AUDUBON SOCIETY – 10 a.m. – Noon. Get your questions in Q&A session with the Delaware-Otsego Audubon society board members. Topics on everything from the society in general to birding to effects of lead ammunition. Presented as part of OCCA’s online Earth Festival. 607-547-4488 or visit occainfo.org/earth-festival/
PLANETARIUM – 7 p.m. Explore the universe, learn whats new in the field of astronomy in fun virtual planetarium show with the SUNY staff and Nebula society students. Free, registration on Eventbrite required. Presented by the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center, SUNY Oneonta. 607-436-2011 or visit www.eventbrite.com/o/science-discovery-center-and-planetarium-14332374215
Earth Festival will again be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but this year the Otsego County Conservation Assocation is better prepared to replace its annual events with a virtual presentation from Thursday, April 22 to Saturday, April 24.
“In March (2020), I think we were all thinking, ‘let’s not cancel, yet,’ it will all blow over,” OCCA Program Director Jeff O’Handley said. “It seems crazy to think about looking back. We had no idea what to expect.”
To salvage an Earth Festival last year, OCCA kept some events going with social distancing, stressed its normal recycling efforts via dropoffs and refocused on the fly, O’Handley said. This year’s event has been much more focused to allow the group to use the virtual tools that have sprung up during the coronavirus pandemic. “You can’t do things like you used to do them,” he said. “It has been a puzzle to figure things out and you just hope you are providing people with some strong programming.”
EARTH FESTIVAL – 1 – 7 p.m. Fun Online Events to celebrate the little blue marble floating in space that makes us all possible. Celebrate with Otsego County Conservation Association. 607-547-4488 or visit occainfo.org/earth-festival/
People entering Morris on Route 23 from Oneonta kept asking Bob Thomas, town historian and a Butternut Valley Alliance board member, “What are those tubes across from the cemetery?”
With his nudging, couple of weeks ago an enticingly titled Zoom presentation, “Mysterious Tubes Along Butternut Creek,” provided the answer to 27 participants, some landowners who may sign up to host mysterious tubes of their own, according to BVA Executive Director Graham Stroh.
The program’s been going on for a decade, according to Lydia Brinkley, Upper Susquehanna Coalition buffer coordinator, “riparian buffers,” that is.
If you’ve only noticed the mysterious tubes lately, it’s because there are more of them, part of the USC’s federally and state-funded efforts to clean up Otsego County’s streams, and thus contribute a bit to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, 250 miles south of Garrattsville.
“Riparian buffers are essentially wooded areas along creeks and rivers, for purposes of reducing erosion and stabilizing stream banks,” said Stroh, formerly an urban planner in Washington D.C. who moved back three years ago to manage the family’s property. (He was raised in New York City; his dad, Leslie, in Morris.)
The Butternut Valley, and with the collaboration of the Middlefield-based Soil & Water Conservation District, all of Otsego County’s streams, are part of a “huge, huge region,” said Stroh, where efforts are underway to clean up the tributaries to the Susquehanna River, which eventually runs into the challenged Chesapeake, where pollutants have been destroying the rich fishery for decades.
After Vince and Lynne Krogh Casale’s sighting (and videographing) of a black bear on Bedbug Hill Road Tuesday, March 23, a reader sent along this photo of a black bear (see photo) rampaging in a yard in the Pierstown area, on the other side of the hill, both in Town of Otsego on the west side.
More bears in Otsego County is a new reality, Josh Choquette, the DEC’s new bear expert, based in its Stamford office, reported in last week’s edition.
Development in the Catskills is pushing bears north and, also, new growth in Otsego County’s abandoned farms is providing newly arriving bears with plenty to eat.
COOK-A-LONG – 4:30 p.m. Join nutrition educator Kimberly for fun lesson on the ‘why’ & ‘how’ of eating healthy. Includes time for a cook-a-long dish. Free, registration required. Presented by Cornell Cooperative Extension. 518-234-4303 ext. 120 or visit cceschoharie-otsego.org/events/2021/04/08/whats-for-dinner
After reading “Rural Hours,” Charles Darwin, of all people, mentioned Susan Fenimore Cooper in a letter to Asa Gray, perhaps the most important American botanist of the 19th Century.
Struck by her understanding of the “battle” between Old and New World weeds, he asked, “Who is she?”
Nowadays, we know the “weeds” she was writing about were “invasive species,” a burning environ-mental issue in Glimmerglass’ environs even today, 125 years after James Fenimore Cooper’s daughter’s death, as we worry about the zebra mussel, the water chestnut and, heavens, the European frog bit.
If Charles Darwin knew her, “How do I know about Henry David Thoreau and not about this woman?” Professor Johnson asked herself when she first happened on “Rural Hours.” It was in the 1990s. She was a graduate student immersed in the Transcendentalists while seeking her masters and doctorate at Claremont Graduate University in California.
With a planned focus on Shakespeare or the British Modernists, “I was taken by surprise when I got scooped up in environmental writing, about the human relationship to the natural world,” she said.
