Trip Reports
Alley Pond Park, Queens (Annual Kickoff) — January 17, 2016

Note: Many thanks to the Alley Pond Environmental Center for allowing us to use their excellent facilities, and especially to its Director, Irene Scheid, for her strong support to make sure all our needs were met. We are also very grateful to Nancy Tognan, Steve Schellenger, and Eric Miller of the Queens County Bird Club, a NYSYBC Partner, for welcoming us and leading a great walk. Thanks also to Lauren Scott, club member Avery Scott's mother, for coordinating logistics and food with Nancy. Finally, a big thank you to our keynote speaker, Benjamin Van Doren, for spending the day with us and making an entertaining and inspiring presentation on his various bird research activities starting in high school. Benjamin, a NYSYBC alumnus, Supporting Adult member, and NYSYBC Adult Advisor, was a senior at Cornell at the time of this meeting.

Bird Walk at Alley Pond Park, photo by Carena Pooth
Bird Walk at Alley Pond Park,   photo by Carena Pooth

We gathered at the Alley Pond Environmental Center, and when everyone was ready, we headed out for a walk. It was a cold morning, of course, but we found 36 species. One of them, Orange-crowned Warbler, was a new bird for the NYSYBC life list (which goes all the way back to 2008). We also saw a Nashville Warbler, which was an unusual January bird and a lifer for some.

Then we went back inside and warmed up with bagels, donuts, and hot beverages as we settled in for a series of great presentations and discussions.

This rest of this report consists mostly of excerpts from the meeting minutes submitted by club secretary Avery Scott.

Club President Joe “Joe The Prez” Hernandez led the meeting. 21 young birders were present, along with 24 parents plus 4 adult advisors (Mary Batcheller, Carena Pooth, Herb Thompson, Benjamin Van Doren). After introductions, Joe led a discussion about 2015.

2015 in Review

  • “Joe The Prez” asked what everyone’s favorite trips were
  • Joe liked the NYSOA meeting and the Bashakill trip
  • The Shawangunk Grasslands was a highly rated trip
  • Truth liked the NYSOA conference because he enjoyed birding with Jon Dunn
  • Teresa liked Montezuma because of the Sandhill cranes and shorebirds
  • Truth’s mom liked Jamaica Bay
  • Teresa’s mother liked the Walkill River NWR
  • Silas liked the Central Park trips in past years, Joe would like to get more Central Park trips
  • Gabriel liked the World Series of Birding in Cape May

NYSYBC Big Day & World Series of Birding (Joe Hernandez, Herb Thompson - adult advisor)

  • In the past the club has used World Series as main fundraiser for scholarships
  • Last year introduced The Big Day so anyone can fundraise wherever for however long
  • Several people did it last year and Herb would like more people to do it this year
  • Joe: the 2015 World Series of Birding conditions were terrible. Cape May had a ton of sea fog. Warblers were very few, but the team broke their previous World Series record with a Green-winged Teal
  • One of the parents found the World Series to be a great weekend for family
  • Any member can come to do scouting before the World Series
Presentations by Young Birders - Photo by Carena Pooth
Presentations by Young Birders - Photo by Carena Pooth

Big Day 2015 (Avery Scott, Noam Klotz)

  • Avery Scott and Noam Klotz spoke about independent fundraising for the NYSYBC scholarship program
  • They used a map based on eBird data to plan their route
  • Made sure to include locations that would get them the most variety of species in the shortest amount of time
  • They also split up in the morning and evening to cover more territory
  • Did Big Day a week after the traditional weekend because migration was slow
  • Final count was 68 species in 12 hours

KEYNOTE: Adventures in Bird Research (Benjamin Van Doren, NYSYBC alumnus)

  • "Research" includes lab and field work. Benjamin's talk focused on field work
  • Benjamin has always been amazed by bird migration, and spoke to the group about the basics of North American migration
  • There are many examples of birds that breed in different parts of county to winter in different areas
  • Hawks migrate during day, but songbirds migrate at night
  • Benjamin became interested in morning flight, researched morning flight in the Northeastern United States
  • Found many birds head inland to avoid getting lost over ocean
  • Submitted work to competition and ended up winning a big award and presenting in Washington, met President Obama
  • Spent time on Matinicus Rock off Maine volunteering with National Audubon to monitor nesting seabirds
  • Spent time banding birds and then reading colored bands in intertidal zones
  • Also caught puffin chicks to band
  • Spent time in the Amazon with Hope Batcheller studying army ants and antbirds
  • Antbirds follow army ants to catch insects that hop up to escape the ants
  • Wanted to find out how the antbirds locate ants in the jungle
  • Thinks they are listening to similar birds and using other species' songs to locate ants
  • Went to Michigan to study Kirtland’s Warbler songs
  • To come up with a research topic, ask a question
  • Went to Panama to study poorly known bird species
  • Worked at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology on Birdcast


  • Book & Stuff Swap - photo by Avery Scott
    Book & Stuff Swap - and pizza!   Photo by AVery Scott
  • Book & Stuff Swap was very popular as usual.

