Warm weather slowed down bird watching | News

With a few exceptions, local bird watching has been lackluster for a few months. Usually at this time of year we would expect to see a few species of winter birds from the far north, but the roller coaster of hot and cold temperatures seems to have played against a large influx of birds from the north.

That, combined with what we’re told is a good harvest of cones in Canada’s boreal forests, means birds don’t have to leave their nesting areas in search of food.

Granted, my birding during the hunting season is limited to my own property, but all I’ve seen winter birds here is a northern shrike and a few American sparrows. A persistent Wilson’s Snipe interested me more. She seemed to have taken advantage of the balmy temperatures and rainy fall, which left parts of my property wetter than they otherwise would have been.

Nordic shrike

Wilson’s Snipe – formerly known as Common Snipe – is a shorebird that, like the killdeer, is found throughout North America, far from large bodies of water. On my property, I usually find them during the spring and fall migration, but I’ve seen them as late as December and as early as late February, depending on the weather. The snipe, which is the origin of the word “sniper”, referring to snipe hunters, generally disappeared from our region by the first week of November, so this one is quite late.

And because it is late, it begs the Darwinian question of whether this individual represents the leading edge of the evolutionary curve in responding to the warming of our planet and not going so far south, thus securing an advantage in the world. spring when the race is on to reach the maximum. desirable nesting sites. Or does it represent the trailing edge of the evolutionary curve by lagging behind and possibly perishing if we get a deep cold snap? It would probably take a long-term study of many birds to begin to answer this question, but I’ll be very curious to see if this individual hangs out all winter.

ALTHOUGH THERE IS been an absence of winter birds which doesn’t mean there has been an absence of news and two things have recently caught my attention. The first is the possible purchase of a large private plot of land on the west side of the Allegheny Reservoir by the Western New York Land Conservancy, as reported by The Times Herald. I am not affiliated with the Land Conservancy, but have contributed financially to their efforts to purchase the 200 acres that have been owned by the Sluga family since the early 1800s.

Not only has the land remained largely untouched, it’s one of the few areas in Cattaraugus County that was beyond the reach of the Wisconsin Glacier that covered most of the county 10,000 years ago. As a result, its ancient soils are home to a variety of plants not found in areas covered by the glacier.

The WNY Land Conservancy, headquartered in East Aurora, has until the end of December to raise the funds to buy the land from the family who own it. I researched the Land Conservancy prior to contributing and it appears to be a well-run organization that takes land stewardship seriously. If he is able to raise the funds to purchase the Sluga property by the end of December, the leaflet will become an important part of conservation efforts to create an uninterrupted migratory route between the great forests of Pennsylvania and the waters deep Great Lakes. .

Plus, it will become accessible to the public, which is reason enough for me to dip into my pockets. There is more information about this initiative on the conservation website and the last time I checked an anonymous donor was providing matching funds.

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THE OTHER PASSIONATE This year’s development started in Ithaca in 2020 but was reported in October of this year and it represents a heartwarming story of an otherwise dismal year that will forever be associated with the coronavirus explosion. Although I had never been to Ithaca, I paid attention to events at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for many years and in June 2020 a media producer named Andy Johnson who works at the Lab discovered what would become the first nesting. confirmed peregrine falcons in the Finger Lakes for over 70 years.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

In order to appreciate the significance of Johnson’s discovery, it is important to understand that the peregrine falcon, like the bald eagle, was largely extirpated from North America by the mid-1960s due to the widespread agricultural use of DDT after the end of the world war. II. And as in the case of the bald eagle, the accumulation of DDT in the tissues of the peregrine falcons resulted in the thinning of the eggshells, which were then crushed by the weight of the birds when they tried to incubate the eggs.

Prior to Johnson’s discovery, which can be read in full by searching for the title of the article titled “A Long-Overdue Return for Peregrine Falcons in Finger Lakes,” the last confirmed pair of peregrine falcons nesting in this gorge was in 1946, which marked the start of the widespread use of DDT. It was through the successful efforts of Dr Tom Cade, professor of zoology at Cornell University, that the Peregrine Fund was established and, with the ban on the widespread use of DDT, the peregrine falcon was gradually restored in its historic nesting area in North America. and its number continues to grow.

Restoration efforts have been so successful that the peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list – although it remains on New York’s endangered species list. Johnson is a gifted writer who manages to capture the thrilling experience of meeting peregrine falcons on their land as they defend territory. The precise location of the nest is not being disclosed, but the images give the reader an accurate picture of the peregrine falcons’ nesting needs and raise hopes that they may someday nest in the Zoar Valley.

Until then, we can hope that the Ithaca couple will return in the spring.

Images of some of the birds mentioned here can be seen at:

(Jeffrey Reed writes a monthly birding column for the Olean Times Herald. Readers with questions or comments can call him at 557-2327 or email him at [email protected])

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