CONSERVATION – 7 p.m. Join the museum for discussion with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, traditional musicians and co-founders of the Ashokan Center whose composition “Ashokan Farewell,” became the musical hallmark of Ken Burn’s “The Civil War” on PBS. Presented by the Hanford Mills Museum, East Meredith. 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org/interactions/
ART LECTURE – 2 p.m. Discuss naturalist author Susan Fenimore Cooper and her work ‘Rural Hours’ with leading scholar Rochelle L. Johnson and what her contributions mean in the era of climate change. Free, registration required for Zoom conference. Dontions of $10 or more requested. Presented by Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
CONSERVATION – 7 p.m. Join the museum for discussion with landscape painter Ellen Wong, and Associate Professor Lisa Tessier on the rural and working landscape of Otsego County. Presented by the Hanford Mills Museum, East Meredith. 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org/interactions/
WORD THURSDAY – 7 p.m. Celebrate Black History Month with area poets online. Opens with open mic, followed by presentation by award winning novelist Jeffrey Colvin. Presented by Bright Hill Press & Literary Center. 607-829-5055 or visit www.facebook.com/brighthp/
VOICES OF THE GAME – 10:30 a.m. Continue celebrating Black History Month with discussion with Players’ Alliance President, Curtis Granderson on his career and his role as the president of the Players Alliance to better the game and society. Free, registration required. Presented by The Baseball Hall of Fame. 607-547-7200 or visit baseballhall.org/events/virtual-voices-of-the-game-curtis-granderson?date=0
MUSIC ONLINE – 8 p.m. “Thank You For Your Service: Songs Of Mineworkers And Their Families” concert by John O’Connor to celebrate mineworkers throughout US history. Presented by the Yager Museum, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/yagermuseum/ for info.
The year was 1889, the day was Dec. 25. In many rural parts of the nation, the festive “Christmas Side Hunt” was underway, where – according to one description – “armed participants wandered the countryside shooting at every bird and small animal they saw.”Concerned about the toll on the bird population, a year later American ornithologist Frank Chapman of New York City attempted to undo this now-infamous tradition by replacing it with the Christmas Bird Count.
Since 1970, the Delaware Otsego Audubon Society (DOAS) has participated in the new tradition. This year, as usual, there were three counts: Dec. 19 in Oneonta, Dec. 26 in the Mohawk Valley and, finally, Jan. 2 in Delaware County.
Because of COVID-19, the DOAS discouraged new participants during this year’s Christmas Bird Count. “We’re dealing with a high-risk population,”
DOAS co-President Susan O’Handley, Hartwick, said of the bird-counters. “Many of our birders are elderly, which has guided many of our decisions.”
Still, there are a number of records set within the Oneonta circle. For instance:
Blue jays, with 546 upsetting the previous high of 500 in 1970.
Carolina wrens and dark-eyed juncos, with more juncos spotted than any other species.
Winter wrens, which tied their highest recorded 2019 count.
Fox sparrows and red crossbills, spotted for the first time in a number of years.
This year in the Oneonta count, 4,500 birds were spotted, compared to the average 4,600 birds. And 52 species were spotted, compared to the 41.8 average.
That could have been because it was a nice day, compared to a stormy one the year before, said Sandy Bright, Oneonta, DOAS count coordinator.
The second DOAS co-president, Andy Mason, didn’t notice the day was that different from the year before, and suggested weather and food availability in Canada may have encouraged more birds to fly into this area.
The third and final DOAS co-president, Becky Gretton of Springfield, had another take.
“Normally we go out with our birding buddies,” she said. “However, this year, due to the coronavirus, we were divided up more.”
That resulted in 11 teams of 16 individuals each, instead of the usual larger nine teams. The teams didn’t have to move as quickly from one location
to another, giving them more time to record birds at each stop.
This allowed the teams to be more relaxed and more thorough, said Gretton, allowing care to ensure the same bird wasn’t counted more than once.
Each count occurs within a 7.5-mile radius, DOAS Treasurer Charles Scheim of Oneonta wrote in “Christmas Bird Counts”, published in a 2012 edition of The Belted Kingfisher, the DOAS publication.
“One might think that the experience of birding each of our assigned areas would be very similar. They are, after all, separated by a mere 25 miles, as the crow flies,” he wrote. “But geographical features can make a world of difference in attracting different species.
“There is no expectation that a team will find all the birds in an area, or even count all that can be found: many quiet woodland species may go uncounted; large flocks of geese or buntings can only be estimated.”
Nonetheless, the counts are consistently performed at the same time of the year, year after year, to maintain some standard.
Despite the inability to host in-person events, Mason, O’Handley and Gretton encouraged anyone interested to join the DOAS and help contribute to science.
“The organization goes beyond birds,” Mason explained. Our focus is really on general conservation.
Added O’Handley, “We look to introduce and promote policy that benefits wildlife and their habitats, often that coincides with improved human health as well.” Among the issues – the elimination of lead ammo, carbon reductions, protecting and preserving natural resources and more.
“As issues come up, we move to address them in a way that’s beneficial to nature and hopefully to humans as well;” Gretton added. “We look to build our connection with nature and it is a shared source of interest for the members of the chapter.
Scheim concludes his DOAS piece in posing a poignant question, “Why should anyone forego the comforts of home, perhaps by a fire with a hot beverage, to spend a day enduring freezing temperatures, biting winds, or possibly worse, just to count birds?
“The answer is this: it’s all part of the tradition” – a new tradition of course that seeks to preserve nature instead of destroying it.
The chapter currently has approximately 250 members. If you or someone you know has an interest in joining or participating in any of the upcoming self-guided or virtual events, please visit doas.us