Our History
Last updated 7/14/14

Early History
Beginnings - Fred Smilow Recollects

Off to a Flying Start
Getting Organized
The Wilson M. Powell Sanctuary
How the Club Chose Its Emblem
Programs and Education
Bird Records
The Warbler
What Next?
Newer History
Fifty Years Later, ADBC Continues to Thrive
Summation of Bird Counts, 1979-2014

EARLY HISTORY

The following articles are taken from the Club publication, Alan Devoe Bird Club 1957-1979. The first article recounts the start of the Club and the second describes the creation of the Sanctuary.


Chapter I – BEGINNINGS
Section A
Fred Smilow Recollects

My wife Myra, a birder since childhood, transferred her birding activities from New York City’s Central Park to Columbia County after we bought our place in Red Rock in 1942. After awhile she tried to find an organization to which to send her sightings. She wrote to the Audubon Society, from whom she received a letter informing her that Columbia County was a lacuna in the birding firmament. They suggested that she send her lists to a Dr. Nichols at Columbia University. He and Myra corresponded until he died.

We came to live in Red Rock as permanent residents in 1956. One of the earliest exciting visitors was a Red-breasted Nuthatch. As a result of his existence appearing in Dr. Nichols’ report came a telephone call from Eleanor Radke, who at that time lived in New Concord. She came to see our Nuthatch, who obligingly appeared on cue.

Red-headed Woodpecker (immature)
photo by Carena Pooth

I happened to arrive about this time and heard Eleanor say to Myra, “Why don’t you start a bird club?” To which Myra answered, “You took the courses with Dr. Nichols. Why don’t you start it, and I’ll help you?”

They discussed the idea for awhile and decided to put a notice in The Chatham Courier. As a result of this notice they were interviewed on WHUC Radio Station. From this point on, the Club took off and soared.


Section B
Off to a Flying Start
by Myra Smilow

(reprinted from The Warbler of April 1962)

As a bird club should, we sprang full-fledged from the nest. The seven people (Record lists eight – Ed.) Eleanor Radke invited to her home one March evening in 1957 (Actually, February 28, 1957 –Ed.) were all delighted with the idea of forming a bird club. That a call to a public meeting would bring out forty people on a snowy April evening was beyond their most hopeful expectations, however.

Thus we knew that we filled a need – not only a need to explore and study our territory, where organized birding had not been carried on, but a need among the people of our area to express their interest in bird life and in conservation.

Under the presidency of Eleanor Radke, the Club continued to grow and to learn. We learned from E. Reilly’s lectures, from our field trips, from our Petersons; for many of us, if not most, were green indeed. We learned what a bird club is, what bird reporting means, and to accept frustration when our reports cannot be confirmed. We were proud when our records, so carefully if not painfully screened, appeared in The Kingbird and Audubon Field Notes. We were proud when our president was elected recording secretary of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs.

Eleanor’s home became a bird hospital as people brought her injured birds and “lost baby birds” to care for. We did things like rescuing a clutch of Black Ducks eggs from the maw of a bulldozer. We got ourselves into the papers, and wrote a feature for The Chatham Courier. In our second year we were mature enough to present an Audubon Screen Tour, all working like beavers under the chairmanship of Gertrude Mapes.

We acquired our Sanctuary.

People began calling us about “strange” birds in their yards. Feeders and bird boxes appeared in yards all over the area. Suet, which had been “for free” at the chain stores, began to appear in wrapped rolls, not so free. We grew as our influence grew.

At five years of age we are just beginning. But we did get off to a flying start – because we filled a need.


Section C
Getting Organized

The following people, having expressed interest, met at Eleanor Radke’s home on February 28, 1957, and ended by inviting the public to a meeting at the Chatham Central School on April 4, 1957.

Miss Bertha A. Barford
Miss Natalie Curtis
Miss Elizabeth Guy Davis
Mrs. Joseph Jenkins (Florence)
Mrs. Donald Radke (Eleanor)
Dr. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smilow (Myra)
Mr. H. Wayne Trimm

The initial meeting, April 4, 1957, was followed by an organizational meeting on April 25, 1957, at which 30 people became charter members, officers were elected, and a constitution was adopted.

The purpose of the Club was stated in the Constitution as follows: “to promote and enjoy the study of birds in the area and to encourage the wise use of our natural resources.”

The Club was named the Alan Devoe Bird Club, as suggested by the organizers, to honor the memory of the Columbia County naturalist and conservationist who had died in 1955.

The following article was published in The Chatham Courier on March 21, 1957 :


Alan Devoe
 

Columbia County's new bird watching society has been named for the late Alan Devoe, of Harlemville, nationally known author and naturalist who died in August 1955.

Mrs. Donald F. Radke of New Concord, organizer of the club, said permission had been obtained from the Audubon Society to name the club for Mr. Devoe, who had maintained a 100-acre wildlife sanctuary at his Phudd Hill home in Harlemville since 1934. From personal observations of birds and animals, he wrote articles. which frequently appeared in the Reader's Digest, Nature Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and many periodicals.

Mr. Devoe's books included "Phudd Hill," "Down to Earth," "Lives Around Us," "Speaking of Animals," "This Fascinating Animal World" and with his wife, Mary Sheridan Berry Devoe, he wrote "Our Animal Neighbors." Mr. Devoe wrote a monograph, "Mind in Nature" and was heard frequently on television and radio. Said a reviewer, of his work, "he belonged to a small group of naturalists who combined observation of fact with a style of finesse and distinction."

