New York
Feathers and Flora of the Northern Forest
Discover a birding haven at the former wilderness estate of the Vanderbilts. On expert-led walks through protected woods learn about rare birds, their songs and tips for identification.
Program No. 14872RJ
5 days
Starts at
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5 days
4 nights
11 meals
4 B 3 L 4 D
Getting There
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Welcome/ Introduction to the Vanderbilt Great Camp
Raquette Lake, NY

Dinner: Dinner is at 6P in the Dining Hall. You will select from an ample buffet. After dinner we will meet for introductions, schedule review, orientation, and a brief 14-minute presentation on Sagamore's history, programs, and preservation. Then you will relax and retire.

Evening: ORIENTATION: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. During this session, we will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Birding field trips are planned at times with the greatest likelihood of seeing birds, which may be early morning. Indicated times are approximate. Program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own. We'll begin our educational adventure with an expert presentation on Great Camp Sagamore's history, preservation, and programs. Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks is the steward of Great Camp Sagamore and is dedicated to its use for education and interpretation.

Lecture / Kestrel Nest / Plant Walk / Feather Identification
Raquette Lake, NY

Activity note: 1 Field Trip, 2 Lectures

Breakfast: Breakfast at 8:00 in the Sagamore Dining Hall, with beautiful views of Sagamore Lake.

Morning: BIRDING LECTURE: Today, we will focus on Kestrels, the smallest of the North American falcons. In 2002, course instructor Mark Manske initiated a nest box study of kestrels in northern New York State. The purpose of the study was to increase the local breeding kestrel population, educate the public on the importance of raptors and plight of kestrels in particular, and act as an environmental monitor. The study attempted to maintain at least 130 nest boxes each season throughout the study area. Chicks and adults were hand-grabbed from the boxes or captured with bal chatris and were then banded, aged, sexed, and their health was assessed. During the study, the breeding population of kestrels has increased from 51 to 297 within the study area. Mark will share a presentation on this project.

Lunch: Lunch at noon in the Dining Hall.

Afternoon: PROJECT: Given that a major threat to Kestrels over the last few decades has a sharp decrease in suitable nesting habitat, largely due to a lack of nesting cavities and the loss of family farmland, we will spend this afternoon in Sagamore's historical Carpenter Shop, building Kestrel nest boxes. These can either be donated to the American Kestrel Nestbox Project, or taken home for your own neighborhood Kestrels! WALKING LECTURE: Afterwards, we'll take a walk around Sagamore's Upper Complex with Jane Desotelle, a native herbalist. The Worker's Complex at Sagamore is home to a vast array of plants that were used for food, medicine, teas, and balms, an important consideration given the camp's extremely remote location.

Dinner: Dinner is at 6:00 in the Dining Hall.

Evening: ACTIVITY: Finding feathers in nature can be a guessing game. With Mark's help, learn how to use Feather Atlas, an online guide on identifying the birds that the feathers belong to. Test a variety of different examples to sharpen your skills so you can use this tool in your birding days ahead!

Lecture on Saw-whet Owls / Tour of Sagamore / Live Bird-of-Prey Demonstration
Raquette Lake, NY

Activity note: 1 Field Trip, 3 Lectures

Breakfast: Breakfast in the Sagamore Dining Hall

Morning: LECTURE: Today we'll be examining the Northern Saw-whet Owl. In October of 2011, Adirondack Raptors established a banding station for these remarkable birds, the smallest owls in eastern North America. This project is part of a larger initiative called Project Owlnet, a national project designed to learn more about our resident owl population. The goals of the Paul Smiths Saw-Whet Owl Research program are to: 1) Monitor long-term changes in northern saw-whet owl (NSWO) populations. 2) Track timing of migration of age/sex groups. 3) Study stopover patterns. 4) Study molt and other aspects of biology in NSWOs. 5) Use owls and owl banding to educate the public about conservation and wildlife issues. 6) Train volunteers in bird-banding techniques. 7) Used to train students in raptor research methods. Instructor Mark Manske will present background about the project and the participation of his own organization, Adirondack Raptors.

Lunch: Lunch in the Sagamore Dining Hall.

Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: We'll use the early part of the afternoon to explore and examine the Great Camp Sagamore complex of 27 buildings, a National Historic Landmark that is an architectural marvel situated in one of the most beautiful natural settings in America. The camp is located on the peninsular southwest edge of 180-acre Sagamore Lake in the 40,000-acre Blue Ridge Wilderness. RAPTOR DEMONSTRATION: After our exploration of Sagamore, we'll get a first-hand look at some raptors and owls that have been rescued and are housed by Adirondack Raptors at their facility near Paul Smiths College. Watch these magnificent birds in action as Mark Manske practices the art of falconry. You can even hold one yourself!

Dinner: Dinner is at 6P in the Dining Hall.

Evening: PRESENTATION: This evening our focus will be on the Northern Goshawk. Currently the breeding population of Goshawks in northern New York is being color-marked to facilitate the monitoring of effects caused by the introduction of a large commercial wind farm near traditional nest sites. Traditional nest sites on state and county forests are also being examined to determine if the introduction of wind farms in the region has had a detrimental effect on the Goshawk's local population. Nest site fidelity, mate fidelity, mortality, productivity, general condition of the birds, sex ratios of the nestlings and nest success is also being examined as part of the study. Mark will share the status and results of this important study. CAMP FIRE: After this evening's presentation, we'll relax at a campfire at the historic Lean-To of Great Camp Sagamore where guides once told tales of their adventures to the Vanderbilt's guests. Roast some marshmallows, listen to music and enjoy the night sky.

Expert Led Canoeing and Hiking Birding Trips
Raquette Lake, NY

Activity note: 2 Field Trips, 1 Performance

Breakfast: Breakfast in the Sagamore Dining Hall

Morning: BIRDING: We'll start off our day by meeting our guide Gary Lee, a local naturalist and expert. With Gary we'll paddle around the smooth morning waters of Sagamore Lake in search for the Common Loon. If by this time this week you haven't seen or heard them yet, you'll be in for a treat. These majestic birds are iconic for the region. Gary will tell us about the effects acid rain has had on the species over the past decades, and the Adirondack Loon Project with it's banning and nesting efforts to aid in the survival of these amazing creatures.

Lunch: Lunch in the Dining Hall.

Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: After lunch, we'll head back out with Gary, but this time on land. The list of bird sightings on this program is extensive and will be included in preparatory materials sent following enrollment, but remember, chances are less in the fall. For this walking field trip, we’ll see what’s in and around Camp Sagamore itself. Gary will guide you in identifying birds — like the many species of warblers common to the area — by both sign and sound. If birds aren't as abundant, he'll also take the time to stop and identify any flora that are specific to the region, including plants, flowers, trees, and bushes. Remember your binoculars, guide, notebook, pencil. FREE TIME: Following our group birding walk, you will have some free time to swim, paddle, read, or relax before dinner.

Dinner: We'll return in time for dinner back at Sagamore at 6:00

Evening: PRESENTATION: Gary Lee is an expert on loons and a founding member of the Adirondack Loon Project. Learn everything you wanted to know about the region’s Common Loon in a fascinating and entertaining presentation.

Final Q&A/ good-byes
Raquette Lake, NY

Breakfast: Breakfast is at 8:00 in the Dining Hall.

Morning: We will follow breakfast with a Q&A session with your program host. Check out and good-byes are at 10:00.

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