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BIRDS

Explore below to learn more about the birds of Chautauqua as well as our special programs.

Please enjoy this excerpt from our April 2024 Newsletter. Be sure to explore our newsletter archive and subscribe to keep updated!

Newsletter Spotlight

The Osprey Platforms Are UP!

by Jeanne Wiebenga

April 2024

It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally over and we have our own Chautauqua Osprey platforms!

On Friday, April 26, 2024, everything fell into place: the only sunny day in several weeks and the soil had finally dried out enough to use the heavy equipment needed to put the poles into the ground. 

The platform at University Beach was the last of three that were placed that day: the first two were at Camp Onyahsa, across the lake, and the Chautauqua Golf Course, about 20 yards from the road between the 15th and 16th hole on the Lake Course. The platform at University Beach is away from trees but very close to the lake: a truly ideal location! 

Our crew, Brian and Eric, owners of Gunn ’n Early Tree Service, and Mike, arborist and owner of ArborWild Environmental and his assistant Brian, were all hired by Twan Leenders, and often contracted by him for CWC projects. They worked very efficiently in getting the projects done.

They first transported the 30-45 ft. poles, donated by the BPU, to the sites, then maneuvered them into place. After attaching the nesting platforms (built by Mike), they raised the poles into the holes drilled by an amazingly strong and versatile CAT, up to 6 ft. deep into the ground. Since the drilled hole at University Beach immediately filled up with water, that pole will need some stabilization until it has settled. 

Twan calls these new platforms the "Cadillac of all Man-made Osprey Nests," with tall perches for the birds to scan their surroundings! Since we placed branches and twigs on the platforms, they should be quite effective in attracting Osprey pairs soon, although no promises for this spring. 

Twan Leenders and Bethany O'Hagan at the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC) coordinated the effort to get the platforms installed. The new platforms represent a wonderful collaboration among the BTG, the CWC, Chautauqua Institution, the Chautauqua Golf Club, and Jamestown Board of Public Utilities (BPU), who sourced and donated the poles.

The projects were funded by the BTG and the Chautauqua Golf Club, most notably from generous donations from BTG Life Members Jane Stirniman and Melinda Wolcott, and Chautauqua Golf Club President Dan McEvoy. 

The timing could not have been better, since we are experiencing an influx of young Ospreys, returning to their place of birth, and all looking for a home to start there own families! This is the 5th year since our first pair arrived at Loomis Goose Creek. They produced six offspring so far, and more on the way, as we can deduce from the three eggs already produced this spring (see photo below from the Nest Cam).

Once we have osprey living in Chautauqua, we will take on the project of installing cameras on our platforms so that we can monitor (and enjoy watching!) the birds. If you would like to donate to the camera fund, or perhaps even more importantly, if you are technologically savvy and can help us research, purchase, install and maintain the cameras, please email the BTG

Jeanne Wiebenga,
Chautauqua, April 28, 2024

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Duck, Duck , Goose
by Twan Leenders

February 2023

February and March are the times when the waters of Chautauqua Lake are alive with birds. Waterfowl primarily. No fewer than 28 species of ducks, geese, and swans are routinely seen on the open water sections of the lake during these months, sometimes numbering into the tens of thousands. The current winter has been far from typical, and this year's waterfowl numbers have been low, but that situation can change literally overnight when a cold snap freezes the lakes around us and pushes flocks of ducks, geese, and swans our way. As a rule, these waterfowl tend to stay only for as long as they need to, foraging on aquatic vegetation, shellfish, and fish as they prepare for their breeding season. Almost all species seen here in winter do not breed locally. Instead, they migrate north to the Canadian tundra or into the prairie pothole regions of the Midwest to nest and raise their young. Nonetheless, having a productive lake that provides them with adequate food resources and safe migratory stop-over habitat is critical to the breeding success of all these species.

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Hooded Mergansers, by Twan Leenders

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Blue Winged Teal, by Twan Leenders

By mid-April, most wintering waterfowl will have left the area, leaving only the Canada geese, mallards, hooded mergansers, and common mergansers - species that stick around year-round and breed locally. One additional species, the wood duck, winters south of us but breeds here. These spectacular little ducks start to return to our waters and wooded marshes around the same time that the winter visitors head north. Chautauqua Lake is an ever-changing whirlwind of waterfowl, and it is worth taking your binoculars out every day to see who's in town. The lake's status as Important Bird Area (IBA) is largely due to its importance for wintering waterfowl. As much as we all enjoy our summers on the lake, the bird life on the lake is only a fraction of what we see this time of year.

 

Oh, and while you're on your way to the lake to enjoy the ducks and geese, don't forget to keep your ears perked as the first spring bird songs are beginning to fill the air. Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, and Chickadees are singing on sunny days already, and the Red-winged Blackbirds are returning to Chautauqua County. Spring is just around the corner!

Local Birds

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A diverse bird population calls western New York home.

Many people attract Baltimore Orioles to their backyards with oriole feeders. Such feeders work best with jelly or jam, and unlike hummingbird feeders, have larger perches and are orange instead of red. Baltimore orioles are also fond of halved oranges. If they discover a well-kept feeder, orioles lead their young there. They are named the Baltimore Oriole because the male bird’s colors match those on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore.

Northern Cardinals, in the family Cardinalidae, are passerine birds (with feet that are adapted to perching) found in North and South America. They are robust, seed-eating birds with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinctive appearances. The northern cardinal type species was named by colonists for the male's red crest, reminiscent of a Catholic cardinal's biretta.

The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt (loss of feathers in preparation for new growth) in spring and autumn. It is the only cardueline finch to undergo a molt twice a year. During the winter molt, it sheds all its feathers; in the spring, it sheds all but the wing and tail feathers, which are dark brown in the female and black in the male.

The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands. It is the largest North American heron.    

Purple Martins & Jack Gulvin

Jack Gulvin is the building superintendent for Purple Martin condos, where the resident Purple Martins need not lift a talon.

Every few days, Jack lowers the condos from their high-up perch to record the egg and chick counts and change out their white pine needle bedding (which he collects the previous fall and saves for this use). He discards deadly blowfly maggots and sprinkles an insecticidal powder to kill mites and fleas. He even installed a special compartment in the penthouse of the bird condo to catch house sparrows — an aggressive bird that likes to squat in purple martin nests.

Other than bluebirds, Gulvin said, purple martins are one of the only species to require that kind of pampering. The birds used to breed in woodpecker cavities and hollow spaces, but human development has largely cleared swamps and eliminated dead trees where purple martins take shelter.

“They are now, in the major part of the range, wholly dependent on humans,” said Gulvin, who has cared for Chautauqua’s purple martin houses for more than 15 years.

Gulvin retired from the National Park Service at 37, which means he’s spent more than a quarter century doing “whatever [he] feels like doing.” Currently, his summers are split between leading tree and nature walks for the Bird, Tree & Garden Club and caring for Chautauqua’s five purple martin houses — one by the Sports Club, three by the John R. Turney Sailing Center, and another by the golf course cart barn. He maintains a few more purple martin houses near his home in Westfield, bringing the total number of compartments he cares for to more than 130. (Morgan Kinney/Chautauquan Daily)

The Purple Martin Conservation Association

Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Purple Martins (Progne subis) through scientific research, state-of-the-art management techniques, and public education, with the end goal of increasing martin populations throughout North America.

Photographing Birds~ A 'How To' Guide

The combination of fast-flying birds and camera gear can sometimes result in frustration. The following guide from Photzy.com is filled with practical advice about gear, setup, and composition, for photographing birds.  Check it out! 

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