A temporary executive board including Mrs. Radke, Miss Elizabeth Guy Davis and Dr. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr., has set Thursday, April 4 for the initial meeting at Chatham Central School at 8.

The speaker will be William Wylie, Lenox, Mass. ornithologist, who is associated with the Pleasant Valley Sanctuary at Lenox. He will give an illustrated lecture on bird life in the Everglades National Parks, Florida, where he recently conducted tours.

Miss Nathalie Curtis has made her Kamefield Farm at Harlemville available for field trips. The ornithologists plan to observe the first spring migrations of birds within a few weeks, Mrs. Radke said.

An invitation has been extended to the public to attend the April 4 meeting when a constitution will be drawn and officers elected.

 
The first officers of the Alan Devoe Bird Club were:

President -- Eleanor Radke (Mrs. Donald)
Vice-president – Myra Smilow (Mrs. Fred)
Treasurer -- Bertha Barford
Secretary -- Elizabeth Guy Davis

At the May 29th meeting, three directors were elected to serve on the Executive Board: Thomas Brown, Mary Mickle, Dr. E. M. Reilly, Jr.

According to the record of the treasurer, Bertha A. Bardford, the following people paid dues by April 25, 1957 and thereby became charter members:

1. Bertha A. Bardford
2. Anna Carter
3. Mrs. Jack Cook (Juanita)
4. Natalie Curtis
5. Elizabeth Guy Davis
6. Mrs. Edward J. Dorn
7. Mrs. Yvonne Farmer
8. Frances Gordon
9. Gertrude Gowen
10. Mrs. Joseph Jenkins (Florence)
11. Michael Koller
12. Elmer LaPointe
13. Mildred Lefferts
14. Mrs. Helen Long
15. Mrs. Cecil Mapes (Gertrude)
16. Mary Mickle
17. Mrs. George Mesick, Jr.
18. Mrs. Guy Payne (Eleanor)
19. Mrs. Donald Radke (Eleanor)
20. Dr. E. M. Reilly, Jr.
21. Mrs. Ralph Shineman (Beatrice)
22. Mrs. Fred Smilow (Myra)
23. Fred Smilow
24. H. Wayne Trimm
25. Mrs. Clarence Turner (Eleanor)
26. Clarence Turner
27. Mrs. R. Verpillot
28. Mrs. Robert Waite (Fausta)
29. George Williams
30. Bruce Willis

 

 
The Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary
by Edgar M. Reilly, Jr.

 

On a shelf in my study there are boxes containing a complete run of The Warbler. Thumbing through the back issues we find the story of our Sanctuary and the Club members and friends who stated it and made it grow. The Club was hardly a year old when hopes for having our own Sanctuary arose. The Warbler played this in a very low key indeed.

In Volume 2, No. 6, June 1958, on page 2, is a prognostic paragraph, stating an advantage of incorporation. It reads: “Secondly, if and when, and again IF, the Club should ever be in the position to hold property, incorporation would be necessary.” From this, one might just guess that the officers of the Club had been approached about acquiring land. A motion to incorporate passed.

In the very next issue, July-August 1958, we read that the Board of Directors had appointed a Sanctuary Committee because “it was learned” that Mrs. Wilson M. Powell might consider donating land for sanctuary purposes. Donald Radke, chairman of the newly formed committee, was cautiously optimistic: “….we are on the verge of a most exciting venture- one that can bring deep satisfaction and real opportunity to serve the community and the purpose we all cherish, the conservation of wildlife and the broadening, through education, of that concern amongst all our fellow citizens, young and old.

Dr. Edgar M. Reilly

Then in the November 1958 issue is the headline: “Sanctuary Land Accepted Oct. 23.” Don Radke reported that a title search had been completed and that the 95 acres would be surveyed. We had our Sanctuary! All this, and the Club was less than 18 months old. Eleanor Radke, president, was one of the prime movers.

Things moved rapidly. Feeders made by Russell Hamilton, Don Radke and others were in operation; trails were cleared; an entrance sign was painted and installed by Earl Silvernail. Elsie Powell’s call for help to cut a trail from her home to the feeders, in case heavy snows should block the roads, was answered by Mary Mickle, Eleanor Radke, and Betty Tank. Bea Shineman donated 100 pounds of bird seed. Eleanor Turner donated 12 bird boxes, which were painted by Cecil Mapes and Brian Reilly. To name all the donors and workers would truly mean listing the entire membership.

Planning was a never-ending task. We needed a parking lot, more trails, toilet facilities, a registration place, posting signs, and many other items if we wanted the public to use and enjoy our wildlife sanctuary. Educational materials were gathered and listed, and local schools were encouraged to send classes, which would be shown around by Club members.

The preserve had a great deal of natural diversity in the 95 acres, including a stream and marshy area, but no open waters such as a pond and no forest clearings. The clearings came first. The parking lot was cleared for use in June, and we had a place big enough for school buses to park and turn around. Mr. Ed Thompson of Thompson’s Nurseries in Kinderhook donated shrubs and trees for plantings around the lot and elsewhere in the Sanctuary. Elsie Powell donated the “Colony Club,” a former chicken-house on her property, as the registration building and storehouse at the parking lot. This was moved into place by Paul Erlenbach and David Knoll, Sr. and David Knoll, Jr.

