Spring 2017 #186
Spring has sprung at Mohonk Preserve and our 2017 season is already in full bloom!
In this issue of Ridgelines we’ll share exciting news about our 20th Annual Auction, which is filled with once-in-a-lifetime bidding opportunities, great new birding initiatives for experts and novices alike, and efforts to help our New York State bird.
Our Trapps Bridge Replacement Project is also in full swing – click here
to follow our progress and see photos and video of the construction work.
This is a great time of year to get out on the land on one of our many guided hikes for nature lovers of all ages. There’s nothing like the sight of a blooming marsh marigold or the song of a returning meadowlark to raise your spirit and warm your heart! Thanks for helping to protect these and other species of plants and animals through your support of Mohonk Preserve.
Spring Is For The Birds
Along with occasional showers, April skies are filled with migrating birds making this time of year a favorite among birders. At Mohonk Preserve, we welcome back hosts of warblers to our forests, fields and wetlands including the Yellow warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, Blue-winged warbler, Blackburnian warbler, and even the threatened Cerulean warbler, which is a Species of Special Concern. Other remarkable migrants that return in the spring include the Scarlet tanager, Wood thrush, Indigo bunting, Bobolink, Baltimore oriole, Red-eyed vireo, Great-crested flycatcher, and many more! As part of the Preserve’s legacy natural history data, we’ve tracked bird arrivals for over a century.
The Preserve also offers ways everyone from experienced to first-time birders can be part of the spring birding season. At its heart, birding involves observing birds by eye or with devices like binoculars and telescopes, or by ear, listening for specific songs and calls. Identifying and cataloging, or “ticking,” bird species are also popular among birders. Some birders travel the world for a glimpse of a rare species. Competitive birdwatching events include a “Big Day” in which teams have 24 hours to identify as many species as possible, and a “Big Year” in which individuals participate in a year-long, bird-spotting quest.
Each spring since 1991, the Preserve’s Conservation Science team has conducted an annual Breeding Bird Census
. From May to June, staff and volunteers employ a point-count technique to document all birds seen or heard within the survey area, generating an estimate of abundance for breeding species over the course of repeated visits.
The Breeding Bird Census yields insight into the habitat preferences of different bird species, documents changes in species composition and abundance, and supplies the Preserve with critical information about how best to manage fields and forests for Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The census has also been a source of discovery—the first confirmed Acadian Flycatcher sighting at the Preserve was documented during the Breeding Bird Census!
Interested birders can join a knowledgeable group of birding volunteers during the annual census which takes place during a dozen outings in the height of nesting season from mid-May through June. Volunteers conduct early morning surveys within three hours of sunrise and at least one evening session. For more information on the Preserve’s Breeding Bird Census and other birding volunteer opportunities, click here
The Preserve is also offering a new series of monthly Early Morning Bird Walks with Preserve Conservation Science staff this spring. No prior experience is necessary and beginners are welcome – just bring a pair of binoculars. These programs include 1-2 mile walks at different Preserve locations. Participation is free for Mohonk Preserve members, and non-members will receive a complimentary day pass for their first walk and may purchase day passes for future walks. Registration is required. Upcoming walks are scheduled for May 13 and June 10. For more information or to register, click here
Whether in a group or on your own, we encourage everyone to get out into nature this spring and enjoy spending time seeing, hearing, and maybe even “ticking” the birds!
20 Years of Bidding For Good
Guests at Mohonk Preserve’s 20th Annual Benefit Auction
on Saturday, June 10, 2017 will have the opportunity to share the Preserve’s vision of inspiring people to care for, enjoy and explore their natural world, while also bidding on extraordinary adventure trips and enjoying a festive evening of great food, drink and friends. The event will raise funds to provide critical support for conservation science, land protection and stewardship, and outdoor education efforts that yield long-term environmental and public benefits.
The Preserve’s annual auction was conceived and organized in 1997 by late Preserve Board member Jane Taylor, who also wrote the signature copy for the auction brochure. Along with a dedicated group of volunteers, including longtime auctioneer Judy Milne, the auction has become one of the area’s most enjoyable social events, while raising more than $2.3 million to support all aspects of the Preserve’s mission.
To mark two decades of this special event, this year’s auction will be held at Mohonk Mountain House’s Ice Skating Pavilion, where guests will enjoy a silent auction full of fantastic finds for home and garden, special items just for kids, goods and services for beauty and wellness, works of art, adornments, activities and outings, and delicious food and drink.
Also new for this year will be auctioneers Alpenglow Benefit Auctions, who are no strangers to the Gunks as longtime rock climbers. Featured live auction items will include exciting adventures such as exploring Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea and Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with Country Walkers; a ranch and rafting adventure in Canyonlands National Park on a legendary stretch of the Colorado River from O.A.R.S.; a Lake Louise Mountain Adventure in Canada, including a stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and mountain heritage program at Banff National Park from Winspire; and walking and hiking sections of Camino de Santiago and visiting Cíes Island Nature Reserve in Portugal and Spain with BACKROADS®.
