Buffalo Audubon 100


(This 943rd Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on April 19, 2009.)



Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, solar collectors and astronomy observatory in the foreground


"A meeting will be held at the Central High School on Court Street on Monday evening, May 10, 1909, at 8 o'clock for the purpose of organizing a branch of the Audubon Society. You are cordially invited to attend. — Frank Fosdick, George Turner, Charles Parke, Frederick Vogt, Arthur Williams."


The next day, one reporter noted: "Without any fuss or feathers — save on the hats of two of the women — 37 people assembled last night in the Central High School and organized The Audubon Society of Buffalo. The chief object is to protect the wild birds and to discourage the use of their feathers for purposes of ornamentation for millinery."


Thus began the Buffalo Audubon Society that will celebrate its 100th year with a banquet at the Buffalo Zoo on May 6. Zoo director Donna Fernandez will speak and a history of the Society will be distributed. For reservations and for information about other Society activities, call 1-800-377-1521.


Looking back over the Society's history, we find in 1920 William Almendinger reminiscing that those of the previous decade "were horse and buggy days, so some field trips were necessarily all‑day affairs, usually not more than 15 miles from Buffalo;" however, he added that "the 4‑cylinder auto is becoming quite commonplace so that longer trips can now be taken."


A typical program of field trips can be judged by the ones in 1939, which went to the Clarence sinks, the Canadian shore, Delaware Park, Forest Lawn, Lincoln Park (then a wild area), Darien Lake, Springville Bog, Rushford Lake, Gull Island and Cook Forest. During the years of World War II when gasoline was at a premium, field trips were restricted to nearby areas like Delaware Park and Forest Lawn, Grand Island, Chestnut Ridge, the Larkin estate in Derby and the Baird estate in Eden.


In 1951 the Beaver Meadow property in Java was purchased and in 1966 the first busloads of students were taken there to begin an instructional program that has flourished until today. In 1972 the first Nature Center building was erected, to be largely replaced by the current 6000 square foot building in 2000. Today the Society administers six preserves with a total area of over a square mile: Allenberg Bog, 390 acres; Beaver Meadow, 324; Rose Acres, 53; Rushing Stream, 50; Ayer Stevenson, 20; and the recently acquired North Tonawanda, 17.


In 1959 the annual Allegany Pilgrimage was initiated. Today hundreds attend this three-day event scheduled this year for May 29-31. In 2001 Garner Light began the popular Iroquois Observations programs.


This is an appropriate time to recognize some of the early society leaders: James Savage, Mrs. George Turner, William Almendinger, Gib Burgeson, Mabel James, Winston Brockner, Richard Byron, Harold Mitchell, Gertrude Webster, Marie Wendling, Cyril Wolfling, Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Knox, as well as Art, Olga and Richard Rosche; and famous naturalists who spoke at annual meetings: Elon Eaton, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Roger Tory Peterson, George Sutton, Allen Cruickshank, Richard Pough, Peter Paul Kellogg and William Gunn. I also honor Beaver Meadow director-naturalists David Bigelow, David Junkin, Bill Michalek and Bill Hudson; society executive directors Bill McKeever and Bill Hudson; and the young woman who holds things together for the society, current executive assistant Jackie Keller.


Through the year additional monthly programs will be offered: on May 9 a bird hike in Amherst State Park led by Mike Galas and me. (Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Village Glen Tennis Center, 142 Mill Street.) On May 16, a 5K marathon at Beaver Meadow is scheduled.


In later months: a talk on climate change by University at Buffalo environmentalist Walter Simpson, a search for mushrooms led by Audubon naturalist Bill Hudson, a geology hike through the Kenneglen Preserve with geologist Stan Radon of the Western NY Land Conservancy, a demonstration with live birds of prey by Audubon naturalist Paul Fehringer, an owl prowl at the Nature Center with Department of Environmental Conservation naturalist Chuck Rosenburg, a visit to the old growth trees of Reinstein Woods and a tour of its green visitor center with naturalist Kristen Rosenburg and a talk titled "Live Animals From Around the World" by Burchfield Nature and Art Center executive director Mark Carra.