The Eleanor Turner Glade was next on the work list. Eleanor was a charter member of the Club. She was most active on field trips, and she wrote book reviews for The Warbler. She was also an active bird bander and a flower enthusiast. In addition, she was one of the first to respond to appeals for work details. The Club was greatly saddened by her death on October 19, 1960. Funds were contributed to the Sanctuary in her memory, and the clearing named in her honor was finished in 1961. It is located fairly close to the parking lot, within easy walking distance for those who wish just to sit, listen, and watch.

These work parties were really parties in another sense; for they were fun. Members showed up with tools and energy but also with field glasses and picnic supplies. Occasionally, a beautiful or a rare bird would slow down the work by creating a pleasant “break.” Such parties cleared trails of winter tree-falls, painted and cleaned the Colony Club, pruned trees around the parking lot, set up bird houses, and did many other chores. In the December 1965 issue of The Warbler is a photograph of a work party painting our “His” and “Hers.” Murray Giddings was always there, working or planning. Bill and Nancy Page were also among the regulars. It was their son Alan who made the clearing off the Red Trail. Maintenance, of course, continues and many members participate each year, newer members joining the old-timers and replacing those who drop out.

Dr. Richard B. Fisher, Professor of Nature and Conservation Education at Cornell University, spent a week in the area, mainly at the Sanctuary, and declared that it “possesses a wealth of plant life rarely found elsewhere in New York State.” Together, we watched a mink approach to with six feet of us, circling a day-old fawn, so still and well camouflaged on the forest floor that we would not have seen it but for the mink. Dr. Fisher’s article, a good simple account of the plants of the Sanctuary, appeared in the October 1961 issue of The Warbler.

In the February 1965 issue, page 4, under “In Brief…” we read that “a motion was passed to put on a drive to raise funds for a dam at the Sanctuary.” Murray Giddings was Mr. Ways and Means for the project, as he has been for others. For more than a year all sorts of activities were directed at raising about $1,500. Gertrude Mapes and Fred Smilow arranged for a benefit show at the Crandall Theater in Chatham; we had a barbecue at the Sanctuary; we held rummage sales; we collected books of S & H Green Stamps to convert into cash, a project to which the pubic contributed generously. The profit from the Audubon Screen Tours added more monies. We soon had enough money so that final plans for the dike could be made; and the contract was drawn up in April 1966. Our president, Hortense Barten (now Hortense Knight) was able to announce in The Warbler of January 1967 “Sanctuary Dam Goal Topped”; and Murray Giddings, vice-president, who made arrangements with the contractor, announced that the work was 90% completed and was being held up only by the weather. The dam was completed and paid for by June 1967. With cooperative weather the pond was filled by August. Elsie Powell led a work party of more than 20 people who planted the dike with grass, spread protective hay over the soil, and limed the plantings. The very first fall we were rewarded by having a flock of more than 500 Wood Ducks drop by for a week’s visit.

The Garden Club of Kinderhook donated $100 toward the purchase of shrubs, trees, and other plants about the dam; many others made similar contributions. One somewhat different contribution was a gift of 1.6 acres of land at one end of the dam by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Rosenthal. Without this gift the dam would have had to be built farther to the east and it would have impounded much less water. One cannot thank by name all those who helped or who contributed money to this truly community project.

By October we had even built a blind on the dam, useful for watching the water birds without disturbing them. George Woodward, always a willing worker for the Club, was one of the principal toilers on the blind and a great supporter of the Sanctuary. He and I, one cold winter Sunday braved the zero weather and spotted the first Black-backed Three-toed Woodpecker seen on the Sanctuary.

In March of 1970 the Sanctuary Committee was asked to look into the feasibility and cost of erecting a pole-shed as a shelter for people caught in sudden showers and for picnics. Roland Drowne, chairman, reported that the cost of all materials for an open-sided structure would come to only $782, a low enough figure. The shed was erected by volunteer workers led by John Simpson, Roland Drowne, and Murray Giddings. This structure has much to recommend it since it will be possible to add to it in the future. One thought has been to add a concrete floor, then later perhaps a fireplace at one end, then enclosing it part by part until eventually there would be a complete clubhouse-headquarters building with kitchen, toilets, electricity, etc. That remains for the future. By October of 1970 the pole-shed was a reality.

On this project we note that the holes for the poles were drilled by the line crew of the telephone company with the approval of its president, Mr. Clifford Sayer. The men were Messrs. Charles Vogel, Clifford McCagg, Daniel Curtis, non-Club members working for the Sanctuary. It was hard work putting up the shed. Workers listed by Roland Drowne include his son Wayne, Russell Wheeler, John Simpson, William Blewett, George Dix, Felix Goettinger, Lee and Vivian Burland, Mary Mickle, Merle Suter, Eleanor Frost, and others.

In November of 1971, The Club voted to have a well drilled near the pole-shed. It was estimated that the cost would be about $1,000. About half of this amount was available in the bequest of Anna Carter and the fund in memory of Paul Erlenbach, who died in January 1971. The balance needed was raised. The well was drilled and a pump installed in early 1972. Later a concrete spill basin was installed, with a bronze plaque commemorating Paul. The water flows cool and sweet and pure, a testimonial to two fine former members.

