Note: This field trip was sponsored by the Cattaraugus County Bird Club, a NYSYBC Partner. Many thanks to CCBC and especially to its President, Tim Baird for his time and expertise in organizing this event (and for his pleasant company during the trip). We are also very grateful to RTPI's Twan Leenders (Executive Director) and Scott Kruitbosch (Conservation & Outreach Coordinator) for leading a special tour of the institute and taking us to a local birding hotspot. We learned a great deal about Roger Tory Peterson and how indebted all birders are to him for not only his excellent field guides but also his tireless conservation efforts.
Have you ever felt that good feeling while you were walking in the footsteps of amazing people? It’s a pretty breathtaking experience whether walking through a revolutionary war battlefield, or holding a bat of one of your favorite baseball heroes, or even feeling a fossil with dinosaur footprints on it. I myself have had that feeling quite a lot, but it was one place that I got an overload of it and that was at the New York State Young Birders Club trip to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the birthplace of the famous birder Roger Tory Peterson.
The day started as we drove from our hotel to the parking lot of RTPI where we met our fellow birders that would be with us on that day. These included Mark Magistro, Eamon Freiburger, my brother Silas, and our leader Scott Kruitbosch. While waiting for everybody to pull in so we can go to another birding hotspot, I got to take a sneak peak at the institute, and boy was it amazing! The wood and stone building stood high at the end of the lot with such incredible design and might. Butterfly and hummingbird gardens were all around the sides of the building, adding to the fantastic sight. But this was only a preview, for with everybody there ready, it was time to get going to our main birding spot: the Jamestown Airport.
As we arrived at our first stop, we already began to hear some of the more common birds of the location such as the Savannah Sparrow, American Goldfinch, and Eastern Kingbird. But as we continued, we were racking up awesome species fast. A bunch of Bobolinks, both male and female, hopped across the barbed wire fence. Eastern Meadowlarks could be heard all across the grasslands with their sweet “spring-of-the-year” song echoing. Another bird that we saw quite a lot of at the airport was the majestic but tiny American Kestrel, which were commonly seen cruising over the fields and sitting on the power lines. By the time we reached our last stop at the airport, we added Scarlet Tanager, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, and much more to our list. Next, we drove as a group to Falconer Rd., and is it any coincidence that we were mainly looking for a Merlin that was said to be common in the area on that road? Funny or not, we did not find any Merlins, and our last birding (or should I say “squirreling”) spot was a cemetery not too far away. Here, Scott said that in the area there were a special kind of squirrel that can only be found this far west called the Eastern Fox Squirrel which happens to be even larger than the normal Red Squirrels and Gray Squirrels. Fortunately we found a whole bunch hopping in the trees and feeding on the ground, giving a lifer squirrel to most of us including me!
Birding the area was at last finished, giving us only one place to go, and that was the RTPI. Even upon entering the main room we found ourselves in front of some jaw dropping original illustrations done by Peterson of all sorts of birds from around the world and even some wildflower paintings he did. After wandering around a bit we got to meet the executive director of the institute, Twan Leenders, who then gave us an incredible tour. Starting off, we got to see some really cool specimens that he used for his paintings, some including an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a flamingo, a Gyrfalcon, and a bunch of others. Next we explored a room filled with his photographs on old slides. There were so many of them that Twan said that they are still sorting through them to find out what’s on some of the slides. At last we reached the last but probably my favorite room, and that was a room filled with tons of original paintings, sketches, and the equipment that he used including some of his old cameras. Everyone had a great time learning about Roger Peterson and the amazing things that he did for science and birding as a hobby. And along with birding’s legacy continuing, so will Roger's gift of knowledge to the world about birds will go on.
List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Silas Hernandez
| Blue Jay
Species Total: 41