April 23, 2008
- Welcome from the Commissioner
- Birds in Your Yard
- Family Fun
- Upcoming DEC Events
Spring is in the air! As plants and wildlife come to life all around us, we celebrate Earth Day by welcoming you to our new family e-newsletter DEC Outdoor Discovery. Every other week a new issue will highlight what's happening in nature and offer suggestions for recreational and educational activities. We will also share calendar listings of upcoming family-friendly events at our extraordinary environmental education centers.
We hope you will agree that connecting to nature can bring new energy to our busy lives. Sharing outdoor experiences with friends and family will also help inspire communities to protect green and open spaces. Join us in discovering New York's great outdoors!
Pete Grannis, Commissioner
Birds in Your Yard
The robin is a year-round resident in much of New York State, contrary to popular belief. The males have dark-gray underparts, red breasts and black heads, while females are duller in color. They nest along woodland edges and shrubs, and forage in open grounds and lawns.
Chickadees are very social birds, traveling in little bands that include other types of birds. They are curious about people and may fly into an outstretched hand to feed. A year-round resident, this small ball of gray and buff feathers has a bright black bib and skullcap and white cheeks. Chickadees nest in the soft, rotting cavity of a tree, lining it with wool, hair, fur, moss and feathers.
Blue Jay - Photo
courtesy of USFWS
The bold, noisy blue jay can often be found at backyard feeders, particularly if sunflower seeds are available. Blue jays live in open woods, parks, farmlands, yards and gardens. Recognized by the bright blue above paler underparts, blue crest, black around the neck, their wings and tail are barred with white. Nests are well hidden in the crotch or outer branches of a tree, and are usually constructed of thorny twigs, bark, mosses, string and leaves.
Eastern Bluebird - Photo
courtesy of Joe Kozer,
Pennsylvania Game Commission
The official bird of New York State returns to the area in March bringing hope for warmer weather. The male is a beautiful shade of blue; females are much duller with blue only in the wings and tail. The bluebird makes its home in farmlands, roadside fences, open woods, swamps and gardens, but nests in the cavities of trees or birdhouses.
Northern Cardinal - Photo
courtesy of the Pennsylvania
The male northern cardinal is unmistakable with its brilliant red body and crested head. The female has an olive-gray back, dull reddish wings and crest, soft brown underparts and a red bill. Northern cardinals prefer dense thickets, woodland edges, briar tangles, parks and gardens with thick shrubbery.
Feed the Birds
There are many types of bird feeders, as well as many types of bird feed. Hanging feeders are placed in the branches of a tree and allow only a certain amount of feed out at a time. They come equipped with perches where birds can sit while they eat. Ground feeders attract blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, to name a few. Window feeders suction to your window, making it great fun to sit and get a close-up look at the birds feeding.
Put different types of bird feed in the various feeders, such as sunflower seeds or common thistle. Wedge apple slices between the branches of a tree, or cut an orange in half and hang it from a branch. Quail and doves like to eat cracked corn, which can be placed on a large, flat rock.
Create a Birding Journal
Once your feeders are in place, set aside a few moments each day to record the activity that takes place. How many of each type of bird visit the feeder during that time? Which birds are aggressive, and which feed in groups? Do males and females come to the feeder at the same time? Think of your own observations to record in your journal.
Give a Bird a Bath
All you need to build a bird bath in your yard is a flat surface close to trees or bushes, two large, heavy terra cotta flower pots and a matching terra cotta saucer.
Place one pot upside down on the location that you picked as a base for the bird bath. The second pot is put right sideup on top of the base. Now place the saucer on top of the second pot and fill with water. Make sure you empty the saucer every other day and refill it with fresh, cool water. Watch how different types of birds use the bird bath. Do they splash around, or stop by for a drink? Make sure to record your observations in your journal.
In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv describes how the change in our relationship with nature has severe consequences for the mental, physical and spiritual health of future generations. Mr. Louv and several others created the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) in 2006 to encourage and support the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature. C&NN (www.cnaturenet.org) has designated April as "Children and Nature Awareness Month" to build public awareness of the situation and to create solutions. DEC is proud to join this effort by launching this new newsletter to help you get outside with your kids.
Upcoming DEC Events
New York City
Saturday, April 26 from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM
Staten Island Zoo
There will be zookeeper talks, environmental programs, displays, crafts and all sorts of fun. Come visit the NYSDEC table and learn what you can do to keep our planet healthy, create your own litterbug, and explore leaf types. Fair is free with Zoo admission. Admission to the Zoo is $7.00 for adults (15 and over), $5.00 for seniors (60 and over), $4.00 for children (3-14) and free for children under 3 years of age and for all members.
Saturday, May 3 (raindate: Sunday, May 4) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Rockaway Beach 2
Between 20th and 44th Streets, Queens
Join organizations and the NYSDEC for this free event, including environmental programs, arts and crafts, and entertainment that is fun and informative for the whole family.
Hudson Valley - Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center
Sierra Trail Walk
Saturday, April 26 at 2:00 PM
A leisurely one-mile ramble through a variety of habitats including forests, meadows and wetlands. We'll stop along the way to admire spring wildflowers and watch for songbirds back from migration.
Sunday, April 27 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Celebrate and renew your commitment to taking care of the earth by joining us for a day of fun and outdoor activities for the whole family. Nature crafts, scavenger hunt, games, birdwatching activity and more!
Capital Region - Five Rivers Environmental Education Center
Spring Peeper - Photo courtesy of USGS
Spring Peeper Walk
Friday, April 25 at 7:00 PM
Peepers may be the smallest of frogs, but they are likely to be the noisiest creature we encounter. This program is part of "Frogwatch," a nationwide citizen science project sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. Come dressed for muddy trails and chilly air.
Saturday, April 26 at 10:00 AM
How times have changed since the birth of ornithologist John James Audubon on this date 223 years ago. In fact, some of the birds he painted no longer exist. Join us for a field study of birds as we compare the pictorial ideas in Audubon's "The Birds of America" with our own sightings.
Thursday, May 1 at 7:00 PM
Join us as we search field and fen for a rumor of snipe, the whisper of woodcock and other things that go bump in the night. Bring your own "snipe trap."
Central New York - Rogers Environmental Education Center
Frogs of Spring
Saturday, April 26 at 7:30 PM
Peep, quack, snore! What's all that noise at night? Find out which local amphibians are serenading us through the night. Then we'll go out to look for our local residents along the trails. Wear boots and bring a flashlight!
Saturday, May 3 from Noon to 4:00 PM
Celebrate the Earth with a fun day of music, games, maypole dancing, exhibits and demonstrations. Take home a tree or shrub to landscape your yard.
Western New York - Reinstein Environmental Education Center
Saturday, May 3 at 9:30 AM
Don't know a sparrow from a starling? Learn how to identify some common local birds and how to use binoculars properly. Bring binoculars if you have them.
Early Bird Walk
Sunday, May 4 at 9:00 AM
The early birder catches the early birds! Search for spring migrants in the morning. Bring binoculars if you have them.