Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cornell Lab of Ornithology field trip!

Myself at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!
This past weekend (4/20/13) a group of Wildlife Management major students journeyed to Ithaca, NY to check out the Bird Nerd Paradise: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The CLO is known nation, and perhaps, world-wide. Anyone who’s anyone in the world of birding has probably checked out their awesome website All About Birds. I highly recommend you check it out! So what is ornithology? It is the scientific study of birds (anatomy, ecology, etc), and how they interact with their environment. I don’t claim to be an ornithologist, at best I’m a bit more than a backyard birder. We have multiple types of feeders set up in our yard that brings in common feeder birds. But I also have gone actually “birding”, which is basically just going to a specific destination with no other purpose other than to observe wild birds! Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in March- go there and see hundreds of THOUSANDS of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens). It is amazing.

So to live just hours from Cornell University, and their Lab of Ornithology, many of my classmates and I really wanted to check it out. Also, many of us are currently in SUNY Cobleskill’s spring offered Ornithology course, so birds are really on our minds. We’re tested weekly on sight identification and aural song identification of a given list of birds, which changes every week. By the end, we’ll have hopefully successfully committed to memory just around 150 birds!

The male Great Blue Heron on the nest
 where the ‘Heron Cam’ is posted!
We got to the Lab around 9:30 on Saturday morning, and what most of us immediately wanted to see was the “famous Heron nest”. For the past several seasons, perhaps longer, there has been a live-feed camera mounted on this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) nest in a 50 foot tall dead white oak tree, in the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary. I’ve watched this camera on and off for the last year or so. It’s sometimes calm, with the Heron just sitting and incubating the eggs. But last year, a Great-horned Owl made it his/her mission to attack this poor Heron! I happened to be watching when an attack happened, and it was intense! There’s also sound, so sounds of a wetland are streaming. It’s beautiful to see and hear. The picture at left is a picture from the visitor center of the nest, with the male on it. As we walked the paths through the woods around the pond, we were able to catch better glimpses of it. For the live view, PLEASE check out this link, it is so cool! Heron Cam!

Inside the CLO it’s kind of like a visitor’s/nature center. There are a few interpretive displays, taxidermied mounts of various birds, art work, an auditorium where various presentations are held, and my favorite part- the wall of windows.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The floor to ceiling windows overlooked the wetland. There were chairs and scopes available to watch the birds. While we sat there for a few minutes, we saw a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), a pair of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser), a Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), Red-winged Black Birds (Agelaius phoeniceus), the Great Blue Heron, Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), and Canada Geese(Branta canadensis). There was also a feeder-watching station where we watched Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis), Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), Red-winged Black Birds, House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), and probably more that I can’t recall.

Male Red-winged Blackbird- Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary
Male Hooded Merganser- Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary
A pair of Common Mergansers- Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary
A (female?) Canada Goose on a nest right next to the entrance to the visitor center!
A female Mallard taking a rest. It’s hard being a duck!
A Pied-billed Grebe, which is a New York THREATENED species, in it’s summer plumage. This was a good one I added to my ‘life list’!
A pair of Hooded Mergansers. While we were watching, the female actually caught and ate a small fish!
After spending sometime perusing the gift shop (which had everything from $2000 optical equipment to bird seed), and bird-watching from the windows, we started to hike the paths around the wetland.

IMMEDIATELY upon leaving the building, this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) flew right over the top of me and landed in a tree. It was the closest I’ve ever been to one!

Red-tailed Hawk at Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary.

Check out the tail on this Red-tail!
The paths brought me back to my semesters at Finger Lakes Community College, where I attended and received my Associates degree. There are awesome trails on the main campus like this.

Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Male American Goldfinch
Male Northern Cardinal

Male American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
It was a great morning. The weather was a bit cold and snowing a bit, BUT the birds didn’t seem to mind. I’d love to go back and walk the trails on a really warm day, or attend when an event is happening. Before leaving, we stopped back inside, and I was able to get the following picture of some Siskins feeding!

Pine Siskins on the tube feeder
Thanks to Krysten, our Wildlife Society’s co-adviser for taking her personal time to drive!
Group photo! I always love a group photo :)


  1. What a great time, your photos and explanations are super. The link? didn't find it. And a group photo, the perfect end to a wonderful day together. Cheers from Jean

    1. Woops! Sorry Jean! I posted the link now, but here it is.... http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/8/Great_Blue_Herons

  2. Great trip! Glad you all saw some good stuff.


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