Keynotes, Presenters and Workshops

Friday Keynote

Bicknell’s Thrush
Chris Rimmer

Chris Rimmer is Executive Director of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, a non-profit wildlife conservation group based in Norwich, Vermont.  He completed undergraduate studies in Wildlife Biology at the University of Vermont and graduate work in Ecology and Behavioral Biology at the University of Minnesota, where he studied Yellow Warblers on the James Bay coast of Ontario. Prior to his graduate studies, Chris was an itinerant field biologist, with stints in Peru, Ellesmere Island, James Bay, coastal Massachusetts (Manomet Bird Observatory), and Antarctica.  Much of his recent work has focused on conservation research of Bicknell’s Thrush at both ends of its migratory range, from New York and New England to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Saturday Keynote

Bird Migration, Birding and Conservation
Chris Wood and Jessie Barry 

Pick up 4 quarters and hold them in your hand--a Blackpoll Warbler weighs less. And each year these small birds depart their home in South America and fly more than 3000 miles to breeding grounds that stretch from New York to Alaska. Then in fall, these birds return. Hundreds of other species perform similarly amazing migrations. Join Chris Wood and Jessie Barry from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to explore the ways that scientists study bird migration and some of the amazing journeys birds make each year and how birders are increasingly driving our understanding of migration, birds, and the natural world. We’ll explore how the observations of tens of thousands of birdwatchers around the world reveal how entire populations of birds move from one season to the next. Best of all, we'll see how you can take part in these discoveries from your backyard to around New York and anywhere in the world.

Chris Wood and Jessie Barry join us from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Jessie leads the Macaulay Library the world’s largest archive of biodiversity media, and Merlin Bird ID, a mobile app to help people identify birds. Chris is part of the Information Science team at Cornell and leads eBird, which engages more than half a million people around the world to submit observations of birds, which, when combined, provide unprecedented ability to gather real-time information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Chris & Jessie are members of Cornell Lab's "Team Sapsucker", which holds the record for most species of birds seen in a single day in North America (294) and has raised several million dollars for bird conservation. 

Presenters & Workshops

Bird songs and calls: looking beyond species identification to understand what birds are saying with their vocalizations
Kara Loeb Belinsky, PhD

Bird songs and calls are terrific ways to identify species in the field, but birds are doing much more than declaring their species when they sing.  Come to this workshop and gain an introduction to the biology behind avian singing and calling behaviors.  Learn to listen to bird sounds beyond using mnemonics, and hear about classic and current research into why birds vocalize and how they use their songs to flirt, warn, threaten and brag.

Kara Loeb Belinsky, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology, SUNY New Paltz
Kara earned a BS in Biology at Skidmore College, where she discovered behavioral ecology and ornithology and decided not to become a veterinarian after all.  She earned a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (with Don Kroodsma and Jeff Podos), and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Texas Tech University (with Ken Schmidt).  Kara then became an assistant professor at Arcadia University outside Philadelphia for two years before leaving to join the faculty at SUNY New Paltz in 2014.  Kara’s research focuses on avian singing behavior and the effects of urbanization on birds.

Golden Eagles in New York
Tom Salo

The Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society (DOAS) has operated the Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch near Oneonta, NY since 1989. Having identified the region as a Golden Eagle concentration area, telemetry data was used to choose sites for spring migration counts. Since 2010 the organization has used motion activated wildlife cameras at baited sites to document winter resident Golden Eagles. Some of these sites attract a diversity of species resulting in interesting interactions between species and individuals. To learn more about winter residents, with the help of NYSDEC, DOAS has trapped and tagged local Golden Eagles with solar powered GPS tracking devices. The presentation will cover what we are learning about this species in New York, and how these data have affected efforts to reduce lead in the environment, and eagle risk assessments for the wind power industry. 

Presenter Tom Salo has been involved with the Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch since its beginning in 1989 and is currently one of its Co-Chairs. He has extensive experience counting raptors and surveying birds. He has organized raptor migration counts at numerous sites in central New York. He is a former Regional Editor of the journal The Kingbird, and Regional Coordinator for the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. Currently, he is the New York State Coordinator for Dr. Todd Katzner's Appalachian Eagle Project. He spends some of his time growing Christmas Trees in Burlington, NY.


Richard Guthrie will introduce us to the many different owls that may be found in our area with details about identification, habitat, food, and the sounds they make.

Rich, a long-time resident of Greene County, has been a bird bander for more than 30 years, a regular on Northeast Public Radio's Vox-Pop call-in radio program out of WAMC in Albany, NY and a writer for the Albany Times Union. He is retired from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and currently on the Board of Directors of Greene Land Trust.

Potential ecological responses to climate change: linking birds and forests
Stephen N. Matthews, PhD 

Bird distributions are shaped by many factors. As we enter a time of a rapidly changing global climate that is draped on top of a markedly reshaped landscape, understanding how these factors shape distributions will be critical to inform biological conservation and management decisions with climate change. We have developed tools to better understand how potential habitat changes may affect 147 bird species in the eastern United States based at a coarse-scale (20 x 20 km) using RandomForest methods with predictor variables of climate, elevation, and the distributions of 38 tree species. Results highlighted the potential for marked changes in species habitats (ranging from 40% of the species projected to lose >25% of their habitat to 24% of species projected to gain at least 25% of their current incidence across the eastern US). We, also, show the importance of including both climate and tree species variables in the species distribution models. In the end, our data show that by including information on the distribution of vegetation, we gain a higher resolution perspective of how suitable habitat for birds has the potential to markedly shift under climate change.