Things never slow down. In 1978 Elsie Powell, generous as usual, deeded an additional 35 acres of adjoining property to the Alan Devoe Bird Club. Dorson’s (erroneously Dawson’s) Bluff, overlooking the magnificent Hudson River Valley, was part of the gift. The Sanctuary, now about 135 acres in size, was enriched by more than just acres. The newly acquired land embraces a small marshy pond and fern-caparisoned stream valley, and the cliff face itself holds treasures of ferns and lichens not found elsewhere in the Sanctuary. Through fund-raising efforts in 1978, the Club was able to cover from its treasury the $925 needed for a survey. Legal services in connection with the transaction were provided free by David Glasel, an attorney and Club member.

Elsie Powell

What next? Time and the members will tell. Use by the public is increasing. In 20 years over 35,000 people have visited the Sanctuary—to enjoy its natural beauties and learn new things. School classes and club groups are coming more and more frequently. On July 28, 1979, the 20th birthday of the Sanctuary was marked by a Community Day, with day-long activities. Marion Ulmer and Carolyn Davis were the chairpersons.

We feel sure we are fulfilling our goals as expressed by Don Radke at the start of this article: service to the community and conservation through pleasurable and educational walks and activities.


  
from Chapter III - FIELD TRIPS
by Mary Mickle and Arlene Brown

 
  

 

How the Club Chose Its Emblem

It has been customary to alert the membership to any unusual birds sighted. In May 1959, Eleanor Turner and Bea Shineman reported a Lawrence’s Warbler as well as a Brewster’s Warbler near Nassau. Special trips were made to see the nesting site of these hybrids. In 1960 the Lawrence’s Warbler was chosen as the emblem of the Club. It appears on the shoulder patches designed by Henry Thurston and on the nameplate of The Warbler.

The Lawrence’s Warbler was drawn by Wayne Trimm.

Wayne Trimm

Programs and Education

The Club throughout its 49 years has continued to play an important role in the study of birds, birding, and bird count reporting. Many public educational programs have been given. Outstanding lecturers at Club programs include Roger Tory Peterson, who presented Wild Europe on 9/26/1964 and Galapagos Wild Eden on 1/3/1970; Olin Sewall Pettingill, who presented Tip o’ the Mitten on 11/15/1958 and Penguin Summer on 12/10/1960 and Allan D. Cruickshank who presented River of Crying Bird on 10/19/1963.

“The Birder’s Corner,” a column in The Chatham Courier was started by Myra Smilow. It was continued weekly by Chett Osborn, when it was taken over by Kate Dunham and Elisabeth Grace. Club members whose feature articles have appeared in The Chatham Courier include Lee Burland, Bea Shineman, Kate Dunham, Elisabeth Grace, Hortense Barten Knight, Marion Ulmer and Elle Dietemann. “The Birder’s Corner” continues to appear in the Courier.

 

Kate Dunham


Chapter VII – BIRD RECORDS
by Rena Dodd and Juanita Cook

Before the organization of the ADBC there were no systematic records of birds seen in Columbia and southern Rensselaer Counties. One of the main purposes of the founders of the Club was to establish such records. This was promptly accomplished by the working together of Dr. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr., who is a professional ornithologist, and amateur ornithologists among Club members. These included Eleanor Radke, Myra Smilow, Eleanor Turner, Juanita Cook, Natalie Curtis, Georgia Erlenbach, and others. Every member was encouraged to learn to identify the various species and to keep a personal record of his sightings. At the end of each month these sightings were reported, together with dates, locations, and numbers to the Bird Records Chairman, who amalgamated the reports for publication in The Warbler. The first chairman was Eleanor Turner, and the first report appeared in Vol. 1, No. 1, June 1957.

Howard Munson followed Eleanor Turner as compiler of the monthly report in September 1957; Natalie Curtis followed him in January 1958, and Eleanor Radke took over in May. Eleanor continued until May 1964, when she and her husband Donald moved to California. Juanita Cook then became the compiler and continued until August 1966, when Betty Laros accepted the job. Rena Dodd joined her in the task in September 1967. The continued until June 1979.

To help assure that observations are accurate, reporters of species which are rare or out-of-season in the area must submit a “Rare Bird Report,” giving conditions under which the bird was seen, observer’s former acquaintance with the species, name or names of any other observers. If experienced birders in the Club agree that a sighting is valid, it becomes part of the Club’s birding history.

The reports reveal that during the 22 years of the Club’s existence the distribution of species has changed. New species, such as the Cardinal, the Mockingbird, and the House Finch have appeared in the area; while other species, such as the Eastern Bluebird and the Red-headed Woodpecker, have diminished in numbers to the point of rarity.

