Category Archives: Conservation

Birding in the Catskills

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

If you’d have told me ten years ago that I would become a bird watcher, I would have told you to shut up and pass the whisky, but the truth is that birding is yet another remarkable stress reliever of the natural world, a brief distraction from daily worries in which you can focus on something completely different even for a few minutes.

The ability to forget your troubles, even for an hour, will save you more than a few grey hairs and there’s nothing more pressing right now than conservation of nature and the environment. Bird watching is another useful way to get involved. Anywhere there is park land, you’l find birds.

A modern approach to birding would be, of course, an app on the phone. Cornell University offers such an app, called Merlin, for free and, if you turn on location services for this app and submit the date and identification of every bird you spot on your property, whatever species you find gets recorded in their database. The app offers color pictures of birds, recordings of their calls, drums and tweets. This helps the university monitor bird species and, in return, you get forget to where you are, or what day it is, for a few minutes while you’re walking the dog while you stare at a species of woodpecker for half an hour wondering if it’s a downy or a hairy. You will play the song 20 times. Then you can play it’s drum 20 times and, then, ask the dog, who is now wondering what’s up there, several times, because it’s cloudy: “is that a red streak on its head”? The dog will choose not to divulge any information on the subject whatsoever, but will simply stare at you wondering where breakfast is. The second time, you’ll remember to bring the binoculars. After having used the app for a few days, it’s clear that no one bird song is the same as another even in the same bird. There are variations in every species possibly depending on the season, temperature, how high the bird is or how old, but it’s exhilarating to accidentally call over a chipping sparrow, who’s sporting some unusually beautiful plumage ordinarily only seen in spring when he’s interested in making some new chicks.

You can find information for beginner birders here. You can learn about “birding by ear”, which makes more sense than birding by sight, and all sorts of useful information on the subject at the Audubon website.

Bird watching is encouraged at the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville.

There’s a “falcon whisperer” that goes to the top of bridges to monitor the bird population. Presumably, he’s in control of any vertigo. He will speak at the Catskill Center in June.

Some birding events coming up in the Catskills:

The Warbler Weekend, run by the Catskill Center in Mount Tremper on May 25th and 27th.

Taking Flight: A Birding Conference at the Ashokan Center on June 10th to 12th.

Earth Day at John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Celebrate Earth Day with John Burroughs at Woodchuck Lodge and help us raise funds to pay for the pruning of the apple orchard.

This event will take place Sunday April 22nd at 1pm at Woodchuck Lodge, Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474. (In bad weather, the event will be held at The Catskill Center in Arkville.)

Meet veteran birder Joe Siclare of the Denver Valley who will offer a class called “How To Get Started in the Birding Hobby: A Door to the Natural World”.

In this class, learn how to:  Continue reading

In The Hemlocks

© J.N. Urbanski 2.30pm

Catskills’ Writer and naturalist John Burroughs (1837-1921) called hemlock forests “…dark, sheltered retreats” and there is an earthy stillness in a hemlock forest that’s incomparable with the rest of the rocky Catskills forest. The trees are tall, majestic statesmen, all going in the same direction, unwavering in their straightness, like woodland sentries guarding over life below them. Hemlock forest floors are a thick, bouncy carpet made of billions of hemlock needles which seems to absorb all the sound, and the bark is a rich brown that soaks up the light. On bright, cloudless, sun-filled days, beams of sunlight break through the hemlock canopy like flashlights pointing from above into the tranquil haven. The smell is intoxicating.

“Their history is of a heroic cast,” wrote Burroughs of the hemlocks. “Ravished and torn by the tanner in his thirst for bark, preyed upon by the lumberman, assaulted and beaten back by the settler, still their spirit has never been broken, their energies never paralyzed.”

Here in the Catskills, again the hemlocks are under attack due to the long march of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, a pest that has been ravaging our local population of hemlocks since the 1980s. Signs that your hemlocks are under attack are pretty obvious. If you observe a thick, white foam on the underside of the hemlock leaves, you should send an email to: DSNIDER@CATSKILLCENTER.ORG who works with CRISP, the Catskills Regional Invasive Species Prevention project run by the Catskill Center that is now using biological methods to counter the pests. Continue reading

Golden Eagles in the Catskills: A Talk By Peg DiBenedetto

Photo courtesy of the Catskill Center, used under Creative Commons License

As recently as just a few years ago, a winter report of a Golden Eagle in the Catskills was thought to be an anomaly – a bird that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, through efforts of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, in conjunction with the Eastern Golden Eagle Project, a population of over-wintering Golden Eagles in New York State was discovered.  The size and extent of the population are still being explored — with camera trap photos and telemetry data, the natural history of this “new” species is slowly unfolding.

