, detecting rusty blackbirds at 12 locations in 7 of the 18 wetlands, with the highest number of birds occurring in the Spring Pond Bog and Massawepie Bog complexes, the largest boreal wetlands in the Adirondacks. These preliminary data suggest that rusty blackbirds do far better in larger wetland complexes than in smaller patches of habitat, and the next step in analyzing these records involves looking at such factors as habitat type, wetland size, survey conditions and human impacts in order to determine what specific factors correlate with healthy rusty blackbird populations. Many Adirondack birders look forward to reading Melanie’s thesis.
Great Adirondack Birding Celebration Annual Lecture ($1500)
Delivered by Dr. Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoological Park. Entitled Science in the Urban Jungle: Neighborhood Nestwatch, Dr. Marra’s talk described this program he started as an attempt to begin quantifying avian nest survival along an urbanization gradient using citizen- and scientist-generated data. The program involves recruiting observers in and around Washington, D.C. and training them to find and monitor any of eight focal species—gray catbird, American robin, northern mockingbird, Carolina chickadee, song sparrow, Carolina wren, house wren and northern cardinal—that breed within an urban/suburban land-use matrix. Thus far data indicate that citizen Nestwatch participants had no negative impact on birds and their nests and provided estimates of nest survival comparable to those provided by Smithsonian scientists. The program involves capturing and using a unique set of color bands to identify individual birds, with the result that Nestwatchers can track birds from year to year and report birds from elsewhere by noting their arrays of band colors. Sifting through several years of data Dr. Marra discovered that nest survivability increases with proximity to urbanization, probably because of decreases in kinds and numbers of predators and regardless of introduced invasive predators, such as house cats. Dr. Marra described a future study that will recruit cat owners willing to let scientists fit their pets with collars equipped with small video cameras designed to activate only when a cat pounces, the better to prove that house cats let outside kill birds, which, alas, people who let their cats out invariably deny—not their cat.
Lepidopteran Grant ($500)
Partially underwrote Project Silkmoth: A Survey of the Giant Silkmoths of Northern New York State, a volunteer based survey documenting the presence of Giant Silkmoths (family Saturniidae) in New York State. Volunteers submitted sightings and photographs that Dr. Janet Mihuc, the lead investigator, incorporated into a sightings database that will generate occurrence maps for each of the twelve species that may or should occur in northern New York State, defined as north of a line from Oswego to Utica to Saratoga Springs. The results of Project Silkmoth will become part of the Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Database and serve as a baseline for future studies on the geographic distribution of these moths, which live one year or less, most of the time as caterpillars or pupae. Dr. Mihuc created a web site with preliminary occurrence maps, field-guide photographs of the moths and numerous links to resources with more information about these stunningly beautiful Lepidoptera, which scientists suspect have steadily declined over the past few decades. During the 2010 survey period volunteers submitted thirty sightings from seven counties in northern New York, where five of the twelve focal species occurred, with Luna, Polyphemus and Rosy Maple species occurring more frequently that Cecropia or lo moths. www.projectsilkmoth.org.
Boreal and Montane Studies Grant ($3200)
Underwrote support for field technicians and science staff to study the presence of Bicknell’s thrush and other high-elevation species on Whiteface Mountain. The project, conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society Adirondack program, surveyed focal montane species before and after the Whiteface Mountain ski area construction/expansion in order to elucidate the impacts of ski area expansion on these montane avian species. WCS has conducted this work for the past six years in partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and this year’s field work provides a third year of post-construction data, which will improve the quality of this dataset and enhance WCS’s ability to draw from it reliable conclusions about the potential impacts of ski trail development. WCS technicians performed this year’s work between June 5th and June 15th, between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 a.m., when Bicknell’s thrushes do most of their singing and calling, and returned to established sampling points in five different treatment points—existing glades, proposed glades, existing trails, the newly expanded Lookout Mountain trail area and several control areas. This study should significantly enhance our understanding of the effects of ski trail expansion on Bicknell’s thrush and other montane forest birds on Whiteface Mountain as a result of multi-year pre- and post-trail construction data; improve science-based guidance to aid in decision-making regarding high-elevation projects (e.g. ski area development, wind tower development) that are being proposed in the Northeast; and increase protection for a globally rare species via a Whiteface Mountain habitat management plan orchestrated by ORDA in coordination with WCS and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A final report synthesizing the seven-year project is forthcoming from WCS.
