Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Pilgrimage

View over Red House Lake in Allegany State Park, on a hot, hazy afternoon.

Made the trek to Salamanca, NY last Friday to participate in the 49th annual Allegany Nature Pilgrimage. (Note the spelling: Allegany, not Allegheny or Alleghany) This event is not only wonderful and enriching, it's a well-kept secret among birders, except in the region where it's held.

Located in the Red House Area of Allegany State Park in a rustic campground (called Camp Allegany) the ANP is very much like going to nature camp. People stay in the rustic cabins, or camp in the many campgrounds around this huge state park, and come and go as they please.

The ANP is run by a core group of well-rounded naturalists from four bird clubs in the region. They look not just at birds, but at plants, animals, reptiles and amphibians, insects, spiders, the night sky, and even things such as local history and Native American lore. It's a completely kid-friendly event, so many families participate--some having attended over multiple generations over the decades.

One of the 90 or so field trips held during the ANP.

During the day there are dozens of field trips and activities from which to choose. In the afternoon there are programs and more programs at night in a big tent on the grounds of Camp Allegany. You can learn about the Iroquois, make your own paper, go looking for rare plants, learn about black bears in the region, help to band birds, go for a swim in the lake or a bike along the miles of bike paths.

Tadpoles in the creek behind Camp Allegany.

New Yorkers apparently love their bumper stickers.

Or you can do what I did, wander around the park looking at birds. There are loads of warblers in their full breeding-season glory. From one spot each morning I could hear or see the following warblers: Blackburnian, yellow, black-throated green, cerulean, black-and-white, magnolia, chestnut-sided, hooded, ovenbird, Louisiana waterthrush, American redstart, and common yellowthroat.

Not bad!

This male chestnut-sided warbler is banded!

Male Blackburnian warbler.

I slept in the BWD van for this year's pilgrimage. There was a higher than expected turn-out and rooms in the camp's cabins were gobbled up. No I was not down by the river eating government cheese. I parked out behind the last cabin, up against the woods and an alder swamp. From what I heard, the cabins (many rooms along a long hallway) were warmer and noisier than expected, so I think I was actually better off. Besides I am a master at building comfy "bunny nests" for sleeping in the backs of vehicles--just ask Phoebe and Liam.

No government cheese in sight.

I gave the Saturday night keynote presentation in the big tent. My fellow pilgrims seemed to like it, which was great. Afterwards, we relaxed around a campfire, then I moseyed off back to my van, where I watched the stars twinkling and the planets shifting in the inky-black sky above until a yellow-billed cuckoo sounded off up the mountainside. That was my cue for drifting off to sleep.

Next year's ANP will be the 50th anniversary. It's always held the first weekend in June, so pencil it onto your travel calendar for 2008 and I'll hope to see you there.

And now for some photographic highlights from this year's Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.

Male indigo bunting along the edge of Camp Allegany.

The creek behind the camp attracted a resting female common merganser.

Veteran bird bander Bob McKinney has been banding at the ANP for decades and always draws a crowd.

Bob releases his banded birds by placing them on their backs on top of people's heads. This is a female American goldfinch.

Behind the cabins at Camp Allegany lies a beautiful alder swamp.

And in that alder swamp there are at least two pairs of alder flycatchers.

The stone footers of cabins long gone dot the woods above today's Camp Allegany.

Another day ends at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.


At 9:35 PM, Anonymous [email protected] said...

Bill, I had a spare bedroom that didn't get used during the weekend! You would have been more than welcome to have stayed here! Was great seeing you at the ANP this year and your program was perfect for the group! I just loved seeing your photos and seeing many others enjoying the park (as you did)! Sure hope you are able to make it out for the 50th next year!! PS: Would love to hear where you saw that banded CSWA, maybe it was one of mine?

At 9:48 PM, Blogger BT3 said...

[email protected]: The CSWA was in the big willow along the creek in the alder swamp behind the cabins. Sorry my pix aren't better or we could read the band!

At 3:20 AM, Blogger Trixie said...

Man, BT3, I think next time I get my husband to Ohio we have to mosey on over to Whipple. You two seem to share a sense of humor.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

What a great overview of the pilgrimage! There were a couple of empty cabins up in the area where I was camping with the teens from Jamestown Audubon... You could have come up for a game of Ultimate Frisbee followed by s'mores around the fire! Next year for sure: bring Phoebe and Liam... and Chet!

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Rondeau Ric said...

No bed AND no cheese, scandalous.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger dguzman said...

Wow, this sounds lke heaven! ('cept for the part about no cheese) Thanks for the info; sounds like a worthy trip for next year.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Born Again Bird Watcher said...

The pilgrimage sounds absolutely idyllic Bill. Thanks for the great report.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Dia said...

This post has been removed by the author.


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