Closer to home, bidders may also raise their paddles for prime tickets to HAMILTON on Broadway, a party at the Slingerland Pavilion, and a relaxing two-night stay with spa services at Mohonk Mountain House.
Bidders will also have the opportunity to support exciting Preserve initiatives, including outdoor education programs that help tweens and teens develop stewardship and leadership skills; preservation of and improved access to legacy conservation science data; equipment and training to keep our rangers search-and-rescue ready; and sustain land protection and stewardship efforts spanning 8,000 acres.
“Carrying on a two-decade legacy of old and new friends enjoying a great experience in a spectacular setting, the Annual Benefit Auction epitomizes so much of what we love about Mohonk Preserve,” said Preserve Board Member and Auction Committee Chair Laurel Sweeney. “My favorite part of attending this event is the goodwill generated by joining together to protect the Preserve for everyone to enjoy, now and in the future.”
The Preserve’s auction sells to capacity each year with over 250 patrons. For more information or to order tickets, click here
Lending a Helping Hand to New York State's Bird
Mohonk Preserve has been hard at work to give Eastern Bluebirds new homes. Funded with a grant from the North American Bluebird Society and with help from student volunteers, Preserve Conservation Science and Stewardship staff have constructed over 90 Bluebird nestboxes to be placed on the land in fields and forest edges.
“Preserve founders Dan and Keith Smiley’s first recorded Bluebird observations in the area date back to 1927,” said Preserve Director of Research Emeritus Paul Huth. “Adults were seen annually and there were multiple recorded sightings each year, but national populations began to decline significantly in the early 20th century and a state-wide decline was clear by the 1950s.”
“Eastern Bluebirds like to build their nests in cavities like a hole in a tree trunk, but they are not able to excavate their own cavity. They have to find an unoccupied hole that someone else excavated. That’s hard enough to do under the best of circumstances, and unfortunately for them, over the last several decades their job has gotten even harder,” said Preserve Director of Conservation Science Dr. Elizabeth Long. “Invasive, non-native species like House Sparrows and European Starlings also like to nest in abandoned cavities, and they tend to be quicker at finding them and more aggressive at holding on to them than the bluebirds are. This means that good nest cavities are becoming harder and harder to find.”
This isn’t the only obstacle Bluebirds face. “Humans have changed the landscape a lot in the past 200 years,” Elizabeth said. “Try to picture a spot near your home – an open landscape at least 50 feet from the woods, but with a single tree containing an abandoned cavity. There just aren’t a lot of those spaces left, and so bluebirds can really benefit from a helping hand – or in this case, a helping box.”
In 1979, Mohonk Preserve participated in early initiatives to reestablish the species locally. Former Preserve Naturalist and Historian Bob Larsen lead the intial project that placed 18 nestboxes and provided Bluebirds with safe and secure nesting sites. As a result of these efforts, along with state-wide initiatives, the Bluebird population has made a significant comeback.
Over three days in February and March, Preserve Stewardship staff worked with volunteers from SUNY New Paltz Alpha Phi Omega Chapter, SUNY New Paltz Alternative Spring Break participants, and students from the San Miguel Academy of Newburgh to build new Bluebird nestboxes to continue to restore and protect our local Bluebird population.
“The students were excited to learn that their time and effort would benefit our native Eastern Bluebird population,” said Preserve Associate Director of Facilities and Grounds Justin Key. “Hopefully, the experience shaped their understanding and appreciation for New York State's bird.”
PHOTO GALLERY. View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers. See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.
GET INTO NATURE. See a full list of upcoming programs including Stargazing at Spring Farm, Early Spring Wildflowers, Qigong for Strength and Healing.
IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received January 1 through March 31, 2017.
CHECK THIS OUT. Legacy Society member Lynn McGrew explains why Mohonk Preserve is special to her in this short video. Legacy Society members help us with our mission of protecting the Shawangunk Mountains region for future generations to enjoy. To learn more, contact the Development Department at 845-255-0919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the ongoing campaign to make Ulster the healthiest county in New York, Mohonk Preserve is offering a free, one-month membership for residents of Ulster County. Visitors with proof of Ulster County residency may obtain their passes at the Preserve Visitor Center from 10am to 4pm Thursday, April 20th through Sunday, April 23rd and at the Spring Farm Trailhead from 10am to 4pm Saturday, April 22nd and Sunday, April 23rd. The membership passes will be valid through May 21, 2017.
MOHONK PRESERVE MEMBER REWARDS PROGRAM. Show your valid Mohonk Preserve annual or life membership card at nearly 40 local businesses listed here, and receive a discount or special offer. We welcome our new business members who joined between January 1 and March 31, 2017: