Tag Archives: cornell

One bird, two bird, three bird, more: participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend!

Today we are hearing from Division of Migratory Birds volunteer Lee Halasz.

Today we are hearing from Division of Migratory Birds volunteer Lee Halasz.

Winter is the perfect time to begin identifying birds in the Northeast. There are fewer species around, and smaller total numbers of birds than at other times of the year. The birds may even be at fairly close range near a feeder, so you may not even need binoculars to see the important features.

This weekend, February 13-16 is the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). During these dates, birders all over the world will be going birding (participants can go birding anywhere, not just at their homes). One goal of the event is to encourage more people to take notice of the birds around them. Last year, more than 142,000 people from 135 countries received observations of over 4,200 species.

Tufted Titmouse is a hardy winter species often found at backyard bird feeders.

Tufted Titmouse is a hardy winter species often found at backyard bird feeders.

It is very easy and flexible to participate. During the GBBC simply spend at least 15 minutes identifying the bird species that you see, and estimate the numbers of each species. Participants can submit their sightings through the eBird portal on the GBBC website. The Great Backyard Bird Count provides an important snapshot of bird populations. While birds are everywhere, scientists are not, and by getting people to participate in as many places as possible, it will allow a lot of important information to be collected. Your participation will ensure that ‘your’ birds are counted.

The Black-capped Chickadee is a common winter species.

The Black-capped Chickadee is a common winter species.

Data collected from previous years has helped reveal migration patterns, year-to-year variation in species numbers, and long-term population trends. While your participation may seem a modest contribution, the more people that get involved, the more meaningful the results will be.

So, dig out and brush off that bird field guide lying around your home (or use some of the electronic resources available on the website), and gain an appreciation of the birds that survive and even thrive in a Northeast Winter.

bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

People and deer: A complicated relationship

Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Do you see deer in your neighborhood or backyard? Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Today you're hearing from Emily Pomeranz, a doctoral student at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources. She studies citizen participation in deer management. Want to learn more? She can be contacted at efp33@cornell.edu. Photo courtesy of Emily.

Today you’re hearing from Emily Pomeranz, a doctoral student at Cornell University in the Department of Natural Resources. She studies citizen participation in deer management. Want to learn more? She can be contacted at efp33@cornell.edu. Photo courtesy of Emily.

In the Northeast, people have a complicated relationship with deer.

Deer are beautiful animals that many (myself included) love to view and love to photograph; deer are also a game species that many hunters value, too. But, in many parts of the Northeast (like here in Ithaca, New York), there are a lot of deer.

And with too many deer comes conflict. No one wants to see his or her garden chomped. No one wants to hit a deer on the highway (or have a deer hit you while you’re stopped at a stop sign—I speak from experience!). Lyme disease is a real concern, too.

So, what do we (as individuals, communities, or management agencies) do? How do we balance the things we value about deer with the real concerns that come with their overabundance?

In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension in a longstanding effort to involve citizens in task forces to help make better decisions about deer; other states in the region (like Pennsylvania and Maine) have modeled their own citizen involvement processes after New York’s citizen task forces.

bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus.  Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Three bucks snapped by an infrared-triggered camera. Monitoring by Cornell helps to determine the population on and around campus. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Some communities with passionate conflict over deer have engaged in community-based deer management. For example, Cayuga Heights, New York—Ithaca’s neighbor—has convened deer remediation advisory committees (consisting of local residents and municipal officials) to provide guidance on what the town should do to manage their deer.

A doe out for a walk. She is wearing a radio-transmitter so Cornell researchers can see where she goes and note her home range. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

A doe out for a walk. She is wearing a radio-transmitter so Cornell researchers can see where she goes and note her home range. Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

And over at Cornell University, in the Human Dimensions Research Unit (where I’m a graduate student), researchers study citizen participation in deer management (along with other social aspects of natural resources management and policy) in order to help better manage human-wildlife conflict and its impact on wildlife conservation.

My own feelings towards deer are also complex. Last week on a short drive to the Ithaca Airport at 4:30 in the morning, I slowed down for seven different deer peering at me from the side of the road as I passed by. With each pair of eyes I noticed reflecting the light from my headlights, I had that familiar fear of one of those critters racing out in front of my car—hurting either the deer or my car (or myself).

Do you see deer in your neighborhood or backyard? Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

Photo courtesy of Paul Curtis.

But I also never tire of the chance to observe them.

Not only are they lovely to watch, but they are also held in trust by the State of New York for citizens like myself (and future citizens, too), so I feel a certain connection and responsibility towards them.

Yes, deer and people have a complicated relationship. And many of us disagree over how best to manage that relationship.

But I believe that citizen involvement in deer management decisions—whether in providing feedback to local wildlife managers, engaging in processes like the citizen task forces, or creating a community-based deer program, are invaluable in managing our relationship with deer.

Hopefully, together we can find ways to coexist with deer into the future. And in New York State, we are trying.