Citizen Science: Drop-in Nighthawk Watch
ALBANY, NY- On August 24, 2016, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is teaming up with the Hudson Mohawk Bird Club (HMBC) to monitor migrating birds in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Volunteers who are ages 10 and up are invited to count Common Nighthawks that fly over the Preserve on their over 6,000-mile journey southward. Participants can meet with local bird experts in the Discovery Center parking lot at 195 New Karner Road any time between 5:30pm and 7:30pm on Wednesday August 24th. For more information or to sign up, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org/events or call 518-456-0655. Pre-registration is required for this free event.
According to Education Program Director Erin Kinal, “This is a great opportunity for anyone who has an interest in the outdoors to contribute to our scientific research. It doesn’t require any previous experience and all skill levels are welcome. The phrase “citizen scientist” means just that – local citizens who contribute to scientific research.”
With a 2-foot wingspan and a habit of feeding in the air near the ground, Common Nighthawks are easy to spot. Dozens to hundreds of the birds are seen each evening before sunset during migration as they fly over the Preserve. A New York State designated Species of Greatest Conservation Need, the Common Nighthawk is neither common (outside of migration) nor a hawk, and is experiencing declines throughout many parts of its breeding range including New York.
This year will represent the fifth year the HMBC has been conducting this survey in the Preserve. “It’s important for us to understand the relationship between the Pine Bush habitat and the way the nighthawks may utilize it during migration,” says survey coordinator and long-time HMBC member Tom Williams, “Doing the counts will help inform scientists about population dynamics and the ecology of this declining species.”
The 3,200+ – acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP), located in New York’s Capital District, protects one of the best remaining inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens in the world. This extraordinary fire-dependent ecosystem provides habitat for many plants and animals and supports 69 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the endangered Karner blue butterfly. The APBP is a National Natural Landmark, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site, a New York State Unique Area, Bird Conservation Area and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Characterized by rolling sand dunes and miles of trails, the APBP offers visitors many recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is a public-private partnership created by the NYS Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the APBP and provide the public with educational and recreational opportunities.
As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art “green” certified interpretive center where visitors come to understand why the Pine Bush is rare and special. A visit to this unique destination is an exciting exploration where learning comes naturally through interactive exhibits, an outdoor Discovery Trail, and numerous programs on the ecology, natural history, cultural history and management of the Pine Bush. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open daily weekdays 9am-4pm, weekends and most holidays 10am-4pm. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.