When the summer heat waves end and fall temperatures arrive, wintering raptors soon show up in local fields and wetlands. Every year, NYSDEC regions across the state monitor wintering raptor presence to record where and how these birds are spending their time here. Some of these species are of conservation concern, such as the Short-eared Owl and Northern Harrier, and our data helps in planning management decisions that might affect these species.
Since we have so much potential habitat here in DEC Region 8 (roughly the counties between Iroquois NWR and Montezuma NWR/Cayuga Lake), we depend on volunteer surveyors to help us find wintering raptors. We record any owls, hawks, and other raptors that we see during hour-long surveys around sunset. Surveyors have been treated to some great sights in the past, like talon-locking owls, eagles buzzing flocks of geese, and even other critters like mink playing in the snow. Yes, it does involve being outside in the WNY winter, but our pre-survey meetings always include hot drinks and snacks to help fortify us against the cold!
We run surveys out of two locations in order to cover a large portion of the Finger Lakes/Genesee region, and survey sites are usually within a 20-minute drive of our meeting location. Avon-area surveys are held every other Tuesday (starting 11/21) and we meet beforehand at the DEC Avon office (6274 E. Avon-Lima Rd). Trumansburg-area surveys are held every other Thursday (starting 12/7) out of the Ulysses Philomathic Library (74 E. Main St). Our first few meetings/surveys will take place around the 3:30-5:30PM timeframe. We run surveys through April, and since sunset time changes as the winter goes on, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to join us early in the season, later might work out.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a brand-new birder, all are welcome to come and join in. Newbies are paired with staff or experienced surveyors until they feel comfortable with the process, and you are welcome to help with just one survey, the entire season, or anything in between.
Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information or think you might want to participate. Please include which meeting location you’d be interested in working from.
Thanks so much to everyone who has made these last few years of surveys such a success- our region is truly unique in having such a dedicated volunteer crew collecting a wealth of information. Hope to see you soon!
Christina M. Hoh
Seasonal Wildlife Technician, Bureau of Wildlife
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
6274 E. Avon-Lima Rd. Avon 14414
P: (585) 226-5386 | F: (585) 226-6323 | email@example.com