The Wild Center Summer Intern Naturalist Grant ($4500)
Underwrote half the salary (The Wild Center underwrote the other half) of a summer Intern Naturalist who “floated” among visitors to the museum in order to create a positive and personal experience of the facility and its exhibits for as many people as possible. The Summer Intern Naturalist’s training included a week of field identification and site visits with NNYA board members and associates, a 32 hour course to qualify as a Certified Interpretative Guide, numerous training sessions with TWC staff for museum-based programming and a course in the administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. This year’s Summer Intern, April Costa, led 11 offsite trips to Bloomingdale Bog and Whiteface Mountain (attended by an average of 10 for a total of 170) as well as 31 Adirondack Birding Basics walks at TWC (attended by an average of 15 and totaling 375 participants). April also did Bird-in-Hand programs with TWC’s resident Raven twice a week and usually attracted 50-120 people each time. April also created numerous props she used to help explain the relationship of science concepts to birds, props that TWC will use in future programs.
Avian Research Award ($2000)
Underwrote salaries for field workers investigating boreal bird population trends in the Spring Pond Bog complex area, a critically important boreal bird area in the north central Adirondacks. This season’s work involved surveying more than 80 locations and recording 1500 observations of target species. Although too few data exist to statistically verify changes over time several trends suggest potential population fluctuations, with some species clearly increasing and others as clearly declining—yellow-bellied flycatcher, Lincoln’s sparrow and palm warbler proved the most common of the target species observed, while rusty blackbird, the budworm warblers (Cape May, Tennessee and bay-breasted), three-toed woodpecker and spruce grouse proved the rarest. The most important factors in explaining boreal bird abundance include the total amount of habitat available within 300 miles of our sampling transect, the average shrub height surrounding points along the transect, stem density, potential recreation pressure, relative habitat quality and relative human impact (infrastructure—roads, houses, etc.) Based on data collected some of the highest quality sites in terms of abundance, richness and diversity of boreal birds in the Adirondacks included Spring Pond Bog, Rock Pond, Ton-Da-Lay and Kildare (all on or near the Spring Pond Bog Preserve; Saranac Lakes Wild Forest), Shingle Shanty, Nehasane, Ferd’s Bog, Slush Pond and the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. Part of this award underwrote costs incurred in beginning a study of exurban development and rural sprawl on Adirondack bird and other taxa populations, a study that will: investigate differences in breeding bird community integrity in areas of exurban development as compared to undeveloped control areas; identify building effect distances; characterize ecological changes with bird, small mammal and carnivore communities before and after residential development; test a model to predict the effects of residential development on breeding bird community integrity; identify key scientific guidelines associated with wildlife/residential interaction and create an educational pamphlet; work with the APA to update policy and review guidelines used in project review to ensure that residential development has the minimum impact on birds and other wildlife.
Great Adirondack Birding Celebration Annual Lecture ($1500)
Delivered by Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, a high-profile academic who has done extensive research on migratory songbirds for the last three decades. Dr. Stutchberry spoke about neotropical migrants and the issues related to their breeding ground biology as well as their migratory routes, with a focus on the role of traditional coffee growing vs. commercialized operations and the impacts of the different cultivation techniques on both migratory and year-round resident birds. She described how her research involved putting geolocators (tiny GPS units that track a bird’s exact migratory route) on purple martins and wood thrushes and establishing precise routes and destinations, and then recapturing the birds and retrieving the GPS units and recorded data. The author of Silence of the Songbirds, Dr. Stutchbury spoke to near-capacity crowd in the 149-seat auditorium at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center and signed copies of her book afterward. The previous day she and her family had attended the GABC welcoming reception at White Pine Camp.
Migratory Bird Banding Award ($300)
Paid for the purchase of two mist nets for the Crown Point Banding Association’s 34th consecutive banding station at the Crown Point Historic Site. Constructed of filaments so fine and delicate that birds don’t notice them until they find themselves entrapped, mist nets are perforce quite delicate and easily damaged. The better the quality of the mist nets, the more humane the banding encounter. The Crown Point Banding station serves as both a long-term research project gathering data about migratory songbird movements through the Champlain Valley and an educational experience for visitors, particularly school children. This year CPBA banded 457 individuals of 57 species and hosted more than 200 visitors, many of them children who watched the banding process and, in many cases, got the opportunity to hold and then release a banded bird.