Stephen Matthews is Assistant Professor of Wildlife Landscape Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University and also holds an appointment as an ecologist with the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.  Stephen received his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Maine in 2003 and PhD. in Natural Resources from Ohio State University in 2008. Organized under two general themes, his research focuses on understanding the responses of wildlife and ecological systems to changing landscapes.  At the broadest extent, his collaborative efforts focus on quantifying climate and land use change impacts on birds and trees across the eastern US. He is also keen to remain linked to field studies and experiments.  Working closely with graduate students, they are exploring questions of behavioral decisions, movements and habitat utilization of birds and salamander in forested landscapes. Ultimately, he aims to link this research across scales to more fully understand and address the global change pressures faced by forests and wildlife.


The great swath of spruce-fir forest that stretches from Alaska to the Canadian Maritimes reaches its southern limit in the mountains of New York. Here you find the southern outpost for the Blackpoll Warbler, Bicknell’s Thrush, and other boreal forest specialists, their populations isolated as if on an archipelago of islands that rise above a sea of temperate deciduous forest.  The birds of New York’s boreal forest archipelago are the basis for several interconnected research projects led by Jeremy Kirchman at the New York State Museum.  In this talk, Kirchman will describe his work in the field, the genetics lab, and in the museum collection, examining the geographic patterns of genetic diversity in birds, and the ways bird populations respond to climate change.

Bio: Dr. Jeremy Kirchman has been the Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY, and Affiliate Professor of Biology at the State University of New York at Albany since 2006. Kirchman grew up in Illinois and first became hooked on ornithology during a summer job on a bird census field crew in the Ozark Mountains.  He studied biology at Illinois Wesleyan University, and earned a MS in zoology from Louisiana State University in 1997, where he studied the population genetics of Cave Swallows. It was at LSU that Kirchman first became interested in museum specimen collections.  From 1997-2001 he worked at the Field Museum of Natural History and taught biology at St. Gregory High School, both in Chicago, IL.  In 2006 he completed his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Florida, writing his dissertation on the evolution of flightless rails on Pacific islands. Dr. Kirchman’s current research focus is on the biogeography and evolution of birds that breed in high-elevation “islands” of boreal forest in the Catskills and Adirondacks of New York.

Field Trips

Sundown Wild Forest Birding Hike
Will Soter

When: Friday, June 10th, 2016 at 15:30  
Where: Sundown Wild Forest, Upper Cherrytown Rd trailhead (Long Path, Ver Nooy Kill Falls parking lot)
What: We will hike 3.4 miles round trip to the Ver Nooy Kill Falls. Our focus will be on the ridge approaching the falls. This area is a great example of how nature responds to forest fire. The habitat on the left (south) of the trail is recovering from a fire, and has much more abundant habitat for ground nesting birds. The forest to the right of the trail, has matured and has only an upper canopy. Viewing these two very distinct habitats next to each other helps provide a better understanding of how a habitat functions, and how man and nature can shape the habitat itself.

Participants should wear comfortable & sturdy footwear, dress for changing weather, also bug spray & sun screen are advised. Additionally all participants should carry at least 16oz of water.

Questions can be sent to or 845-399-9948


Saturday - Van leaves Ashokan at 4:30

Slide mountain and bicknell's thrush
Chris rimmer

Slide Mountain, the Catskills' highest peak, features prominently in ornithological history, as the site where Bicknell's Thrush was first discovered on June 15, 1881. The mountain still hosts one of the Catskill range's largest breeding populations of this rare, vulnerable songbird. Join Chris Rimmer  for a moderately-paced [could say leisurely] hike to Slide Mountain's summit, where we will search for both Bicknell's and Swainson's thrushes, as well as other mountaintop breeding birds like Blackpoll and Magnolia Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, and Yellow-belled Flycatcher. Bring sturdy hiking shoes, waterproof outerwear, an extra layer or two, bug repellent (or a headnet), and water and snacks.

Sunday - Van leaves Ashokan at 5:30

Neversink East and the Blackburnian Warblers
Peter Schoenberger 

Join us as we go deep into the Catskills under the Hemlock canopy where Blackburnian Warblers breed. The parking area is open habitat .The trail is easy walking with some gain in elevation. Swainson's Thrush is the most common thrush here. We can expect Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue Warblers. American Redstart is common here as well. We should hear Winter Wrens singing their piccolo song. This whole area is very beautiful and very underbirded.

Peter Schoenberger is arguably Ulster County’s most enthusiastic birder. He is as interested in what he is hearing as in what he is seeing. Peter is also a bird photographer. You can see his photographs at

East Branch Birding Paddle
Will Soter

When: June 12th, 2016 10:00

Where: Lake Wawaka, Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm, 1 Bragg Hollow Rd. Halcottsville, NY

What: We will paddle the shallow dammed section of the East Branch of the Delaware River. This section of river behind the old mill now home to Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm, is known as Lakw Wawaka, and it is home to many fish and bird species. We will enjoy a leisurely paddle around the lake, observing the various habitats, and inhabitants.

Boats are available for rent from Kayaking in the Catskills for $35, or you can make arrangements to have your personal canoe or kayak steam cleaned for this trip. All steam cleaning must be arranged no later than 1 full week prior to the trip. Steam cleaning appointments can be made by contacting Kayaking in the Catskills at 607-326-4266

If you have any additional questions please contact Will Soter at 845-399-9948 or