We are part of a state-wide and nation-wide linkage of birders, and maintain this connection in several ways:

    1. Our monthly reports are submitted to The Kingbird, publication of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs.
    2. The annual “Century Run” on a special day in May is similarly reported. Birders all over the nation, alone or in groups, set out to identify 100 or more species on this day. In 1978, the ADBC’s best year, the total for the Club was 131 species. Nancy Kern now compiles the report, which until recently was prepared by Dr. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr., for submission to the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs.
    3. The Club participates also in the annual “Christmas Count” under the auspices of the National Audubon Society. For this, groups of members set out to enumerate the numbers of each species they find in a section of delineated areas assigned to the Club. The Club must choose a day within “Count Week,” the dates of which are chosen by National Audubon and fall around the Christmas season. Over the years the Count has been coordinated and summarized by Eleanor Turner, Eleanor Radke, and Juanita Cook. Results are sent to National Audubon for inclusion in “American Birds’, a valuable annual publication from which changing bird populations in the Untied States are estimated.
    4. The Club has cooperated in the Nesting Bird Census since 1966 whenever qualified birders have been available among members. This project entails precise enumeration of nesting birds and others in a specified area over a definite period of time. Results of this survey become part of the records of the U.S. Dept. of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the members who have participated are Mary Mickle, Juanita Cook, Georgia Erlenbach, and Ed Reilly.
    5. Between 1958 and 1965 six of our members obtained the necessary licenses to band migratory birds for scientific study. The birds banded were reported to the Patuxent Research Refuge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The banders were Eleanor Radke, Eleanor Turner, Juanita Cook, Elsie Powell, Howard Munson, and Ed Reilly.

Up to June 1979, 261 species were recorded in our area. Some of these were birds that strayed from their usual migratory path or birds that moved from their natural habitat because of some local disaster. During the past ten years the following have been added to the Club’s Life List: Western Meadowlark (1968), Golden Eagle (1969), Snowy Egret (1970), Arctic Three-toed Woodpecker (1972), Whistling Swan (1972), Harris’ Sparrow (1975), Yellow-throated Warbler (1976), Red-necked Grebe (1977), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1978), and Red Phalarope (1979). When such birds as these are seen, interested Club members are contacted immediately and told where the bird was observed so that they too may perhaps find it and add it to their Life Lists. If a sighting is sufficiently unusual, other clubs and ornithologists in the area are also notified.

From the monthly reports submitted by members, Eleanor Radke prepared a booklet, Birds of the Columbia County Area. Dr. Reilly provided a foreword, and Myra Smilow was production assistant. The booklet lists all the species recorded, and tabulates the dates of earliest and latest sightings, the type of habitat for each species, and the abundance of each in successive months. It includes a map and some general information. It was published in 1966 and is now being revised.

SUMMATION OF BIRD COUNTS

 
Century Run
 
Christmas Count
 
Total Species for Year
Year
Species
Species
Individuals
1957
88
 
31
1598
 
incomplete year
1958
118
35
1532
185
1959
126
40
3702
174
1960
121
36
3402
180
1961
126
47
4562
188
1962
128
41
3965
180
1963
116
41
4160
177
1964
137
42
4062
183
1965
129
43
2702
186
1966
132
38
5411
181
1967
143
43
5978
183
1968
107
38
2992
184
1969
111
Blizzard
169
1970
118
36
3750
176
1971
108
40
3562
176
1972
120
49
4267
188
1973
115
45
5689
163
1974
130
44
5112
165
1975
116
47
5018
172
1976
129
48
6041
182
1977
118
53
5246
179
1978
131
60
6436
190



Chapter VIII – The Warbler
by Hortense Barten Knight

At the very beginning a publication was deemed essential for the Club to keep members informed, especially those who were unable to attend meetings regularly. Even before she was elected first president, Eleanor Radke wrote and distributed a news-letter, in April 1957. It reported on the April 4th meeting, announced the meeting to be held on April 25, and included other items. Eleanor also sent out a May issue, which she called Bird Notes. In June, Volume I, number 1, The Warbler appeared, edited by Myra Smilow, who was also vice-president. Myra continued as editor through April 1960, when she became president.

Myra expanded the simple news-letter to a monthly publication of wider scope and with a precise two-column format with even margins on both sides. She hand-lettered all headings. At first, the nameplate too was hand-lettered for each issue. Beginning in March 1960, a nameplate designed by Ed Reilly was printed. This improved the appearance of the first page. It shows the Lawrence’s Warbler, our special rare bird, and is still used today. There were usually five pages; sometimes, six.

Myra introduced a lead article of a page or more. Subjects varied from observations of bird behavior to trips to wildlife refuges, to facts know about migration, to planting for birds, etc., etc. Bird reports, reports on field trips, convention reports, and book reviews were regular features. There were also news items and program information.

In addition to planning The Warbler, gathering and editing the material, Myra typed every piece of copy to fit the format she established and then pasted up the page “dummies” to be copied on stencils for mimeographing. The stencils were cut by volunteers, and the mimeographing was done at the Chatham Central School. Myra assembled the pages, then addressed and mailed the completed issue.

After Myra became president, in April 1960, she was succeeded by the following editors:

Hortense Barten May 1960 to June 1965
Mae Webb July1965 to June 1968
May Gunn July 1968 to August 1970 and September/October 1972
Eleanor Frost September 1970 to June 1972 (no summer issue in 1972)
Elizabeth and George Woodward Nov. 1972 to June 1973
Marion Ulmer Summer 1973
Eugene Bloch September 1973 to October 1974
From November 1974 to March 1975, Hortense B. Knight acted as editor protem; and from April 1975 to January 1976 Wesley Childers added the responsibilities of editing to his duties as president.
Elisabeth Grace February 1976 to June 1979.