Education Grant ($1200)
Underwrote the salary of Kelly Hoffman, an undergraduate at Paul Smiths College, who worked at the Smitty Creek Bird Banding Station on the ongoing MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) project. An international banding program created by the Institute for Bird Populations in Pt. Reyes, CA, MAPS seeks to collect data that demonstrate why local bird populations decline. MAPS data allows scientists at IBP to isolate the proximate causes (e.g., first year survival of yellow warblers drives their population sizes), and to view populations on large spatial scales (e.g., bird populations of a region of North America rather than just one, say, National Park). The station banded 62 songbirds, recaptured 17 others banded at the station over the past 2 years and collected data on 5 unbanded birds, for a season total of 84 birds.
Spruce Grouse Management Study Grant ($5000)
Partially underwrote the Evaluating Spruce Grouse Management in Lowland Boreal Forest in the Adirondack Region of NY study, which focuses on 9 1-hectare blocks in a spruce grouse-occupied site near Tupper Lake. Researchers established 3 of the 9 sites and conducted surveys within each habitat treatment block and within the managed site as a whole, hypothesizing that blocks with heavier forest cuts will harbor more spruce grouse in the future as these areas contain shrubs and understory vegetation, a characteristic of persistently occupied habitat. The research protocol involved radio-collaring individual birds and locating them 3 times per week, surveying 10 other sites that appear to have appropriate habitat, conducting habitat measurement in both managed and control blocks, entering and analyzing it, creating maps and making management recommendations of ways to help spruce grouse populations stabilize from a decline that began in the late 1880s. Expenses for the project included hiring 2 full-time field assistants for 23 weeks, offsetting travel expenses and purchasing equipment such as capture supplies and radio transmitters. Angelina Ross, the principal investigator, plans to issue a report, with findings and recommendations,in 2010.
The Wild Center Summer Naturalist Grant ($4,500)
Underwrote half the salary (The Wild Center underwrote the other half) of a Summer Naturalist who “floated” among visitors to the museum in order to create a positive and personal experience of the facility and its exhibits for as many people as possible. The Summer Naturalist’s training included a week of field identification and site visits with NNYA board members, a 32 hour course to qualify as a Certified Interpretative Guide and numerous training sessions with TWC staff for museum-based programming. The Summer Naturalist, Elizabeth Rogers, who recently graduated Plattsburgh State College with a B.S. in Environmental Science, led 10 off-site field trips to locations like Bloomingdale Bog and Whiteface Mountain as well as 42 Birding Basics Naturalist Walks at TWC. She also conducted educational workshops for children and families; created a bird-focused program and delivered it to 30 children participating in a summer day camp; served as an On Station Interpreter on the Raquette River; conducted live animal encounters with TWC educational animals; presented programs at museum exhibits such as Otter Falls, The Glacier, Oxbow and Deep Lake; and assisted in program development and evaluation. Ms. Rogers had a busy summer, which she described to the NNYA board of directors with a difficult-to describe combination of savvy and ebullience.
Avian Research Award ($5,000)
Underwrote salaries and travel expenses for researchers working for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Boreal Bird Initiative and Adirondack Loon Program. This funding enabled WCS to hire an additional field technician to work in areas around the Spring Pond Bog/Kildare region and the Shingle Shanty tract near Long Lake. The Spring Pond Bog/Kildare region continued to serve as vital and productive habitat for several species of endangered boreal birds, in particular the rusty blackbird, which has experienced an 80 % decline in population in the United States over the past 20 years. A canary-in-the-coal mine species, the rusty blackbird’s ability to endure in the Adirondacks represents extremely refreshing news to the ornithological community. Kevin Jablonsky, a SUNY graduate student at the Adirondack Ecological Center, specializes in boreal birds and confirmed breeding rusty blackbirds in the Spring Pond Bog/Kildare region. The Adirondack Loon Program’s continuing research contributed a significant amount of the data cited in a paper recently published in the journal Ecotoxicology. Data from blood samples, feathers and eggs collected in the Adirondacks confirmed a suite of suspicions about the effects of mercury pollution on loons, including: 1. Loons with high levels of mercury, or about 16% of the population, spent 14% less time on the nest than loons with normal levels of mercury; these unattended nests had higher rates of failure due to either chilling of eggs or predation by minks, otters, etc. 2. Loons with elevated mercury levels produced 41% fewer fledged young than loons with relatively low levels of mercury. The behavioral impacts of mercury included sluggishness that resulted in decreased foraging for fish by the adults for both themselves and their young. 3. Loons with elevated mercury levels have unevenly-sized flight feathers; birds with wing asymmetries of more than 5% must expend 20% more energy than normal birds to fly, a handicap that probably inhibits their ability to migrate and maintain a breeding territory. Dr. Nina Schoch of the WCS’s Adirondack Loon program characterized these findings as proof positive that mercury from coal-burning plants and other sources, “…is having a significant impact on the environment and the health of its most charismatic denizens, and potentially, to humans, too.” Dr. Schoch and WCS expressed the need for a law mandating nationwide regulation of mercury emissions in addition to the current stringent regulations in place in many northeastern states, noting that the U.S. District Court of Appeals recently struck down the EPA’s proposed Cap-and-Trade Rule for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants because it has caused localized “hotspots of mercury, a highly toxic pollutant.”
