By Connie Mertz For The Daily Item, link to original post
One of the most exceptional places to visit, particularly during October, when the trees are ablaze with color, is Sapsucker Woods. Located within a 10-minute drive of Ithaca, N.Y., it is a Mecca for bird enthusiasts. Each year, 55,000 visitors journey to this facility.
Sapsucker Woods is also home to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. “The Cornell Lab is a nonprofit, member-supported organization whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education and citizen science focused on birds,” commented Miyoko Chu, Director of Communications.
The sanctuary itself consists of 226 acres including more than four miles of wood-chipped trails plus a 10-acre pond. It is easy walking, family-friendly and, at the height of autumn, it is very scenic. Free guided bird walks are offered on weekends during the remaining months of 2009. Participants only need to meet at the entrance of the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity. (A trail map and directions can be found in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”)
“You can hear the drum of a Pileated woodpecker, watch an osprey perched on a tree snag and stroll in a mature forest where the voices of a hundred species of birds animate your walk,” said public outreach associate, Charles Eldermire.
“Sapsucker Woods is a mosaic of wetlands and forest that attracts a diverse assemblage of birds and other animals. As trees die, they are left standing, which creates habitat valuable for cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches,” Eldermire adds.
This is only a taste of what awaits the traveler. “In the observatory, visitors may relax on one of the many chairs arrayed in front of the 30-foot wall of windows to look out over the pond, watch avian visitors to the Treman Bird Feeding Garden and use spotting scopes set up nearby,” staff writer Pat Leonard said.
Even the bird song heard by observers is live because of outdoor microphones strategically placed.
Visitors browse at the vast array of bird exhibits. One such encased display shows the hummingbirds of the world. “Wildlife artwork adorns the walls. A reconstructed study features bird murals by renown painter Louis Agassiz Fuertes.,” Leonard said.
Founded in 1954, the location of Sapsucker Woods was well known to researchers as well as the general public. “The birds and plants of this hilltop woodlot near the lake seemed to resemble the forests of the Adirondacks much more than other woodlots near Cornell…With the help of donors and local landowners, this regionally-important habitat was formally conserved as the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, becoming home to the then ‘fledgling’ Cornell Lab of Ornithology,” Eldermire said.
Today, Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, is a world leader in bird research and conservation. More than 250 scientists, including students and staff, strive to make important discoveries in bird conservation. “In the field and in the laboratory, scientists track and analyze bird diseases,” Chu explained. “Conservation scientists produce land managers’ guides aimed at conserving dwindling populations of scarlet tanagers, wood thrushes and other forest birds,” Leonard noted.
Researchers are also working with organizations and government agencies to learn how the use of wind power is impacting birds and bats. “Researchers sequence DNA from living birds or specimens to discover fascinating information about the relationships among species and their lifestyles,” Leonard continued.
The ongoing research and scientific studies is not limited to professionals either. “More than 100,000 people participate in the Cornell lab’s citizen-science projects. These projects are enjoyable for participants and they help collect widespread information that scientists need to understand the movement, distribution and changes in bird numbers through time,” Chu said.
Another citizen-based project is called Project FeederWatch. This simply asks the public to count birds at their backyard feeders from November to April. “This helps scientists track changes in bird numbers and movements from year to year,” Leonard said. “Since 1987, more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada have taken part in the project.”
Another popular program is eBird, an online program that participants can not only keep track of their own bird lists, but can access information from others. “eBird takes in an average of one million bird observations per month,” Leonard emphasized.
Another fascinating statistic is that 500,000 visitors a month check out the “All About Birds” Web site.
The research and citizen-based projects are practically endless. And to think, this all started with a little parcel of ground from donors and local landowners more than 50 years ago.
For information on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and how you can get involved, visit http://www.birds.cornell.edu/
For the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 12-15, 2010 www.birdcount.org
To learn about urban birds: www.celebrateurbanbirds.org