While each successive editor has inevitably left his mark on The Warbler, the publication has retained its essential character through more than twenty years. Always, it reports on the birds of the area: through stories of members’ sightings, and through the accounts of field trips. Secondly, it promotes conservation. Thirdly, it announces future programs and events and reports on those of the preceding month. Fourthly, it includes informative, educational articles, mostly by members. Fifthly, it gives news of members. To this may be added an occasional poem, a bit of humor, or some other frill.

Through the years the mechanics of production have changed. The editor continued to type the copy and paste up page dummies until 1976 – although Will Eaton began to type the Bird Reports in 1972. He continued to do this until January 1978. The format became less rigid. Before 1972, the stencils were cut by Fausta Waite, Nellie Schwabe, Arlene Brown and possibly by others of whom there is no record. From 1972 to 1978, they were cut by Marcia Scannell. The mimeographing was done, at different periods, in the Chatham Central School, by a professional firm in Pittsfield, by Ed Somers, and at the Audubon office in Stephentown. With the May 1978 issue the method of reproduction was changed to Xerox, with the work being done at the printing office of the Schenectady Community Action Program.

In connection with production, the work of Mary Mickle and Will Eaton must be noted. In the 1960’s, Mary began to collect the completed pages, assemble them, staple them, address and mail them. Will Eaton worked with her from 1972 to January 1978. It was he who drove hither and yon to pick up and deliver page dummies, and later the completed pates. Both May and Will asked to be relieved in January 1978. Since then, Rita Wyman has been carrying these responsibilities. Previously, for about two years, Rita typed much of the copy.

The Warbler is by as well as for members of the Alan Devoe Bird Club. The contributors through the years have been too numerous to list. A few, however, should be mentioned at the risk of some worthy omissions. The names of those who accomplished the onerous task of tabulating the monthly Bird Reports have been given in Chapter VII…When book reviews became a regular feature, they were written, at first, by Eleanor Turner. Later, for a long period, Vivian Burland contributed them regularly. And at one time it was Aden Gokay who kept members informed about new books of interest to birders. More than a dozen members have one or more reviews to their credit…Field trips are generally written up by the leaders; convention reports, by one of the delegates. The chairpersons of Conservation have also made noteworthy contributions by keeping the membership informed. These include Lee Burland, Margaret Childers, Bob and Elaine Suss…Our most prolific versifier has been Myra Smilow, whose flights of fancy are witty and delightful.

Over fifty members have been the authors of the longer, featured articles. Leading these is Dr. Edgar M. Reilly, Jr., who has averaged an article a year. As a zoologist, Ed speaks with authority on birds and mammals, but his presentation is always of interest to everyone. Following Ed, are these authors of five or more articles each: Lee Grace, Hortense Barten Knight, Eleanor Radke, Bea Shineman, Myra Smilow, Merle Suter, Henry Thurston, Wayne Trimm, and George Woodward. I shall not attempt to evaluate the longer articles. Each of the authors has his distinctive merit, whether it be factual knowledge or clarity of presentation or sensitive observation of nature or charm of style or still other merit.

Some distinguished non-members with special knowledge have written for The Warbler. Their contributions include:

  •  “The Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary: A Botanical Resource” by Richard B. Fisher, associate professor of Nature and Conservation Education at Cornell University –10/1961
  •  “Alan Devoe: As a Friend Remembers Him” --8/1962 and “Alan Devoe: As prose Stylist, Naturalist, and Philosopher”—9/1962 by C.G. Burke, a writer who was neighbor and friend of the Devoes.
  •  “Birds as Predators” by Walton B. Sabin, research biologist with the Conservation Department of New York State”—9/1963.
  •  “Some Experiences with Pileated Woodpeckers” by Alvah Sanborn, director of the Pleasant Valley Sanctuary at Lenox, Mass.—4/1964.
  •  “Geological Synopsis of Columbia County” by Donald W. Fisher, paleontologist at the New York State Museum and Science Services—5/1965.

There has been an occasional article by a friend of a member, and an occasional reprint, with permission, from some other publications.

In 22 years The Warbler has rarely been delayed, and only once did it skip an issue. That was in August 1972, between editors. This record and the continuing high standards of the publication reflect an active, healthy bird club.



Chapter IX – WHAT NEXT?
by Kate Dunham

In its first 22 years, the Alan Devoe Bird Club has had such a productive history that it is a challenge to think “What next?” Much of the pleasure and excitement shared by members in the early years arose from actions of creation — creating a club, creating a sanctuary — and seeing the concrete results of their labors.

Such a momentous opening act places a heavy burden on the players in the following parts of the drama. It is not as easy to sustain a consistent theme as it is to begin it, and the enthusiasm of the cast, if I may continue to use a metaphor, wanes as the central theme becomes obscured or conflictive.

Older members of the Club, legitimately reflecting on the great contributions they have made, may well grow weary of hearing appeals for work, materials, and funds. Many times I have heard the question, “Why can’t we just enjoy what we have done already?”

Other members, who turn to birds and birding as a primary source of relaxation and self-renewal, react negatively to requests for statistics, records, reports and so forth, feeling that this makes work out of legitimate recreation.

In its Constitutional statement of purpose, the Alan Devoe Bird Club sets forth the enjoyment of birds and other wildlife as a primary reason for its being. The inner joy obtained from being outdoors with birds, and with committed birders, is the emotional springboard for our organization’s life. For many, this sharing is enough, and we should honor that.