Photo Quiz (Brendan Murtha)

  • Book & Stuff Swap - photo by Avery Scott
    Book & Stuff Swap - and pizza!   Photo by AVery Scott
    A fun activity with six photos to test skills
  • Photos mimic situations in field
  • Species #1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Species #2 Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet and Short- billed Dowitcher
  • Species #3 Pine Warbler
  • Species #4 Lapland Longspur
  • Species #5 Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Species #6 American Wigeon x Northern Pintail

Your Camera as a Birding Tool (Carena Pooth - adult advisor)

  • Presentation was not about good artistic pictures, but about documentation
  • Good for eBird and other proof you saw what you saw
  • Also helpful to figure out which species you saw if you can't ID it in the field
  • Take many pictures quickly, use continuous or burst mode to improve chance of getting a decent shot
  • It's important to get pictures as quickly as possible (before the bird flies)
  • Discussed settings that work best for this purpose
  • Video is an important birding tool also. Video captures 20-60 images per second and you can save single frames using a video editor on your computer. Can also capture vocalizations
  • Try digiscoping, you can get adapters to attach your camera or phone to your scope

Camp Chiricahua (Joe Hernandez)

  • Camp Chiricahua is the best camp in the world, according to Joe. He got it paid for because he did the most work with the young birder community for NJ Audubon.
  • They went to get Burrowing Owl as soon as they got off the plane and found it right away
  • They went camping at Mount Lemmon in ponderosa pines and got a lot of good birds really close in
  • Really close friendly hummingbirds (4 species) at feeders
  • Got to see shorebirds at Lake Cochise
  • Saw a lot of birds and reptiles and insects at Cave Creek Ranch
  • Went to find Montezuma Quail
  • Saw amazing views and shrikes, sparrows, raptors and some snakes in the Chiricahua desert
  • Tried three times to get Plain-capped Starthroat, finally succeeded
  • Crossed San Pedro River without getting bitten by numerous crayfish
  • Explored canyons around Sierra Vista
  • The camp got a Tufted Flycatcher, which even Michael O’Brien hadn’t seen in North America
  • Stopped at the famed Patagonia Rest Stop
  • Also saw Elegant Trogon
  • Joe got 115 lifers
  • People who go to Chiricahua should be ready to look at non-bird life
  • Also should be ready for long car rides
  • Being able to not sleep is important
  • Camp Chiricahua sells out very, very fast


  • Field Guides (Herb Thompson - adult advisor)
  • Field Trips (Sue Freiburger - adult advisor)
  • Scholarships (Carena Pooth - adult advisor)


In the NYS Young Birders Club, we've always encouraged young birders to take advantage of leadership opportunities. Being a leader and serving a community or an organization is rewarding in itself, but it can also be a great learning experience that helps to prepare you for leadership roles in the future. Carena reviewed the club's updated leadership roles and responsibilities, along with the election process.


In keeping with our leadership theme, Carena presented these awards: 

  • Joe Hernandez was given a Leadership Award "for his unfailing enthusiasm about the club and its events; recruiting and welcoming new members; and inspiring others with his endless curiosity and joy about nature." Joe, an excellent writer, also received a copy of Pete Dunne's Bird Droppings: Writings About Watching Birds & Bird Watchers.
  • The top fundraiser for the club in 2015 was Eamon Freiburger, who was awarded a copy of Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan. Avery Scott was the second highest fundraiser and received a copy of Hawks in Flight by Pete Dunne, David Sibley and Clay Sutton. Everyone who raised at least $50 for the club was given a certificate of appreciation.
  • Kelly Liao, the NYSYBC Scholarships Coordinator, received an Unsung Hero Award for her commitment to NYSYBC and her hard work behind the scenes since the scholarships program was launched in 2010. Kelly has reviewed and processed every scholarship application that's ever been submitted to NYSYBC!

Wrapup: Club President Joe Hernandez and Carena Pooth thanked everyone for attending. It was great seeing familiar faces and lots of new faces! We are all looking forward to another great year.

      View photo gallery

          List of Birds Seen on this Trip 

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Peregrine Falcon
Blue Jay
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler*
      NYSYBC lifer!

Nashville Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

        Species Total: 36