For the record, it’s the white-throated sparrow. I’ve got some Peterson Field Guide CDs of birdsongs, but I haven’t listened to them often enough to memorize which is which – especially the mating songs, which we’re only privileged to hear for a brief interlude each spring. So I suppose that it would do me good to head over to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook this Friday, May 6, when birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma will be giving a lecture titled “The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong.”
This reigning authority on avian vocal behavior will discuss what he has learned from more than four decades of recording and analyzing the songs of birds. From the familiar robin to the exotic three-wattled bellbird, Kroodsma will share how birds acquire their songs, why they sing and how their songs provide us with a window into their minds. The one-hour program, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Cary Institute auditorium, will also include listening to bird sounds. The Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club is co-sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.
Professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Kroodsma has edited three scholarly volumes on acoustic communication among birds and authored more than 100 articles in both scholarly journals and popular magazines, including The Auk, Condor, Birder’s World, Living Bird and Natural History. He has written two books: Birdsong by the Seasons: A Year of Listening to Birds and The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong.
Although it’s known primarily as a locus for serious scientific research, there always seems to be something of general interest happening at the Cary Institute. Next Friday, May 13, for example, a documentary about the environmental impact of coal mining titled The Last Mountain will be screened. And as the hydrofracking controversy has escalated over the past year or so, the Institute has become one of the region’s primary go-to sources for public information on the topic. That will continue on June 10 with a lecture by Duke University’s Rob Jackson on “The Environmental Footprint of Marcellus Shale Gas.”
But spring has sprung, and maybe you’re looking for something a bit more recreational in nature to do with your weekends. The Cary Institute can help you there as well, since its trail system has reopened for the season as of April 1. While most of the Institute’s nearly 2,000 acres of grounds are set aside for field studies, parts of the campus have been reserved for public education and enjoyment. Its hiking trails immerse visitors in a range of ecosystems, from old fields and upland forests to wetlands, providing plenty of opportunities for nature observation. The longest of the trails extends only 1.3 miles, so you can pick and choose a combination of short day hikes that suits your schedule.
The hidden gem of the campus is the Fern Glen, a two-acre display of local plant and animal habitats and communities. Tucked into a slope that borders the East Branch of the Wappingers Creek, it contains trails and boardwalks winding through diverse habitats, with Adirondack chairs placed at intervals for quiet observation. A trail guide, bird and butterfly checklists are available for download, along with information about upcoming events, at www.caryinstitute.org.
The Cary Institute is located at 2801 Sharon Turnpike, better-known as Route 44, in Millbrook. For more information, call (845) 677-7600, extension 121, or e-mail email@example.com.
Tweet this: Next Saturday’s countywide bird count seeks volunteers
There’s perfection in the early-morning clatter just now. Not yet any annoyance at the din of birdcall come the too-early midsummer dawn, everyone’s still spring-happy and exultant that our feathered friends have returned for another season. And the true birders among us are busy checking off lists and spotting the trees for who’s back and who’s yet to arrive.
To herald all this aviary action, next Saturday, May 14 is the annual Big Day for birders in Ulster County, with the daylong event consisting of spotters scouring the whole county to identify as many bird species as possible. This year, John Burroughs Natural History Society members, Peter Schoenberger, Glenn Nystrup and Mark DeDea (a/k/a the Bearded Tyrants) are asking for donors to pledge “per species identified” or a flat-sum donation to help cover the expenses of the numbers tolling. Last year the Bearded Tyrants’ full tally was 139 species.
In addition to funding the counts, donations from the Big Day will help fund the research work that birder Glenn Proudfoot is doing with Northern saw-whet owls locally. Northern saw-whet owl movement is a poorly understood subject, and Proudfoot’s work is helping to solve that mystery.
To donate or learn more about participating in the May 14 Big Day count, contact Schoenberger by calling (914) 466-2702 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
@ Paul Smart