For others, however, it is not enough, and this is a point where I think a critical question of future membership hangs. The enjoyment of birds and wildlife, both plant and animal, is not the entire reason for our Club’s existence. There are two other stated purposes: the study of that wildlife, and the encouragement of the conservation of natural resources. In a general sense, we regularly meet all the Club’s Constitutional charges when we follow our annual rite of educational meetings, field trips, The Warbler publication, and Sanctuary maintenance. Yet, once again, in terms of the critical question of membership, I do not believe that these things, vital as they are, are quite enough.

We are living in an insane world where the pressures of change, development, exploitation, inflation and depression confuse us all and compel us at once to yearn for escape and for meaning. Many of us take consolation in our rural environment and want to close the door on the world. Yet the world comes to us. It is simply a matter of time before the tide of development from Albany to New York envelops us all, a local reflection of a global phenomenon. The landscape that will present itself to members of the Alan Devoe Bird Club on its 40th anniversary in 1997 will be different from the one we see today. Whether we want it or not, change will occur.

I believe that an organization like ours can have a great impact on whether that change is environmentally good or bad. We can become a voice for the wild things around us. We say we love the birds, the animals, the plants, the wild places. Others do not care for their existence, often because they neither see these wild things nor understand their significance. Usually people try to protect what they love and to provide for its nurture and survival. I believe that we who love wild things must speak for them now, and consistently in the future, if they are to survive—and ultimately if we are to survive.

I do not believe that the message has to be elaborate. Wild things have a way of surviving nicely if they are left alone. Leaving them alone is what is difficult for humans. Too often “conservation” has come to mean experiments in managing wildlife for our own use, rather than learning how to conserve on our own consumption of natural resources, including land and animals, so that we all can continue to survive to together.

To me, the membership of the Alan Devoe Bird Club in its early years was especially courageous and visionary in accepting the initial gift of land that has grown into our present 140-acre Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary. Over the past two years, I have observed a slow, steady growth of our membership, people from many places joining our Club because they have been to our Sanctuary or heard of it. The physical act of joining ADBC thus becomes a vote for conservation.

In future years, it is my hope that the Powell Sanctuary may become a model and an inspiration for the preservation of unmanaged habitat, conservation of energy, and reverence for life. These things, I believe, are necessary for the web of life to continue for us all. One wildlife sanctuary such as ours is not enough for one county, and our membership encompasses many counties. I am not advocating that the Alan Devoe Bird Club own sanctuaries elsewhere, but I am hoping that other groups, private and public, will urge that land be set aside for the protection of wildlife and the renewal of the human spirit.

I would hope that not too long from now our membership will reevaluate a plan formulated when the Sanctuary was first acquired-- to build a nature center within its bounds. However, I would propose that the center become an energy model, implementing such concepts, for example, as heating by solar convection, and recycling human waste by, for example, installation of a Clivus Multrum. Acquiring recognition as we hope to do, from the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt organization will give us the freedom to apply for grants of money, if we so choose, to carry out this sort of demonstration, and possibly to consider hiring a part-time educational staff.

If I were to summarize my dream for the future of the Alan Devoe Bird Club, it would be that we, through our informed, documented communication of the meaning and needs of our loved wild things, and our sharing through education and personal experience our wildlife refuge, would begin to develop around us an ever-growing community of like-minded people who would be as excited about building the structure of our conservation work as our early members were excited about laying its foundation.

My own personal awakening to wild life and to the natural world began with birds. For a time birding was my hobby and remained so until I visited Tinicum Wildlife Refuge outside Philadelphia one day and found not birds, but rats sitting within arm’s length of me as I sat on the marsh’s edge. The rats were from the huge municipal dump at the edge of the refuge. The observation platforms which had afforded views of hundreds of waterfowl which had once fed in the marsh had rusted and fallen down; the ducks and geese were gone because the water level had been altered from garbage dumping operations. On that day, I realized that I would never forgive myself if I knowingly participated in such senseless destruction of the life resources of a bird. This is a commitment that will be tested again and again in future years for me, and for others who share it in the Alan Devoe Bird Club and in all other organizations which share our aims.


NEWER HISTORY

In 2003, the Sanctuary was protected by a conservation easement by the Columbia County Land Conservancy.

In 2006, David and Susan Cathers of Armonk and Old Chatham New York donated 6.9 acres of land to the Alan Devoe Bird Club. These acres are also protected by a conservation easement through the Columbia County Land Conservancy. The parcel is located on the eastern most boundary of the Sanctuary.



Fifty Years Later, ADBC Continues to Thrive

by Marcia Anderson

Twenty six years have passed since Kate Dunham wrote her “What Next?” piece for the ADBC History, 1957-1979. Much has happened in the world between 1980 and 2006. I do not purport to recount the year to year accomplishments of the Alan Devoe Bird Club in that time span. But rest assured, the club continued birding, sponsored educational programs, conducted May’s Century Run/Birdathons, the Christmas Bird Counts and maintained and reported bird records. Of course the Sanctuary has been maintained and improved. In Columbia County, many threats to bird and wildlife habitat were proposed and defeated. To name a few: a nuclear power plant on the Hudson at Stuyvesant, a solid waste burn plant in Stockport and related landfills and most recently, the proposed St. Lawrence Cement plant in Greenport. We can all breathe a breath of fresh air that these habitat threats failed.

