By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – If it’s been awhile since you rode a bike, now is the perfect time to get your wheels out of storage, Otsego Bicycles’ Sam Baskin will tell you.
“There’s actually a bike shortage,” he said. “Because all the factories are shut down, we haven’t been able to get many new bikes in, so I’ve been busy fixing a lot of bikes that people have had in the garage for 10 years. There’s a big demand. I’ve never seen a bike shop that doesn’t have bikes!”
Baskin, a 2016 OHS graduate, has taken over the store from founder Ed Lorenz, who retired at the end of course, plenty of skies to watch.
“Birding is a simple thing to get started with,” he said. “All you need is binoculars and a field guide.”
And the field guide, he said, just got simpler, as the National Audubon Society has released a free app that includes photos, videos, recordings of birdsongs and more. “Now you don’t have to lug around a book,” said Mason.
The sanctuary itself has also gone digital. “We have new signs that have a QR code that you can scan with your phone,” he said. “It shows the birds we have, and the trails.”
Birds aren’t the only thing visitors may spot. “We see deer up here, we’ve got otters and a beaver dam, and we had a bear sighting earlier this spring!”
The beavers – and the rising waters from their dams – forced the DOAS to build an extended boardwalk between the forest and the wetlands. “The boy scouts came out and built it for us,” said Mason.
But it’s worth the trek, muddy as it can be. The wetlands near the end of the trail are
some of the best places for amateur birdwatchers to start their spotting.
“The wetlands are always productive,” Mason said. “We’ve got mallards and wood ducks, and although herons come to feed here, they don’t build their nests.”
Though the birds generally build their nests in the wild, the Audubon Society maintains several boxes, including bluebird and duck houses. “It’s always great when you see a bluebird settle into the box,” he said.
In addition to the sanctuary, the DOAS also maintains a map of other good spots for bird watching across the two-county area, including Gilbert Lake State Park, a canoe ride between Portlandville and Milford, and Wilber Park, where the county’s first pair of Merlins built their nest last year.
Mason is hoping that gathering restrictions are eased in time for their annual Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch, noted for the late-season flights of Red-Tailed Hawks. “We’ve been counting hawks since 1990,” he said. “Last year we counted 5,100.”
Among those, he said, were 142 golden eagles. “In 2018, we had the highest total of golden eagles in North America,” he said. “It’s always a big thrill to see one, and we’re the best place in the state to look for them.”