Far Above Cayuga’s Waters

Yellow bellied Sapsucker Male at Cornell Arboretum
Yellow bellied Sapsucker Male at Cornell Arboretum

On our flight into the Ithaca airport, we pass right over Cornell University (my alma mater – Go Big Red!), and I have a great view of the campus out my window.  Just before we land, I get a glimpse of Sapsucker Woods, our destination for a birding event with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://birds.cornell.edu/).  It’s my first time back at Cornell since shortly after I graduated, many years ago.  Cornell is the most western of the Ivy League universities, the most strongly non-sectarian, and the only one that rejected discrimination based on sex or race from its founding.  It is also famous for its Lab of Ornithology, a global center for the study and protection of birds and biodiversity.

It’s a pleasure to meet many staff, faculty, and students at the Lab, as well as fellow ornithology enthusiasts.  During the event, we enjoy early morning bird walks with expert birders; take a tour of the Lab, including Jane Kim’s Wall of Birds mural (http://academy.allaboutbirds.org/wall-of-birds-project/); learn about important research and successful programs supported by the Lab; see a bird banding demonstration; try recording bird song in the field (very challenging!); and see rare ornithology books from the Cornell collections, including the Audubon Birds of America double elephant folio.

After our Weekend at Sapsucker Woods is over, we stay on for a few more days.  It’s good to be back at Cornell, and see what has changed, and how much has not changed.  While walking through the campus, we pop into Willard Straight Hall to see the room where I enjoyed many evenings of dancing as an undergraduate.  I can’t find that any dancing takes place here anymore, but our stay in Ithaca is perfectly timed to join a wonderful afternoon of English dance with the Tompkins County Country Dancers (http://www.tedcrane.com/TCCD/) on a smooth-as-satin salvaged wood dance floor, in a hall with great acoustics, all in a setting of meadow, pond and forest.  We enjoy the fine company, expert calling, and beautiful music, and then close the day with a delicious vegetarian dinner at Moosewood (http://moosewoodcooks.com/).

On one day, we head up the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/refuge/montezuma/).  It’s a beautiful drive along the lake, and I’m happy to see many Osprey nesting platforms on utility poles along state route 90.  The traffic and noise from the road don’t seem to bother the birds.  I see one or two adults at each nest, and even catch a brief glimpse of babies at one nest.

Osprey at Cayuga Lake Shore
Osprey at Cayuga Lake Shore

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