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DEC encourages New Yorkers to #RecreateLocal & enjoy birdwatching while state is on 'PAUSE'

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Fri, Apr 3rd 2020 09:10 am

‘I Bird NY’ program features online information and resources for new birders

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos reminded New Yorkers across the state to recreate locally (#RecreateLocal) and use DEC’s “I Bird NY” as a resource to enjoy nature and stay connected to the great outdoors. 

“While New Yorkers are spending more time close to home during the COVID-19 public health crisis, we can stay healthy by getting outside and enjoying nature,” Seggos said. “Studies show spending time enjoying the outdoors can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve mood, energy and sleep, and boost the immune system. Birding is a fun recreational activity that can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of all ages and abilities from anywhere in the state.”

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Birdwatching can be done in our state parks and outside facilities, or even in many backyards at home. Our state is home to many migratory birds that are returning for the season and this is good time to learn to identify them. While our outdoor facilities remain open, we are encouraging people to limit travel and recreate locally, while following social distancing guidelines."

New York’s birders are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and recreate locally while looking for birds. DEC’s “I Bird NY” program provides information and suggestions on how to start birding. Birders can watch from their windows and identify the feathered friends that visit. For an additional challenge, birders can open their windows and listen for bird calls to identify birds by sound and use the Audubon Guide to North American Birds or https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/ to help with visual or audio identification.

A press release said, “Early spring is the perfect time of year to start birding, because it is easier to spot birds in trees with no leaves and the spring migration is accelerating in the northern U.S. To keep up with real-time bird migration forecasts, check out BirdCast from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.”

Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York, said, “There is really no better time of year to learn about birds. Colorful rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, and yellow-rumped warblers are all returning to nest and raise chicks in our state. If you like exploring, if you enjoy scavenger hunts, if you love making lists, you’re going to have a great time birding – and if you use eBird, you’ll help inform science and conservation. The best part is that you can get started right now, from home.” 

“I often talk about the power of birds, but this year they take on an even more powerful meaning,” said Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “They enliven our days, brighten the trees, serenade in our backyards and city parks, and bestow us with so much joy and hope, all bundled together in feathers and lively personalities. And they’re accessible, even at a time when we’re all sticking close to home.”

Birders can start a life list with eBird to keep track of the 450-plus different species seen in New York and share discoveries with friends on social media using the hashtags #RecreateLocal and #IBirdNY. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities. The “I Bird NY” website provides resources to learn what species to look for, and where and when to do so.

In addition, New Yorkers are encouraged to contribute to the third New York State Bird Breeding Atlas. Seggos has called for citizen science volunteers to help in the development of a comprehensive, statewide survey that takes place every two decades to detail New York’s breeding bird distribution. As New Yorkers are embarking on the 2020 Census to track human population and trends, DEC and its partners track natural populations to evaluate the effectiveness of New York’s programs and initiatives to promote diverse and healthy wildlife.

The press release added, “The Breeding Bird Atlas provides valuable data that helps determine population trends, climate change impacts, habitat loss and other factors on bird populations. To participate, volunteers can make a free eBird account and submit data online through the atlas website or via the eBird mobile app. Simply record the species and any breeding behaviors observed. All sightings can count. As observations are reported, data can be viewed here: https://ebird.org/atlasny/state/US-NY. The last atlas was published in 2008, with information on its results available on DEC’s website.”

Julie Hart, Breeding Bird Atlas project coordinator with the New York Natural Heritage Program, said, “The Breeding Bird Atlas is a great way for bird enthusiasts to stay connected with the birds living in our backyards. Watching the robins and phoebes nesting under our eaves is fun for the whole family and submitting it to the atlas provides important information for conservation.”

While enjoying time outdoors, New Yorkers should follow CDC/NYS Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for preventing the spread of disease: 

•Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others;

•Avoid close contact such as shaking hands, hugging, or sharing binoculars;

•Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available; and

•Avoid surfaces that are touched often such as handrails, doorknobs, and playground equipment.

DEC and State Parks are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. Their recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. They encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

In addition, DEC and State Parks launched the #RecreateLocal hashtag and encouraged New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home.

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