eBirding: Learn how to track birds as part of a worldwide program

— Photo from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

The scarlet tanager, recently reclassified as belonging to the cardinal family, may be one of the birds local residents would see and record on a birding app.

BETHLEHEM — On Saturday, April 6, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy  will host a free eBirding training seminar in partnership with Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

Free to the public, this seminar will take place at the First United Methodist Church in Delmar. Space is limited to the first 30 registrations.

The morning will begin with a 30-minute classroom presentation and training that will provide participants with the tools to hone their bird-identification skills. Guest instructor Andrew Dreelin, from the Lab of Ornithology, will educate participants on the Merlin and eBird apps, two smartphone applications that help the user identify birds and store sightings by location.

These two apps make it easy to record the birds one sees in the field, and seamlessly link these observations with a global online database of bird records used by recreational birders, scientists, and conservationists around the world.

Following the classroom instruction, participants will be led on a guided one-and-a-half-hour field walk on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail to apply their new knowledge. This event is open for beginning to novice birders, and registration is available at www.mohawkhudson.org/events.

“It is my hope that those who attend will assist the conservancy in cataloging the birds found on our 18 nature preserves while contributing to data collection throughout the region,” said the nature conservancy’s director, Mark King, in a release from the conservancy.

“Walking with Warblers”

As a follow-up to this initial training, the conservancy will host its “Walking with Warblers” birding hike on Saturday, May 11, at 7 a.m., guided by WAMC’S bird guru Rich Guthrie.

This free outdoor event provides an opportunity to use eBirding skills as well as learn more about bird identification and behavior from this local specialist. Spaces are limited for this free hike, and early registration is recommended.

Hotspots

When establishing its annual conservation priorities, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy relies on data that is collected from citizen-science surveys such as these. Its recent acquisition in 2018 of 35 acres on the corner of Fisher Boulevard and Route 85 in the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland as an expansion of Five Rivers, was prioritized because it provided a buffer for wildlife to the built environment.

Five Rivers is listed on the eBird app as being the largest “hotspot” in Albany County for birds, with 210 unique species identified on its grounds.

In fact, throughout Albany County, local residents have identified 293 bird species across 100 natural bird “hotspots.” Eight of the hotspots listed are conservancy preserves. Participants in the two free events this spring are invited to assist the conservancy collect information on the eBird app about the birds on our nature preserves.

By hosting these events and empowering citizen-science volunteer efforts, the conservancy hopes to gain a better understanding of the bird species using our public lands, providing important information about species in decline and guiding local conservation efforts.

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