Peg DiBenedetto will present an overview of eastern Golden Eagles; their local habits and behaviors, and migratory routes, as well as the methods used and experiences she and her husband Michael have had, working with the Eastern Golden Eagle Project.

This will be the second offering of the 2017 Member Program Series. Become a member of the Catskill Center, a non-profit organization devoted to the environment, and you can enjoy multiple perks and benefits like access to the Catskill Center’s archive, workshop, seminars and training opportunities and volunteer opportunities.

Saturday, August 12, from 7 -8 pm

at The Emerson
5340 New York Route 28
Mount Tremper, NY 12457

Peg DiBenedetto is a multi-generational native of the Catskills. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Ecological Sciences from Oneonta State University, and has had varied experiences working with raptors and studying the natural history of eagles- both Bald and Golden.  As Co-Chair of the Research Committee for the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Peg has worked on songbird habitat preservation in the Dominican Republic and is involved in on-going studies of the Golden Eagles of New York State. She is Co-Chair of the DOAS Research Committee, a DEC Volunteer, and a member of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group.

Peg works in Land Management for the NYC DEP, is a Trustee for the Michael Kudish Natural History Preserve, and is on the Board of Directors of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. She lives with her husband in Halcott Center on the dairy farm where she grew up.

Spring Links

© J.N. Urbanski

Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map – a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers”. And:We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history. There are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44″.

A story with a happy conclusion – an urban farmer saves his “gangsta garden”.

An article on how to combat ticks around your property.

The New Farmer’s Almanac Volume III from The Greenhorns, “360 pages of original agrarian content, essays, cartoons, imagery and historical snippets—harnesses the wisdom of over 120 contributors from our community of new farmers and ranchers”.

Will our senator, farm-friendly Kirsten Gillibrand run for President?

The US military “marches forward on clean energy”. New York State sees an 800% growth in solar power according to CNBC. On solar power and renewable energy for new jobs; a new solar experiment in Brooklyn; Panasonic makes a new solar panel for Tesla.

I have thought that a good test of civilization, perhaps one of the best, is country life.” John Burroughs

Weekend Links

© J.N. Urbanski 5/16/15 4pm

Seed Swap at local libraries from April 1st to June 1st in Delaware County, publicised by Transition Catskills.

If you didn’t have time nor space to nurture seedlings this past harsh winter, the Catskill Native Nursery will have it for you. They are hosting the Annual Seedling Sale at the Wildflower Festival this weekend.

For next weekend: get recycled furniture and doors for your new country digs at the Western Catskills Revitalization Council which “provides homeowners and builders with unique, affordable materials for home improvement projects”. The nonprofit organization is “dedicated to improving housing, community revitalization, and economic development in Delaware, Greene and Schoharie counties”. Open to the public on Fridays (10-4pm) and Saturdays (10-3pm).

Hug A Hemlock

© J.N. Urbanski Hubbell Hemlock 3/14/15

© J.N. Urbanski Hubbell Hemlock 3/14/15

There’s nothing more majestic than a towering hemlock, a evergreen conifer that seems to be loosely draped in its elegantly weeping branches that dangle delicately towards the earth. It can live to 800 years or more and grow to statuesque heights of more than 70 feet. Last year’s call for illustrations of the Hemlock for an exhibition ignited interest among artists of the Catskills and once I started looking for hemlock, I found them everywhere. I even found a short sapling on my property and it will outlive me by many many hundreds of years, if it’s not attacked by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, an invasive species native to Asia. The Catskills Center has a new programme for the pest that’s thought to have arrived in New York in the eighties.

From their website:

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Catskill Park Awareness Day: February 10th

5798mountain.jpg

© J.N. Urbanski View From Giant Ledge

The Catskill Center, a non-profit organization formerly known as the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, has been an advocate for this area since its inception in 1969, instigated by Sherret Chase, Armand Erpf and Kingdon Gould Jr, to tackle preservation issues and “foster harmonious economic development” in the region.

In terms of conservation, this region has an advantage over neighbouring areas because it supplies New York City with its drinking water, which travels unfiltered to the city in huge underground tunnels. Should anything sully the NYC drinking water supply, a billion-dollar filtration system would have to be built, something that New York State is keen to avoid, so the waterways are protected by regulation. This regulation hampers development, a significant disadvantage to the local economy, so the proceeds from year-round tourism – 2.5 million tourists annually – are our biggest benefactor. The people of the Catskills sacrifice the growth of their economy so that New York City can drink pristine water.

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