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
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
ONEONTA – Saying the language “was softened,” County board Vice Chair Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, today voted against sending a “Climate Smart Community Pledge” resolution, as revised, to the full board for action March 6.
However, his colleagues on the Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns Committee nonetheless agreed to forward the adjusted resolution, 4-1, for the full board’s consideration.
“The language did reduce the sense of Climate Change being a crisis,” Koutnik said. “My vote was largely a symbolic one, so it would be in the public record for future generations to see.”
To the Editor:
Two reports and a conference warning that climate is warming due to human activity, i.e., greenhouse gases (GHG). This warming will “disrupt many areas of life,” affecting trade and precipitating conflicts.
Let’s assume for the moment that the data warrants the conclusion – man-made GHGs are the cause of global warming. How do we solve this problem? What works?
For smooth transitions to a less carbon-intensive future, the best path is the use of natural gas – the bridge fuel. Two decades of data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) is testimony to its efficacy.
According to the EIA, the substitution of gas for coal in power plants has lowered CO2 in the USA to levels not seen since the late 1980s. This happened while population and GDP grew over the same period.
We all share a concern about our environment and what forms of energy to use in order to maintain our lifestyle and position in the global economy.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable and thus the day will come when they are gone. Energy companies know this and realize that, in order to remain viable, they must look for renewable alternatives.
However, there isn’t a magic switch we can turn on to allow us to go from a dependence on fossil fuels to relying solely on renewables. We need a bridge to get us to that point, and natural gas is that bridge.
FOREST WALK – 9 – 11 a.m. Trek through John W. Chase Memorial Forest with Forest Technician Joe Sweeney. Learn about sustainable forest management, pests, invasive species, multi-use land management. Free, open to public. Pre-registration preferred. Meet at intersection of Middlefield, Van Cleef and Pearsall Roads, Middlefield. 607-547-4488 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/county-forest-walk/
POETRY SLAM – 8 – 10:30 p.m. Open mic open to 10 students followed by featured slam poet Caroline Harvey, performance poet, punk folk theater artist, educator, social justice advocate and has been featured on HBOs Def Poetry. Free, open to public. Waterfront room, Hunt College Union, SUNY Oneonta. Visit oneonta.campuslabs.com/engage/event/2674906
Most of us enjoy watching and/or hunting deer. They seem harmless enough – that is, until one runs in front of your shiny new car. Many people enjoy feeding deers with deer feeders you can learn more about at places similar to feedthatgame.com which is great if you have the population of deer under control. However, the 650,000 or so forest landowners in the state may have a different perspective.
Each year they pay taxes on forest property with an expectation to recreate there and possibly even harvest some timber to help pay the taxes.
When they visit their woodland and look closely at the understory beneath the forest canopy, they expect to find the seedlings – the next generation, called “regeneration” – of the mature trees that produce mast (acorns, nuts fruits) for wildlife and either sawlogs for lumber or pulp for paper.
What they expect to find isn’t what they
Deer are decimating the forest understory. Because we have made it socially unacceptable to cut trees for a long time, about all that is left in the forest is mature trees – the brush and other young forest species that deer browsed are gone.
What is left are the species that can grow in the shade of the adult trees and, unfortunately, deer have a preference for the species like oaks that produce mast and sawlogs for lumber and maple and ash that also produce wood products.
Thus, deer over-browse those species and leave less desirable, invasive species.
In other words, deer, like beaver, can alter their own habitat. On average, a deer eats about 8½ pounds of vegetation per day – that’s a lot of twigs being eaten by an estimated statewide population of one million deer.
This isn’t a hypothesis. It is a real, scientifically validated phenomenon. In fact, scientists are concerned that this over-browsing will have a “legacy effect” – there may not be a next generation of the forest as we know it today.
Those of you who live in Oneonta have seen the consequences – deer in the middle of Chestnut Street or Ravine Parkway on their way to eat your shrubs.
The problem is real. The question is what to do about it? Because we have removed the large predators, with the possible exception of the coyote and black bear, that once controlled the number of deer, we rely on hunting deer to keep their numbers in check. Hunting remains a popular pastime for many and is now becoming somewhat of a public service in the areas where deer populations are growing out of control. Hunters may find the use of technology like Hornady Ballistics Weather Meter extremely useful when it comes to taking out the animal first time.
The number of hunters continues to decrease and the hunting access to private property and local towns and villages is also declining.
Thus hunting, as we practice and regulate it now, may no longer be an effective management tool.
Do we need to re-examine how to more effectively harvest deer? That may be easier said than done. There are animal rights groups that oppose hunting altogether. There are sportsmen’s groups that are pro-hunting and may view any tinkering with the status quo as a threat.
Then there are conservation groups that have an interest in maintaining healthy forests that produce abundant wildlife of all species. The DEC’s Lands & Forests Division is tasked with doing what it takes to protect forest regeneration. Another Division, Fish & Wildlife, may favor keeping the deer population at a “huntable” level.
Like most natural-resource-related issues, this one is complex and efforts to address it are likely to spark controversy. Pennsylvania attempted to address the issue of over-browsing about a decade ago without success as the various interest groups couldn’t agree on a workable solution.
If we care about the next generation of New York’s forests, we can’t afford to let that happen. We must listen to what the science tells us and learn to work together for the common, long-term health of both the forest and the deer.
Hunters have lots of equipment options available to them. To make the process of selection easier, websites like Outdoor Empire have many helpful articles and reviews that provide comprehensive details on the best and latest gear with which to hunt more effectively.
Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administrator and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.
WALKING TOUR – 7 p.m. Wayne Wright, of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, leads a tour of the former grounds of the Oneonta Central Fair (1873-1926). Cost, $3. Meet corner of Belmont Place & Hudson, Oneonta. Call 607-432-0960 or visit www.oneontahistory.org
AUTHORS SERIES – 1 p.m. Baseball authors Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith present and discuss their book “A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle.” Followed by a book signing in the Atrium. Included with Museum admission. The Bullpen Theater, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown. Call 607-547-7200 or visit baseballhall.org/node/17195?date=0
COLOR RUN – Noon – 3 p.m. Kids enjoy a run through a half-mile course. Features games, prizes, more. Pre-register for free T-shirt and sunglasses. 6th Ward Playground, 22 W. Broadway, Oneonta. Call 607-432-0010 or visit www.facebook.com/YKidsColorRun/
SPRING CONCERT – 2 p.m. Catskill Valley Wind Ensemble performs the Light Cavalry Overture, Give Us This Day, City Trees, more. Free, open to the public. First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Call 607-432-7085 or visit www.facebook.com/CatskillValleyWindEnsemble/
PICKLEBALL – Noon-2 p.m. Come learn the sport. Gymn floor, Clark Sports Center, 124 Cty. Hwy. 52, Cooperstown. Info, www.clarksportscenter.com
CONSERVATION MEETING – 12:30-3:30 p.m. Discussion of manure spreading strategies to reduce nutrient runoff. A must for farmers spreading or storing manure this winter. Otsego County Meadows Complex, 140 Ct. Hwy. 33W. RSVP by 1/12, (607)547-8337 ext. 4. or email firstname.lastname@example.org
AUDITIONS – 3-6:30 p.m. Catskill Choral Society opens auditions for new members and potential Dox Apprentices. Unitarian Universalist Church, 12 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Call 431-6060 to schedule and appointment.