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DEC announces opening of Western New York segment of statewide birding trail

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the grand opening of the Greater Niagara segment of the New York State Birding Trail to highlight the State’s world-class and wide-ranging birding opportunities. The Greater Niagara segment includes 36 locations throughout Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, providing a variety of quality birding experiences for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy.

“The State’s community of birders continues to grow and Governor Kathy Hochul understands how important it is encourage all New Yorkers to connect with nature close to home and in special places like Buffalo Harbor State Park and DEC’s Reinstein Woods,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “DEC is proud to announce the grand opening of the Greater Niagara segment of New York’s Statewide Birding Trail today with our partners from State Parks and I LOVE NY. The new Western New York segment of the statewide birding trail, one of many segments across the state, builds on our ongoing efforts to remove barriers to birding and encourage people to get outside.”

Birdwatching has quickly become one of New York’s fastest-growing recreation and tourism activities. The New York State Birding Trail is managed by DEC in collaboration with partners including the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The statewide trail includes a network of promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation, providing an inclusive experience for all visitors to enjoy birds amid beautiful natural settings with little or no cost or investment in equipment.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “With the growing popularity of birding programs and events across the state, the opening of the Greater Niagara segment of the New York State Birding Trail provides another resource to access and explore Western New York’s rich natural habitats for interesting and unique birds. I’m excited that this new segment will introduce more New Yorkers with the opportunity to take part in this joyful activity as well as highlight the amazing birding locations offered throughout state park lands.”

Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “The Greater Niagara Birding Trail segment is the newest reason for outdoor enthusiasts from around the State, nation and world to plan a visit and come be a part of all there is to love on a Western New York getaway. As more travelers are looking for new and enjoyable ways to experience the outdoors, I LOVE NY looks forward to promoting the birding trail to potential visitors from across the globe.”

Mike Burger, Executive Director of Audubon’s Connecticut and New York State office, said, “In looking at the list of 36 locations on the new Greater Niagara segment of the New York Birding Trail, it’s clear that this will be a fantastic resource for anyone who lives in or visits Western New York. I am especially thrilled to see several locations listed where we have worked with State agencies to improve and restore bird habitat, such as Buckhorn Island, Joseph Davis, and Knox Farm State Parks. So much hard work has gone into these sites to make them healthy habitat for birds and other wildlife, it’s wonderful that more people will be able to enjoy them.”

Western New York Land Conservancy Deputy Executive Director Jajean Rose-Burney said, “The Western New York Land Conservancy is excited that several of our nature preserves will be part of the New York State Birding Trail. This will help showcase the amazing diversity of bird life on our nature preserves that so many people in the community protected.”

Ed Sirianno, Executive Director of Buffalo Audubon Society, said, “Buffalo Audubon Society is proud to support the opening of the second segment of the New York State Birding Trail. With more than 1,000 acres of nature preserves here in Western New York, Buffalo Audubon members are passionate about caring for birds, wildlife, and the places they need. We are delighted to add our efforts to this worthy cause and believe that the Birding Trail will raise awareness of the beauty and importance that birds contribute to our delicate ecosystem.”

Feminist Bird Club of Buffalo Co-Chair Molly Dreyer said, “We’re happy that the New York State Birding Trail is creating a network of birding hotspots – especially in the Greater Niagara Region. We hope that this will raise awareness about birdwatching opportunities while also expanding access for all nature lovers across the State.”

Buffalo-area Naturalist, Environmental Educator, and Ornithological Society Council Member Marcus Rosten said, “The Greater Niagara Region is one of the best places to go birding in the world and I am excited that the Birding Trail not only includes some of the top spots to look for birds in the area, but also includes sites that are easily accessible and approachable for new birders. This trail will help break down some of the barriers that those who are new to the activity face by pointing them in the right direction and helping to guide them in what to look for. The diversity of trail locations makes it so that everyone from Downtown Buffalo to the Lake Ontario shoreline to rural Wyoming county can easily find a great birding location nearest to them!”

The Greater Niagara segment of the trail includes 36 locations on a mix of public and private lands throughout Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties. From the awe-inspiring Niagara River Corridor, which is part of a globally important migratory bird area designated by the National Audubon Society, to Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve’s 292 acres of forests, ponds, and wetlands, the Greater Niagara region offers multiple opportunities to observe migratory birds. In the summer and fall, visitors can take the Discover Niagara shuttle to Fort Niagara State Park, Stella Niagara Preserve, ArtPark, and multiple locations along the Niagara River Corridor. Visit Tifft Nature Preserve and Buffalo Harbor State Park on the southern tip of the Niagara River to take in views of Lake Erie and observe more than 200 bird species. Knox Farm State Park is a premier destination for grassland birds and hosts a display of bluebird boxes.

Today’s announcement complements the international Birds on the Niagara (BON) 2022 festival, a winter celebration of birds, held February 10-12. BON celebrates birds and highlights the importance of the international Niagara River corridor in protecting ecology and habitat for the flyway. Winter is a good time to observe certain bird species, including passerines, woodpeckers, owls, and eagles. Wintering eagles arrive in December with concentrations peaking in January and February. Bird colonies flock to the Niagara River when nearby lakes freeze, making these birds easier to observe. In addition, tundra swans can be seen along the river, as well as thousands of ducks and gulls.

New segments of the Birding Trail are opened in a phased approach. DEC announced the New York City trail segment in October 2021, which includes 33 locations throughout the five boroughs. Once finished, the Statewide Birding Trail will provide birding opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, ability, identity or background, across New York State.

To promote the trail as an inclusive experience for all, DEC and partners are working to select sites that are welcoming and accessible by public transportation. DEC also continues to solicit input from a wide range of New Yorkers and organizations that represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and is making information available in both English and Spanish. Bird walks will be held in collaboration with organizations working with BIPOC communities.

The New York State Birding Trail map is available at www.ibirdny.org and provides valuable information on each site such as location, available amenities, species likely to be seen, directions, and more. Additional information on birding, educational and interpretive information, is also available. Digital information on the Birding Trail will be updated periodically, so budding outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to check back often.

In addition to State-owned and managed locations for the Birding Trail, publicly and privately managed sites can complete a simple self-nomination process to be considered for inclusion on the trail. Sites all meet criteria to help ensure a positive experience for visitors throughout the state. Additionally, each site will post signage noting it as an official location on the birding trail. For information on the nomination process, see www.ibirdny.org.

DEC encourages birding enthusiasts to visit I Bird NY for more information on where and how to observe birds, upcoming bird walks, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding (available in Spanish), and additional resources.

DEC manages and oversees nearly five million acres of public lands and conservation easements and plays a vital role in both protecting New York’s natural resources and providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing on scenic streams, hiking and rock climbing, swimming and boating, birding, and nature study, or simply relaxing in a tent under the stars, there are endless adventures to be found. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/, connect with us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

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