In this time span, many positive developments have occurred. The Columbia County Land Conservancy (CLC) was formed and has preserved much farmland and wildlife habitat. Our own Wilson M. Powell Sanctuary has been protected by the CLC. Recently, the Cathers, of Armonk and Old Chatham added 6.9 acres of protected land to the Sanctuary as well as protecting their own 20 acre parcel adjacent to the Sanctuary and east of Reilly Pond.

Also established in this time period were, Borden Pond, Hand Hollow Conservation Area, the Lewis A. Swyer Mill Creek Preserve, State Land at Nutten Hook, Harvey Mountain, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, The Greenport Conservation Area, Ooms Pond Conversation Area, Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center, Drowned Lands Swamp, the Martin Van Buren Nature Trails and many more. Throughout the ADBC’s past 26 years, the club has advocated for the creation of these areas as part of our charge to protect bird and wildlife habitat.

I was struck by the many and varied areas as I worked on the Where to Bird section of the ADBC website. There are 22 areas noted there and of course we could add any dirt road in the county and our own backyards as places to bird.

The Warbler has been produced monthly, on schedule and distributed to the members. Its pages have contained wonderful articles recounting trips, activities and bird count records.

All this has been accomplished by the very dedicated hard work of many members, past and present. For example, Roland Drowne, an early club member, has been deeply involved with Sanctuary work and production of The Warbler for many many years. Kate Dunham and Elisabeth Grace have guided the club, served on the board, chaired the Sanctuary committee, participated in the bird feeder program and always challenged us to do more. Marion and Willard Ulmer have helped with the Sanctuary, the planning, The Warbler. Susan and Henry Scheck have also contributed endless hours to club work. Bill Cook has maintained the bird records and reports for numerous years. Nancy Kern became editor of The Warbler and is an avid birdathon and Christmas Bird Count participant. We thank all our members for the contributions they have made to club activities over the past 26 years.

I am continually impressed by the professional and academic character of the ADBC, the high standards and the great contribution this club has made to the community. Our club members and county residents are better off today because of the club. Just as in Kate’s 1979 essay, today there are club members who principally enjoy birding, those whose interest is bird records and reports and those who advocate for protection of bird and wildlife habitat. These principles are intertwined and connected. The club is diverse and welcoming, a place to volunteer, learn, meet others and make friends who have a common goal: birding.

We are living in a world of change. Townships throughout the county are developing comprehensive plans to determine land use for future years. County residents continue to protect land through the CLC. More land along the Hudson River is also being protected by the State. All this is coupled with the pressure to build more homes and remove farmland from active production. We are also entering a time of climate change and global warming. Climate change is bound to have a profound effect on birding and bird and wildlife habitat.

How will these changes affect us in the next 25 years? Through the birding efforts of ADBC members, change will be observed and tracked. We will be participant observers and reporters of change.

As the ADBC enters is 50th year, we launch our website. We trust that the website will be well received and spread the word far and wide — that Columbia County is the place to bird — and that there is a wonderful bird club committed to the enjoyment of birds. Although the birds, wildlife and their habitat can not verbally communicate, the birds and the land call to us. We do not own the earth, we are the earth. As part of the earth, we listen and watch the birds.

I close with two Native American messages:

We are the stars which sing
We sing with our light.
We are the birds of fire.
We fly over the sky.
Our light is a voice.
We make a road.
For the spirit to pass over.

From the Song of the Stars, a traditional song (Passamaquoddy) , Native Wisdom

My father explained this to me. “all things in this world,” he said, “have souls or spirits. The sky has a spirit, the clouds have spirits; the sun and moon have spirits; so have animals, trees, grass, water, stones, everything.”

Edward Goodbird (Hidatsa), 1914, Native Wisdom


Summation of Bird Counts, 1979-2014
UPDATED 7/14/14
 
 
Century Run
 
Christmas Count
 
Total Species for Year
Year
Species
 
Species
Individuals
 

1979

121

 

58

9199

 

191

1980

 

 

62

9192

 

188

1981

 

 

66

8474

 

185

1982

 

 

53

9594

 

185

1983

 

 

61

7927

 

171

1984

 

 

61

15037

 

206*

1985

 

 

56

12331

 

206*

1986

121

 

64

11038

 

181

1987

121

 

65

14152

 

180

1988

132

 

63

14958

 

176

1989

133

 

60

12307

 

186

1990

139*

 

65

12130

 

186

1991

131

 

66

18090

 

198

1992

133

 

67

17894

 

184

1993

138

 

66

17101

 

195

1994

137

 

59

13235

 

185

1995

128

 

62

12391

 

178

1996

98

 

62

14338

 

180

1997

130

 

71

11131

 

188

1998

132

 

56

17780

 

188

1999

131

 

64

13180

 

182

2000

128

 

68

18377

 

190

2001

129

 

65

18569

 

204

2002

129

 

64

17973

 

186

2003

138

 

71

16961

 

197

2004

135

 

64

16344

 

183

2005

133

 

75* 

 17325

 

 189

2006

130

 

62

10865

 

187

2007

132

 

68

19907

 

199

2008

136

 

58

10205

 

183

2009

119

 

61

13192

 

185

2010

126

 

67

15032

 

183

2011

123

 

65

96953*

 

182

2012

119

 

71

9440

 

200

2013

111

 

62

11487

 

193

2014

116

         

* high count

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