March 2012

- By Suzanne Henderson

Cayuga Bird Club members and guests gathered in the Johnson Center Auditorium at 7:15 p.m. to enjoy friendly conversation; to admire the club’s new book, Birding the Cayuga Lake Basin; and to study some of the exhibits brought by Howard Evans for the evening’s program. In lieu of the usual cookies before the meeting, a beautiful cake was waiting to be cut later, in celebration of the new book.

Lynn Rich and LeeAnn Van Leer signed up to provide refreshments for the April meeting.


• President Linda Orkin had the honor of announcing that The Cayuga Bird Club Guide to Birding the Cayuga Lake Basin is now available for purchase. She took a few moments to show off the book and personally recognize members who were instrumental in putting this publication together. Linda credited the book’s editor, Bob McGuire, for leading this major project. She also listed the folks who provided crucial contributions: Karen Edelstein (maps), Anne Marie Johnson (design), Marie Read (photo editing), Kevin McGowan (introduction). Then she read the long list of additional volunteers involved in the project. These volunteers provided photos, wrote site descriptions, proofread text, and more. As Linda asked all the volunteers involved in the project to stand, a hearty round of well-deserved applause resounded from the audience.

Linda gave a brief summary of the evolution of this new basin birding book as a response to the frequently requested but long out-of-print Birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin, which originally was printed in the 1970’s and then updated in 1993. It was edited by Dorothy McIlroy and Charles Smith.

Linda announced that the Wild Birds Unlimited store would reopen after the evening’s program to accommodate folks wanting to purchase the book. She also announced that the first evening of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Spring Field Ornithology course will feature an introduction of the book prior to the lecture and that both the book presentation and the lecture are open to the public.

• Next month’s bird club meeting will feature Sarah MacLean who will discuss survival, defense, and communication in a colony of nesting gulls. Sarah is a junior at Cornell and president of the student Campus Bird Club.

• Upcoming field trips were noted. Linda urged everyone to get out and enjoy an exciting bird watching excursion.

Old business

Linda discussed the shift of the club newsletter away from print as of next September. Details and suggestions are still being entertained by the volunteer editors, Richard and Cyndy Tkachuck. The club wants to make every effort to insure that all members have access to a personal copy of every issue. There may be some difficulties for members without internet access, so some work still is required to accommodate everyone.

Basin list

Susan Danskin read the Cayuga Lake Basin bird list and recorded reports of birds identified in the basin the previous week. The unusually warm weather seemed to usher in some early migrants.

Evening program

Linda introduced guest speaker Howard E. Evans, Professor Emeritus of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine at Cornell. Howard described himself as a naturalist and anatomist. His presentation, “The Anatomy of Birds,” focused on two major systems in bird anatomy that are truly fascinating and separate birds from other animals: the respiratory system and the reproductive system.

Howard explained how birds do not have a diaphragm and how their sternum is instrumental in raising and lowering the lungs (as a bellows) in breathing. Bird lungs are recessed into the ribs and constructed as a mass of tubes. Hollow bones in birds actually act as interconnecting airways and become part of their respiratory system. Howard provided some handouts to help with his descriptions. Bird reproduction is complicated, especially egg production. Howard’s enthusiastic and humorous presentation showed just how awesome a fertilized egg really is, with the ultimate promise of a young bird emerging from within, and ultimately the perpetuation of the reproductive cycle.

The evening concluded with the cutting and sharing of the delicious cake, which was decorated with a reproduction of the cover of Birding the Cayuga Lake Basin.

Photo by Becky Sewell