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Nature Center looking for ‘citizen scientists’ for bird feeding station study

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MASSENA - The Friends of the Robert Moses Nature Center are looking for “citizen scientists” to help track bird and mammal activity at bird feeding stations.

The program, which is made possible through a grant from the Alcoa Foundation, is called “Treats-n-Tweets,” and runs from July to October.

Using cameras and equipment from the Nature Center, participants - which can include individuals, small groups, families or clubs - are asked to help check bird feeding stations and record visitors and other information. They’re looking to track bird and mammal activity to see if they change and why.

Informational meetings to talk about the effort will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday and July 26, Aug. 2 and 16, and Aug. 10 and 24 at the Nature Center.

Nature Center Executive Director Mary Danboise said they plan to set up three different bird feeding stations that will be monitored.

“They’ll be in three completely different habitats. One will be in the meadow right off the paved trail, one will be back in the deeper woods and the other one will be in an open area closer to the river. Hopefully they’ll attract different birds. They definitely will attract different animals,” Ms. Danboise said.

The feeding stations will be fenced in so deer cannot get to them, but will still allow access for other animals.

The Nature Center has trail cams, and those images may also be posted at the feeding stations. In the past, the cams have taken pictures of several different types of animals, including beavers, deer, coyotes, fox, skunks, raccoons, woodchucks and even a bobcat last winter.

“We try to move them around. Sometimes we get really lucky,” Ms. Danboise said.

What they need now are human observations and recordings, and she hopes individuals or groups will step up and say they’ll take designated time slots. The individual or group will monitor the three feeding stations during their shift.

“We hope to get a good base of volunteers to help us out with this. That way they wouldn’t have to dedicate that much time each month. We’re hoping to get enough interest that we can have, whether it’s an individual family or group, at least three to four different groups that we can count on on a regular basis. We hope that if it’s a family, they’ll say, ‘You can count on us for two hours on a Saturday each month.’ An individual may come out once a week,” Ms. Danboise said.

The individuals or groups will track what types of birds go to the feeders and what kind of animal activity it might draw. Equipment, such as cameras, binoculars and iPads, will be provided by the Nature Center.

“Some of it might be by observation using binocular and guide books. We have other kinds of resources we’re gong to show them how to use and what to use. We have a couple of iPads hat have some good apps for that kind of thing. We’re hoping to teach them a basic education about the birds and the animals in the area and how to tell them apart,” she said.

The program incorporates STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), according to Ms. Danboise, who said they’ve also added an art component through the use of digital photography and posting of pictures to social networking sites such as Facebook.

“Families may not have an iPad at home and want to learn how to use it and how to upload photos onto Facebook or Instagram,” she said.

The program is made possible through a $5,000 grant through the Alcoa Foundation.

“It’s the Environmental Awareness and Community Ambassadors program,” Ms. Danboise said.

In addition to Alcoa’s grant funding for this and other programs, she said the New York Power Authority has also been a big help.

“They’re our number one supporter when it comes to Friends of the Nature Center and why we’re able to do things like this for free. We appreciate the help from the Power Authority and the other organizations like the grants from the Alcoa Foundation,” she said.

For more information, interested individuals can attend one of the information meetings, call 705-5022 or email ncrebirth@yahoo.com.

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