Great Adirondack Birding Celebration Annual Lecture ($1,500)
Delivered by Lang Elliott, a noted author, recordist and photographer. The GABC has evolved into an extremely popular and highly visible three day event, and Mr. Elliott’s lecture served as its centerpiece. The coordinator of the event, Lydia Wright of the APA’s Paul Smiths Visitors Interpretive Center, described the success of his lecture, which included numerous recordings made in the Madawaska/Paul Smiths region: “His program attracted 140 attendees, nearly filling the 150 seat NYS APA Visitor Interpretive Center Auditorium to capacity; something never before accomplished during past GABC lectures. “Funding from the Joseph and Joan Cullman Conservation Foundation enabled GABC to attract a higher caliber speaker, which in turn enabled the celebration to attract a larger audience from a greater geographic range,” adding that the event drew participants from thirteen states as well as Puerto Rico and two Canadian provinces.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Grant ($1,500)
Awarded $500 to offset the expenses of two student wildlife rehabilitators who attended the New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council’s fall meeting in Grand Island, NY and $1000 to the NYS APA’s Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center for the construction of a raptor cage. NNYA continues to believe that the Adirondacks needs more wildlife rehabilitators, and that helping student rehabilitators, who pay all of their own expenses to attend the annual meeting and participate in its workshops, makes a great deal of conservation sense. The annual NYSWRC meeting provides invaluable opportunities for students to network with other rehabilitators and to attend critical workshops on the care and handling of wild animals. At the first Wild Center anniversary celebration several HPAS board members couldn’t help but notice that while most displays in the exhibition tent received brief looks and an occasional question from attendees, the raptor rehabilitation display drew a large crowd of children and adults. Hawks and owls not only fascinate people but also serve as compelling gateways to a wide-ranging host of conservation issues, with the result that NNYAS voted to buy the materials for the construction of a raptor cage at the Newcomb VIC. The cage will provide sorely needed space for raptors that need rehabilitating before getting released and for educational birds incapable of fending for themselves in the wild. Rehabilitators and VIC staff will use the educational birds to entertain and educate visitors about the status of Adirondack raptors and their habitats, which vary from threatened to thriving.
Education Grant ($1,500)
Purchased ten pairs of binoculars (Eagle Optics matched the grant by donating an additional ten pairs of binoculars) for the Indian Creek Nature Center, a 320 acre tract of upland and marsh (in the NYS DEC Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area) with a very active education component, and $500 to the Elizabethtown/Lewis Central School to fund an innovative environmental science class. The North Country Conservation Associates, Inc. Indian Creek Nature Center has held Conservation Field days for sixth grade students since 1965, as well as programs in environmental education for scouts, adults and college classes. Northern New York Audubon board members Joan Collins and Mary Beth Warburton lead popular nature walks for sixth graders and noted the need for good binoculars for the children, who reportedly couldn’t believe their eyes while watching birds through quality binoculars.
HPAS awarded Rebecca Bosley, a science teacher at Elizabethtown/Lewis Central School ($500)
Purchase equipment for use in her innovative high school environmental science class. The across-grades class consists of sophomores, juniors and seniors, many of whom take the class because it is a non-regents science class perceived as easier than traditional science classes like chemistry. Several students in last year’s class planned to major in environmental science or forestry in college. Entitled Fire and Ice the curriculum explores the Adirondacks from its origins in igneous rocks to its shaping by glaciers. Ms. Bosley secured permission from the NYS DEC to use a wildlife management area in Elizabethtown for field work that includes flora and fauna inventories and analyses of woodland and meadow habitats. She plans to deploy a birdcam for a bird experiment designed by the class and a hand-held GPS for pinpointing stands of invasive species such as purple loosestrife.